For a city where traffic is horrendous (3rd most traffic congested city in the world!) and parking is almost impossible, the subway is a great transit mode you should embrace. Some of its ceilings may be crumbling and it’s not as fast as in Tokyo, but it still works 24/7, and it’s relatively cheap. However, if you’re new to New York – you should definitely know and learn the basics of how to use this iconic subway. So without further adieu, here are a few of our tips for riding the Subway in NYC.
Riding the Subway in NYC: 6 Tips and Tricks
1. Get the Map & App
The subway map may become your most important tool for a successful trip in NYC. Learn the basic lines and routes, and make it handy so you can quickly take a look to find your way.
Then, download the MTA app. If you’re here only for a week or so, you may think it’s a waste of time – but don’t. You’ll thank me for this tip. This app is a must-have for anyone riding the Subway in NYC, no matter how long you’ll be here.
The app covers the MTA subway, bus and commuter rail services. You can use it to save your favorite or frequent trips, search for subway stations near you, and you’ll even get service updates.
2. Decide if to go Unlimited or Not
How much time will you be spending riding the subway? If you’re traveling to NYC for a week or so, and plan to see a lot – you should go Unlimited. What does it mean? I’m referring to the Unlimited MetroCard, which has two options: a 30-day MetroCard (around $127) and a 7-day MetroCard (which is around $33).
Before you commit to the Subway with an Unlimited MetroCard – be sure to check the weather. If it’s a nice sunny week, you might want to rent a Citi bike to drive around.
If you don’t take the Unlimited, don’t forget to refill your MetroCard! The worst thing is to run like crazy to catch a train, to make it at the last second, but then to see that your MetroCard is short of funds. Remember to monitor the amount of money left on your MetroCard each time you swipe it.
3. Know If You’re Going Uptown or Downtown
Before heading to the Subway on the way to your destination – you should figure out whether you need to go Uptown (usually means going north if you’re staying in Manhattan) or Downtown (usually means going south).
Why is this important? Because choosing the right platform depends on where you need to go (Uptown or Downtown). Some subway stations in NYC have separate entrances for the trains going Uptown and for those going Downtown. In some cases, it means you’ll have to cross a busy street to get down to the right platform. It can be a hassle, and time-consuming, so know your direction!
4. Discover The “Secret” Pedestrian Tunnels
Many first-time visitors make the mistake of exiting one subway station, walking up, crossing the street, just to reach another station to catch another train. In some cases – it’s a waste of time. Instead, use the “Secret” Pedestrian Tunnels!
What are these tunnels? Well, some NYC subway stations have pedestrian tunnels that connect them to other subway stations. Isn’t that cool? For example, if you exit the subway at Port Authority Terminal and plan to walk all the way east to catch the 7 Train at Times Square station – find the “secret” tunnel! There’s a pedestrian tunnel connecting the two stations.
However, when discussing these “secret” tunnels, I can’t avoid talking about safety, which is my next section.
5. Follow These Safety Tips
First and foremost, don’t walk between subway cars, and avoid the edge of the platforms! It may sound trivial to you, but according to NYC Subway injury attorney, Ivan M. Diamond, hundreds of people are injured (and some even killed) every year in subway accidents. Though there are many instances that could result in your injury such as train collisions, negligent operation of the train, and derailments, one accident you have some control over is a slip and fall.
Attorney Ivan M. Diamond goes on to tell us that there are numerous trip, slip and fall hazards that subway travelers are subject to, these hazards include: uneven surfaces, liquid spills, worn surfaces, broken stairs, defective platforms, slick surfaces, inadequate/missing handrails, large gaps between the platform and the train, a lack of barriers, inadequate warnings as well as insufficient lighting in the stations.
Aside from watching out not to fall, you should watch out for the usual dangers that lurk in every big city. Try to enter and exit through the busiest subway entrances and exits (the more people around you – the safer it is). If you reach a station and it’s empty, making you feel weird or scared – use your gut feeling and exit.
When you do finally catch a train, get on one of the first subway cars – as these are usually the most crowded. Again – you want to be where more people are. If you’re in a subway car and there’s bad energy (drunk guys screaming, for example) – switch to a different car or get off.
When you get off and leave a subway station, remember to walk forward and keep moving – even if you’re not sure where you’re going. Why? When there’s a ton of people – they might all walk directly into your back! Stand to the side and let people pass through, you also don’t want to create a traffic jam in the subway…
6. Follow other common Tips
The NYC subway can at times be a cramped space with a lot of people around you. Try to make the journeys a bit easier for yourself and for those around you. If you prefer to stand, walk all the way inside the train instead of stopping right next to the door (this creates traffic jams). If you prefer to sit, don’t put your backpack on the seat next to you – as that is rude if others want to sit. Instead, put your things on the floor next to you.
Riding the Subway in NYC is a must-do experience, no matter for how long you’re visiting the Big Apple. But – remember to follow these tips to make your experience a joyful one!
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Karen works for a big hedge fund, she’s awesome with numbers and loves what she does, but above all – she loves traveling. Whenever she’s on the road, she tries to get into the gritty tiny details of every location she explores.