“One belongs to New York instantly, one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years” – Tom Wolfe

Navigating the public transit options for a person new to New York City may be a little overwhelming.  Devoting a few minutes to the basic geography of New York and its transportation system can help move from place to place with ease. Setting aside the fact that you are not really ever a local. If you are just visiting, you can still do things to blend in and get a real sense of New York City by exploring it like a local. So here we take charge and bring to you some of the best ways to travel in New York City.

Check Out These Major New York Transport Options

With over twenty million residents in the New York metropolitan area, its transportation system is a network of complex infrastructure that’s spread across five main boroughs. New York’s public transportation network is very efficient and provides many ways for people to get around quickly and comfortably.

Subway

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Subway entrances in NYC

The New York City subway has 472 stations more than any other system in the world. It operates 24/7 serving 36 subway lines across four of the five New York’s boroughs. It’s the most cost-effective and fastest way to travel. Subway rides assure a safe commute and takes you pretty much anywhere you want to go. There are two different types of trains: normal and express trains. Do keep in mind, the express trains don’t stop at all train stations and are a lot faster than the normal trains.

Regular Pay-Per-Ride MetroCards are used to travel by subways. MetroCards are easy to purchase and can be used for NYC subways and buses. It can be purchased at any MTA Metro-North Railroad station ticket vending machine or staffed ticket window. After inserting your card, choose the Get Card info screen. Each time you use Pay-Per-Ride MetroCard to pay the subway fare, the turnstile displays the amount you’ve paid and the balance. It will not show when an Unlimited Ride card runs out. You can find this information at the MetroCard Reader or the Booth Reader. You can transfer for free between subway and buses or between buses within 2 hours of using your card for the first time.

Subway Facts:

  • Subway trains operate 24 hours on all seven days of the week.
  • You can use the system citywide and transfer to other subway lines as many times as you need until you exit through a turnstile.
  • You can transfer from subway to local bus or vice versa within two hours of using your pay-per-ride MetroCard.
  • All transfers are free with an Unlimited Ride MetroCard, except for the express bus. 
  • Subway stations are generally about 8 to 10 blocks apart on local lines and farther apart on express train lines.
  • The subway does not take you to Staten Island, one needs to board the free Staten Island Ferry or take a bus.
  • You can download subway maps or get them for free from booth attendants or at the Official NYC Information Center.

Buses

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Public transportation bus in New York in Manhattan, New York

The next best thing after the subway are the New York buses that are easy and comfortable means of commute in New York City. New York’s Metropolitan Transport Authority (MTA) operates a fleet of almost 6,000 buses, which cover over 322 routes. You are sure to find a bus route that meets your needs. Just like the subway, buses in New York are classified as local or express. Express routes have reduced stops and operate from some of the busier areas of Manhattan to the outer boroughs. The Manhattan bus map is very useful because it is drawn to scale and shows both bus and subway routes. You can get one for free at the tourist centers, libraries and most of the hotel lobbies. Traveling by this mode is easy as in most cases all you’ll have to do is hop on to a bus. 

Fares can be paid by MetroCard, in cash, or using contactless via the OMNY system. If you have a contactless card or smartphone device, just swipe your card or device. Biggest advantage of using the OMNY system is that you only pay for the first 12 fares in a week; the rest are free rides.

Bus Facts:

  • City buses accept only MetroCard and exact coin change, they do not accept paper money.
  • Before boarding the bus check the route sign on the front of the bus and make sure that it stops at your destination. 
  • A single fare allows one to travel till the end of the route. You can also transfer for free from one local bus to another within two hours of purchasing your initial fare.
  • Many buses are available 24/7, but make sure to check whether your route offers this service. 
  • Buses run about every five to fifteen minutes, or at longer intervals, depending on the time of day.
  • Buses generally stop at every other block on avenue routes and every block on cross-street routes. 
  • For late night and early morning rides, drivers for local and express buses will stop wherever you ask them to.
  • Visit the MTA Bus Time page at mta.info for all information about the buses.

Taxis

how to commute in new york
NYC Yellow Cabs

The iconic yellow taxis are certainly a popular way to commute in New York City, particularly for shorter rides. If a taxi is your only choice to get somewhere quickly, these familiar yellow cabs are difficult to get even if you are actively looking for one. Ride-hailing apps such as Uber and Lyft make it easier by ensuring a clean and comfortable ride. This will arrive within 15 minutes and you will almost always be able to actually get a ride. Your ride needs to be booked in advance using their apps which is more economical than the yellow cabs. 

To hail a taxi, you just need to catch the attention of the driver, usually by waving your hands. An illuminated light on top of the taxi means that it is available for hire. Taxis are metered, with fares starting at $3, and start calculating the fare as you go. Note that, no extra charges for the luggage, however the bridge or tunnel tolls will be added to your taxi fare. Make sure the meter is turned on at the start of the ride. Taxi Fares can be paid by cash or with a debit or credit card. All taxis are equipped with a device that allows you to pay with your credit card.

Taxi Facts:

  • Taxis are available throughout the day and night.
  • Hail only taxis whose numbers are illuminated on top, this means they’re on duty.
  • All taxis accept cash, credit, debit and prepaid cards.
  • An additional $1 surcharge is added to the meter from Monday to Friday and a 50-cent surcharge is added daily at night and early morning. 
  • All bridge and tunnel tolls are extra and are added to the metered fare.
  • Yellow taxi cabs pick up street-hailing passengers anywhere in New York City, whereas green taxis provide street hail service and pre-arranged service in northern Manhattan and in the other boroughs. 
  • Drivers cannot refuse a ride based on race, disability or destination within the five boroughs, it’s against the law.

Car Service

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Waiting for a car in Times Square New York, USA.

It’s your best bet if you are a luxury lover. You have to pay around $30-50 for a car service or up to $175 for a limousine. This allows you to travel door to door to any venue in the city. If you want to do this occasionally, or every time, you can easily arrange it through your concierge. Almost all the major car rental companies have booking counters at the airports and within the City. Services like blacktiecarservice, allstatelimo.com‎, lincolnlimousine and many smartphone apps help you book a car in advance. Service providers like Zipcar and Enterprise offer car-share programs that allow customers to book vehicles for as little as an hour and as long as a week. Use Google Maps or apps like Waze that will help you navigate New York City roads. 

Ferry Ride

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Staten Island ferry, NYC

As a waterfront city, New York has a variety of options for using boats to get around the city. This is a favorite mode of commute for most tourists as it provides excellent views of the Lower Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty. The Staten Island Ferry has been offering free rides to commuters since 1997. It’s a great way to get a close view of the Statue of Liberty without having to pay extra or taking a paid tour. Vehicles have not been allowed since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, though bicycles are permitted on the lower level at no cost. The NYC Ferry which was launched in 2017 is the new addition to New York’s public transport system. They have 21 terminals and 28 boats which connect Manhattan with Brooklyn and Queens.

The NYC Ferry tickets are not a part of the MetroCard system, and hence need to be purchased separately. Tickets can be purchased from vending machines at the ferry stations using cash or credit cards. Tickets can also be purchased on board, using the NYC Ferry app or the NYC Ferry website. The cost of a boat ride is the same as the subway or bus system. They also offer a 50% discount for senior citizens and people with disabilities.

Hop-on Hop-Off Bus

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HOP ON HOP OFF BUS TOURS in New York in USA. Red tourist decke bus on the corner of Lexington andCentral Park West near central park

Hop-on Hop-Off Bus or HOHO buses are a great way to see a lot of New York City in a short time. For tourists looking to cover major attractions in a short time, this is the best option. These open-top buses stop at all the major attractions and also provide information about the place through a live commentary. You can either hop on/ hop off the bus at attractions you want to visit or just sit on the bus for the entire loop and enjoy the beauty of the city. 

You can buy HOHO bus tickets in advance. Do check if HOHO bus tickets are included in any of the passes, such as the New York Pass, New York Explorer Pass or New York Sightseeing Pass. Each ticket is valid for 24 hours or 48 hours from the moment you board the bus. A full circuit of the 20 stops Hop-on Hop-Off Bus journey will take around one hour.

Bicycle

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Biking and jogging paths in NYC

With a number of designated bike routes and lanes, New York City is great for bicycling. If you want to explore the greener part of the city, escape to your nearest park and enjoy the lovely views along the way. The city offers a bike map, and Google Maps also provides bike-specific directions that feature safer, car-free spaces to ride. There are also beautiful views along the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway, which has bike and jogging paths that practically surround the island. There are some protected bike lanes painted green, divided from traffic by parked cars, and with their own traffic signals makes for a safe ride. To add to this, biking through NY City is good for the environment and cheaper than fuel-powered transportation.

There is no necessity for adults to wear helmets in New York, and it is common to see experienced riders just leap on and pedal away as there is no law that makes it compulsory. But it is advisable to wear a helmet every time you ride, even if it isn’t mandated by law. 

Walking

walking in nyc
Woman shopping in NYC and walking on the street

Subways may be fun, taxis may get you there faster, buses may be cheaper, but truly there is no better way to see NYC than by foot. New York is a big place, is walking really practical? Exploring some parts of this city by foot is certainly a possibility. With traffic gridlock and subway delays, walking can sometimes be the fastest way to commute in New York City. You’ll get to see a lot more of the city by walking than by riding beneath the street in the subway or zooming by in a cab. Anytime this is the best, cheapest, and most appealing way to experience the city.

Tips For A Hassle Free Commute In New York City

  • Travel lightly, limit yourself to one compact bag for your trip to move easily through the crowd. 
  • Consider wearing comfortable clothes and comfortable footwear to enjoy the journey. 
  • Even if your cell phone is in full charge, carry your charger with you while traveling into the city.
  • Check the weather in advance as weather conditions can cause delays to the train and bus routes.
  • Check for bus schedules and traffic patterns before staring, it’s certainly worth the extra effort.
  • Always arrive well before your ride to avoid last minute rushes.
  • Don’t casually handle your valuables, keep them tucked away safely.
  • Pay extra attention while riding the subway, don’t let your guard down in crowded places.
  • Keep a few extra dollars in cash on hand to use in case your cards display some error. 
  • Don’t hesitate to ask for help. Dial 311 in New York City to inquire about lost items or for any other concerns. 
  • Pets are allowed on buses, subways and taxis, make sure they are enclosed in containers or carriers.

Now that you know how to navigate New York City safely by using a combination of subways, buses, cabs and ferries, it’s time to go out there and explore this city like a local. Kindly note the fare and other information regarding commuting in New York City can change from time to time, hence re-confirm all rates and details before planning your trip. 

What is the best way to commute in NYC?

Riding the subway is the easiest and quickest way to commute in New York City.

Can you walk everywhere in New York?

Yes, you can walk everywhere in New York, there’s no better way to see NYC than by foot.

Is the subway safe at night?

Riding the subway at night is generally safe, avoid end cars and choose to sit in the “Conductor car” that’s in the middle of the train.

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