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Interior of New York subway
Ben Rosenzeig

Public transportation in NYC

Master the city's subway and bus systems


Changes to schedules can occur at short notice, especially at weekends—pay attention to the posters on subway station walls and announcements you may hear in trains and on subway platforms. Be warned: Since 9/11 backpacks, bags and other large containers may be subject to random searches.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) 718-330-1234 or 511 within the city, The MTA runs the subway and bus lines and services to points outside Manhattan. News of service interruptions and MTA maps are on its website.

Fares and tickets

Although you can pay with coins (no dollar bills) on the buses, you’ll need a MetroCard to enter the subway system. You can buy them from booths or vending machines in the stations; from the Official NYC Information Center; from the New York Transit Museum in Brooklyn or Grand Central Terminal; and from many hotels. The standard fare across the subway and bus network on a MetroCard is $2.25, though a single-ride ticket purchased at a vending machine costs $2.50. Free transfers between the subway and buses are available only with a MetroCard (for bus-to-bus transfers on cash fares, see below). Up to four people can use a pay-per-ride MetroCard, sold in denominations from $4.50 to $80. If you put $10 or more on the card, you’ll receive a seven per cent bonus. However, if you’re planning to use the subway or buses often, an Unlimited Ride MetroCard is great value. These cards are offered in two denominations, available at station vending machines but not at booths: a seven-day pass ($29) and a 30-day pass ($104). All are good for unlimited rides during those times, but you can’t share a card with your travel companions.


Far cleaner and safer than it was 20 years ago, the city’s subway system is one of the world’s largest and cheapest, with a flat fare of $2.25. Trains run around the clock. If you are traveling late at night, board the train from the designated off-peak waiting area, usually near the middle of the platform; this is more secure than the ends of the platform, which are often less populated in the wee hours. Use the same common-sense safety precautions on the subway that you would in any urban environment. Hold your bag with the opening facing you, keep your wallet in a front pocket and don’t wear flashy jewelry. Petty crime levels increase during the holidays. Stations are most often named after the street on which they’re located. Entrances are marked with a green and white globe (open 24 hours) or a red and white globe (limited hours). Many stations have separate entrances for the uptown and downtown platforms—look before you pay. Trains are identified by letters or numbers, color-coded according to the line on which they run. Local trains stop at every station on the line; express trains stop at major stations only. You can view the current subway map on the MTA's website. Alternatively, ask MTA workers in service booths for a free copy or refer to enlarged subway maps displayed in each subway station.


White and blue MTA buses are usually the best way to travel crosstown and a pleasant way to travel up- or downtown, as long as you’re not in a hurry. They have a digital destination sign on the front, along with a route number preceded by a letter (M for Manhattan, B for Brooklyn, Bx for the Bronx, Q for Queens and S for Staten Island). Maps are posted on most buses and at all subway stops; they’re also available from the Official NYC Information Center. All local buses are equipped with wheelchair lifts. The $2.25 fare is payable with a MetroCard (see above) or exact change (coins only; no pennies or dollar bills). MetroCards allow for an automatic transfer from bus to bus, and between bus and subway. If you pay cash, and you’re traveling uptown or downtown and want to go crosstown (or vice versa), ask the driver for a transfer when you get on—you’ll be given a ticket for use on the second leg of your journey, valid for two hours. MTA’s express buses usually head to the outer boroughs for a $5.50 fare.

Commuter rail

The following commuter trains serve NY’s hinterland:

Long Island Rail Road 718 -217-5477 (or 511 within the city), Provides rail services from Penn Station, Brooklyn and Queens to towns throughout Long Island.

Metro-North Railroad 212-532-4900 (or 511 within the city), Commuter trains serve towns north of Manhattan and leave from Grand Central Terminal. New Jersey Transit 973-275-5555, Service from Penn Station reaches most of New Jersey, some points in New York State and Philadelphia.

PATH Trains 800-234-7284, PATH (Port Authority Trans-Hudson) trains run from six stations in Manhattan to various places across the Hudson in New Jersey, including Hoboken, Jersey City and Newark. The 24-hour service costs $1.75 (change or bills).

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