Practical Life in New York City


Transport in New York City


Home > Expat Guides > North America > Usa > New York City
Tools:

Manhattan's grid pattern and extensive public transportation system make it one of the easier cities to use public transportation in the United States and it does get used. The massive amounts of residents and visitors to New York pack every avenue of the transportation system. About 3.8 million passengers travel on the public transportation which operates 24 hours a day, everyday. Just as the sidewalks are constantly throbbing with people, cars litter every street in the city that doesn't sleep.

A good map can help you get around and understand the geography of the city. gis.nyc.gov/doitt/cm/CityMap.htm, www.nyctourist.com/map1.htm, and http://www.aaccessmaps.com/show/map/manhattan.

Manhattan Transportation Authority (MTA) is responsible for all of the transportation needs in New York City. Subways, buses, and railroads provide 2.6 billion trips each year to New Yorkers, the equivalent of about one in every three users of mass transit in the United States and two-thirds of the nation's rail riders. MTA bridges and tunnels carry more than 300 million vehicles a year which is more than any bridge and tunnel authority in the nation. This is North America's largest network and serves a population of 14.6 million people in the 5,000-square-mile area fanning out from New York City through Long Island, southeastern New York State, and Connecticut.

Metro

The Subway is the king of public transportation in New York. The subway is a quintessential New York experience, the easiest to navigate, and the cheapest way to travel. Because of the massive amounts of people it moves, it is not always the cleanest and all types of people are can be crowded together which can be uncomfortable, or at the worst, dangerous, but the system is one of the best in the US. Though transportation runs 24 hours, certain lines limit their runs during night time hours. In general, trains run every 2 to 5 minutes during rush hours (6:30 - 9:30 a.m., and 3:30 - 8 p.m., Monday through Friday), every 5 to 10 minutes during the midday (9:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday), every 5 to 15 minutes in the evening (8 p.m. - midnight), and about every 20 minutes between midnight and 6:30 a.m.

The New York City subway has 468 stations serving 26 subway lines - more than any other system in the world. Routes are identified by letters, such as A, B, C or numbers. Routes serve Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens. Staten Island is served by the Staten Island Railway (SIR). North-South is denoted by numbered streets (except in Lower Manhattan where it can be a bit confusing), each being preceded by W for the West and E for the East. Park Avenue, Madison Avenue, 7th Avenue run West to East. Ask for a map at any ticket window to familiarize yourself with the transportation system or look at the on-line map http://www.mta.info/nyct/maps/submap.htm.

The price is $2 whatever the distance, and the payment is made with a magnetic Metrocard (which can be bought as per ride or daily/monthly passes). Swipe your MetroCard through the slot in the top of the turnstile. Walk through when the turnstile screen says "GO." For an easy to follow guide on riding the subway, http://www.mta.info/nyct/subway/howto_sub.htm. For more information, call 1-718-330-1234, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week. Non-English speaking customers may call 1-718-330-4847 and hearing impaired customers may call 1-718-596-8273 (TTY).

Bus

The Bus is usually less crowded than the subway, but may take longer and can be more complicated to use. Fare is $2 and can be purchased with a magnetic Metrocard, or exact change. If you pay your fare with MetroCard, you may transfer free from bus-to-subway, subway-to-bus or bus-to-bus within two hours of the time you paid your fare. Unlimited Ride MetroCard includes all transfers free of charge.
If you pay your fare with coins, you may transfer free between buses with intersecting routes. Ask the bus driver for a transfer when you pay your fare. The transfer is a single-use MetroCard with a black strip along the bottom. When you catch your connecting bus, insert the transfer into the bus farebox - black stripe to the right side. Transfers are good for two hours from the time you paid your fare.

Bus stops are located at street corners and have a tall, round sign with a bus emblem and route number. Most stops also include a "Guide-A-Ride," which is a rectangular box attached to the bus sign pole that displays a route map and bus schedule. For more information on riding the bus, www.mta.info/nyct/bus/howto_bus.htm.

There is also the Long Island Bus (LI Bus) which is part of a regional transportation network with bus/rail connections at 48 LIRR stations and service to five NYC Transit subways.

For travel outside the city, long distance passenger buses like Greyhound can get you almost anywhere. There are several stations throughout New York, but the main terminal is at:
PORT AUTHORITY
625 8TH AVE
New York, NY 10018
Telephone: 212-971-6300

Metro/Train: http://www.mta.nyc.ny.us/

Train

Metro-North is in charge of local train service and is a subsidiary of New York State's Metropolitan Transportation Authority. This is one of the nation's preeminent railroads with over 80 million passengers and a 93% customer satisfaction rating. There are 384 route miles and 775 miles of track and 120 stations.

Grand Central Terminal in New York City is the main station. Trains run from approximately 4 AM to 3:40 AM. First trains arrive in Grand Central at 5:30 AM and the last trains leave the terminal at 2 AM. Weekdays, peak-period trains east of the Hudson River run every 20-30 minutes; off-peak trains run every 30-60 minutes; and weekend trains run hourly. For more information, call (800) METRO-INFO (1-800-638-7646).

Amtrak is the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, a government-owned corporation that was organized to provide intercity passenger train service in the United States. Transportation can be arranged on their website.

Airports

Queens is home to New York City's two major airports, LaGuardia Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport. Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, New Jersey is also an airport frequently used for travel in and out of New York. All airports are connected to Public transport, but there are several options to get from the airports to the city.

John F. Kennedy International Airport : JFK airport is the busiest airport in the United States serving over 47.8 million passengers. For a map of the airport, including taxi stations and bus stops, www.panynj.gov/CommutingTravel. To get to and from the airport, there are several options:
There are clearly marked taxi pick-up areas and help desks that can call a cab for passengers. Taxis into the city take anywhere from 30-60 minutes and cost $45 "Flat Fare". This does not include bridge tolls and tip.
The airport has a special train called the Airtrain JFK which runs 24 hours a day and is $5 with a pay-per-ride Metrocard. The trip takes about 20 min and avoids some of the transportation problems of other options.
Using a shuttle or airport bus can be a simple solution. New York Airport Service Express Bus is $13, which you pay in cash to the bus driver. The busses operate once every twenty to thirty minutes between 6am and midnight. For exact schedules call (718) 875-8200. The trip is 45 minutes to an hour and there are several stops in Manhattan. The Express Shuttle USA (formerly Gray Line) costs $14 one way. The buses run from 7am to 11:30 pm to locations in Manhattan from 23rd to 125th Streets. When you arrive at the airport, go to the ground transportation desk. A shuttle bus will come to pick you up within twenty minutes of your arrival.

LaGuardia : This is the smallest of the three airports handling 25.3 million passengers. Most flights from LaGuardia go to destinations within the US and Canada, as well as service to Aruba and the Bahamas. For more information, call (718) 533-3400.
Several city bus lines link LGA to the New York Metro system. The buses numbers are: M60 (All terminals), Q33 (Central Terminal only) , Q48 (All terminals), Q72 (Central Terminal only), and Q47 (Marine Air Terminal only). There are also many private bus lines operating express buses to Manhattan, the Hudson Valley, and Long Island. A taxi ride into Manhattan costs around $30. For a map of the terminals, bus stops, and taxi pick-up zones http://www.nyctourist.com/travel_lga.htm.

Newark Liberty International Airport: Newark is the tenth busiest airport in the United States and the nation's fifth busiest international air gateway serving around 36.3 million passengers. This was also the first major airport in the New York area opening on October 1, 1928.
AirTrain Newarkis a monorail system that connects the terminals with the Newark Liberty International Airport Rail Link Station for connection to Amtrak and New Jersey Transit service. The monorail is free for use between all stations, but passengers wishing to exit or enter the Rail Link station must pay a $5.50 fee. NJ Transit tickets to or from the Rail Link station that are sold at ticket windows and vending machines automatically include the $5.50 fee. Tickets purchased on a train will not allow passengers to enter the Rail Link station; they will have to pay the fee at the station.

Be careful with yourself and your belongings and ignore offers of transportation from solicitors in the terminal. Go to ground transportation information counters, bus stops, and taxi dispatchers for safe and legitimate transportation. Ignore non-uniformed persons offering to assist with baggage.

Taxis

The yellow cab is a trademark of New York and as much an experience as any of New York's other attractions. The downside with having an abundance of cabs is the traffic that results. Most traffic-jams in mid-town are speckled with many of the over 12,000 yellow cabs that service the city. The Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) regulates over 50,000 vehicles and approximately 100,000 drivers by performing safety and emissions inspections three times each year. It is the most active taxi and limousine licensing regulatory agency in the United States. Cabs are a living, breathing part of New York and they are loved (http://www.nycabbie.com/) and hated (to make a complaint gonyc.about.com/passenger/file_complaint).

It is easiest to pay in cash (although credit/debit is accepted). Try to bring small change because drivers can't usually break anything higher than $20. Cabs are relatively expensive for a single person, but they can actually be a bargain with 3 or more riders. Just like most services in the US, tipping is expected. 15-20% is normal, and if the driver helps you with bags it is polite to tip at least a dollar per bag. Take your receipt for records of which taxi you used in case there is a later problem, or note the taxi identification number. For compliments, complaints, or lost Property, call 311 (or if outside NYC call: 212-NEW-YORK ). For Taxicab Rider Bill of Rights, check out the government website www.nyc.gov/html/tlc/html/passenger/taxicab_rights.shtml.

  • Example Fares and Charges:
  • Base fare of $2.50 (except for JFK - Manhattan Flat Fare trips).
  • Each 1/5 mile (4 blocks)$0.40
  • Each 1 minute idle.......$0.40
  • There is a 50-cent surcharge for trips 8pm to 6am daily (except for JFK - Manhattan Flat Fare trips).
  • There is a $1.00 peak time surcharge for trips 4pm to 8pm on weekdays (except for JFK - Manhattan Flat Fare trips).
  • One fare pays for all passengers to one destination.
  • Tolls are in addition to the cost
  • Four passengers (five in minivans) is the limit for New York City Cabs.

New York City is unique in the fact that you cannot pre-arrange a pickup by a New York taxi. If you want to call for a ride (rather than hail a cab) you will need to contact a car or livery service. Finding a cab in New York should be easy, here are the easiest ways to find a cab:

Dispatcher-Operated Taxi Stands: Dispatcher-operated taxi stands have been established at major transportation terminals in Manhattan.
They are located at:

  • Port Authority Bus Terminal: Eighth Avenue between West 41st and West 42nd Streets.
  • Port Authority Bus Terminal: Eighth Avenue between West 40th and West 41st Streets.
  • Penn Station: Seventh Avenue and West 32nd Street
  • Penn Station: Eighth Avenue and West 33rd Street
  • Grand Central Terminal: Vanderbilt Avenue and East 42nd Street
  • Peter Minuit Plaza: Across from the Staten Island Ferry Terminal
  • Citicorp Center: Lexington Avenue between East 53rd and East 54th Streets
  • Taxi Stands: In addition, there are 207 taxi stands in Manhattan. Taxi stands are located at major transit hubs, hotels, office and retail centers and hospitals throughout Manhattan. At these locations, on-duty taxi drivers have the right to wait to pick up passengers. Rates signs are posted on the front doors of each taxicab. For ease of locating a taxi stand in Manhattan, five zones have been defined.

    Car Rental

    Most major car rental companies have outlets at the major airports. To reserve a car, you can often find the best deals by reserving on-line, but most companies offer a phone number to help customers with any questions they may have while also taking reservations by phone. Most companies will require a major credit card to reserve a car.

    It is necessary to have an international driver's license or a country license and an international permit. Along with a photo ID, the International Driving Permit provides translation of your valid driver's license and is printed in 10 languages. Some basic pointers on renting and driving in America:

    • American drive on the right side of the road.
    • The speed limit is usually between 55 to 65 miles an hour on highways and freeways, and 25 to 35 miles an hour on city streets. The speed limit is strictly enforced.
    • The driver also needs to be 25 years or older.
    • It is illegal to pick-up hitchhikers.
    • Buy liability insurance to prepare for the unexpected.

    On a day-to-day rental, a car will cost (without insurance) $14 and up for a used car and $40 and up for a new car. A month's rental of a car will average around $575 (not including insurance or a security deposit). For a smaller car, prices will range between $300 and $600 per month (not including insurance or a security deposit). Prices vary considerably depending on the dealer, the size of the car, and the make and model.

    Some common rental companies:

    Avis
    JFK Airport
    Bldg 305 Federal Circle
    Jamaica, NY 11430
    718-244-5400
    Sun-Sat Open 24 hrs

    Budget
    152 East 87th St.
    New York, NY 10128
    1-800-527-0700

    Hertz
    214 West 95th Street
    New York City, New York US
    212-486-5914
    Mo-Fr 0700-1800, Sa 0900-1200, Su Closed

    To check traffic conditions on-line: http://www.traffic.com/New-York-Traffic/New-York-Traffic-Reports.html, http://www.metrocommute.com/, and http://nyctmc.org/ can help. To check on the cheapest places to get gas, go to www.newyorkgasprices.com/.

    Boats

    The Staten Island Ferry is the only non-vehicular mode of transportation between Staten Island and Manhattan. It is also one of the most popular tourist attractions in New York City as it provides unsurpassed views of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and lower Manhattan for free. Over 20 million people a year (60,000 passengers a day not including weekend days) take the 25 minute ride traveling between St. George on Staten Island and Whitehall Street in lower Manhattan. For a map of routes, www.panynj.gov/CommutingTravel/ferry/html/.

    The New York Water Taxi offers commuter and sightseeing service mainly to points along the East River and the Hudson River. During the warmer months, the New York Water Taxi also operates a Hop-on/Hop-off service on weekends only primarily for tourists ($40 for one day pass).

    The Liberty Water Taxi is another water taxi service that operates in New York Harbor between Battery Park City in Manhattan and Jersey City, New Jersey. Service is primarily on weekends and is closed for the winter. Round Trip costs $14.

    City map: http://www.mustseenewyork.com/grid/streetmap.html

    Update 2/01/2009





    Tools:

    Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Pinterest Addthis

    Recommended Service Partners

    International Movers
    International Movers in New York City
    Compare up to 5 quotes from our network of moving companies that can help you plan your international move and relocate your entire family.
    Expatriate health insurance
    Expatriate health insurance in the Usa
    Apply online for free quotes on repatriation assistance and expatriate and foreign health insurance.
    Hotels
    Hotels in the Usa
    You will get discount hotel rates, last-minute deals, hot deals, special offers, with a real-time reservation and on-line booking.


    Do you have comments or personal information to communicate about this article? Add your comment.


    Go to the Forum to talk more about transport in New York City, practical life.


    Find more definitions and general answers on expatriation issues in the Expat FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions).