I have been living in New York City for three weeks now and the only public transportation you have here is the bus and the subway. Going by bus takes hours, because of the crazy traffic in the city. The subway really is the fastest way to get where you need to be, but taking the train is definitely not easy. So I am going to share some of the things I have learned about riding the subway.
Know the streets and avenues!
This is a basic New York City hack and not just important when you take the subway. The streets and avenues are numbered! The further south you go, the lower the number of the street is going to be and the further north you go, the higher the number is going to be. If you walk east, you will notice that the numbers of the avenues are going down and when you go west the numbers will go up.
Know what uptown, downtown, Brooklyn-bound and Bronx-bound means!
For some of you this might be obvious, but uptown means going north and downtown mean going south. Terms like Brooklyn-bound and Bronx-bound mean that the train is going to Brooklyn or the Bronx. You can also have a Manhattan-bound or a Queens-bound train.
Not all trains stop at every station!
There is a difference between local and express trains. I did not know this before coming to New York City. Some trains stop at every station – the local trains – and other trains might run on the same line, but do not stop everywhere – the express trains. To illustrate, the 1 train stops at every station, but the 2 and 3 train only stop on the important stations between 96th Street and Chambers Street. So the 1 train is a local train and the 2 and 3 train are express trains.
Download NYC Subway on your phone!
There are so many different lines running through the city that is hard to keep track of which line goes where and at what station you can change to which line. This app will tell you exactly what you need to know. It will show you which trains stop at a certain station and what other lines stop at that station. Bonus: this app is free.
Use Google Maps!
I think almost every phone has Google Maps these days. The easiest way to know how to get to your destination the fastest is by telling Maps where you are and where you want to go and it will show you how to get there. For example, yesterday I went to Chelsea Market. I enter that I wanted to go from my current location to Chelsea Market. It told me to take the 2 or 3 train at 96th Street and to get off at 14th Street, it would take about 25 minutes.
There are certain etiquettes when taking the train!
These are very basic unwritten rules that make it more comfortable to ride the subway for everyone:
- Have your MetroCard ready when you approach the subway entrance, because everybody needs to get through.
- Let people off the train before stepping on yourself.
- Give your seat to elderly, disabled or pregnant people.
- Take your backpack off when it is crowded.
- Do not lean against the poles, because other people want to hold them too.
- Walk on the right side so people can pass on the left side, just like you do in traffic.
Ask for help!
If you have trouble taking the subway or when you are lost, just ask for help. New Yorkers might seem unfriendly, but most of the time when you approach them politely they are happy to help you out. Just ask someone who is not in a hurry and you will be fine.
There are a lot more tips and tricks to ride the subways in New York, but these are the once I think are the most helpful. The first few days I was in the city, I have definitely gotten lost a few times and I wished someone would have told me these tips. If you are planning on traveling to New York, it is important to know these things.