Public Transportation in New York City

Everything’s expensive in New York, they say-and they’re right. But on the up side, it’s one of the few cities where you don’t need a car, and might even be better off without one. You can ride two hundred blocks for two bucks. The system can be daunting to outsiders, though, so here’s a basic rundown. It can’t help you find your stop, but it might help you choose the best method to get there.

Subway – not just the best place for street musicians and strange insane people, but a fast, cheap option to get nearly anywhere in the city, even out to Brooklyn and Queens. Subway stops become more sparse as you get away from midtown, and changing lines will be inevitable, but you can’t beat the $2 fare or the quintessentially New York experience. The subways are for the most part safe, if occasionally overcrowded, not the graffiti-covered grime pits you’ve seen in the movies. Service remains regular even at night, and even at odd hours you’re often no more than ten minutes’ wait from the next train.
One aspect of the subway that some outsiders may find confusing is what seems to be multiple names for the same train-the 4-5-6, for example, or the N and the R. Make sure that your line does not, for example, split into two along a place that affects your journey. Is your stop an express stop? If so, can you take advantage of the express version of the line?

Buses – An equally well-priced option for the cost-conscious consumer, and goes many places trains don’t, particularly when off the beaten path. On the other hand, a bus has to contend with Manhattan traffic. Still, buses are safe and will get you where you need to be. The potential for overhearing odd conversations and rants from oddballs is lower but still in evidence; some street crazies seem to prefer the sunshine.

Subways and trains are paid for the same way, via a MetroCard with a magnetic stripe-those romantic days of tokens for the subway are over. If planning an extended stay, you can buy a MetroCard for $10 or higher and score a 20% bonus in free rides. Unlimited ride passes lasting a day, three days, a week or a month are also available.

Metro-North trains – Though mostly thought of as a way to get to and from the suburbs, Metro-North also hits a few important neighborhoods on city grounds, including Harlem, the Botanical Gardens, Fordham and University Heights. Unfortunately pricing runs steeper than a subway even for these relatively local stops.

Special options for Staten Island –
Staten Island Railway: Comparable to New Jersey’s PATH trains, the Staten Island Railway is small and self-contained. It won’t get you off the island, but it’ll get you around quickly enough.
Staten Island Ferry: A picturesque ride with unforgettable views of the city, but not the world’s quickest option-not that the car ride is noted for its light traffic, either. It’s free, which is hard to beat.

It is a marvel of urban engineering that people can zip around the Big Apple like it’s a small town. Sure, a cab ride is fun, but the fares can rack up pretty quickly. New York has one of the finest transportation systems in the world; take advantage of it.

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