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Take the subway or a bus ride in New York with the MetroCard

MTA bus and subway New York City

The public transportation of New York is suitable if you stay for a week or more in the city.
I know the best way to see a city is by walking in the streets, but NY is very large, and you’ll get tired quickly: D
The subway and local buses will help you to get to different points of interest in New York and its boroughs.

How the metro and local buses work in New York?

The subway and local buses in New York are complementary.
Most of the subway lines runs North to South and most of the bus lines in Manhattan goes East to West.

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New York City subway System

There are 25 subway lines in NYC. The same subway lines with same colors have the same route in a large part of Manhattan, but are divided into sections for the boroughs of NYC (Queens, Bronx, Brooklyn and Harlem).

If you want to have the subway and bus maps in your hand while in New York, you can use the NYCTT App!

Download the NYC subway map in PDF here.

New York City Bus

Each New York Borough has its own bus lines, and in Manhattan they are running on all the avenues and on every five to six streets. You can also have the map on the palm of your hand with the NYCTT App.

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Download the NYC bus map in PDF here.

What does "local" and "express" mean?

Each subway line has "local" and "express" trains.
- Local: means that the trains stop at every stations without exception. The ride will be a bit slower.
- Express: trains stop every 2, 3, 4 or 5 stations depending on the area of NY.
The ride is faster since the train doesn’t have to stop at every station.
You must take those trains if you want to go faster from the North to the South of Manhattan for example.

Make no mistake and read carefully if the line is an Express or a local one! You will get too far and need to come back… loosing time.
It's going to happen at least once during your stay 😀

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What are the subway and buses fares in New York?

The cost of a SingleRide ticket is $3 (sold at vending machhine only).
You can purchase a :
- Regular Metrocard (=Pay-Per-Ride): If you decide to purchase a Pay-Per-Ride MetroCard, you can buy as many rides as you want, from $5.50 to $80. It can be used by up to 4 people at once for the same trip. Your MetroCard can hold any combination of unlimited rides and dollar value! The number of trips is limited to the amount of money you bought or put on your MetroCard.

- Unlimited Ride MetroCard: This MetroCard allows an unlimited number of subway and bus rides for a fixed price during 7 days ($32). You can also choose a 30-Day ($121) or 7-Day Express Bus Plus MetroCard ($59.50). It is interesting because in New York, the subway runs 24 hours a day. The card can only be used by one person.
*Note: $1 fee applies to each new MetroCard purchase.

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Which MetroCard is more suitable?

It depends on your stay in New York and your use of public transportation!

Anyway, if you stay a week in New York, do not hesitate to buy an unlimited MetroCard. It’s more profitable than the Pay-Per-Ride after 13 subway rides or local bus rides.
If you take a local bus or subway more than 4 times in a day, you save more in just 3 days 🙂

The 30-day Unlimited MetroCard is profitable when you make at least 47 rides. So if you take 4 times a day the bus or subway, the card is profitable after 12 days 😀

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Where to buy the MetroCard?

You can purchase it at a MetroCard Vending Machines. I recommend that you pay with cash, but you can also use a debit card. If you want to use your debit card, not from a US Bank, the machine asks for a ZIP Code (a local zip code). For those living abroad you may indicate this code: 99999.
You can select your language on the machines;)

At a Subway Station Booth, you may also purchase your MetroCard, but they only accept cash.

In some subway stations you won’t find any Vending Machine or booth, look at the signs when going in the subway station!

You can purchase a MetroCard in a Bus and Vans. They are in different areas of the city by a defined time, depending on the day.

Finally, you can buy it in some shops or Neighborhood Merchants.

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What you need to know before taking the subway

- If you first used your Unlimited Metrocard, you can’t use it again within 18 minutes. So when boarding a subway station, make no mistake.
Some stations are divided in 2 directions (one to Downtown and one Uptown). If you’re going to the wrong direction, you will have to wait 18 minutes before re-using your Metrocard.

- If you have a baby stroller or a large bag that does not pass through the turnstile, take the the emergency exit, right next to the turnstiles. The doors do not open from outside so someone has to go through the turnstile with your MetroCard and then open the emergency exit door. If traveling alone, you can ask a New Yorker, who will help you for sure.

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Comparison between the bus and the subway in New York

They are two different means of transportation and they don’t offer the same possibilities.

- The quickest: the subway. Is faster than the bus because the latter stops at every block and traffic lights.
- To travel east-west: the bus. Its rides are essentially east-west, where there is no subway.
- The best way to discover New York: the bus. From the subway tunnels you won’t appreciate the cityscape  😀
- The best way to meet New Yorkers: the bus. There are far fewer tourists on the bus 😉
- The most comfortable: the subway, you always find a place to sit, unless if you’re travelling at peak hours.
- The most detailed: the bus because it has more stops than the subway.
- The cheapest: tied because they are the same price ... except the Express Bus.

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Comparison between the taxi and the subway in New York

I often listen that taking rides in taxi is the best in NY.
I leave you my comparison and let you make up your own mind:
- The quickest: depends where you want to go and if there is traffic. Usually, you can save about 5-10 minutes with the taxi, but during peak hours the metro is much faster.
- The best way to discover NY: The taxi, for the same reasons as the bus 😉
- The best way to meet New Yorkers: In the taxi, is easy to talk to the driver.
- The most comfortable: I would say the subway. Taxis are comfortable cars but most taxi drivers drive very fast and may even scare you 🙁
- If you’re tired: the taxi. They are everywhere, you can take a ride wherever you want and mostly if you don’t want to walk.
- The more detailed: the taxi, for the same reasons as mentioned above.
- The cheapest: the subway because about 10-15 minutes of a taxi ride costs 6-10 USD.

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Conclusion

You know, visiting New York by walking in the street is the best. However, the city is too big to see everything ... The public transportation will be very useful during your vacation.
Now if you prefer to use a greener transportation, there is Citibike. I explain how it works in NYCTT.

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