Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Navigating the NYC Subway: Visit MTA.com

(above photos credit: TheHopefulTraveler., 2009 & 2010)
When I first visited London in 1993, I found using their tube system to be easy. When I finally made my first trip to New York City in 1995, I was completely unprepared. The two systems are unlike in a few aspects.

For one thing I quickly had to learn the direction of Uptown and Downtown in Manhattan. At most stations if use the wrong entrance, you'll find yourself waiting for the train in the wrong direction. Learning the train you should be waiting for is across the track, you'll have to exit and re-enter and pay again to catch the correct train.

At almost all of London's tube stations, there is one entrance which then leads to tunnels leading to trains in either direction. Just follow the signs should you find yourself waiting for the train in the wrong direction without having to re-pay your fare.

One version of a MetroCard vending machine.
In London I also loved that above the platforms signs clearly and accurately displayed the wait time for the next train. No such luck in New York.

The worst was the transfer stations. London's system is organized as signs funnels you from tunnel to tunnel. Separate tunnels for different trains which then separate one more time based on the direction. Major subway stations in NYC such as the one in Times Square open up to an underground plaza that leads to all trains.

One difference back over fifteen years ago was the use of tokens in New York as opposed to travelcards in London. NYC's MetroCard today is more congruent to London's version.

I found the London tube to be the most convenient and reasonable way to travel. After using the bus system in my home city of Honolulu, I have never traveled anywhere so quickly without the use of a car. The New York subway is the same as London in this respect. When visiting Manhattan, I usually use a taxi to/from the airport. Otherwise during my stay it's either by foot or subway.

After a long, restful lunch catching up with friends in Central Park it was time to ride the subway to the Upper East Side to attend an in-store performance at Barnes & Noble. Other than each evening at the theatre where I simply walk to the venue from my hotel, the rest of my visit has a very loose itinerary so I cautiously purchase subway MetroCards using a combination of Single Fares ($2.50) and Fast $10 MetroCard at the ticket vending machines (all touch screen). I find paying with a credit card easier than fumbling for bills and coins in my pocket. After the card is dispensed, I request for a receipt and head to the turnstiles.

Rather than rambling on the method of riding the subway, check out the city's MTA website which has a an easy set of instructions of "How to Ride the Subway". Click HERE for complete information about the New York City subway system which includes fare information, maps and schedules.

Screen shot from a MetroCard vending machine.


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