Living in New York Series: Transportation
There are so many different options for how to get around within NYC. The most known way, Subways & cabs, are always there, but there are a couple other different options as well that won't break the bank.
The Subway is the underground railroad system that transports people around the city. This is probably the most common way to get around NYC, especially if you are commuting to and from work daily. My number 1 tip for the subway is, at your local Subway stop, learn the right cars to get into that correspond to the right exits to get off, . For example, for a certain commute, I know to walk to the very other end of the Subway platform and get on the second to last train, because that is the closest train to the exit at the particular stop I need. You won't know this about every Subway ride, but it's important to know for your daily one to save you time.
I appreciate the fact that the Subway is there, and it probably is the fastest way to travel most of the time. However, I avoid it. It's hot, smelly, everything is filthy, and I kind of feel like it's the closest thing to hell. Especially in the summer! It's good to know certain quirks about your Subway stop too. For example, for a station close to me, I know to go the middle of the platform for a particular 5 foot area, because that is the only place a stalactite will not get me with the gross street liquid from above. You think I'm kidding, but I am not. However, as we discussed here, living in New York is not glamorous, so this is just something that you get used to.
You have to purchase a Metrocard to ride the Subway, You can either buy an unlimited pass for a certain amount of time, or you can just put money on your card. Right now, each ride is $2.75. If you're using the Subway daily, then an unlimited pass is probably the best to purchase. However, if you're like me and you walk to work and only use the Subway once or twice a week, then just putting money on your card will probably be your best purchase. I put $40 on my card each time, and sometimes it lasts me a month, sometimes it lasts me three months. Just depends on my activities that month. If you're visiting, it's probably easiest to just get the unlimited week pass.
Pretty self explanatory. They are the yellow cars that infest the city everywhere. They've recently upgraded their cars, so you'll now probably ride around in a new Toyota. If the light is on, that means they're open. If the light is not on, that means they are not available. If you get into a cab, they are required by NY law to take you anywhere you want to go. If they throw a fit, you whip out that NY attitude you've recently acquired and tell them to get driving! They mostly all take credit/debit now, so not having cash is usually not a problem.
With taxis, you basically just have to learn to embrace the driver. Some drivers will want to chat your ear off (especially if you're a woman and it's a Friday/Saturday night), while some won't want to talk at all. Some will talk on their phone in a different language, while some will want to listen to NPR or classical music. Some think the whole front seat is their personal garden and they serenade their plants with a recorder at stop lights. People, I do not make this stuff up.
If you haven't heard of Uber by now, I'm scared for your pop culture life. They're basically a classier taxi, but they're in a sleek and sophisticated black car (sometimes!), and you can order them from an app. If you are splitting rides with someone, Uber's app makes it very easy to split the fare between multiple riders without having to figure it out. It's also helpful if you want to order your car for about 5 minutes before you want to leave, instead of throwing your luck at the odds of how popular your nearest corner is. The best thing about Uber is that you pay on your phone by putting in your credit card information when you set up your account. So, if say you were locked out of your apartment but had your phone, you could Uber to wherever your extra set of keys are. Or, if you forgot your wallet at home, you can at least get back home safely after you've mooched off your friends.
The thing about Uber is that just as you rate the drivers each time, they rate you. The lower your rating, the less liklihood an Uber is going to pick you up. The higher your rating, the more likely that Uber that's across the street will pick you up instantly. So, don't trash the car, don't play music too loudly, don't go to 2nd or 3rd or even Home Base with your date, and overall, just don't be a dick. Have some respect because hey, they're just trying to get by here too.
This is my new found favorite way to get around here. Especially if you want to just go from uptown to downtown, or vice versa, buses are perfect for that! Unless it's late at night, or early morning, they're going to be slower than the Subway. However, especially in the summer, you don't have to walk down into the Subway hell and sweat further, just to wait for awhile for a train that may or may not show up.
My favorite thing about the buses here is that there is an app called Bus Checker that tells you the time distance to the next bus, in real time! So, no more guessing when it's coming. You can tell if it's 1, 3, 9, or 21 minutes away (and all in-between). I just personally hate going down into the depths of the Subway, so this is in my opinion, the best public transportation.
You can access the bus with a Metrocard, which is what you need for the Subway, too. As a tip, if you take the Subway somewhere, and then take a bus within 2-3 hours (don't quote me, but that's how far I've tested it), it'll count it as a "Transfer". So, if you don't have an unlimited Subway card like me, you can get a two rides for one charge! Deal!
There are Citi bikes all over the city, which is nice if there's one in front of your work and/or apartment. I've never personally used a Citi bike before though. I wear mostly wear dresses to work and I don't think all of Manhattan needs to see my underwear color. They're pricing system is a little confusing too. You can purchase a 24 hour pass for $9.95, but you have to pay $4-$12+ if your trip is over 30 minutes. So basically, you have to take a lot of mini trips in between. I guess if you're using it for commuter reasons, it makes sense. But, let's say you rode your bike to work and from work (so twice in one day), it'll end up being about $5 more (almost double) than taking the Subway.
One day, I did bike to Jersey by renting a bike from a local shop near me. It was $6 an hour, and it ended up taking us about 3 hours total. If you're looking to bike ride longer than commuting, without getting on and off multiple times throughout the day (and for a cheaper rate), I would recommend renting from a local shop.
This is actually my preferred method. I walk 20 minutes to and from work everyday, which is such a luxury for me. It's built in exercise time, plus I get to see what is going on in the communities around me. Make sure to buy shoes that will hold up while you're walking. I walk at least 3 miles everyday, so that's at least 21 miles a week, and 84 miles a month. My flats get some serious wear and tear.
LIRR/NJ Transit/Metro North:
These are all trains that take you out of the city from either Long Island (to the west), New Jersey (to the east), or New York State (to the north). There are lots of different lines for each, so make sure to look up your schedule accordingly. They do make getting out of the city easier than renting a car.
It's basically New Jersey's Subway system that makes several stops in NYC as well, and it's generally cleaner. It's awesome if you live in Jersey City or Hoboken, or want to go out to some of those bars and restaurants.
I know, not the first mode of transportation that may pop up in your mind. However, since we do live by the water they are a viable option. Quite honestly, it's the most beautiful mode of transportation that NYC has to offer. I've only taken the IKEA ferry a couple times to Redhook & IKEA, but the whole ride was absolutely beautiful. If I lived in Jersey, or Redhook, I would for sure take a water taxi to work everyday.
Okay, so in full disclosure here on the blog, I took a pedicab once. After I had just moved to NYC, I went to Best Buy to buy a TV. I thought since it was on 5th Ave, I figured I could for sure get a cab. Oh, was I so naive. After 10 minutes of hanging out on the corner, a pedicab came up and offered me a ride home. It was summer, I was flustered, and so I said sure. Worst decision! I put this giant TV into this tiny little pedicab, and off we went....through Times Square!!! How embarrassing! I also didn't consider that the pedicabs go through the traffic, which means the heat from all the exhaust on the cars and buses flows right on you! It was the hottest ride of my life. It took about a half hour to get home, and it cost around $50 total. I got duped, for sure!
If you're a tourist, pedicabs might not be a terrible idea. But, they're super expensive, and you're right at the exhaust level of all cars and buses. You've been warned!
As a general reminder, don't get into a gypsy cab. Those are the cabs that will drive up to you and ask you out the window if you need a ride. They're usually in black cars, but not only are they unsafe and unauthorized, they also charge way more than necessary. Just say no, and take one of the ways you just read about.
Are there any other modes of transportation that you've taken, or would recommend? Share in the comments!
The Living In New York Series originated from a desire to share my learnings and experiences of living in NYC., hopefully to make your experience easier. All of these suggestions are based solely off my experiences, and therefore only my opinions. If you have another positive opinion, I would love to read it in the comments!