GETTING AROUND New York City
Under normal circumstances, New York City is easy to navigate. However, subway and bus changes can occur at the last minute, so pay attention to the posters on station walls and listen carefully to any announcements you may hear in trains and on subway platforms.
Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA)
Travel info 718-330-1234, hourly updates 718-243-7777; www.mta.info.
The MTA runs the subways and buses, as well as a number of alternative commuter services to points outside Manhattan. You can get news of service interruptions and download the most current maps from the website.
City Buses | Driving | Subways
Taxis & car services | Walking
Getting to and from New York
MTA buses are fine…but only if you aren’t in a hurry. They are white and blue and display a digital destination sign on the front along with the route number (in Manhattan, look for the ones that begin with an M). If your feet hurt from walking around, a bus is a good way to continue sightseeing. The $2 fare is payable with a MetroCard (see Subways) or exact change (coins only; no pennies). The MTA’s express buses usually head to the outer boroughs; these cost $4.
MetroCards allow automatic transfers from bus to bus, and between buses and subways. If you use coins, and you’re traveling uptown or downtown and want to go crosstown (or vice versa), ask the driver for a transfer when you get on—you’ll be given a ticket for use on the second leg of your journey. Maps are posted on most buses and at all subway stations; they’re also available from NYC & Company. All buses are equipped with wheelchair lifts. Contact the MTA for further information.
Manhattan drivers (especially cabbies) are fearless; taking to the streets is not for the faint of heart. For details on the layout of Manhattan’s streets, see Walking, and keep in mind that almost all even-numbered streets run east, while odd streets run west (major crosstown streets, such as 42nd, are two-way). Avenues run north-south. Try to restrict your driving to evening hours, when traffic is lighter and there’s more street parking available. Even then, keep your eyes on the road and stay alert.
Make sure you read the parking signs and never park within 15 feet (5 meters) of a fire hydrant (to avoid getting a $115 ticket and/or having your car towed). Parking is off-limits on most streets for at least a few hours each day. Even where meters exist, daytime parking can be restricted. The Department of Transportation (dial 311) provides information on daily changes to parking regulations. If precautions fail, call 718-935-0096 for NYC towing and impoundment information (see also Parking).
514 W 39th St between Tenth and Eleventh Aves (212-244-4420). 24 hrs. daily Repairs 9am–5pm daily. MC, V.
All types of repairs are done on foreign and domestic autos.
24-hour gas stations
24 Second Ave at 1st St (212-979-7000). AmEx, MC, V.
502 W 45th St at Tenth Ave (212-245-6594). AmEx, DC, Disc, MC, V.
Subways are the fastest way to get around town during the day, and it’s far cleaner and safer it was 20 years ago. The city’s system is one of the world’s largest and cheapest—$2 will get you from the depths of Brooklyn to the northernmost reaches of the Bronx and anywhere in between (though the subway doesn’t service Staten Island). Trains run around the clock, but with sparse service and fewer riders at night, it’s advisable (and usually quicker) to take a cab after 10pm.
Ongoing improvements have resulted in several changes. You can ask MTA workers in service booths for a free map.
To ensure safety, don’t stand near the edge of the platform. Late nights and early mornings, board the train from the designated off-peak waiting area, usually near the middle of the platform; this area is more secure than the ends of the platforms or the outermost cars, which are often less populated at night. Standard urban advisory: Hold your bag with the opening facing you or keep your wallet in a front pocket, and don’t wear flashy jewelry. Remember, petty crime increases during the holidays.
To enter the subway system, you need a MetroCard (it also works on buses), which you can buy from a booth inside the station entrance or from one of the brightly colored MetroCard vending machines that accept cash, debit cards and credit cards (AmEx, Disc, MC, V).
If you’re planning to use the subway or buses often, it’s worth buying a multiple-ride MetroCard, which is also sold at some stores and hotels. Free transfers between subways and buses are available only with the MetroCard. There are two types: pay-per-use and unlimited ride. Any number of passengers can use a pay-per-use card, which is sold in denominations from $4 for two trips to $80. A $20 card offers 12 trips for the price of 10. The unlimited ride MetroCard (an incredible value for frequent users) is offered in three amounts: a 1-day Fun Pass ($7, available at station vending machines but not at booths), a 7-day Unlimited Ride ($24) and a 30-day Unlimited Ride ($76). You can only swipe your card once every 18 minutes at a given subway station or on a bus so just one person can use it per trip.
Trains are identified by letters or numbers and are color-coded according to the line on which they run. Stations are most often named after the street at which they’re located. Entrances are marked with a green globe (24 hours) or a red globe (limited hours). Many stations have separate entrances for uptown and downtown platforms—look before you pay (for an explanation of the city’s streets, see Walking). Local trains stop at every station; express trains make major-station stops only. Check a subway map (posted in all stations and available at service booths). Keep an eye out for posted notices indicating temporary changes along a particular line.
TAXIS & CAR SERVICES
Yellow cabs are hardly ever in short supply—except, of course, at rush hour. Use only yellow medallion (licensed) cabs; avoid unregulated gypsy cabs. If the center light on top of the taxi is lit, it means the cab is available and should stop if you flag it down. Jump in and then tell the driver where you’re going (New Yorkers generally give cross streets rather than addresses—for an explanation of the city’s streets see Walking).
Taxis carry up to four people for the same price: $2.50 plus 40¢ per fifth of a mile, with an extra 50¢ charge from 8pm to 6am. The average fare for a three-mile (4.5 kilometer) ride is $9 to $11, depending on time of day and on traffic (the meter adds another 20¢ per minute while the car is idling). Cabbies rarely allow more than four passengers in a cab (it’s illegal unless the fifth person is a child under age seven), though it may be worth asking.
Not all drivers know their way around the city, so it helps if you know where you’re going—and speak up. By law, taxis cannot refuse to take you anywhere inside the city limits (the five boroughs) or to New York airports, so don’t be duped by a reluctant cabbie. They may still refuse; to avoid an argument, get out and try another cab. If you have a problem, take down the medallion and driver’s numbers, posted on the partition. Always ask for a receipt—there’s a meter number on it. To complain or to trace lost property, call the Taxi $ Limousine Commission (212-227-0700; Mon–Fri 8am–4pm) or visit their website at www.nyc.gov/taxi. In general, tip 15 percent, as you would in a restaurant, or 20 percent if the service is great.
Late at night, cabs stick to fast-flowing routes. Try the avenues and key streets (Canal, Houston, 14th, 23rd, 34th, 42nd, 57th, 72nd and 86th). Bridge and tunnel exits are also good for a steady flow of taxis returning from the airports, and available cabbies will usually head for nightclubs and big hotels. Otherwise, try the following:
Chatham Square, where Mott Street meets the Bowery, is an unofficial taxi stand. You can also try hailing a cab exiting the Manhattan Bridge at the Bowery and Canal Street.
The crowd heads toward Columbus Circle for a cab; those in the know go west to Amsterdam Avenue.
Lower East Side
Katz’s Deli (Houston St at Ludlow St) is a cabbies’ hangout; also try Delancey Street, where cabs come in over the Williamsburg Bridge.
Penn Station, Grand Central Terminal and the Port Authority Bus Terminal attract cabs all night.
If you’re on the west side, try Sixth Avenue; east side, the intersection of Houston Street and Broadway.
This busy area has 30 taxi stands—look for the yellow globes atop nine-foot poles.
Cabs head up Hudson Street. The Tribeca Grand (2 Sixth Ave between Walker and White Sts) is also a good bet.
Car services are also regulated by the Taxi & Limousine Commission. Unlike cabs, the cars aren’t yellow and drivers can make only prearranged pickups. If you see a black Lincoln Town Car, it most likely belongs to a car service. Don’t try to hail one, and be wary of those that offer you a ride; they may not be licensed or insured, and you could get ripped off.
The following companies will pick you up anywhere in the city, at any time of day or night, for a set fare.
One of the best ways to take in NYC is on foot. Most of the streets are laid out in a grid pattern and are relatively easy to navigate. A map makes it even easier. Manhattan is divided into three major sections: downtown, which includes all neighborhoods south of 14th Street; midtown, roughly the area from 14th to 59th Street; and uptown, north of 59th Street.
Generally, avenues run north-south along the length of Manhattan. They are parallel to one another and are logically numbered, with a few exceptions, such as Broadway, Columbus and Lexington Avenues. Manhattan’s center is Fifth Avenue, so all buildings located east of it will have “East” addresses, with numbers going higher toward the East River, and those west of it will have “West” numbers that go higher toward the Hudson River. Streets also run parallel to one another but they run east to west, or crosstown, and are numbered, from 1st Street up to 220th Street.
The neighborhoods of lower Manhattan—including the Financial District, Tribeca, Chinatown and Greenwich Village—were settled prior to urban planning and can be confusing to walk through. Their charming lack of logic makes the use of a map essential.