NYC Subway Hacks You Need to Know.
Called the world’s busiest, longest, oldest and most crowded subway in the world, the New York subway system is as convenient as it is dreadful. Whether you’re a first-time visitor to NYC or someone who’s been living here for some time, the experience of riding the subway can take its toll. Let’s just say that the MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority) more times than I’d like to admit. But, before you ditch the whole idea and decide to hail a cab or call an Uber, try to keep in mind these NYC subway hacks that will make that morning commute so much easier:
Navigate with Apps like Google Maps.
The NYC subway has 472 stations, which basically means that the chances of getting lost or confused are pretty high. But don’t worry, learning to navigate through the lines and stations isn’t as difficult as one might think. First, every subway station has a comprehensive map showcasing all the lines and station names – use it. Take time to study it carefully. If you’re still not sure what you’re doing, make use of apps. You can simply use a default map installed on your phone or you can download one of the many useful apps for getting around the NYC subway. I use Google Maps religiously because it tells you what trains you need to take, how many stops are in between, and even what exit you should use to get to where you have to go the quickest. Easy peasy right? I’d also recommend saving the official subway map on your phone just in case.
Have your card ready to swipe.
New Yorkers will 100% judge you if you get to the turnstile and are fumbling through your Hermione bag (you know, the one that has the Undetectable Extension charm on it) for your wallet. Don’t stand in front of the turnstile until you’re ready to swipe your card through.
Stay close to the dirty spots.
The dirtiest spots on the yellow warning strip on each platform are usually where where trains’ doors open. Stand by one of these and you’ll be in the train car that much faster.
Always fill up Your MetroCard ahead of time.
The great thing about the NYC subway is that it’s pretty much the cheapest way to get around the city. That being said, whether you need a single journey ticket or multiple passes, you will need a MetroCard, which include MTA buses and the subway. You can fill up your card using cash, credit or ATM/debit at almost every station. Some stations may not have machines though, so it’s important to fill up ahead of time if possible, especially if you know you’ll be in a rush. Personally, I almost always buy the one-month unlimited pass. It will save you a ton of money if you live in New York City! The only downside is that you can’t use that pass at the same station for 18 minutes, so if you plan on running a quick errand, you may have to wait a few minutes before swiping into the turnstile. If you’re visiting New York for the first time and are staying for more than three days or plan on doing a ton of sightseeing, I would definitely recommend buying the weekly unlimited pass. Each individual ride is $2.75 and the unlimited pass for 7 days is $32 - you’ll save a pretty penny if you plan on taking the subway or bus often.
Check the train: Local or Express?
This is where things get a bit tricky. Looking at the subway map, you’ll notice that some stations are marked with white, while others are marked with black dots. The white dots are express stations, while the black ones are local stations. All the trains on that line stop on the white dots, but NOT all trains stop on the black ones! This is one of the most common mistakes people make when riding the NYC subway and it can cost you plenty of time. Make sure to study the map carefully and to know exactly where you’re going.
Know whether you’re going uptown or downtown.
Another thing that will make your life easier is learning the two magic words – uptown and downtown. This is basically the direction you’re heading to and knowing whether you need to go north (uptown) or south (downtown) will help you figure out which platform to choose from. If you’re in Manhattan, the streets are horizontal and the avenues are vertical on the map. Always make sure you’re going the right way before you get on the train. I can’t even tell you the number of times I’ve been in a rush and jumped onto the train a second before the doors closed, only to realize that I got on a train going the wrong direction. Sometimes, this simple mistake means an additional two or three minutes added on to your commute - other times, it means that you’re going into a completely different borough 12 minutes away.
Always avoid the empty train car.
Trust me, there is a reason it’s empty. The AC may be broken and the air inside might be blisteringly hot. Or maybe someone threw up on it the night before while coming home from a party. If all the other train cars are full and that one is empty, trust the judgment of your fellow New Yorkers and steer clear.
Mind the Changes and check for delays.
Remember Harry Potter and the moving staircases? Well, it’s something similar to the NYC subway. Delays and service changes are not that uncommon, so you better arm yourself with patience. You can also follow The Weekender so you can stay up to date with the most recent service changes in effect.
Let people off the train before you get off.
This will help you avoid any dirty looks from the people getting off the train and will also help the train leave the station quicker. Win-win, my friends.
The NYC subway is probably the cheapest and fastest way to get around the city, but it can also turn into a nightmare if you don’t know what to expect. So, do your research, study the maps, download the apps and of course – keep an open mind. Your subway ride might even be accompanied by various performances from dancers and singers to poets and artists. It’s no wonder they call it The Capital of the World.