For shorter distances, there is no better way of getting around New York than hitting the sidewalk. If you use the subway or buses, you will almost certainly need to walk to and from stations or stops. In all areas of New York a traveler is likely to visit, all streets have wide, smoothly-paved sidewalks. For long distances, walking is also fine and a great way to see the city.
Public Transit – Buses and Subways
To ride the buses and subways in New York City, it is most likely that you will need a MetroCard. The Metropolitan Transit Authority, or MTA, sells MetroCards for use on the New York City bus and subway systems. While it is possible to pay bus fare using exact change (coins only), you must have a MetroCard to enter the subway system. Cards can be bought online, at station booths, at vending machines in subway stations, and at many grocery stores and newsstands (look for a MetroCard sign on the store window). The vending machines in the stations accept credit cards; however, MetroCard vending machines will require that you type in your 5-digit zip code, or your regular PIN on international cards.
The PATH (Port Authority Trans-Hudson) subway system, which operates between New York and New Jersey, is not operated by the MTA and is therefore a separate fare. Even though PATH accepts payment by MetroCard, no free transfers are available to or from MTA subways or buses, because PATH is separate. JFK AirTrain also accepts MetroCard, but again, is not operated by the MTA and therefore no free transfers are available.
Metro-North Commuter Railroad, Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), New Jersey Transit (NJT), and Amtrak trains do not accept MetroCard.
Types of MetroCards
Up to three children 44 inches tall and under ride for free on subways and local buses when accompanied by a fare paying adult.
MetroCards generally expire 1 year after purchase; the expiration date is printed on the back of the card at the upper left.
A $1 fee is charged for each MetroCard purchased at station booths and vending machines.
Single Ride MetroCard - costs $2.75 and is good for one use. It allows no free transfers between the subway and bus, and it is only valid for two hours after purchase.
Pay-Per-Ride (Regular) MetroCards - are available in amounts from $5.00 to $80. Each local bus or subway trip deducts $2.50 from your card; each express buses trip deducts $6.00. Usage of the PATH system deducts $2.00, and usage of JFK Airtrain deducts $5.00. Note that you can always add additional money to your MetroCard at a later time. Additionally, you receive a 5% bonus for purchases of $5 or more (e.g. a $10 purchase yields a credit of $10.50). Regular MetroCard is the best option if you are spending a few days in New York and plan to use public transportation intermittently.
Additionally, a Pay-Per-Ride MetroCard allows for one free transfer during a two hour window immediately following a paid fare:
*From subway to local bus
*From local bus to subway
*From local bus to local bus (but not to any bus on the same route as the first)
*From express bus to subway
*From express bus to local bus
*From express bus to express bus (but not to any bus on the same route as the first)
You can transfer from subway to subway as often as you like provided that you do not exit the subway system by leaving through a turnstile or gate. Many subway connections are possible in this way, by using in-station connections between the various lines. Indeed, the Guinness Book of World Records tracks the fastest times of groups that have tried to ride every single New York City subway train line on one fare - some have spent over 24 consecutive hours riding in the subway! Just remember that if you leave the subway and re-enter, you will be charged a second fare.
Additionally, if you board a local bus and pay the $2.50 fare with a MetroCard, you can transfer to an express bus for the reduced price of $3.50 (instead of the standard $6.00 express bus fare).
Unlimited Ride MetroCards - are available in 7-day ($30) and 30-day ($112). They are valid from the time you first use them until midnight of the 7th and 30th day, respectively. Do the math; these cards may work out to be cheaper if you plan on using public transport frequently during your stay. Roughly, it works out to two trips every day for a week so those who commute round-trip within the city every day can benefit from this. Note that Unlimited Ride MetroCards may not be used in rapid succession at the same subway station or on the same bus route. Once used, 18 minutes must elapse before it can be used at the same station (or on the same bus route). This is to prevent people from using a single Unlimited Ride MetroCard to pay for an entire group, for example. Hence, each member of the group will require their own Unlimited Ride MetroCard. Unlimited Ride MetroCards are NOT valid on express buses, JFK AirTrain, or PATH trains to New Jersey.
7-Day Express Bus Plus - costs $55 and allows unlimited use of not just local buses and subways, but also express buses. If you are staying in Staten Island, Queens, or Westchester county and plan to commute to the city during your visit, this pass may be advantageous to you.
Also available are two passes good only for unlimited use of the JFK Airtrain: a 30-day unlimited AirTrain pass for $40, and a 10-trip pass for $25.
You can also get discounted tickets to certain events by showing your MetroCard when purchasing tickets. Current promotions are listed on the MetroCard website
Despite a reputation for being dirty, the subway, which operates 24 hours a day, is the fastest and best way to travel around the city. Fares are $2.50 (unless you use Single Ride MetroCard, which is $2.75), regardless of distance traveled. The much-feared subway crimes of the 1970s and 1980s are for the most part a thing of the past, and it is almost always completely safe. Just remember to use common sense when traveling late at night alone. Try to use heavily-traveled stations, remain visible to other people, and don't display items of value publicly. While violent crime is rare, petty crime - especially theft of iPhones and other expensive electronics - is very frequent, so be aware when using your phone on the train.
To enter the subway, you will need to swipe your MetroCard through the slot on the right hand side of the turnstile that greets you at the subway entrance. Hold your card with the logo facing your body and black magnetic strip down. Then slide it forward through the slot at a moderate speed. You'll know you succeeded when the display flashes "Go" in green and you hear a *CLICK* sound. Only once you hear the *CLICK* is it OK to walk through the turnstile. Swiping the card improperly or moving the turnstile incorrectly could mean the forfeiture of your fare (for Pay-Per-Ride cards) or a lockout of 18 minutes (for Unlimited Ride cards). If this happens, go to a station booth and explain the problem. The agent will ask for your MetroCard, confirm that it was just charged, and let you go through.
Overhead signage next to each track indicates the trains that stop at that particular track and the direction they are heading. In addition, the trains themselves are marked by signage that indicates their route. Subway stations are ventilated to the street, so they can be quite cold in the winter. In summertime, the stations can be much warmer than the outside temperature. The trains themselves are quite comfortable, but keep the temperature of stations in mind when planning your trip.
Some trains are express, meaning that they skip local stations to provide faster service. Wherever there is an express train, there is also a local train that makes all stops. Local and express trains often use different tracks, so be sure to board the correct train. For example, the 2 and 3 are the express trains for the 7th Avenue Line between 96th Street and Chambers Street in Manhattan, while the 1 runs local alongside them.
During weekends and late nights, certain trains do not operate, many express trains make local stops, and some subway entrances are closed. Detailed information is available on the MTA website. Additionally, maintenance work is usually concentrated on weekends and overnight. Notices of maintenance are posted at stations and on the MTA website, so check online to avoid unpleasant surprises. Remember, if you do feel confused, ask for help. Be aware that construction related service changes confuse many New Yorkers, so the best person to ask is a subway employee. The entire subway system is a massive, connected network, so do not fear — there will always be another way to get to your destination.
A free subway map can be found online, or obtained at staffed station booths. Station agents can also assist you with directions. Even if not taking the bus, the free bus system maps for each borough double as fairly good street maps that show the exact location of every subway station. For directions on how to travel between two addresses in the city via subway, buses, regional rail, or walking, see HopStop.com. Additionally, for convenience, subway maps are displayed in every station and on every train.
Every subway route is identified by either a letter or a number. In midtown Manhattan, they are mostly grouped by color, but not always.
The Lexington Avenue Line trains (4, 5, 6) are essentially the only trains on the East Side above 23 St. Useful to get to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (4, 5, or 6 to 86th Street Station or 6 to 77th Street Station), Guggenheim Museum (4, 5, or 6 to 86th Street Station), and other East Side museums. Also to get to the Statue of Liberty (4, 5 to Bowling Green Station), Chinatown (6 to Canal Street station), and the Stock Exchange (4 and 5 to Wall Street). The 4 also goes uptown through Spanish Harlem to 161 St. - Yankee Stadium and beyond.
The Seventh Avenue Line (1, 2, 3) serves Broadway above 42nd Street and Seventh Avenue below 42nd Street. Useful to get to the West Village, Chelsea, and Tribeca neighborhoods as well as the Staten Island or Ellis Island/Statue of Liberty ferries (1 to South Ferry station) and Columbia University (1 to 116th Street station).
The Eighth Avenue Line (A, C, E) serves Eighth Avenue between 14th and 116th Streets, then St. Nicholas Av., Broadway, and Ft. Washington Av. starting at 125th St. in Harlem
. Between 50th and 59th streets, the E branches off to Queens, and the B and D trains join the A and C trains for the journey uptown along Central Park West (the B and C make local stops). This section is useful to get to the Natural History Museum (B and C to 81st Street station), and Cloisters Museum (A to 190th Street station). Take an uptown E train or a Rockaway-bound A train for access to JFK Airport.
The Sixth Avenue Line (B, D, F, M) runs on 6th Ave. from West 4th St. to 47th-50th street, and is useful for accessing the New York Public Library Main Branch (42nd St.), Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Hall, and St. Patrick's Cathedral (47th-50th Sts.).
*Going downtown, these trains go on their own separate ways. The D goes down 4th Ave. in Brooklyn to Coney Island. The F goes to Coney Island on its own route. The B ends at Brighton Beach alongside the Q train, which also goes to Coney Island.
**The M goes east alongside the Nassau Street line (J, Z), but then branches again up Myrtle Avenue to Middle Village in Queens. The J and Z trains, meanwhile, either continue east to through Williamsburg
and other Brooklyn neighborhoods to Jamaica
, or west into southern Manhattan, via the Williamsburg Bridge.
*Going uptown, the B and D trains branch west and join the A and C trains (see above). They branch again toward the Bronx after 145th Street (which is the way to get to the 161 St. - Yankee Stadium stop). The M train branches east and joins the E along 53rd street for the Museum of Modern Art, then head off to Queens. The F train makes one more 6th avenue stop at 57th street, then turns east to Queens, making a stop at Roosevelt Island
, and joining the E, M, and R trains.
The Broadway Line (N, Q, R) runs down Broadway below 42nd Street and on Seventh Avenue and 59th street above Times Square. The N, Q, and R trains are useful for accessing Chinatown (Canal St), SoHo/NoHo, NYU area, Union Square (14th St), the Empire State Building (34th St), Times Square (42nd St), Carnegie Hall (57th St.), Central Park (57th St and 5th Av stations), and the southern end of the Upper East Side. The R trains also go down to Financial District and South Ferry (Whitehall St). Like the D and F trains, the N and Q trains also provide service to Coney Island in their own separate routes: The N goes solo, and the Q runs alongside the B (see above).
The Flushing Line (7), dubbed the "International Express", runs crosstown along 42nd Street (making a good late-night alternative to the upstairs Shuttle (see below)) and out to Queens, making stops in Filipino, South Asian, Hispanic, and Chinese/Korean neighborhoods, and also to CitiField and the USTA Billie Jean King Tennis Center.
The Canarsie Line (L) also runs crosstown along 14th Street in Manhattan, then through Williamsburg
and Bushwick and eventually to Canarsie in Brooklyn.
The Crosstown Line (G) runs along most of Western Brooklyn and into Long Island City in Queens. At no point on its route does it stop in Manhattan.
There are three Shuttles (indicated with an "S") throughout the system. The 42nd Street Shuttle connects Times Square on the West Side, with Grand Central Terminal on the East Side. The Franklin Avenue Shuttle in Brooklyn makes four stops at Fulton Street (transfer to C), Park Place, Botanical Gardens (transfer to 2, 3, 4, and 5), and Prospect Park (transfer to B and Q). The Rockaway Shuttle connects with the A train at Broad Channel before branching off toward Beach 116th Street.
The PATH can be used to travel within Manhattan, from 33rd St along 6th Ave to Christopher Street. It covers such a small territory but in theory you can use it if you have to travel its exact route. Note that Unlimited Ride Metrocards cannot be used on the PATH. PATH also accepts the SmartLink Card (similar to the MetroCard, but the SmartLink Card cannot be used on the subway). The PATH train can be a great way to get around lower Midtown along 6 Avenue. Like the subway, PATH operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Usually, PATH trains arrive every 5–10 minutes (based on the time), but overnight, they may only come every 35 minutes.
By the Staten Island Railway
The Staten Island Railway, true to its name, is a railway line that serves Staten Island. It is owned and operated by the MTA. It is free except at the Tompkinsville and St. George stations. There, the price is the same as the subway ($2.50), and is payable by MetroCard (free transfers from MTA buses work, just as is the case with subways). SIR departure times from the terminal at St. George are usually coordinated with those of the Staten Island Ferry. The SIR consists of one line that travels along the East Shore of Staten Island, ending at Tottenville. A full timetable with other information can be found here.
By commuter rail
Commuter rail lines are mostly used for traveling between the city and its suburbs; however, they can be used for intracity transit as well. A handful of destinations are closer to commuter rail stops but far from the subway. MetroCards are not accepted on commuter rail; separate single or period tickets must be bought. When purchasing commuter railroad tickets, it is advantageous to purchase them online or in railroad stations prior to boarding. While tickets are available for sale on trains, there is an on-board surcharge that makes them significantly more expensive.
The Long Island Railroad, often called the LIRR runs to/from Penn Station in Midtown Manhattan, Flatbush Avenue/Atlantic Avenue in Downtown Brooklyn, and has limited rush hour service to/from Long Island City, Queens. The Port Washington Branch goes to Northeast Queens which, aside from Flushing and Citi Field, is not served by the subway system. The Main Line, which contains most of the branches to the different parts of Long Island, goes to Southeastern Queens, including Jamaica, Laurelton, and Rosedale. The Atlantic Branch, which ends in Downtown Brooklyn, goes to East New York and Bedford-Stuyvesant, both in Brooklyn. This branch is not accessible from Manhattan, however. The LIRR is also the fastest way to get from JFK to Manhattan, Brooklyn, or Queens, and also runs to many popular getaways in Long Island, such as Long Beach, Port Jefferson, and Montauk. The LIRR has a somewhat deserved reputation for poor on-time performance, however this is more of a problem in the farther eastern reaches of the railroad and not so much a problem in New York City and its immediate suburbs.
The Metro-North Railroad provides services to/from Grand Central Terminal. Trains go to the Bronx and the northern suburbs of the city. The Hudson Line covers several parts of the Western Bronx, while the Harlem Line goes through the Central Bronx — an area with no subway service. It is the best way to get to Arthur Avenue and the New York Botanic Gardens. The Hudson and Harlem Lines are also your gateway to Westchester County and beyond, with the Hudson Line running all the way to Poughkeepsie. The New Haven Line runs to Connecticut, terminating, logically enough, in New Haven.
Even in Manhattan, with its dense subway network, buses can often be the best way of making a crosstown (i.e. east-west) journey, for example, crossing Central Park to go from the Metropolitan Museum to the Museum of Natural History. And outside peak hours, a ride by bus from the tip of Manhattan at Battery Park to Midtown is a good and cheap way of taking in the sights.
Bus lines are identified by letters followed by numbers. The letters indicate the borough in which the line mostly operates (M=Manhattan; Bx=Bronx; B=Brooklyn; Q=Queens; S=Staten Island). Collectively, the letters and numbers make up the route (examples: M31, Bx9, M15). Signage at each bus stop indicates which buses stop there. Signage on the front of each bus indicates the route and destination of the bus. Bus maps for each borough can be found at the MTA website.
Express buses travel between Manhattan and the outer boroughs, usually to areas where the subway doesn't operate (such as eastern Queens, the eastern Bronx, southeast Brooklyn, and Staten Island). They cost $6.00 but offer comfortable cloth seats and are less crowded than the subway and local buses. Most Express buses are identified with either "X" (x1,x2,x63,x68) or by the Borough they connect to Manhattan. So Express buses to and from the Bronx would be labeled BxM (BxM11, BxM18), to and from Brooklyn would be labeled BM(BM1,BM2) and to and from Queens QM(QM1,QM2). Staten Island express buses and a few Brooklyn and Queens express buses are labeled with "X".
When boarding a bus with a MetroCard, insert the card vertically, with the pin hole down, the black stripe to the right and the word "MetroCard" facing towards you, into the card slot in the top of the fare box next to the driver. You should be able to read the word "MetroCard" from bottom to top when inserting the card in this manner. The fare box will swallow the card, read it, and return it to you. Note this is different from the procedure to enter the subway described in Subway Basics
Bus fareboxes also accept coins. However, they will not accept pennies or half-dollar (50 cent) coins, nor will they accept bills. As a safety precaution, drivers do not handle money. Change is not given, so exact fares must be paid. If you pay with coins and require a free transfer, you will have to ask the driver for one after you have paid.
Certain buses contain a small orange and purple card in the window that says "Limited." These limited buses do not make all local bus stops, stopping only at major cross streets. They are similar to express buses in some ways, but only cost the standard $2.50 to ride. If a Limited bus skips your stop, you can wait for a local bus which will arrive soon. On some Avenues where there is at least two or more bus routes serving it, some bus routes may operate Limited on the entire avenue or at least until they branch off. For Example the M1, M2, M3, M4, M5; the M2 and M5 provide limited-stop service on 5th Ave & Madison Ave during the day.
+Select Bus Service+ also makes limited stops like the Limited buses described above, and costs the standard $2.50 fare. They appear on the B44 in Brooklyn, the Bx12 and Bx41 in the Bronx and the M15, M34 and M34A in Manhattan. They can be identified by a special blue wrap around the lower half of the bus. However, these buses operate on a very different payment system. To board these +SBS+ buses, fares must be paid before boarding by using machines on the sidewalk near a special +SBS+ bus stop which is typically quite close to the local bus stop. Follow the instructions at the machine to pay. Once the fare has been paid, a receipt will be printed; take it and keep it with you. Once the bus arrives, you can enter through any door, but remember if you paid with cash to use the front door if you will need to ask the driver for a transfer. Fare inspectors will occasionally check for your fare receipt as proof of payment; show it to them if they ask. If you don't have a valid receipt, you will be forced to pay a fine of $100 or more so it is wise to always pay the fare. However, if you cannot buy the ticket successfully, such as due to a malfunctioning machine, note the machine number and report the problem to the bus driver near the front door at once. If the +SBS+ skips your stop, wait at a local bus stop for a local bus.
cruise in most of Manhattan and are available at dispatcher lines at airports, but are harder to find in the other four boroughs. Real NYC taxis are yellow, have a metal seal on the hood ("medallion"), a light with a taxi number on the roof, a meter for billing, stickers on the windshield for various licenses, special taxi license plates, and a divider inside the car. The fares are $2.50 plus a $0.50 state tax to start, plus $0.40 for each 1/5 mile traveled. There is a night surcharge from 8PM to 6AM of $0.50 and a rush hour surcharge of $1 from 4PM-8PM M-F. In addition, as in the rest of the United States, tipping your taxi driver is expected in New York. For more information, see Tipping in the United States
. Info on fares, flat fares, group rides and rules are online. All yellow cabs accept Visa, MasterCard, and American Express for payment. In the unlikely event that the card reader is broken, the driver will let you know before you get into the taxi. To hail a taxi, stand visibly near the street (but away from moving traffic) with one arm raised over your head. The medallion numbers on the roof of the taxi will indicate the status of the taxi:
* If the medallion number is unlit, then the taxi is already occupied and therefore unavailable.
* If the medallion number is lit, then the taxi is available for hire.
* The off-duty signs that appeared next to the medallion numbers have been phased out as of 2013.
Borough Taxis were introduced in 2013 to address the shortage of yellow cabs outside Manhattan. Unlike yellow cabs, they are light green and have no medallions on the hood. These cabs are barred from picking up passengers in Manhattan south of West 110th St or East 96th St and may not enter the airport dispatcher lines. They can, however, pick up passengers in northern Manhattan and the other boroughs, and can drop off passengers anywhere. Fares and rules are otherwise identical to yellow cabs.
Livery or Black Cars, known as car services or livery cabs, may only be called by phone, and are flat rate rather than metered. In most areas, they are not allowed to cruise the street or airports for fares, although sometimes they will do so anyway. Ask for the fare while on the phone. Their license plates will say either "Livery" or "TLC" on the bottom.
In some areas, livery cabs can be flagged on the street. Though this is technically illegal (the driver, not you, could get into trouble), it is useful in upper Manhattan and the outer boroughs and is accepted practice. The minimum fare in these cabs is about $7, and it is advisable to negotiate the fare before you get inside (again, tipping your driver is expected). Since yellow cabs are hard to come by in the outer boroughs, these cars are particularly useful for getting to the airport (your hotel can arrange one, or look up car services in the Yellow Pages).
All licensed taxis (yellow for in Manhattan and Green for outside of Manhattan) and sedan limousines are authorized to take 3 passengers in the backseat and 1 in the front seat for a total of 4. However, some of the newer minivan and SUV yellow cabs can seat more passengers and may take more than four passengers (even though the licensed limit is posted in the cab). Larger than sedan limousines can be reserved, also useful for airport trips with lots of luggage, by calling any of the dozens of companies in the yellow pages.
Licensed taxis apply surcharges (in addition to the metered fare) depending on the time of day. From 6 AM–4 PM, the surcharge is $0.50; from 4 PM–8 PM, the surcharge is $1.50; from 8 PM–6 AM the surcharge is $1. For all cabs, you must pay tolls for bridges, tunnels and highways. Be careful of being overcharged by drivers for toll crossings—on some bridges and tunnels (like the Queens-Midtown Tunnel) rates are not posted in plain view. So, a crossing which actually cost the cab driver $4 is easily passed onto the unsuspecting passenger as a $5 charge. Outside the city, other than flat fare destinations (such as JFK Airport)and Newark Airport), meter rates are doubled (when going to Westchester or Nassau County). Tipping your driver is expected. The customary amount is 15% of the total fare, or more if you need to transport luggage or are going to a remote area of the city (where the cab driver will have a difficult time getting a return passenger). If you chose to use the credit card machine that is found in most taxis (it doubles as a tv screen), note that the default tip will be 20% or 25% but you can adjust this if you resist feeling pressured and punch in the desired amount.
Be wary of unlicensed cars (known derisively as "gypsy cabs") cruising for passengers, especially near the airports or in areas not well served by yellow cabs. While drivers may claim to offer you a cheaper rate than an actual taxi, your chances of actually getting this rate (not to mention getting to your destination safely and quickly) are slim. If you're willing to negotiate and know what you're doing, you might be okay, but you're better off asking an airport staffer for help finding a cab or cabstand. Major airports have taxi information cards for passengers. Always settle on a price before getting into the car.
There are also bizarre van and shuttle services in different parts of the city. You will have to ask where it is going and how much it costs. Usually, you will see people lining up and some mysterious van will appear and they will board. There are services between Chinatown and Queens (you won’t have to make any transfers if it goes where you need to go!), and also there are separate services in Brooklyn, and Queens. Many of these services are branded as "Dollar Vans" (actually costing $2.00), and follow major bus routes along major avenues in these boroughs and will drop you off and pick up at any corner along the avenue. Some are legal while most aren't and usually compete with each other for customers and may cut some other van drivers off. This is an accepted practice in these boroughs and at times are faster than MTA buses. The illegal vans may not have insurance so you ride at your own risk. Most drivers of these vans have heavy West Indian accent. Some may seem sketchy but for the most part are people just trying to make a living. They are usually are helpful with directions. It is rare that incidents occur with them.
In recent years, pedicabs have appeared in New York. The city is in the early stages of licensing and enforcing safety regulations for them.
The Staten Island Ferry
, runs from Battery Park in southern Manhattan to Staten Island
. The ferry carries passengers and bicycles only, runs every 15-20 minutes during rush hours and every 30 minutes at most other times, and is free (so don't be fooled by con artists trying to sell "advance tickets"). Not only does the ferry provide a means of transport, but it offers an amazing view of the Statue of Liberty and New York Harbor on its way. Even if you don't want to visit Staten Island, taking this trip is highly recommended and is very popular with tourists.
Ride on the starboard side of the ferry (right side facing the front) from Manhattan and the port side from Staten Island for the best views (to the west). If you want to take good photographs, try to get on the ferry as soon as the gates open and walk briskly to an open window (few windows are open to the air and will populate quickly). The Manhattan-to-Staten Island route passes slightly closer to the Statue of Liberty than the return route.
New York Waterway
, operates ferries that connect the city with the New Jersey
Hudson River Waterfront, and with points in Brooklyn and Queens. These ferries are not free. Inquire as to fares before boarding.
New York Water Taxi runs ferries between points within Manhattan, with some connections to Brooklyn and New Jersey. Their boats are painted to look like taxis.
A word of advice about driving in New York City: don't. A car is inadvisable — street parking is practically nonexistent near crowded areas and tourist attractions, and garage parking rates range from very expensive to plain extortion. Traffic is almost always congested, parking rules are confusing, and many drivers are infamously aggressive. Public transportation options are many, and are quicker, cheaper and more pleasant. That's why many New Yorkers, particularly in Manhattan, don't own cars. If you think of staying in a suburb and commuting to the city by car, better to do as the locals do. Drive to one of the commuter rail stations (see above) or ferry docks. Parking fees at the station, fare, and MetroCard combined are usually much cheaper than parking downtown. Many stations have secure parking areas. In Staten Island, parking near the ferry terminal and using the ferry will save you money and time.
If you do choose to drive, get a map, especially if driving outside of Manhattan. Good maps to use, if you are not driving, are the free bus maps which have each street, though the subway map can work in a pinch (also used for small boat navigation). In Queens, numbers identify not only avenues and streets, but also roads, places, crescents, and lanes, all of which might be near each other. Read the entire street sign. Outer borough highways are confusing and often narrowed to one lane, the potholes could trap an elephant, the signs are sometimes misleading, exits which should appear do not, and signs directing a highway approach drag you through miles of colorful neighborhood (in the wrong direction) before finally letting you onto the highway with a stop sign and a hand's width of merge space.
Traffic in New York City roughly follows a hierarchy of precedence, which is unwise to challenge. Fire engines, ambulances, and police cruisers are given priority, followed by other public service vehicles such as buses, road crews, and sanitation trucks. Beneath them are taxi cabs and delivery trucks. Below those are other cars. Note also that driving a car with out-of-state license plates (save for perhaps Connecticut or New Jersey) will instantly mark you as an outsider, sometimes resulting in other drivers being more aggressive around you than they would with a local. Suffice it to say, driving in New York is not for the timid or emotionally fragile.
However, driving can be an exciting adventure, particularly on the parkways, with their numerous twists and turns. (Just watch out for other drivers, as noted above.) Also, since buses don't serve some of the parkways, driving or taking a taxi might be a workable option for those. Nonetheless, try to use bicycles or walk on the pedestrian trails near those parkways, where they exist; trails are less harrowing and you'd probably enjoy the scenery better.
The major car rental agencies have offices throughout the city. Smaller agencies are also well represented. Be warned that car rentals in New York are generally more expensive than elsewhere in the United States, and frequently require a deposit of up to $500, if you do not have a credit card. Insurance rates also tend to be higher in New York than in most other cities.
Gas stations are few and far between, especially in Manhattan, where only a handful exist around the perimeter of the island. Be prepared to pay up to $0.50 more per gallon than in the surrounding suburbs or New Jersey. Therefore, if you have the option, it is best to fill your car while you aren't in NYC, as long as you have enough gas to last!
Points of entry
There are several points of entry/exit into the city from the New Jersey side: the Lincoln Tunnel (midtown/41st Street), the Holland Tunnel (downtown/Canal Street), and the George Washington Bridge (way uptown/178th Street) — all are accessible from the New Jersey Turnpike (I-95). I-78 east will also feed directly into the Holland Tunnel (US-1/9 is also a popular route). I-80 east will terminate at an I-95 junction, the north route of which will lead directly to the George Washington Bridge. The bridge is also directly accessible from US-46 east. With all of these options, many commuters choose to listen to 24 hour traffic reports on AM stations 880 (every ten minutes on the 8's) and 1010 (every ten minutes on the 1's) to find the least congested route at that time. Weekend traffic delays can easily exceed 60 minutes at some of the tunnels, so plan accordingly!
The Midtown Tunnel under the East River is convenient for Long Island travelers, as it becomes the Long Island Expressway. The Queensborough Bridge (aka The 59th Street Bridge) also crosses the East River into Queens, is toll-free, and lands near the mouth of the Midtown Tunnel but requires some automotive manipulation to get onto a highway. Other routes head north and east out of the Bronx, including Interstates 87 (north to Albany) and 95 (northeast to Boston) and the Henry Hudson Parkway, which is along the Hudson River.
When entering New York from New Jersey, as well when driving across bridges and tunnels within New York City, you will incur tolls of up to $15, and associated traffic delays.
Rush hour traffic
Traveling at off-hours makes sense to avoid rush hour traffic, but highways and roads are still generally packed any time of day. The Cross Bronx Expressway, which is part of I-95 and leads to the George Washington Bridge, is almost always choked with traffic. The Long Island Expressway has heavy eastbound traffic between the morning and evening rushes. The Holland and Lincoln Tunnels are 10 minute waits on a good day. The Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE) is notorious, and an accident on the Verazzano Bridge without shoulders can cause a backup all the way through the northern part of Staten Island into New Jersey. It is a good idea to check radio traffic reports, especially before crossing a bridge or tunnel. Three different stations have reports every 10 minutes around the clock: 880 AM (on the 8's), 1010 AM (on the 1's), and 1130 AM (on the 5's).
Driving cross-town (east-west) in Manhattan during rush hours is especially troublesome because the traffic lights are optimized to move traffic along the north-south roads. Your best bet is to avoid driving in Midtown Manhattan (between the 30s and 50s) whenever possible. If you do drive in Midtown Manhattan cross-town, posted Midtown Thru Streets may reduce delays.
Traveling with a commercial vehicle
If you are traveling with a commercial vehicle (defined as any vehicle designed to transport property with two axles and six tires, or three or more axles) remember that commercial traffic is prohibited on many roadways throughout the city. Commercial traffic is permitted only on roadways designated as Through and Local Truck Routes. Commercial traffic is prohibited on all multiple-lane roadways designated as "parkways" (such as the Grand Central Parkway, Cross-Island Parkway, or Henry Hudson Parkway) with frequent low bridges. Unfortunately, the majority of fast-moving roadways are designated as parkways in New York City. Commercial traffic is also prohibited on the Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) Drive in Manhattan. Before traveling anywhere in New York City with a commercial vehicle, refer to the New York City Truck Route Map.
Parking in garages or outdoor lots is usually very expensive, costing as much as $40 per day in Manhattan, although cheap or free lot parking is available at some times at certain locations. Street parking can be free or much cheaper than garage or lot parking, but can be extremely hard to come by. Also, "bumping" cars in front of and behind of you to get into and out of a parking spot (known to some as "Braille Parking") is common, so if you choose to park on the street, don't be surprised if you find a few new scratches and scrapes on your bumper.
As a general rule, hotels in New York do not supply garage parking. The few that do will charge you handsomely for the privilege. To find garage parking, look at the following five websites:
ParkMe.com is a free site and smartphone app that allows users to search and compare rates, hours of operations, and other information for every single parking facility in New York City. Users can search for their destination then get a listing of all parking facilities in the area. ParkMe's rate calculator will tell you how much it costs to park at each facility based on how long you want to park.
BestParking.com is a free service that allows users to search and compare all daily and monthly rates and locations for parking facilities in Manhattan and Downtown Brooklyn. Users can book free parking "Reservations" and "Rate Guarantees" at over 20% of Manhattan's parking garages (including Icon Parking Systems and Edison ParkFast). The website's instant rate comparison clearly displays the rates on a Google map and the interface is extremely user-friendly. Regular rates, early bird specials, weekend specials, night Specials, SUV/oversize/luxury vehicle rates, motorcycle rates, and all additional posted charges are included in the instant rate comparison.
PrimoSpot.com is a free site that allows users to find on-street (free) parking. It will calculate the amount of time you can stay in metered and alternate side of the street city parking. They provide a breakdown of the regulations and photos of the signs. There is coverage for Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Hoboken, New Jersey. Users can type in an address, intersection, or zip code and will get the regulations for that area. The parking regulations display on a Google map and the interface is easy to use. Note that PrimoSpot will only tell you how long you can stay in a parking spot in any particular zone; there's no guarantee that there will actually be an empty spot waiting for you when you arrive.
IconParking.com is a service where you can book your parking time (if you know it) by the block, date, time, and even choose which garage. One traveler says, "I've gone into garages that have initially said they're full up and then I said I booked it online and they shrugged and honored it." When you book online with this company, print a confirmation and take it with you. Most times the attendants/valets will assume you know what you're talking about, but sometimes they want to see the printed confirmation. Also, when you pay, they may feign ignorance as to the price you were quoted online. This is another reason to print out the reservation. Using this service, it is possible to pay $10 on a weekday for 8 hours of parking from 10AM-6PM on John Street in the Financial district. If initially the valet says they don't have to honor that rate, be persistent and you should get it.
ParkFast.com. This site is for Edison Parkfast, the owner/manager of 40 parking locations around the city. The site isn't as feature-rich and you can't pick your hours or dates, but at least they have some basic rates and locations.
Street Parking - Rules and penalties for violation
Check all parking signs carefully. Parking meters demand constant feeding, and are hungry late into the night in some areas. In some parts of Midtown Manhattan, there are pay-and-display meters which are only in effect from 6PM to midnight on weekdays and all day on weekends. In these areas, parking is prohibited during the workday, except for commercial trucks. It is a good idea to keep a roll of quarters in your car, as not all meters accept credit cards. Parking is permitted at broken or missing meters for the time posted on the signs. Parking is illegal at ALL bus stops and within 15 feet (4.5 m) of fire hydrants. Yellow lines on the curb have no legal meaning in NYC, so they cannot be relied upon to tell you if you are parked far enough from a hydrant. That said, in most areas the seams in the sidewalk are roughly five feet apart, so leaving at least three "squares" of sidewalk between the hydrant and your bumper is a smart move. Many motorists simply pay garage fees to avoid the anxiety of finding a parking spot and the risks of expensive parking tickets.
New York has "alternate side of the street" parking rules, which may require street parkers to move their cars at different times of the day (such as early morning, or overnight in a few business districts) so that street sweepers can clean the roads. Alternate side rules are suspended on many obscure holidays, while parking meters and other weekday restrictions are only suspended on a few major holidays (not even on all Federal holidays).
Trying to leave a car parked illegally for very long will often end with a $150 fine, and a vehicle illegally parked in an overcrowded place is very likely to be towed away and face a $300 fine. The New York Police Department operates the tow pounds.
Important Rules While Driving
Unlike other places in the United States, RIGHT TURNS ON RED IN NEW YORK CITY ARE ILLEGAL, except where otherwise posted, like a sign that reads "AFTER STOP RIGHT TURN PERMITTED ON RED". Be careful when driving as some (but not all) entrances to New York City have signs alerting motorists that it is illegal to turn on the red in New York City, and other drivers from out of town may not know this rule.
As in the rest of New York State, talking on a cell-phone (without a hands-free device) or texting while driving is illegal. Even if you do have a hands-free device, minimize your talking and prioritize driving.
There are red light cameras at 100 intersections in New York City. A camera will take a picture if you run a red light and a fine disputable on the web will be issued in 30 days. However, since the camera does not identify who is driving the vehicle, no points will be issued against your drivers' license.
Some bus lanes have video cameras. A camera will take a video if you drive illegally in the bus lane other than to turn right and a fine disputable on the web will be issued in 30 days.
If there is an emergency vehicle trying to get through with its siren blaring, pull over to the side and move forward as necessary. On many one-way streets (avenues in particular), the middle lane is designated as the "FIRE LANE" so that motorists can pull over to either side lane.
Some avenues and many streets have only one-way traffic. Thankfully, one-way streets generally alternate direction, so if your destination is down a one-way street going in the wrong direction, go another block and double-back. A handy mnemonic is "Evens go East," meaning that, for the most part, streets (in Manhattan) with even numbers will head east, and vice-versa. The best gauge to determine a one way street's direction is to check the direction parked cars face.
Be wary of your surroundings when you park your car. While NYC is a safe city for its size, it's not necessarily safe for your car as well. Make it as unworthy to steal as possible.
Using a bicycle in New York City is becoming more and more common, among New Yorkers and tourists alike. Bike paths can be found in every borough of the city, in three forms: bike lanes (road lanes specifically for bicycles), shared lanes (lanes shared between cars and bicycles), and greenways (roads solely designated to bicycles and pedestrians). Greenways are highly recommended for those wishing to go on a recreational journey, however, they are not very useful for getting around. A map of bike paths in New York City can be found here
The city has a new bike share program, called CitiBike. The program has 330 stations in Brooklyn and Financial District. A map can be found here To access a bike, first visit one of the locations and pay for a pass. 24-hour passes cost $9.95 and 7-day passes cost $25.00 (tax not included). You will receive a card and a code; enter the code into a bike, and you can use it. Be warned that after 30 minutes of use, you will be charged overtime fees. Return your bike to a station (remember to place it securely in a dock–you will be further fined if the light on the dock does not turn green) within 30 minutes to avoid this. You can take out another bike and continue your journey if necessary. Using CitiBike is not recommended if you plan on using a bike for a prolonged period of time.
Cycling in Manhattan can often be quicker than taking the subway or a taxi, but it isn't for the fainthearted. The borough's tumultuous traffic makes biking difficult. Aggressive cab drivers, jaywalking pedestrians, potholes and debris on the roads create a cycling experience that might just as well have been taken from Dante's Inferno. If you do venture into the concrete jungle on a bike, make sure you wear a helmet and have sufficient experience in urban cycling.
Cycling in Brooklyn and The Bronx can be more rewarding, or not, depending on the neighborhood. There are few bike paths in Queens, however, the roads are bike-friendly for the most part.
Cycling is not recommended in Staten Island. It is virtually inaccessible by bicycle, with the only way to get in being the Staten Island Ferry. There are only a handful of bike paths on the entire island, mostly on the south shore. This is unfortunate, as Staten Island has beautiful displays of nature in some of its parks, most of which are accessible only on foot or by bicycle. If you are looking for scenery, by all means, take your bike with you on the ferry, but do not rely on it for transportation on the street.