Seven secrets to ride the subway like a true New Yorker

Ride the subway like you were born in New York City!

new-york-best-by-maciek-lulkoMore than 5 million persons ride the subway in New York City every single day. Do you want to be one of them? Are you scared? No need to be.
Even though this huge network of 21 lines and more than 660 miles of tracks may in effect be a little scary, just follow these rules and you will find yourself at home in the subway system in no time. So hold on tight and learn how to travel in and around New York on its super efficient subway.

Secret #1: The MetroCard.
The current rate for a New York City subway trip is $ 2.75.
You can go anywhere you want within the subway system and you can also get a free transfer to/from a bus stop.
metrocard-by-bre-pettisEvery subway station entrance will show whether you need a MetroCard to enter it (if so, you’ll need to find a distributor or an agent and buy one).
MetroCards come with different flavors: there’s the Pay-per-ride Card, which basically is a prepaid card that stores single-fare “tickets” and that you can refill with new credit when necessary; then there’s the 7-Day Unlimited Card, which allows unlimited rides during a seven-days span; and finally there is the 30-Day Unlimited Card, which of course works with the same principles as the previous one, but lasts 30 days.
The choice is yours, and obviously depends on how ofter you are going to use public transportation.
When deciding, please take into consideration the fact that each time you refill your Pay-Per-Ride MetroCard by more than $5.50 you get an 11% bonus, which lowers your cost per ride.
Please keep in mind that the credit card readers of some vending machines can drive you nuts, therefore using cash is sometimes preferable, but you’ll need to use the bigger vending machines, since the smaller ones don’t accept cash.

Secret #2: The Swipe!
hats-and-bags-by-john-st-johnWith your brand new MetroCard in hand, you can proceed to the turnstile: you will have to swipe the card in its reader to unlock it.
The secret to a perfect swipe is to be quick and firm. You’ll learn the right speed with experience (it’s not that hard!) but be careful: if you don’t get the green “go” message, follow the instructions.
If a message asks you to swipe again, do it at the same turnstile otherwise you might be charged twice. If the message says you have unsufficient fare, it’s time to refill your MetroCard!

Secret #3: Getting on the right car.
empty-subway-car-by-alexander-rabbYou’ve successfully swiped your card and you are now waiting for the train to arrive. When it arrives, check that it bears the right symbol for the line you need to travel. Some lines share the same tracks, so it’s important not to jump on the wrong train.
Also, when trains are packed and you see an empty car, BEWARE! There is probably a good and – more often than not – unpleasant reason for this! Maybe it’s just the air-conditioning that does not work. Or maybe the car is terribly smelly. Or possibly someone drank too much and the train made him sick…

Secret #4: Hold on to the pole!
You might see many locals ride the train without holding onto the poles. Well, don’t imitate them unless your balance is perfect: trains here don’t stop or start moving very smoothly and you might end up on the its-a-party-by-mo-rizafoot of the fellow passenger next to you or worse: on their lap!
Despite their fame, New Yorkers are a friendly bunch, but still, this might not end up well, and you don’t want to take such risk.
Therefore, to avoid such an embarrassment, hold on to the poles when the train is moving. For the same reason, if you find a free place to sit, please occupy it before the train leaves, or wait until it’s already moving. On the other hand, if you managed to sit, please stand up only after the train has stopped at a station.

Secret #5: Don’t stand in front of the train doors and don’t lean on poles.
When a train stops at a station, the passengers waiting to get on board will move at the sides of the train door to allow passengers get off easily. Then, once they get on board, they will try to move as far into the car as they can, in order to leave the doorways as accessible as possible. Please notice that locals generally don’t lean on poles, unless the train is empty: as we have stated in the previous point, holding on to the poles will make your journey safer, and everyone likes being able to access this privilege.

Secret #6: Always check ‘TheWeekender’ page on the MTA website.
digital-screen-by-mta660 miles of tracks need a lot of maintenance, which must be carried out without disrupting the service. This means that most of this work is generally done during off-peak hours (i.e. after midnight) and throughout the weekend. If you need to ride between midnight and 5am, check the stations for the dedicated signs that list any changes to the regular service. And if you ride during the weekend don’t forget to check the Weekender, a dedicated page on MTA’s website, where all maintenance works are listed for your convenience.

_mg_7826_by-zlatko-ungerSecret #7: Ask for help.
New York’s subway system can be very confusing to the amateurs. If it overwhelms you and makes you dizzy don’t hesitate to ask for directions. New Yorkers are usually eager to show how well they know their beloved city and will definitely help you out as best as they can.

Picture credits:
New York at it’s best by Maciek Lulko (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Metrocard, derived from ‘Pocket – Photogamer’ by Bre Pettis (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Hats and Bags by John St John (CC BY 2.0)
Empty Subway Car by Alexander Rabb (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
It’s a Party by Mo Riza (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Blizzard of 2015: Canceled Subway Service by Metropolitan Transportation Authority / Patrick Cashin (CC BY 2.0)
_mg_7826 by Zlatko Unger (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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