14 New York subway riding tips
Traveling to New York City sometime soon? If this will be your first time visiting this chaotic yet charismatic metropolis, you can probably use some New York subway tips from a local. Yes, the New York subway system is complex and overwhelming, but once you figure it out, it’s the most efficient way to navigate the city.
Because I’ve lived in NYC since 2007, riding the subway comes naturally to me now, but I was once a novice like you. As a tourist or newcomer, you too will need some time to learn the subway ropes, so to speak. Continue reading for my New York subway tips to make riding the trains a snap.
Get a subway map.
Check your direction.
Trains travel uptown or downtown, so double check your direction before you get on the subway. The sign that is suspended above the platform should tell you whether it’s uptown or downtown.
Stand away from the platform edge.
Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? You’d be surprised how many riders stand on the yellow at the edge of the subway platform and ignore the statistics. Sadly, people die because they stand too close to the edge. Please. Stand back at all times, not just when a train is entering the station.
Stand to the side and get on and off quickly.
When waiting for the train to come, stand to the side of where the doors open. Wait your turn to board, but don’t poke! If the train is on a tight schedule with another directly behind it, the train conductor may close the subway doors on your orange linen blazer and refuse to reopen them. You’ll then require assistance from a stranger, who will pry the doors open while the train is preparing to leave the station. This is not recommended –– and by the way –– happened to me. Get on and off as speedily as possible without plowing down fellow riders.
Move to the center of the subway car.
This one is a pet peeve of mine. Don’t act like a lot of New Yorkers and block the doors or refuse to move into the train so others cannot board. Make space so others can enter and exit the train easily.
Keep your bags off the seats.
Did you know that you could get a ticket for placing your bag on the subway seats? Yes, it’s true. Seats are for passengers only. Because I refuse to let my bag touch the germ-infested floor of the New York subway, I opt for keeping it on my lap.
Don’t hog the poles.
I’ve seen a rider spread between two poles. Don’t do it. Share the poles please.
Pay attention and don’t miss your stop.
Distractions are the norm on the New York subway. From an annoying (although somewhat charming) Mariachi band to kids peddling candy to rats (eek!) and downright crazy New Yorkers, characters on the subway can be so entertaining that you could miss your stop. Enjoy the ride, but pay attention.
If you miss your stop, don’t panic.
If you miss your stop, don’t worry! Get off at the next stop, and take a train going in the opposite direction or walk.
On the wrong train? Get off.
If you realize you’re not on the right train, get off right away. Use your handy dandy map to get you back on track, or ask an MTA worker or even a fellow rider to assist. More on that next.
If you’re lost or confused, ask someone.
New Yorkers are typically happy to assist if they can, but don’t be alarmed if you approach the wrong person. It’s a big city. Not everyone who lives in New York knows every train line. I can get most anywhere in Manhattan, but when it comes to the other boroughs, I know a lot less. Keep asking and you’ll find someone who can help get you to where you want to go.
Allow plenty of time to get to your destination.
While the New York subway is the most reliable form of transit, it’s not perfect. Always allow extra time to get to your destination in case the trains are delayed or running slow.
Have an alternate transit plan, just in case.
Late at night and on weekends, many subway lines are undergoing maintenance so you could be delayed or get confused as sometimes trains don’t follow normal routes. Luckily, in New York, you have options. You can hail a cab or other car service, ride Citi Bike, take a different train, bus, or walk. Now is when checking the MTA website comes in handy (up next).
For the latest service changes as well as subway routes and schedules, check the MTA website.
Visit the website: www.mta.info for service updates and changes and other information. You can type in your starting address and destination address and get exact directions, which should include re-routing because of construction. For real-time subway info, download the Transit app.
Have you read our beginner’s guide to the New York subway?
We should count our blessings. the New York subway has come a long way!