Everything You Need To Know About The NYC Subway

With 24 lines and 468 stations, it is easy to see why so many people ride the New York City Subway. Construction on the subway began in October of 1904, which makes it one of the oldest transportation systems in the world. It is also one of the most extensive subway systems in the world because of how much area it covers. Currently there is 842 miles of track all over the state of New York. In 2009, during the week an average of five million rides are given each day, while 2.9 million are given on Saturday and 2.2 million on Sundays, which makes this one of the most used public transportation systems in the world.


Hours of Operation

One thing that allows the NYC subway to stand out is its hours of operation. Most public transit systems only operate certain hours of the day, but to keep up with the busy lifestyle in New York the subway, as well as the buses, run 24 hours a day. Even though the subway runs 24 hours a day, not all stations are going to be accessible 24 hours a day. How to tell if the station is open 24 hours a day is to look for the green globe at the station entrance, if it has a red globe that means it is only open during certain hours. If the red globe is lit that means that the station is closed, but if it is dark that means that the station is most likely open. The schedule for each subway line can be found here.


The NYC subway currently uses a MetroCard system that requires passengers to a pay their fare at a vending machine or station booth. The amount that is paid is transferred onto the card. With the MetroCard, you can purchase a card for the basic fare, which is currently $2.25 per ride. You can also purchase unlimited ride MetroCards, which are available for 1, 7, 14, and 30 days for different prices. Up to three children who are less than 44 inches tall may ride the subway free with a paying adult.

Where Does the Subway Go?

One of the advantages to taking the subway is that it can get you anywhere you want to go in New York. Even if the subway station isn’t right in front of your destination chances are you can find a station within walking distance of where you want to go or the bus can get you the rest of the way. The one thing you need to be aware of is that some trains offer you local service, which means they will stop at every station. Other trains only offer express service, which means they have limited stations to stop at to get people to their destination faster. The full subway map for NYC can be found here.

Using the Platforms

Every station that you visit for the subway is going to have a 500 to 600 feet long platform where passengers can catch their trains. The one thing you need to be aware of with the platforms is that they normally serve more than one train. When using the platforms you will want to make sure you look at the signs hanging over the tracks to find out which train is stopping where, but you will also want to look at the approaching train to see which one it is. There are also different platform configurations depending on how many tracks are coming into the station, which the platform configuration dictates where the trains will stop at a particular station. For example, a 2-track line can have a platform that is in the center of the tracks or it can have 2 side platforms.


Majority of the subway stations were built before the Americans with disabilities Act was passed, so they were not very accessible to people with disabilities. To make them more accessible some stations had elevators installed in quite a few stations. Other important stations have been marked by the MTA as needing to conform with the ADA once they start undergoing major renovations. In 2009, 82 NYC stations were considered accessible by ADA standards.


One of the most interesting features of the NYC subway is the entertainment that is provided. Every year MTA sponsors a “Music Under New York” program that allows about 70 street musicians to compete with each other and the winners are awarded the high traffic locations. Currently over 100 groups and soloists perform in the “Music Under New York” program in the subways giving over 150 performances each week. These performances take place in 25 stations throughout the subway system. However, anybody can perform on the subway platforms and mezzanines as long as they follow the rules set forth by the MTA’s policies.

Many people that live in New York rely on the subway system as their sole mean of transportation because of how urbanized New York is. The subway is by far the fastest and easiest method of travel in New York because it can take you just about anywhere you want to go at any time. Taxicabs are also quite popular in New York, but the subway is a cheaper and faster option.

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