Sunday, January 30, 2011

NYC Public Transportation for Beginners

As yo may or may not know, I primarily travel in and out of the NYC area. I live two weeks in Buffalo, two weeks in NYC. I've been doing it for roughly four years, so I would say I know NYC fairly well. The question I would say that I field the most from models on their NYC trip is "How do I get around New York?"

Many first time travelers look at the NYC transit maps with a sense of confusion and potential impending doom. When I first started going to NYC 6 or 7 years ago to visit friends, I also found the transportation system a bit intimidating. But once you learn it, it isn't too difficult.

NYC Subway
The best way to get around in NYC is via subway. You can get just about anywhere underground. I suggest using hopstop ( or googlemaps ( plan your routes. I find both services to be pretty much the same. The exception is if you are going to Staten Island and need to use the Ferry. Only hopstop acknowledges the ferry as a mode of public transportation (don't know why that is.) If you have a smartphone, I suggest you get the googlemaps app. This will make charting your course much easier if you happen to get lost. (NOTE: phones only work above ground. You do not get reception in the subway tunnels.)

Be aware that NYC is big and the burroughs can be far away. It may take you two hours (or more) depending on where you are going to get from Queens to Brooklyn, so make sure you plan your schedule with enough time. Subway fare is $2.25 with free transfers, but the metrocard machines offer deals depending on how much you put on it ie: a $20 metrocard you get a $1.40 bonus. If you run out of money on your card you can recharge it at any machine.

Depending on how long you stay, you may want to consider an unlimted metro card. If you are staying a week to two weeks and plan to travel a lot, this is probably the best value for your money. I usually but a 2-week metro which costs about $55. A 1-week metro is about $27 if I remember correctly.

There are three major hubs in NYC-- Grand Central, Times SQ and Penn Station. If you even get lost, you can go to one of these big spots and chances you can either find the train you need or find a train that will connect to the one you need. If you have any doubts, these three major hubs have large subway maps and despite what people say about New Yorkers, everyone is pretty helpful and friendly.

Here is another quick tip about the subways- if you take the "number trains" (1,2, 3, 4, 5 or 6) trains keep in mind that on the uptown train the numbers go up and the downtown train the numbers will go down. The only one of the number trains that does not follow this rule is the 7. It is a cross-town train which goes from Manhattan to Queens. The numbers go down from Manhattan then back up again when you hit Queens.

LIRR & MetroNorth
Depending on who books you and where, you may have to use the Metronorth or the Long Island Railroad (LIRR.) The LIRR goes through the suburban parts of Queens and Brooklyn. MetroNorth travels into Connecticut and about an hour or two "upstate". Unfortunately, your metrocard will not work here and you will have to buy a ticket. The prices aren't horrible, usually no more than $20 round trip if you are going out really far. Buy your ticket in advance from a machine to save money. They jack to prices up if you by them on the train. Although you can get the LIRR and MetroNorth at different locations, the easiest places if there is not a stop near you are the big hubs; Penn Station for the LIRR and Grand Central for the Metro North.

New Jersey
Another place you may travel is into New Jersey. If the place in NJ it is relatively close to New York City, you can get to it using the PATH train. The big Path Station is by World Trade. One end of the PATH goes to Hoboken and the other end goes to Newark. The big transfer hub on the PATH os Journal Square. You can use your Metrocard on the PATH, however it must be a pay-per-ride. Otherwise, you can buy a PATH ticket for $1.75.

The other way to get from NYC to NJ is NJTransit. This is like an Amtrak that runs from NYC to NJ and goes to more places than the PATH. It is a bit more expensive, probably comparable to taking the LIRR or MetroNorth. You will need to use this if your destination is father than the PATH will take you.

In Closing
There are other methods of transportation depending on where you are going, shuttle buses, Ferries, etc. but generally the photographer will let you know if he or she is in a location that requires a special mode of transportation. If you are confused, ask him or her. Most people know how to get to their home or studio from Penn Station or Grand Central. If you are relying on public transportation to get around, make sure the photographer knows this ahead of time. It may affect the travel instructions he or she gives you.

Even if you master NYC travel, you may still get lost. Don't worry, everyone gets lost in New York sometimes. I still get lost. If it happens, don't panic. In most cases, as long as you are in touch with the photographer and let him or her know what is going on, they are usually pretty understanding.

I hope this helps you get around NYC.

Picture of me, taken by Keith Broadhurst

1 comment:

  1. Hopstop is amazing! Whenever I travel in NYC I always use it because the subway maps can be hell to decipher.

    It sucks having to do transfers though with a suitcase full of costumes.