NYC Life: The Subway Series Part 1 of 2
Most tourists who stare at an NYC subway map cringe and rack their brains to try to figure out where they are and how to get to where they want to be. After navigating the overly simplistic Metro systems of Paris and Madrid last week, I have an understanding of why it’s so difficult for them! The NYC subway has so many different lines and places to transfer–local trains and express trains to navigate–the two foreign systems I used were based on numbers and colors, with separate lines that are “express” trains, so it makes sense why people have so much difficulty coming here!
Amazingly, some of the first “subways” in the late 1800s in NYC, were not subways at all, they were actually above ground, called “El” trains, located at 2nd, 3rd, 6th, and 9th avenues, which stood for “Elevated”. As a tourist overseas, I found the Metro systems far simpler than NYC, but I don’t ask that the MTA overhauls its system completely–it’s been around since the 1900s, when the Interborough Rapid Transit or IRT, subway was invented when it became necessary that a system to clear up street congestion was needed. Had I been around in 1904, the IRT opened on my birthday, October 27th, with a “Manhattan-Bronx” Route and a “Brooklyn” route. The NYC Subway has come a long way from the first IRT. From expansions, to closures, the infamous “line that never was” (The 2nd avenue line), to criminality and filth in the 80’s… the subway we know and hate to love today, is much improved from its former self.
I used to be one of those tourists who had no idea how to get from point A to point B, but now the NYC subway is all I know …and I know it like the back of my hand. I’m now happy to help confused tourists because I used to be in their shoes (Until the day I die, I insist on being a helpful New Yorker, I want people to love my city as much as I do. When I see someone perplexed with a subway map, I always go over and ask if they need help–no one ever tried to help me!). While I believe that there are many improvements that could be made (see Paris and Madrid’s Metro systems for their ease of use, timeliness, and EXTREME cleanliness), I couldn’t live in NYC without the subway. (Note that Paris & Madrid’s Metros also have drawbacks: both Metro systems close at 1am, Paris reopens at 5am, Madrid at 6am; NYC’s subway is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with limited service during late nights).
The original price to ride to the subway back in the early 1900’s was just 5 cents a ride–including transfers! Unbelievable, right? A one way ride on the NYC subway today will cost you $2.25, but with all the construction and improvements the MTA is making, at least you know your money is going to good use. While that seems expensive, in comparison to most of the other Metros I’ve used across the world and across the country, the NYC Subway costs the same to use as just about everywhere else.
Because I use the subway on a daily basis, and more than once a day, the best option for me is the newest offer from the MTA, Metrocard EasyPayXpress. The EasyPayXpress hooks your Metrocard right up to your credit card, so you never have to worry about waiting in line to refill your card! EasyPayXpress comes with two options: Pay-Per-Ride and 30-Day Unlimited, which are exactly what they sound like! You open your Pay-Per-Ride account with $45 on your Metrocard, when your balance falls below $20, another $45 automatically gets added to your card, so you never have to worry about refills! With the Pay-Per-Ride card, you are allowed to ride all subways and both local and express buses. The 30-Day Unlimited card is $89/30 days to ride the subway as often as you like. The only draw about 30-Day Unlimited is that while you can ride all subways and local buses, you cannot use the 30-day Unlimited card to ride express buses. While you can buy a monthly unlimited card out of a Metrocard Vending Machine, those cards don’t automatically refill each month like the EasyPayXpress card. The 30-Day Unlimited EasyPayXpress card is what I use, since I rely on the subway to get me everywhere! Not being able to use express buses is not a draw for me, I always ride the subway! You can register for EasyPayXpress on the MTA’s website.
Stay tuned for Part 2, where I will be giving you some more history of the NYC subway, where to find the best NYC Subway art, and the NYC Subway latest scoop, straight from the MTA Press Office!