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New York City - Transportation

Getting to NYC

Airports

JFK Airport in New York City Released to Public Domain
JFK Airport is the largest entry port for international arrivals to the United States.

New York City is one of the top destinations for international tourists in the United States. There are three major airports convenient to downtown New York City:

John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) is located on Long Island about 15 miles (25 km) southeast of Manhattan.

LaGuardia Airport (LGA) is also located on Long Island in the borough of Queens about 8 miles (13 km) east of Manhattan.

Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) is in New Jersey about 12 miles (20 km) west across the Hudson River.

Interstate Buses

Greyhound bus line provides numerous service routes to surrounding states and other major cities throughout the U.S. The Greyhound busses depart from the Port Authority Bus Terminal at 8th Avenue and 41st Street near Times Square.

Regional bus companies service many routes between New York City and other cities in the surrounding northeastern states. They are often called "the Chinese Buses" since many of them operate out of Chinatown. They provide inexpensive transportation to Boston, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Atlantic City and many other destinations.

Liberty Helicopter Tours, New York City
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Railroad Passenger Trains

New York City is one of a few cities in the USA that has adequate train service.

Grand Centeral Terminal in New York City © David Iliff - CCA 2.5
Grand Central Terminal is located at 42nd & Park Ave in Manhattan.

The Metro North Railroad connects many cities and towns in Upstate New York, in southeastern Connecticut, and in northern New Jersey. Most of these trains depart from Grand Central Terminal except for the northern New Jersey trains that terminate at the Hoboken Terminal across the Hudson River. Here is the official MTA map: MTA Map

Much of Long Island is accessible via the Long Island Railroad departing from Penn Station. Here is the Long Island Railroad map: Long Island Railroad map

Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corporation (PATH) operates as the main transit that links Manhattan from Penn Station or the World Trade Centers Terminal with Newark and Hoboken. Here is a link to the PATH map: PATH Map

Amtrak, the national passenger railroad, connects New York with many major U.S. cites. It provides direct routes to Chicago, New Orleans, and Washington D.C. The AMTRAK trains all depart from Pennsylvania Station at 8th Avenue and 31st Street.

Getting Around NYC

Streets


Manhattan is laid out in a grid pattern which makes getting around the city easy. The only streets that don't follow the pattern are Broadway that angles across the island and the streets below 14th Street in lower Manhattan.

Avenues run north/south, numbered streets run east/west. Fifth Avenue and Central Park delineate the "East Side" from the "West Side." Building numbers, especially on the avenues, often do not follow a logical pattern. When asking directions, always try to specify the nearest intersection of streets and avenues. For example: "On Broadway, near 42nd Street" or "near Third and Fifty Fourth".

Subways and Busses go "uptown" when heading north to the higher numbered streets and go "downtown" when heading south. They go to the "East Side" or the "West Side" when crossing the island.

Subways, Buses, and Light Rails

New York City has some of the best public transportation in the United States. The bus and subway services run 24-hours throughout the five boroughs and are the most economical transportation in New York City and a very efficient way to move throughout the city.

The subways and busses use prepaid MetroCards. A single ride costs $2 and transfers between the subways and buses are free.

Travel Tip: Every time you put $10 or more on the MetroCard you receive a 20 percent bonus. In other words for $10 your get 6 trips for the price of 5. The all-day fun pass costs just $7 and allows you unlimited bus and subway rides for a 24-hour period.

Major subway routes run the length of Manhattan Island along the East Side and the West Side with cross-town connections at midtown and downtown. Subway routes cross the East River to Brooklyn and Queens; others go north into the Bronx. No subway routes cross the Hudson River to Staten Island or to New Jersey. Look for the free maps that show all the routes in the subway stations, hotels and tourist attractions.

The New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA) bus routes cover areas that the subways do not. Use exact change or the prepaid MetroCard. NYCTA Map: Map (pdf)

Most of Long Island is accessible via the Long Island Railroad departing from Penn Station. Here is their map: LIR Map

New Jersey Transit from Hoboken has trains to many cities and towns in New Jersey including Atlantic City. Connection can be made via Path trains from the Port Authority Terminal or the new terminal at the World Trade Centers. NJT Map: Image of Map

Taxicabs

Taxicabs are everywhere in New York City. You can hail a cab by stepping off the curb and holding out your arm. Avoid taking a taxi during rush hour.

Taxis in New York City © Mike Leco / USATourist.com
Taxis are everywhere in New York City and an excellent way to get around town during off-peak hours.

If you are traveling from one location in Midtown to another in Midtown, the ride will cost you $7-9. A trip from Midtown to the downtown tip of the Island or to Uptown near Harlem will cost $12-16. A trip the whole length of the island from Downtown to Uptown will cost $22-26. A trip to one of the airports will cost about $35-45. If the cab driver is friendly, courteous and helps you with your luggage, it is customary to reward him or her with a few extra dollars.

Travel Tip: As you try and hail a cab you might wonder why so many empty cabs are passing you by. A clue is in the lights on top of the cab. When only the medallion number on top of the cab is lit, the cab is available. If the medallion number and side lamps are on, the cab is off duty. If you don't see any lights the cab is currently occupied.

Driving

Driving a car into New York City should be avoided on work days. The primary routes onto the island via tunnel or bridge all become bottlenecks during rush hours. A simple commute of a few miles from New Jersey or Long Island to Manhattan takes only a few minutes during low traffic but requires over one hour during heavy traffic.

If you decide to drive a car, beware that parking is always difficult in Manhattan. On-street parking is minimal and hard to find. Garages and parking lots charge exorbitant rates. It usually costs about $20 to $30 per day to park your car and can cost as much as $60 in some garages. Even the hotels charge.

Looking for car rental in New York City? Check EasyTerra.com, a worldwide online car rental comparison engine.

Travel Warning: There are many one-way streets in Manhattan and some streets change direction during rush hours. Making a right turn on a red light is illegal except for a few marked intersections. New York State law prohibits the use of hand-held cell phones while driving, except during an emergency.

Travel Tip: Secaucus, New Jersey, five miles west across the Hudson River from Midtown Manhattan, offers convenient and economical accommodations. You can commute directly into Manhattan via the New Jersey Transit bus for less than $5. You can also park your car on the western bank of the Hudson and take the Weehawken Ferry to Manhattan. On weekends or evenings, you can safely drive into Manhattan and easily find parking.

Bicycles and Pedicabs

Bicycles are encouraged in New York City, but riding through the streets of Manhattan may test your courage. Bikes are allowed on public transportation (subways, buses, ferries) as long as long as safety regulations are followed. There are some bicycle lanes. A New York Cycling is free at the NYC Department of City Planning bookstore located at 22 Reade Street in New York City. It shows the network of recommended and available routes.

Pedicabs, are found throughout New York City. Fares range from 50 cents to $1.00 a minute but can be negotiated at the beginning of the ride. Don't be afraid to make an offer if it's reasonable they will accept. Horse-drawn buggies are available near the southern entrances to Central Park.

Ferries

Staten Island Ferry in New York City © Mike Leco / USATourist.com
Free of charge, the Staten Island Ferry is the best sightseeing bargain in New York City.

The Staten Island Ferry is the biggest sightseeing bargain in New York City. It takes you on a 30-minute voyage across New York harbor between Manhattan and Staten Island at no charge. You get an outstanding view of the Manhattan skyline and a great view of the Statue of Liberty during the 5.2 miles (8.4 km) ride. The boats depart from the Ferry terminal on Whitehall Street at the downtown end of Broadway in Battery Park. They run around-the-clock, about every 30 minutes.

The N.Y. Water Taxi provides service through three routes: East River, South Brooklyn and Yonkers. Fares start at $5 or $20 for on/off service between all twelve city stops.

NY Waterway has a number of New Jersey and New York Terminals. The one-way fares begin at $5, and include free service on their red, white and blue busses to many locations throughout Manhattan.

The Circle Line Statue of Liberty Ferry takes passengers to Ellis Island and Liberty Island (The cost: $8 for adults, $3 for children includes admission). Ferries depart from Battery Park in Manhattan and Liberty State Park in New Jersey. They run 7 days a week, from 9:30am until 5:00pm.

Handicap access

Most of New York City is reasonably handicap friendly. City busses offer wheelchair lifts and many of the subways stations have ramps and elevators.

Access-A-Ride (AAR) is the city's solution for people with disabilities who need transportation assistance. AAR provides shared ride, door-to-door paratransit service. Visitors are welcome to use the service, but must submit proof of residency outside of New York City and proof of disability. You can find more information about AAR on the New York City Transit site's Access-A-Ride Paratransit Service User's Guide page: Paratransit Service User's Guide

Written by: Elizabeth Blair
Top Photo Credit: © Mike Leco / USATourist.com
Photo Description: Lower Manhattan