New York City Buses

City buses operate 24 hours a day, generally along avenues in a south or north direction, and cross-town along the major thoroughfares (including 34th, 42nd and 57th Sts).

Buses that begin and end in a certain borough are prefixed accordingly: ie, M5 for Manhattan, B39 for Brooklyn, Q32 for Queens, Bx29 for Bronx.

Bus maps for each borough are available at subway and train stations, and each well-marked bus stop has Guide-a-Ride maps showing the stops for each bus and nearby landmarks. Remember that some ‘Limited Stop’ buses along major routes pull over only every 10 blocks or so at major cross streets.

“Express” buses are generally for outer borough commuters and should not be used for short trips; they currently cost $4. In addition to the city-owned express buses, which are prefixed with “X”, there are some private express bus lines such as Command Bus lines and Green bus lines. They operate under the watch of the city and charge the same fares as city express buses.

The regular bus fare is currently $2.00. The fare is the same, regardless of how far you travel. You’ll need exact change or a Metrocard to board the bus. If you plan to transfer to a connecting route, you can get a temporary card that will allow you to transfer for free. If you use a Metrocard, you can transfer for free to any bus or subway within two hours after you first used the Metrocard.

If you purchase a Metrocard for multiple trips, you will get a discount. You can also get an unlimited ride Metrocard, which allows you to take as many rides on the bus or subway that you want in a certain period of time. This is very useful for a tourist who wants to take many bus rides to different parts of the city.

Senior citizens can get special Metrocards that allow them to pay half fare. Students can get Metrocards that allow them to ride the bus for free or at a reduced price. These can only be used for traveling to and from school; the bus driver will not accept a Metrocard from a student who is not en route to or from a school, or when school is not in session.

Drivers will be happy to tell you if their bus stops near a specific site, as a safety precaution, you can request to be dropped off at any location along a bus route from 10 pm to 5 am – even if it is not a designated bus stop.

Of course, if you attempt to ride the bus, you’ll discover the same woes found in every other major city during bad weather: After a 25 minute wait for a bus, three will come along in a row.

For bus information, call 718-330-1234.

Getting Around Manhattan

In 1811, a grid system was imposed on the area of Manhattan north of Houston (pronounced HOW-ston) Street. The system consisted of 14 avenues, many of them numbered, running in a north-south direction, crossed by numbered streets running in an east-west direction. It makes finding your way around relatively simple. This street plan was established before the advent of the automobile and was not designed to accomodate drivers; as a result Manhattan suffers from a tremendous amount of traffic congestion. If you are traveling from east to west or west to east, it can be quicker to walk to your destination, rather than to drive.

Fifth Avenue serves as the dividing line between Manhattan’s East Side and it’s West Side. Street numbers begin at Fifth Avenue and grow higher in both directions. New Yorkers often give out addresss by listing the cross streets: “I’ll meet you at Forty-Third and Fifth” means I’ll meet you at the intersection of 43rd Street and Fifth Avenue.

The older part of New York City, from 14th Street to the southern tip of Manhattan, is much harder to navigate. These streets are set up along the lines of an old European city. Many streets began as cow paths or as small footpaths for merchants. Streets often change direction, and it is not hard to find yourself walking in circles.

In the 17th century, New Amsterdam’s Dutch residents erected a wooden wall at the northern border of the town to keep out the British as well as hostile Native Americans. Wall Street stands where this wall once existed.

Broadway is the only avenue that cuts diagonally across Manhattan. It was originally a woodland path used by Native Americans. It runs from the lower tip of Manhattan to Albany, 150 miles away.

New York City Ferries

Hundreds of ferries operated on New York’s rivers in the late 1800s. Most of these disappeared after the opening of several East Side bridges. Now, ferries have become popular once again. After the attack on the World Trade Center, when there were some temporary problems with subways and commuter rail trains, many New Yorkers turned to the ferries as a reliable means of transportation. The rail problems have since been fixed; still many New York commuters enjoy spending their rush hours on deck in the fresh air.

The Staten Island Ferry, which takes commuters from Staten Island to Manhattan and back, is the only method of public transportation between Staten Island and the other boroughs. The Staten Island Ferry and the Verrazano Bridge, which links Staten Island and Brooklyn, are the only direct connections between Staten Island and the rest of the city.

Staten Island joined New York City in 1898. In 1905, Ferry Service was transferred to the city Department of Docks and Ferries. The Staten Island Ferry is now operated by the New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT). NYC DOT maintains a fleet of eight vessels as well as the St. George Ferry Terminal in Staten Island, Whitehall Ferry Terminal in Manhattan, the City Island and Hart Island Facilities, the Battery Maritime Building in Manhattan and all floating dock building equipment.

The Staten Island Ferry makes over 33,000 trips each year. On weekdays, five boats are used to transfer about 70,000 passengers daily during 104 daily trips. On weekends, three boats are used, with 64 trips made each weekend day.

While most of the people who use the Staten Island Ferry are commuters traveling to and from jobs in Manhattan, a Staten Island Ferry ride is a great experience for tourists as well. From the ferry, one can see the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, as well as the Lower Manhattan skyline.

New York Waterways offers ferry service for commuters traveling between Manhattan and New Jersey, with ports in various parts of lower and midtown Manhattan, and in a number of New Jersey cities and towns. It also operates sightseeing cruises around New York Harbor, as well as cruises up the Hudson River from New York City to upstate New York.

New York Water Taxi takes commuters from Hunters Point, Queens, Red Hook, Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Army Terminal and Jersey City, New Jersey to Manhattan. Manhattan stops include the Fulton Ferry landing, Battery Park, the South Street Seaport, the World Financial Center, Wall Street, Greenwich Village, Chelsea Piers, and West 44th Street in Midtown. New York Water Taxi also offers sightseeing tours of New York Harbor.

The Circle Line ferry company conducts a number of sightseeing cruises around the city. It also maintains a ferry that takes visitors from Manhattan to the Statue of Liberty and to Ellis Island. These attractions are only accessible by ferry.

New York City Subway

The New York City Subway System opened on October 27, 1904, with 28 stations in Manhattan. There are now 468 stations, most of which were built by 1930. There are now stations in Manhattan, Queens, the Bronx and Brooklyn. Staten Island’s subway system, the Staten Island Railway, is not contiguous with the New York City’s main subway system, although it is also maintained by the Metropolitan Transit Authority.

New York City ties with Mexico City as having the fourth largest subway ridership in the world, surpassed only by Moscow, Tokyo and Seoul. The New York City subway system carries about 4.5 million passengers on an average weekday, about 1.4 billion passengers a year. There are 27 interconnected subway lines.

There are about 660 miles of track in passenger service. Counting track used for nonrevenue purposes, such as in subway yards, there are more than 840 miles. New York City Subway tracks laid end to end would stretch from New York City to Chicago. The longest train line is the A train, which runs from 207th Street in Manhattan to Far Rockaway in Queens, a distance of over 31 miles. The Subway uses enough power annually to light the city of Buffalo for a year.

Although the term “subway” implies an underground system, in fact, only about 60 percent of New York City subway stations are underground. The rest are elevated, embankments, or open-cut. An open-cut station is built below street level, in a trench-like depression. Most open-cut stations are exposed to the outdoors, unlike stations built in tunnels. The highest station is Smith and 9th Streets in Brooklyn, 88 feet above street level. The lowest is 191st Street in Manhattan, 180 feet below street level. Over the past 20 years, NYC Transit has rehabilitated or upgraded almost half the stations in the system. MTA Arts for Transit has commissioned and installed artwork in dozens of stations since 1985.

The subway fare is currently $2, regardless of how long your ride is, or how many times you change trains. The fare can be paid with a Metrocard. There are two types of Metrocards: Pay-Per-Ride and Unlimited Ride. With a Pay- Per Ride card, you can buy as many rides as you want from $4 to $80. If you put $10 or more on your card, you receive a 20 percent bonus. For example, a $20 purchase gives you $24 on your card: 12 trips for the price of 10. You get an automatic free transfer between subway and bus, or between buses. An Unlimited Ride Metrocard enables you to take an unlimited number of subway and bus rides for a fixed price within a specific time period. You can choose a 1-Day Fun Pass for $7, a 7-day card for $24, or a 30-day card for $76. Senior citizens and people with disabilities are eligible for reduced fares.

In general, trains run every 2 to 5 minutes during rush hours, every 10 to 15 minutes during the day and about every 20 minutes between midnight and 5 AM.