Day 2 and 3: Getting Around

Written by  //  July 25, 2011  //  Media & Popular Culture  //  2 Comments

Getting around New York City is simple: you can take the subway, take a bus, hail a cab or just walk. Very helpfully, most parts of NYC are arranged in a grid. Numbered avenues run north-south, and are met by number streets running east-west. This makes finding your way around pretty simple. Most addresses in New York are given, you’ll notice, with a street and avenue number. The obliging grid structure, however, disappears in Manhattan in the south tip of the city – around the Financial District and Chinatown. Also, often streets are called different things in different parts of the city. Sixth Avenue, for example, is also the “Avenue of the Americas”. In Harlem, several streets and avenues have been re-named after famous civil rights movement leaders.

Walking is a great option in good weather. Unlike most parts of America, New York actually has a culture of walking. You won’t find yourself alone doing it (as you would in, for example, Charlotte N.C. where you’ll find yourself the only pedestrian). In winters, however, New York’s sky-scrapers act as funnels for cold winds moving in from the river, making walking around the city close to impossible. New York in the winter feels colder than Boston in the winter, which is saying something. Of course, in some parts of New York (especially mid-town Manhattan and the Financial District), you want to show no hesitation as you walk around. People are whizzing past you; if you stop walking to gain your bearings, you will probably cause a minor road accident. People walking behind you will inevitably bump into you, drop coffee on you, curse you and wonder loudly how you dared to walk the streets of New York without knowing where you were going. Not the place for a relaxing amble.    

Taxis are another option. In New York, the yellow cab is reasonably affordable and easily available. But you have to tip – 10 percent or 15 percent. Or the driver will very likely curse you a little bit. This tipping culture, as I found, is omni-present in the U.S. The cab isn’t yellow, however, in upper Manhattan or even in Brooklyn. They start to appear in different colors. Cab drivers are often delightful people. This one time I paid up and got out of a cab with a lot of luggage when it was snowing, and accidentally tripped on something because the road had not been cleared. The cab driver leapt out of the cab, and handed me his card saying, “You can sue the city – here is my card, I’ll be your witness”. Small comfort if you’re lying in the snow with your luggage strewn around you, but helpful nonetheless!

If you don’t like to walk, and don’t want to cab anywhere, you could always take a train. New York’s subway system is prompt, effective and, for USD 2.25 a ride, can take you almost anywhere you want to go. Unlimited travel passes, issued by New York’s MTA, are probably the most inexpensive and convenient. Bear in mind, however, that the subway system is very counter-intuitive for someone not used to it. I’ve often believed that subway systems should have a law: if you get in at stop A, you should be able to get out at stop B with x number of changes. Boston’s T works that way, as does London’s Tube for the most part. Not so for New York. Here you could get in at a particular stop and never get close to where you want to go, despite how many times you change trains. While on a train in New York, you often need to know whether you want to go ‘uptown’ or ‘downtown’. Without this crucial piece of information, you could easily spend valuable travel-card money getting on to the wrong platform and be unable to access the right one. Also, knowing the name of your stop often isn’t enough. Different subway lines have stops by the same name. I think there are 4 stops on different lines, each un-helpfully called “125 street”, all of which take you to different parts of the city. Similarly, New York has many Church Avenues stops, several 7th Avenue stops, the list goes on. The same travel card works for the buses. But buses aren’t my favorite because they are slow, and almost always get caught in traffic. Sometimes however, the bus is unavoidable. If you want to cross Central Park, for example, you’ll need to take a bus. No train to my knowledge does so. 

I’m going to end by clarifying that I did not spend my first days in New York only exploring transport options (as this blog might suggest): I also did other mundane things like figure out how to get to work, buy groceries, and iron my clothes. I did however buy a monthly unlimited travel pass for the subway for USD 104, to prepare me for the upcoming weeks.

2 Comments on "Day 2 and 3: Getting Around"

  1. Nihit August 4, 2011 at 10:57 pm ·

    Ah, but exploring the transport options available is a most fun part of New York! There’s still PATH, NJ Transit, Metro North (not strictly NYC) and the Ferries to take/mention.

  2. Vivian September 23, 2011 at 8:40 pm ·

    WALKING. That is the best way to get around, of course sometimes you just don’t have time or it’s too far, then I recommend the subway, but if you can walk. It’s good for you and free. If you are concerned about getting lost or finding a location take a look at City Maps. Its a virtual NYC Map that shows the city block by block.

Comments are now closed for this article.