In my opinion, the subway is the best way to navigate New York City and the surrounding boroughs. If you take the time to familiarize yourself with how New York’s subway works, you can assure yourself a safe and hassle free trip to the Big Apple. Take to heart the ideas outlined in this guide, and you will be able to navigate New York’s subway system like a real local.
Plan your subway ride
A little planning will go a long way. The best way to act like you know where you are going is to try your best to really know where you are going. There are several websites dedicated to New York subway travel, including HopStop, Trips123, and MTA’s own site. If you are attempting to map your route while on the move, do not forget that most the subway travel sites mentioned above also have applications for your mobile phone (that are sometimes free!) that can utilize your smartphone’s GPS locator to help you plan your route. This is a great mapping option when you know your end destination, but are unsure of your current location. If finding a subway travel application for your particular mobile device is too technical for you, you can utilize your phone’s (if it is so equipped) GPS-enabled mapping to find the most direct subway route.
Remember though, most subway stations are too far underground for you to receive a cellphone signal, so be prepared with a backup plan. All subway stations have large subway maps, both before you pass through the turnstile, and along the platform. Although increasingly less common, most major subway stations have a manned ticketing window. These MTA employees are use to giving directions, and can help you find your way as well as provide you the appropriate ticket for your travel itinerary. Be careful asking a stranger for directions warns a New York railroad lawyer, while most subway commuters will be happy to provide assistance, you could inadvertently mark yourself as an easy target for city pickpockets.
Few safety tips
New York crime (including crime in the subway) has been trending downward for the past 10 years, but it still pays dividends to keep your wits about you when riding the subway. If your itinerary requires you to travel after dark, be prepared to wait longer at potentially less crowded subway stops, as many subway trains occur less frequently in the evening. It is always a good idea to travel with a companion, especially at night, but if you must travel alone, try to ride in a populated car (if there is one), the first car (where the subway operator sits), or in the very middle car (where the conductor sits). Common sense might tell you to be most careful in deserted stations, but according to a New York FELA Attorney, most crime actually occurs during rush hour in the most trafficked stations. So while you certainly do not have to avoid stations such as Port Authority, Times Square, Penn Station, Grand Central Station, and the 59th Street and Lexington (nor would it be easy to), be especially aware of your belongings while navigating these crowded stations.
Crime is not your only cause for concern regarding your safety while traveling on New York’s subways. New York’s subway stations will often house several subway lines going in multiple directions at exceedingly high speeds. Keep your wits about you while traveling from train to train, and try to move with (not against) the flow of traffic. We consulted with a local New York railroad lawyer, and his advice for keeping out of harm’s way while traveling by subway was to simply grab hold of the nearest support bar. When you find yourself standing while riding the subway (which you usually are, especially during rush hour) hold onto one of many available railings, poles, and handles. This will keep you upright, and off of your fellow subway passenger (not the best way to make a first impression).
Follow these simple tips, use common sense and you will be an old pro at New York’s subway system in no time.