New York City’s subway system is one of the oldest and most extensive systems in the world. This network aims to connect every nook and cranny of the five boroughs and it is accordingly served by 26 train services each of which is named with a letter or a number. For identification purposes on subway maps, signboards and station platforms all these various services also are grouped according to color. Though most of these train services run underground, many lines also run over ground (the number 7 train to Flushing, the N train to Astoria) from Manhattan to the outer boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn. Current a 27th train service – the Second Avenue Subway – is under construction on the east side in New York City. This line is expected to be completed in 2015 and when complete it will connect 125th street located ‘uptown’ to Hanover street which is located ‘downtown’.

Frequency and Advisories

These subway trains run twenty four hours a day and operate quite frequently during weekdays. Timetables for each line are available on the website of the New York subway at ( The trains operate less frequently on weekends and public holidays. Additionally there are always engineering works which are scheduled for the weekends which are required for the upkeep and the up-gradation of the subway. Before you embark on your journey it is always advisable to check the service advisories which are constantly updated and posted on the MTA’s website under the service advisory section. These subway advisories are also printed in the free daily newspapers- Metro and AM New York which are available for free at distribution boxes located on pavements all over the city.


Many of the stations in the system have manned kiosks where you can acquire maps for the entire network. These maps are provided free at the stations and are also available at various souvenir shops and tourist visitor bureaus. The New York City Subway map is even available online at the website of the MTA.

Journey Planner

If you need point to point directions for your journey, do make use of the journey planner which is available at the website of the MTA.

The website Hop Stop also offers its own journey planner at ( which not only gives you point to point directions but even gives you information about taxi and car service fares to your destination.


In order to use the subway you have to swipe your MetroCard at the turnstile when you enter a station. A subway ride costs $2.25 but you can transfer from one line to the other for free as long as you are underground. MetroCards can be purchased as pay-per-ride cards or unlimited ride cards which are valid for thirty days. An unlimited ride 30 day MetroCard as of 28th June 2009 costs $89. Pay-per-ride cards can be topped up to a maximum of $80 and you initially have to pay a minimum of $4.50 for a new MetroCard.

MetroCards are available at all the subway stations in New York City at self service kiosks. You can use cash, a debit or credit card to purchase or top up a MetroCard. You can also request a receipt for your top at the kiosk. You have to buy these MetroCards from the self service kiosks and not from the manned station offices. The station officers can help you with directions or check your MetroCard if you experience some problem while using the card at the turnstile. Several newspaper kiosks located all over the city also sell stored value pay per ride MetroCards.

Aside from the 30 day unlimited MetroCard, unlimited Cards are also available in other denominations:

Unlimited Metroc Cards Full Fare Reduced Fare for Eligible Senior Citizens/Disabled
One Day Card $8.25 N/A
Seven Day Card $27 $13.50
Fourteen Day Card $51.50 $ 25.75
30 Day Card $89 $ 44.50

If you plan to use public transport daily then a 30-day unlimited card makes economic sense, if not, then a pay per ride card which can be topped with credit periodically is quite adequate.

Both options have their own advantages depending on your usage, with an unlimited 30-day MetroCard, the more you ride the less it costs and all free transfers are included in the price of the card though the card can only be used by one person at a time and it cannot be used again at the same subway station or on the same bus route for 18 minutes.

In the case of a pay-per-ride MetroCard, you receive a 15% bonus every time you top up $8 or more (for instance when you top up $20 on your MetroCard you usually get a bonus of 3$). With a pay-per-ride MetroCard you can avail of a free subway to bus, bus to subway or bus to bus transfer within two hours of your initially journey though there are some exceptions (in the case of cross town buses that run to and fro between the east and west sides of Manhattan you are charged a fare on each leg of your journey even if you have performed them within the two hour time frame). This pay- per-ride card can be used to pay the fare for four people at a time. The pay-per-ride card can be topped up as long as the card is valid. Both unlimited ride and pay-per-ride cards have expiry dates which are mentioned on the back of card.


Most New York City subway stations are marked with poles which have colored globes. In Manhattan, these stations are marked as ‘Uptown’ and ‘Downtown’ depending on the direction in which the underground trains which are located below are traversing the island. These stations are often located on opposite sides of the street.

Some of these stations are disabled friendly and you can call 1 (800) 734-6772 (recording) or (718)-596-8273 (TTY) to find out about the accessibility of a particular station.


The subways are often extremely crowded during rush hours from 6 am to 10 am and from 5p to 7pm and once you have maneuvered your way into the subway car you should move inside the car and not block the entrances.

It is also customary to give up your seat for a disabled or elderly person and to offer your seat to a pregnant woman. Consuming food or drinking beverages in the subway car is not allowed, nor is playing loud music, though IPods and personal entertainment systems are a common sight on New York City subway cars.

Direct connection to JFK airport

The New York City subway lines E & A also provide direct services to JFK airport via their stations at Sutphin Boulevard and Howard Beach where they connect to the air train which takes you into the various terminals of JFK airport.