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Attention; Doug or Ellen help me 'dumb down' the NYC subway

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Attention; Doug or Ellen help me 'dumb down' the NYC subway

Old Sep 3rd, 2009, 02:12 PM
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Attention; Doug or Ellen help me 'dumb down' the NYC subway

Poster Momdd' has said that you guys responded to a question of hers re the subway. She said it was very basic step by step how to. She can no longer find the old post, me either. Wondering if you can take the time to re do for me and other first time but adventurous subway users?

Or anyone else for that matter..........

Thanks
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Old Sep 3rd, 2009, 02:32 PM
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what is it that you want to know and perhaps a local can help you out?
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Old Sep 3rd, 2009, 02:32 PM
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I quallify as anyone else.

Rules of the Subway

The NYC subway system is an amalgam of lines that were once privately owned and were purchased by the government to unite them. This explains why there is duplication in many areas and no trains in other areas. The line that King Kong destroyed is now underground.

With a few exceptions the subways in Manhattan run north/south. Almost all, except those that go to the Bronx, will eventually make a turn into Brooklyn or Queens. The two Manhattan trains that only run east/west are the shuttle from Times Square to Grand Central and the L train that runs along 14th street.

There are green and red globes at the entrance to many stations. Green supposedly means open all the time and red means sometimes. Sometimes vary form station to station. Some have mechanical card readers without token booths others are just closed. But red is usually open during week day business hours. Got that.

Transfers occur at many stations. Some transfers are across the platform, others on another level, while others are an interminable walk through corridors which vary from extremely crowded to ill light and very lonely. The main transfers are usually madhouses at all times.

The subway runs all day, all night every day including Christmas, Yom Kippur, and Ramadan. If you are lucky there will be more trains during rush hour.

Do not expect to understand any announcement through the PA system. Do not expect an explanation regarding delays. And if they do make an announcement, do not necessarily believe them.

Many newer trains have peppy computer voices announcing the stations. Very un-NY. There are usually correct. On the newer trains there is also an electronic linear map showing the line and stops. That is usually right. There are, however, large lit arrows that show the general direction and they are often pointing in the wrong direction.

If you miss your stop, you will not die, even if you wind in Brooklyn, Queens, or the Bronx. Well maybe the Bronx. Just get off at the next stop but there is the rub. Not every stop has a corridor which connects trains in both directions so you may have to exit, go upstairs, cross the street, descend again and pay another fare. Although there are major exceptions, this is often true on the local lines where are there are few transfers.

There are basically two types of trains, expresses and locals. Expresses stop at designated stops while locals stop at every station. There are times when the local is actually faster. When there is a problem, locals can run on the express tracks and vice versa. Sometimes during extenuating circumstances stations will be skipped. If you are lucky an announcement will be made. (See above rule regarding PA announcements.) And during those times you might be standing on a platform watching a train pass you by. If a train blows its whistle as it enters the station, it often means it ain’t stopping.

Many students take the subway to school. Many travel as hordes when school lets out. 99.9% of the kids are just being kids. Do not be afraid. As I get older, I realize how frightening we were as kids to adults.

A serious note: Unfortunately, the subway system is not designed for the disabled. All stations have stairs and the few that have escalators or elevators are unreliable.


MetroCards
Never ask how to use the machines that dispense MetroCards beforehand. Always stand in front of the machine as long as possible so a line can grow behind you. Hint to tourists: If the person has not moved their hands in fifteen minutes, get on another line.

Always crowd the person in front of you at the turnstile. Not every turnstile works and pirouettes can occur.

The MetroCard turnstile swipe is an art form. Sometimes the first swipe will not work. (Although them seem to be working better later.) And do not be surprised that after multiple swipes, if you are charged for two trips.

You can get a MetroCard at almost all subway entrances, especially at the larger stations. Some entrances just have turnstiles. You cannot get one on a bus, even though you need one or exact fare. Currently the fare is $2.00, no matter the distance and you can transfer to one bus up to two hours from entering the subway.

There are also all sorts of variations on MetroCards.
1 Day Fun pass
7 Day unlimited pass
14 Day unlimited pass
30 Day unlimited pass

Of course, all Metrocards have restrictions since they issued by a bureaucracy.

Getting Directions
New Yorkers who barely know their name know the subway lines in Manhattan but few know the subway in the boroughs, other than the one where they live. Always ask for directions, NY’ers are always proud to display their subway knowledge. Conversely, NY’ers only know the bus lines they use and have no clue where the other buses go.

The MTA is installing directional plaques in the ground just outside of some stations.

Above each platform are signs that identify the trains which will stop at the station and the general direction. Do not be alarmed that the signs say, Brooklyn Queens, or the Bronx, it is the general direction. Downtown means south and uptown means, well you get the drift.

There are no subway maps above ground. So you will have to descend to into a station to read one.

Riding the Rails

Entering the train can be a bit of free for all. The victory goes to the swift. If you dawdle people will push in front and not many will say things like “Excuse me Sir/Madam, but may I get ahead of you.” At rush hours, people will push from behind and you can be carried with the tide. If you have children, hold their hands and make plans if you get split up. I do this with adults, who so not know the train if someone should miss their stop. (Not hold their hand but make alternate plans.)

Do not stare at people. This is not a joke. It can be interpreted as impolite or worse.

Do not emulate NY’ers who:
1. Lean on the pole so no one else can hold on. It has been known to hold the pole in a certain way so that the knuckles of one’s hand in the back of the slob.
2. Transport their refrigerator during rush hours. People carry all sorts of objects all the time.
3. Read the New York Times spread open, with their splayed open taking up two seats. (This is a male specialty.)
4. Stand with your bike and take up the room of six people. I will never understand, if you have a bike, why you are taking the train. I would, however, like to borrow their helmet sometimes.
5. Don’t shower and wear muscle shirts.


You can do just about anything in NYC but do not block a subway car door. When the train stops, the doors open, and you are blocking them there are many choices: make yourself small, get off the train so there is room and then get back on, move to the center, or be prepared to be bounced and cursed. It is prime spot to stand, own it with pride.

Do not say to your fellow passenger, this is like being in a sardine can. We have probably heard that before.

There will be people selling candy, others God. It is your choice to engage them in conversation.

Getting off

It as important to know the stop before as it is to know the stop you need. The stop before warn all your friends and relatives. Know which side the doors will open. Most doors on an express open on the right. On the local trains, the doors usually open on the right on local stops and on the left on express stops. This is a rule of thumb.

Another rule of thumb regards, people not moving out of the way. Say, “excuse me,” loudly. If they do not move after the second “Excuse me” you have my permission to push your way through the crowd.
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Old Sep 3rd, 2009, 02:40 PM
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Aduchamp1: I love when you post this.

May I be as bold to add to things under this category:
"Do not emulate NY’ers who: "
6. Stand at the top of the staircase yakking on the phone, thus blocking entry.
7. Walk up/down staircase on the left, rather than right hand side.

that is all.
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Old Sep 3rd, 2009, 02:41 PM
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>>

And then hold onto a horizontal pole above your head so my face is directly in your armpit
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Old Sep 3rd, 2009, 02:46 PM
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Sure people can add or make any suggestion. In the past I have added some.
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Old Sep 3rd, 2009, 02:50 PM
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I just noticed that I did not update the change in the fare. It is now $2.25
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Old Sep 3rd, 2009, 02:56 PM
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The subway is easy...you just have to know if where you're headed is "Uptown" or "Downtown" from where you are. And be careful that you don't get on an express train that won't stop where you need it to. And make sure that you really need to use it...you can get to a lot of places in Manhattan on foot; remember that on the numbered streets, 20 blocks = one mile.

I'm from Seattle and have no problems at all with the NYC subways. And there's always someone around who can help if you have a question.

My sister and I just purchased one Metro card and passed it between us on our last trip, topping it up when necessary. I did get stuck once getting charged for two trips when the swipe mechanism didn't work properly.
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Old Sep 3rd, 2009, 03:10 PM
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Thanks so much, Aduchamp1 I should've known yours would be entertaining AND imformative!
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Old Sep 3rd, 2009, 03:17 PM
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Adu: Just a word about those who lean against the pole which is intended for several passengers to hold onto but when they lean with their whole body - it is almost impossible to get a grip. Anyway- once I had such a leaner and I wedged my hand against her back and poked my knuckles into her spine. She responded - kind of angrily - " you should have apologized to me".
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Old Sep 3rd, 2009, 03:21 PM
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Have a plan ahead of time if one person gets off/on a train and the other is left behind. We have needed it in NYC and also on the buses in San Francisco. Have the person left on the train get off at the next stop -- the one left in the station take the next train and meet them there is the way we did it. Like I said, this has happened to us more than once. Our cell phones didn't work down there.
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Old Sep 3rd, 2009, 03:28 PM
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Joe-I have done the knuckle in the back thing as well and the people always blame you.

Aussie-Unless I want to contact someone directly I never write a specific name, because you never know who will chime in. Usually when I see a poster who wants a specific name I do not answer, it is almost like listening in a phone call or reading someone else's mail.
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Old Sep 3rd, 2009, 03:37 PM
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I'm still chuckling - Since your hotel is at 42nd and 2nd Ave (if I remember correctly) you will be just two blocks from Grand Central where you can get the Lexington Ave. which will take you up and down the East Side... and the Shuttle which takes you over to Times Square where you can make lots of connections. And... don't smile unless you see someone you know.
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Old Sep 3rd, 2009, 03:53 PM
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well, I am a little insulted that I wasn't summoned to answer this, but I will anyway. Hope these additional tips are helpful

-Subways in NYC are commonly known and listed by their directions, not by their terminal station. So it would be the uptown or downtown, Brooklyn bound or Manhattan bound,on some lines just the "local and the express" etc. Locals who want to help won't necessarily recognize if you ask for the Van Cortlandt #1 Train (a/k/a the uptown train)
- The colors listed for various subway lines are there for convenience, but are not the names of the lines. So looking for the "yellow line" may help you find the right section of a big train station like Times Square, but it won't help you get on the exact right train. "Yellow lines" such as N, R, Q and W run different routes, some local, some express, end at different stops, etc.
-Ask. Really. Before you get on a train, or shortly after. Don't wait until you think you've missed your stop. Just tell people where you want to go ,maybe the actual destination rather than the stop you think is best. Often visitors will think they want a specific stop but it turns out there's a faster or better way. I am constantly explaining to people that instead of switching trains to get closer to a destination, they can often stick with the train they're on and only add a block or 2 to their walk.
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Old Sep 3rd, 2009, 03:57 PM
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Aussie--Anything you still need to know?

it was mentioned in passing, but I'll restate again. "Downtown" and Uptown" refer to both directions of travel and locations. If a person says, "She lives downtown," chances are she lives in Manhattan somewhere south of 14th Street. If a person says, "He lives uptown," they probably mean north of 59th Street. "Downtown" might also mean "south of here" and "Uptown" might also mean "north of here."

Some subway stations have staircase entrances on both sides of the street, and once down the stairs and inside the station there is a connection between the two staircases so it doesn't matter which one you walk down. You pay and go through the turnstiles and then go down another staircase to either the "uptown" or "downtown" trains.

However, some subway stations have staircase entrances on both sides of the street but each gives access to only "uptown" or "downtown" without a connection between the two. Before you go down the stairs into a subway station, check the signage above the stairs. It will list the name of the station ("8th Street") and the trains that stop there (R, W, N, 4, 5, 6 . . .). If the station with limited access to both directions, the sign will also list "Uptown and Queens" or "Downtown and Brooklyn" or the like.

Here's the real confusion: You are staying with your friend who lives on the Lower East Side, a neighborhood that is considered "downtown." You go south on a "downtown" subway to Battery Park to see the Statue of Liberty. To return to your friend's house, which is considered downtown, you must take an "uptown" subway. You go uptown to go to downtown. Silly but true--but this really shouldn't come into play for you as a tourist.

Just remember: Downtown = south of here; Uptown = north of here
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Old Sep 3rd, 2009, 04:00 PM
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I actually found a sign online for reference:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/photopunk13/3459142503/
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Old Sep 3rd, 2009, 04:20 PM
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Thanks ellenem, I'm sure we will 'get it' once we try it. We mastered the tube in London with out any problem, but its pretty obvious there with the great maps, lines and colours.

Are bus's easier, harder or just 'different'?

Your tops.
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Old Sep 3rd, 2009, 04:45 PM
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A couple of thoughts. On the maps subway lines are in color. The purpose is to allow you to follow the lines. DO NOT try to identify the line or ask someone about it by color - since no one will now what you're talking about. A subway line is designated either by it's letter or number (Take the A train, take the 6) - or it's description (as in Broadway local or Lex Ave Express).

Do not expect a seat. During anytime near rush hours the trains run at about 300% capacity (twice as many people standing as sitting). In Manhattan you are rarely near the end of the line - so you MAY get a seat at 6:30 am or 11 pm - not otherwise.

Keep your elbows sharp but near your side. If you are attempting to exit and someone won;t move, you 1) say EXCUSE ME! and then 2) nudge the person in the back with your elbow. (DO NOT do this if the person appears drunk or demented.)

The rule about not staring at people is perfectly true. And it's not only on the subway. You don;t stare at people on the bus or in elevators either. The person will likely take it either as a challenge or an attempt to pick them up (regardless of gender - of either of you).

Do not converse with strangers in the subway. Chances are they are 1) trying to panhandle with some sob story, 2) trying to sell you something or 3) deranged or drunk. The subway cars are lined with signs - use your time on the train to learn Spanish from them rather than staring at/talking to strangers. (If in the station you are allowed to ask people about trains or directions - again, if they're not drunk or demented.)

I know this sounds like most people in the subway are drunk or demented, but this is not true - but the chances are there is one or the other on almost every train (many cars each with hundreds of people).

At rush hours the expresses will appear every 5 or 6 minutes. The locals will run as close together as the trains can safely. During the day there will be a few more minutes between trains. Between midnight and 6 am you may have to wait 15 minutes or so for a train.

Subways are from 1 to 3 stories underground (some run underneath others) and few stations have escalators. Some have elevators, which are often not working. (People with problems walking or climbing stairs should take buses, which go everywhere and kneel to allow easier access - and all take wheelchairs.)

Oh, and if someone tries to grope you on a crowded train the appropriate reaction is to step on their foot - as hard as you can - say something like - Oh, was that you foot, glare and move to another part of the car.

On a practical note, your best bet is to get a subway map in advance and check out your hotel and key locations on it. Also consult hopstop,com to get routes for all types of transit.
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Old Sep 3rd, 2009, 05:05 PM
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Buses are the same thing only different.

There are different bus routes on the "avenues." Since most "avenues" are one way, the same bus number travels uptown on one avenue and downtown on another. For example, the M15 goes uptown/north on First Avenue and downtown on Second Avenue. (M-Manhattan, 15-route number which sometimes makes sense and sometimes doesn't)

There are also crosstown buses that travel east/west on the major "streets" that correspond with the subway stops, every 10 blocks or so. Since these major "streets" have traffic in both directions, the bus route follows that street in both directions. The crosstown bus route numbers tend to make sense (M42 on 42nd Street, M34 on 34th Street . . .)

Since there are so few ways to go east/west on a subway, using a subway-to-crosstown-bus connection can be a good option.

Just as the subway has "express" trains which make fewer stops and "local" trains" which make every stop, buses have faster and slower choices. Local buses will have no special designation aside from the route number and will have bus stops about very two blocks. Bus stops are labeled with a pole that features blue signs for the different bus number that stop there. The same bus route may also have LIMITED buses. Limited buses stop every 8-10 blocks, usually where there is a crosstown bus connection. It will have the same route number and s=destination flashing on the sign over the front window, and will also flash LIMITED. The sign on the post will be in purple and state that it is a limited stop.

[There is a bus called an "express" bus, but it goes from Manhattan to the outer suburbs and is mostly used by commuters.]

Typical bus ride: Find your marked bus stop. Watch for the next bus, reading the sign above the front window to be sure it is the one you want. While people don't form a line while waiting, there is a certain sense of who arrived first and should get on first when the bus arrives. People are actually very orderly. When the bus arrives, stand back from the door in case someone is getting off. The driver may lower the bus (making the bus "kneel") to make access easier. The driver may also need to operate the wheelchair lift to help someone on or off.

Mount the steps and put your MetroCard in the slot on the top front left of the fare box--there's an image there showing you the correct position. (You may also use exact change--coins only--to pay your fare. Coins go in the funnel on the top back right. Ask for a transfer if you use coins.) You can see your fare appear on the little screen on the top front right. Move into the bus away from the front door.

Preferred bus etiquette is to get on at the front door (you must do so to pay the fare) but get off at the back door. Many people still get off at the front door anyway because it is closer, the bus is crowded, or they need to use the kneeling feature of the bus which is only at the front door.

The bus only stops if someone is waiting at the stop or if someone on the bus presses the yellow tape to request a stop at the next stop. If the tape has been pressed for the next stop, you'll here a ping and a sign STOP REQUESTED will light--avoiding too much annoying pinging.

The back door will not open automatically, Once the bus stops at an official bus stop, the driver releases the back door and a light goes one at the door. Now you can press on the yellow tape on the door to open it--it may require a push. Bus etiquette says that you hold the door open for the people descending behind you since it might slam shut and lock if you don't do so.
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Old Sep 3rd, 2009, 06:02 PM
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If all else fails, use hopstop.com.

Plug in your starting point and your destination and it will give you specific directions...where to walk to to get to the closest subway station, which train to get on, where to get off, etc.

Try it. Stop right now and enter your hotel address and "tenement museum". See what the route is, how long it will take and even take a peek using the camera option.

Use that method to get started and your confidence will build during the week
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