The subway system operates on more than 840 miles of track 24 hours a day and serves nearly all the places you're likely to visit. It's cheaper than a cab, and during the workweek it's often faster than either taxis or buses. The trains are well lighted and air-conditioned. Still, the New York subway is hardly problem-free. Many trains are crowded, the older ones are noisy, the air-conditioning can break, and platforms can be dingy and damp. Homeless people sometimes take refuge from the elements by riding the trains, and panhandlers head there for a captive audience. Although trains usually run frequently, especially during rush hours, you never know when some incident somewhere on the line may stall traffic. In addition, subway construction sometimes causes delays or limitation of service, especially on weekends.
Most subway entrances are at street corners and are marked by lampposts with an illuminated Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) logo or globe-shape green or red lights—green means the station is open 24 hours and red means the station closes at night (though the colors don't always correspond to reality). Subway lines are designated by numbers and letters, such as the 3 line or the A line. Some lines run "express" and skip stops, and others are "local" and make all stops. Each station entrance has a sign indicating the lines that run through the station. Some entrances are also marked "uptown only" or "downtown only." Before entering subway stations, read the signs carefully. One of the most frequent mistakes visitors make is taking the train in the wrong direction. Maps of the full subway system are posted in every train car and usually on the subway platform (though these are sometimes out of date). You can usually pick up free maps at station booths.
For the most up-to-date information on subway lines, call the MTA's Travel Information Center or visit its website. The Hopstop and Citymapper apps and websites are a good source for figuring out the best line to take to reach your destination, as are Google Maps. Alternatively, ask a station agent.
You can transfer between subway lines an unlimited number of times at any of the numerous stations where lines intersect. If you use a MetroCard to pay your fare, you can also transfer to intersecting MTA bus routes for free. Such transfers generally have time limits of two hours.
Pay your subway fare at the turnstile, using a MetroCard bought from a vending machine.
Citymapper. Android and iOS apps are available. New York, NY. www.citymapper.com.
HopStop. A related app is available for iOS devices. New York, NY. www.hopstop.com.
Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Travel Information Line (New York, NY. 511. www.mta.info.)