Mass transit in New York City

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Inside Grand Central Terminal, the second busiest rail station in the United States behind Pennsylvania Station, also in New York City.

New York City's public transportation network is the most extensive in North America. About one in every three users of mass transit in the United States and two-thirds of the nation's rail riders are residents of New York City, or its suburbs. Data from the 2000 U.S. Census reveals that New York is the only locality in the United States where more than half of all households do not own a car (the figure is even higher in Manhattan, over 75 percent). While nearly 90 percent of Americans drive to their jobs, mass transit is the primary form of travel for New Yorkers.[1] New York's uniquely high rate of public transit makes it one of the most energy efficient cities in the country.


Entrance to the Times Square – 42nd Street station on 42nd Street

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) operates most of New York City's transit systems. Using census data, the MTA reported in August 2006 that ridership on its buses, subways and commuter trains in recent years has grown faster than population growth, indicating that more New Yorkers are choosing to use mass transit, despite the poor service of some areas in New York City by mass transit.[2] The MTA attributed the ridership gains to the introduction of the MetroCard in 1993, and the replacement of more than 2,800 rolling stock since 2000.

From 1995 to 2005, the authority said, ridership on city buses and subways grew by 36%, compared with a population gain in the city of 7%. In the suburbs, it said, a 14% increase in ridership on Metro-North and the Long Island Rail Road outpaced a suburban population gain of 6%.[3] With dramatic increases in fuel prices in 2008, as well as increased tourism and residential growth, ridership on buses and subways grew 3.1% up to about 2.37 billion trips a year compared to 2007. This is the highest ridership since 1965.[4]

In 2013, ridership on the New York City Subway was 1.7 billion,[5] the highest ridership since 1946, despite Hurricane Sandy-related subway closures.[6] Ridership in city buses was 803 million.[5]

Transit culture[edit]

Riders on the New York City Subway

Over 5 million people ride the transit network each weekday, and the system is a major venue for commerce, entertainment and political activism. Much of the city relies on the subway as its main source of transportation and New York City is home to two of only five 24-hour subway systems in the United States. Campaigning at subway stations is a staple of New York elections akin to candidate appearances at small town diners during presidential campaigns in the rest of the country. Each week, more than 100 musicians and ensembles – ranging in genre from classical to Cajun, bluegrass, African, South American and jazz – give over 150 performances sanctioned by New York City Transit at 25 locations throughout the subway system, many under the Music Under New York program.[7] There are many more who are unauthorized performers, called buskers, ranging from professionals putting on an impromptu show to panhandlers seeking donations by way of a song.

One outcome of the city's extensive mass transit use is a robust local newspaper industry. The readership of many New York dailies consists in large part by transit riders who read during their commutes. The three-day transit strike in December 2005 briefly depressed circulation figures, underscoring the relationship between the city's commuting culture and newspaper readership.[8]

The subways of New York have been venues for beauty pageants and guerrilla theater. The MTA's annual Miss Subways contest ran from 1941 to 1976 and again in 2004 (under the revised name "Ms. Subways").

The subways and commuter rail systems also have some artworks in their stations, commissioned under the MTA Arts & Design umbrella.

Fare collection[edit]

Commuters purchasing the MetroCard.

The MTA-operated New York City subway and bus systems formerly used tokens or coins for fare collection. The use of tokens on these systems was discontinued in 2003.

The MetroCard is the current payment method for MTA-operated subway and bus systems, as well as for several other transportation systems in the metropolitan area. It is a thin, plastic card on which the customer electronically loads fares. Payment may be made at automated machines that accept money, credit cards, and debit cards. Variable pay schemes are available; cards with more pre-paid rides offer greater discounts. The MetroCard was introduced to enhance the technology of the transit system and eliminate the burden of carrying and collecting tokens.

In 2006, New York City's two main transportation systems, New York City Subway and PATH, announced plans to introduce smart cards for paying fares. In February 2006, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey unveiled a $73 million smart card system in the World Trade Center PATH station. The PATH "SmartLink" card contains an antenna attached to a computer chip, which can be read by turnstiles without requiring passengers to swipe cards, similar to the TfL Oyster card. The SmartLink card will eventually replace the magnetic-strip QuickCard accepted at PATH turnstiles. The MTA-owned subway and bus networks will eventually use this same technology. A consortium of New York metropolitan transit agencies, including the Port Authority and New Jersey Transit, will test different versions and introduce a single standard. In the future, all New York City area transit systems will use the same "contactless" payment system, but this is not expected to be completed within the near future.

Modes of transit[edit]

Major operators[edit]

Metropolitan Transportation Authority[edit]

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is a New York State public benefit corporation tasked with providing mass transit in the New York City metropolitan area through its various subsidiary agencies.

Port Authority of New York and New Jersey[edit]

PATH train emerging from the Hudson Tubes into Exchange Place station.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey operates three rail systems, two of which are in New York City:

The Port Authority also owns and operates the three major airports in the New York City area and the Stewart International Airport about 55 miles north. Regional bus service to New Jersey, upstate New York, the Midwest, and Canada travels from the Port Authority Bus Terminal near Times Square and the smaller George Washington Bridge Bus Terminal.

New Jersey Transit[edit]

Main article: New Jersey Transit

New Jersey Transit (NJ Transit) provides extensive commuter rail service from northern and central New Jersey to Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan. NJ Transit also has an extensive network of bus routes radiating in and out of the Port Authority Bus Terminal and George Washington Bridge Bus Station. In addition to buses and commuter trains, NJ Transit also operates three light rail systems in the state.

Intercity rail[edit]

Amtrak provides long-distance passenger rail connections from New York Penn Station to Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., New England, Upstate New York, Montreal, Toronto, Florida, Atlanta, New Orleans, Chicago and the Midwest. For trips of less than 500 miles, Amtrak is often cheaper and easier than air travel, and sometimes faster if travel to and from the airport and security check-in times are included. Amtrak's high-speed Acela service from New York to Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington uses tilting technology and fast electric locomotives. This route, known as the Northeast Corridor, accounts for about half of Amtrak's ridership and covers its own operating, but not capital, costs.

Other transit[edit]

Other transit in the city includes:

Major transit terminals[edit]

There are several major transit terminals in the New York metropolitan area. They include train stations, bus terminals, and ferry landings.

Train stations[edit]

Bus terminals[edit]

Ferry landings[edit]

Expansion plans[edit]

There are several proposals for expanding the New York City transit system that are in various stages of planning, initial funding, or completion:


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  19. ^ Brooklyn to Queens, but not by Subway By MICHAEL KIMMELMAN, NYTimes 2014 April 21
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