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 because the MTA considers upgrading the payment system a lower priority for limited funds than urgent track and signal maintenance.

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:

  • In January 2007, the Port Authority approved plans for the $78.5 million purchase of a lease of Stewart Airport in Newburgh, New York as a 4th major airport for the area.[9]
  • World Trade Center Transportation Hub, whose construction began in late 2005, will replace the temporary PATH terminal that replaced the one destroyed in the September 11 attacks. This new central terminal, designed by Santiago Calatrava, will allow easy transfer between the PATH system, several subway lines and proposed new projects. It is expected to serve 250,000 travelers daily when it opens on December 15, 2015.
  • Fulton Center, a $1.4 billion project in Lower Manhattan that will improve access to and connections between 11 subway routes, PATH service and the World Trade Center site. Construction began in 2005, and it opened on November 10, 2014.
  • Moynihan Station would expand Penn Station into the James Farley Post Office building across the street. The first phase has been fully funded.
  • Second Avenue Subway, a new north-south line, first proposed in 1929, would run from 125th Street in Harlem to Hanover Square in lower Manhattan. The first phase, from 63rd Street to 96th Street, is under construction, and is scheduled to be opened to passenger service on December 30, 2016.
  • 7 Subway Extension would extend the 7 <7> trains west along 42nd Street from its current terminus at Times Square, then south along 11th Avenue to the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center/Hudson Yards Redevelopment Project at 34th Street station. Tunnel construction began in 2008, and operational service started on September 13, 2015.
  • East Side Access project will route some Long Island Rail Road Trains to Grand Central Terminal instead of Penn Station. Since many, if not most, LIRR commuters work on the east side of Manhattan, many in walking distance of Grand Central, this project will save travel time and reduce congestion at Penn Station and on subway lines connecting it with the east side. It will also greatly expand the hourly capacity of the LIRR system. Completion is scheduled for 2023.
  • The Lower Manhattan – Jamaica / JFK Transportation Project would extend the Atlantic Branch, an existing Long Island Rail Road line from Jamaica Station, with a new 3-mile (4.8 km) tunnel under the East River from downtown Brooklyn to Manhattan. AirTrain JFK-compatible cars would run along the new route, connecting John F. Kennedy International Airport and Jamaica with Lower Manhattan.[10][11][12] This project is still just a proposal, although it has the support of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg.[13]
  • Gateway Project will add a second pair of railroad tracks under the Hudson River, connecting an expanded Penn Station to NJ Transit and Amtrak lines. This project is a successor to a similar one called Access to the Region's Core, which was canceled in October 2010 by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, citing the possibility of cost overruns and the state's lack of funds. Amtrak is now in charge of the project, which is currently under construction and slated to be completed by 2020.[14]
  • Although New York City does not have light rail, a few proposals exist:
  • John F. Kennedy International Airport is undergoing a US$10.3 billion redevelopment, one of the largest airport reconstruction projects in the world. In recent years, Terminals 1,[21][22] 4,[23][24] 5,[25] and 8[26] have been reconstructed.
  • As part of a long-term plan to manage New York City's environmental sustainability, Mayor Michael Bloomberg released several proposals to increase mass transit usage and improve overall transportation infrastructure.[27] Apart from support of the above capital projects, these proposals include the implementation of bus rapid transit, the reopening of closed LIRR and Metro-North stations, new ferry routes, better access for cyclists, pedestrians and intermodal transfers, and a congestion pricing zone for Manhattan south of 86th Street.[28]
  • Mayor De Blasio's OneNYC Plan has called for a study of extending rail service down Utica Avenue in Brooklyn. It is unclear whether such a line would be a subway or elevated, and funding is uncertain.[29]
  • The OneNYC Plan has also called for upgrading the LIRR's Atlantic Branch to subway-like frequency once the East Side Access project is completed[30]
  • The same plan has called for new ferry routes and more Select Bus Service routes.[31]
  • Council Members in northern Manhattan and the South Bronx have called for a shuttle train down Fordham Road.[32]
  • Queens politicians have suggested reactivating the abandoned Rockaway Beach Branch Line for either LIRR or Subway service. [33]


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  3. ^ Lueck, Thomas J. (2006-08-24). "M.T.A. Ridership Grows Faster Than Population". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-02-24. 
  4. ^ Chan, Sewell (2009-02-20). "Subway and Bus Ridership Sets Record". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-02-24. 
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  6. ^ "NYC Subway Ridership At 62 Year High, Despite Sandy Disruptions". WNYC. Retrieved 2 March 2015. 
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  8. ^ Ivry, Sara (2005-12-26). "Since Riders Had No Subways, Commuter Papers Struggled, Too". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-02-24. 
  9. ^ "Port Authority Authorizes Purchase of Operating Lease at Stewart International Airport" (Press release). Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. January 25, 2007. Retrieved 2010-02-13. 
  10. ^ "Governor Pataki Announces Results of Joint Study on Lower Manhattan to Long Island and JFK Rail Link" (Press release). Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. 2004-05-05. Retrieved 2010-02-28. 
  11. ^ Urbina, Ian; Chan, Sewell (2005-03-12). "Rail Link to J.F.K. Airport Falls Short in the Financing". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-02-28. 
  12. ^ "Lower Manhattan-Jamaica/JFK Transportation Project - Project Feasibility". Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Retrieved 2010-02-28. 
  13. ^ "Downtown needs a rail link to J.F.K. Airport". Retrieved 2 March 2015. 
  14. ^ Karen Rouse (20 April 2012). "Amtrak rail project keeps right on rolling". Retrieved 8 October 2013. 
  15. ^ "Home page". vision42. The Institute for Rational Urban Mobility, Inc. 2000–2013. Retrieved 8 October 2013. 
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  17. ^ "Reality check for Staten Island's rail plans". Retrieved 2 March 2015. 
  18. ^ Hack, Charles (13 January 2011). "Extending Light Rail across Bayonne Bridge to Staten Island is on minds of officials on both sides of Kill Van Kull". The Jersey Journal. Retrieved 5 October 2013. 
  19. ^ Brooklyn to Queens, but not by Subway By MICHAEL KIMMELMAN, NYTimes 2014 April 21
  20. ^
  21. ^ "Aviation Projects". William Nicholas Bodouva and Associates. Retrieved June 13, 2012. 
  22. ^ "Terminal One Group website". Retrieved June 2, 2012. 
  23. ^ Cooper, Peter (November 24, 2010). "John F. Kennedy Airport in New York Commences Terminal 4 Expansion Project". WIDN News. Retrieved November 24, 2010. 
  24. ^ "Delta opens new JFK Terminal 4 hub". Queens Chronicle. Retrieved 31 May 2013. 
  25. ^ "New Hawaiian – JetBlue Partnership Brings Hawaii Closer to East Coast Cities" (Press release). JetBlue Airways. January 23, 2012. Retrieved July 7, 2012. 
  26. ^ "LAN Airlines Moves Into Terminal 8 at JFK With American Airlines" (Press release). American Airlines. January 31, 2012. Retrieved July 7, 2012. 
  27. ^ PlaNYC 2030: Transportation initiatives
  28. ^ "Interim Report for Public Comment" (Press release). NYSDOT. 2008-01-10. Retrieved 2008-02-02. 
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^

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