Transportation in New York City

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Transportation in New York City
A map of the extensive subway system in New York City
A map of the extensive subway system in New York City
OwnerMetropolitan Transportation Authority, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, State of New Jersey, other local governments
LocaleNew York City metropolitan area
Transit typeRapid transit, commuter rail, bus and bus rapid transit, light rail, people mover, aerial tramway, bicycle sharing system, taxicab
Daily ridershipMore than 10 million
Operator(s)MTA, NJ Transit, PATH, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and private operators

The transportation system of New York City is a network of complex infrastructural systems. New York City, being the most populous city in the United States, has a transportation system which includes one of the largest subway systems in the world; the world's first mechanically ventilated vehicular tunnel; and an aerial tramway. New York City is also home to an extensive bus system in each of the five boroughs; citywide and Staten Island ferry systems; and numerous yellow taxis and boro taxis throughout the city. Private cars are less used compared to other cities in the rest of the United States.

Within the New York City metropolitan area, the airport system—which includes John F. Kennedy International Airport, LaGuardia Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport (located in New Jersey), Stewart Airport and a few smaller facilities—is one of the largest in the world. The Port of New York and New Jersey, which includes the waterways around New York City and its metropolitan area, is one of the busiest seaports in the United States. There are also three commuter rail systems, the PATH rapid transit system to New Jersey, and various ferries between Manhattan and New Jersey. Numerous separate bus systems also operate to Westchester County, Nassau County, and New Jersey. For private vehicles, a system of expressways and parkways connects New York City with its suburbs.


An 1807 version of grid plan for Manhattan.


The history of New York City's transportation system began with the Dutch port of Nieuw Amsterdam. The port had maintained several roads; some were built atop former Lenape trails, others as "commuter" links to surrounding cities, and one was even paved by 1658 from orders of Petrus Stuyvesant, according to Burrow, et al.[1] The 19th century brought changes to the format of the system's transport: the establishment of a Manhattan street grid through the Commissioners' Plan of 1811,[2] as well as an unprecedented link between the then-separate cities of New York and Brooklyn via the Brooklyn Bridge, in 1883.[3]

The Second Industrial Revolution fundamentally changed the city – the port infrastructure grew at such a rapid pace after the 1825 completion of the Erie Canal that New York became the most important connection between all of Europe and the interior of the United States. Elevated trains and subterranean transportation ('El trains' and 'subways') were introduced between 1867 and 1904. In 1904, the first subway line became operational.[4] Practical private automobiles brought an additional change for the city by around 1930, notably 1927 Holland Tunnel. With automobiles gaining importance, the later rise of Robert Moses was essential to creating New York's modern road infrastructure. Moses was the architect of all 416 miles (669 km) of the parkway, many other important roads, and seven great bridges.[5]

Mass transit use and car ownership[edit]

Percentage of workers using public transportation for their commute and the mean travel time for major cities in the United States in 2006.

New York City is distinguished from other U.S. cities for its low personal automobile ownership and its significant use of public transportation. New York City has, by far, the highest rate of public transportation use of any American city, with 67.2% of workers commuting to work by this means in 2006.[6] About one in every three users of mass transit in the United States and two-thirds of the nation's rail riders live in New York City or its suburbs.[7] However, New York City also has the longest mean travel time for commuters (39 minutes) among major U.S. cities.[6]

New York is the only city in the United States where over half of all households do not own a car (Manhattan's non-ownership is even higher, around 75%; nationally, the rate is 8%).[8] However, absolute figures for car ownership are still high when compared to other cities: in 2019, 55% of households were not car owners, indicating that 45% of households did own a car.[9]

Environmental and social issues[edit]

New York City's uniquely high rate of public transit use makes it one of the most energy-efficient cities in the United States. Gasoline consumption in the city today is at the rate of the national average in the 1920s.[10] New York City's high rate of transit use saved 1.8 billion US gallons (6,800,000 m3) of oil in 2006 and $4.6 billion in gasoline costs. New York saves half of all the oil saved by transit nationwide.

The reduction in oil consumption meant 11.8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide was kept out of the air.[11] The New York City metro area was ranked by the Brookings Institution as the U.S. metro area with the lowest per-capita transportation-related carbon footprint and as the fourth lowest overall per-capita carbon footprint in 2005 among the 100 largest metro areas of the United States, outranked only by Honolulu, Los Angeles and Portland.[12]

Crowds on an F subway train on a Sunday afternoon.

The city's transportation system, and the population density it makes possible, also have other effects. Scientists at Columbia University examined data from 13,102 adults in the city's five boroughs and identified correlations between New York's built environment and public health. New Yorkers residing in densely populated, pedestrian-friendly areas have significantly lower body mass index (BMI) levels compared to other New Yorkers. Three characteristics of the city environment—living in areas with mixed residential and commercial uses, living near bus and subway stops and living in population-dense areas—were found to be inversely associated with BMI levels.[13][14]

Despite the energy efficiency that results from high transit use, the city's streets are generally seen as being dangerous to pedestrians and cyclists. As of 2019, there are on average 225,000 crashes, 61,000 injuries, and 200+ deaths due to automobiles every year in New York City.[15] Approximately 75% of city street space is devoted to moving cars and trucks at speed and parking these vehicles, while the other 25% of the street is left for pedestrians, bikes, and store fronts.[9]

Commuting/modal split[edit]

The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge links the boroughs of Brooklyn and Staten Island.

Of all people who commute to work in New York City, 39% use the subway, 23% drive alone, 11% take the bus, 9% walk to work, 7% travel by commuter rail, 4% carpool, 1.6% use a taxi, 1.1% ride their bicycle to work, and 0.4% travel by ferry.[16] 54% of households in New York City do not own a car, and rely on public transportation.[17]

While the so-called car culture dominates in most American cities, mass transit has a defining influence on New York life. The subway is a popular location for politicians to meet voters during elections and is also a major venue for musicians. 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, under the Music Under New York program, at a few dozen locations throughout the subway system.[18]

3.7 million people were employed in New York City; Manhattan is the main employment center with 56% of all jobs.[19] Of those working in Manhattan, 30% commute from within Manhattan, while 17% come from Queens, 16% from Brooklyn, 8% from the Bronx, and 2.5% from Staten Island. Another 4.5% commute to Manhattan from Nassau County and 2% from Suffolk County on Long Island, while 4% commute from Westchester County. 5% commute from Bergen and Hudson counties in New Jersey.[19] Some commuters come from Fairfield County in Connecticut. Some New Yorkers reverse commute to the suburbs: 3% travel to Nassau County, 1.5% to Westchester County, 0.7% to Hudson County, 0.6% to Bergen County, 0.5% to Suffolk County, and smaller percentages to other places in the metropolitan area.[19]

On average, New Yorkers spend 1 hour and 27 minutes per weekday commuting with public transit. Of these, 31% ride for more than 2 hours every day. The average amount of time people wait at a stop or station for public transit is 15 minutes, but 23% of riders wait for an average of over 20 minutes. The average distance people usually ride in a single trip with public transit is 9.5 kilometres (5.9 mi).[20]


Entrance to the Times Square – 42nd Street station on 7th Avenue.

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 in some areas of New York City by mass transit.[21] 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%.[22] 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.[23]

In 2013, ridership on the New York City Subway was 1.7 billion,[24] the highest ridership since 1946, despite Hurricane Sandy-related subway closures.[25][26] Ridership in city buses was 803 million.[24][27]

Transit culture[edit]

Riders on the New York City Subway, 2005

Over 5 million people ride the transit network each weekday[citation needed], and the system is a major venue for commerce, entertainment, and political activism. Much of the city, excluding Staten Island, relies on the subway, which is open 24 hours a day, as its main source of transportation. 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.[28] There are many more who are unauthorized performers called buskers, who range from professionals putting on an impromptu show to panhandlers seeking donations by way of performance.

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.[29]

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.

Transit systems[edit]


Entrance to the 59th Street – Columbus Circle station.

The dominant mode of transportation in New York City is rail. Only 6% of shopping trips in Manhattan's Central Business District involve the use of a car.[30] The city's public transportation network is the most extensive and among the oldest in North America. Responsibility for managing the various components of the system falls to several government agencies. The largest and most important is the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), a public benefit corporation in the state of New York, which runs two of the city's three rapid transit systems, most of its buses, and two of its three commuter rail networks. Ridership in the city increased 36% to 2.2 billion annual riders from 1995 to 2005, far outpacing population growth.[31][32] Average weekday subway ridership was 5.076 million in September 2006, while combined subway and bus ridership on an average weekday that month was 7.61 million.[33]

Rapid transit systems[edit]

The New York City Subway is the lifeblood of the city. Shown is the Broadway – Lafayette Station on the IND Sixth Avenue Line.

The New York City Subway is the largest subway system in the world when measured by number of stations (472),[34] and the eighth-largest[35] when measured by annual ridership (1.76 billion passenger trips in 2015).[36] It is the second-oldest subway system in the United States after the rapid transit system in Boston. In 2002, an average 4.8 million passengers used the subway each weekday. During one day in September 2005, 7.5 million daily riders set a record for ridership. In 2013, the subway delivered over 1.71 billion rides,[37] averaging approximately 5.5 million rides on weekdays, about 3.2 million rides on Saturdays, and about 2.6 million rides on Sundays. Ridership consistently increased in the early 21st century, partly because of the subway's energy efficiency.[38][39][40][41][42] Life in New York City is so dependent on the subway that the city is home to one of only five 24-hour subway systems in the world.[43] The city's 28 subway services run through all boroughs except Staten Island, which is served 24/7 by the Staten Island Railway.

Subway riders pay with the MetroCard, which is also valid on all other rapid transit systems and buses in the city, as well as the Roosevelt Island tramway. The MetroCard has completely replaced tokens, which were used in the past, to pay fares. Fares are loaded electronically on the card. Since 2019, riders have had the option to use OMNY, a contactless system compatible with smart wallets and credit cards. System rollout of OMNY to all buses and subway stations was complete in 2020, and OMNY will replace the MetroCard by 2023.

A PATH train at the World Trade Center station.

The Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) is a rapid transit system that links Manhattan to Jersey City, Hoboken, Harrison and Newark, in New Jersey. A primary transit link between Manhattan and New Jersey, PATH carries 240,000 passengers each weekday on four lines.[44]

While some PATH stations are adjacent to subway stations in New York City and Newark as well as Hudson-Bergen Light Rail stations in Hudson County, there are no free transfers. The PATH system spans 13.8 miles (22.2 km) of route mileage, not including track overlap. Like the New York City Subway, PATH operates 24 hours a day. Opened in 1908 as the Hudson and Manhattan Railroad, a privately owned corporation, PATH since 1962 has been operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Airport services[edit]

John F. Kennedy and Newark Liberty airports are served by intermodal rail systems. AirTrain JFK is an 8.1 mi (13 km) rapid transit system that connects Kennedy to New York's subway and commuter rail network in Queens 24 hours a day. It also provides free transit between airport terminals. For trips beyond the airport, the train costs $7.75. Roughly 4 million people rode the AirTrain to and from Kennedy in 2006, an increase of about 15% over 2005.[45] AirTrain Newark is a 1.9-mile (3 km) monorail system connecting Newark's three terminals to commuter and intercity trains running on the Northeast Corridor rail line.

Commuter rail[edit]

Grand Central Terminal is the second-busiest rail station in the country.

New York City's commuter rail system is the most extensive in the United States, with about 250 stations and 20 rail lines serving more than 150 million commuters annually in the tri-state region.[46] Commuter rail service from the suburbs is operated by two agencies. The MTA operates the Long Island Rail Road on Long Island and the Metro-North Railroad in the Hudson Valley and Connecticut. New Jersey Transit operates the rail network west of the Hudson River. These rail systems converge at the two busiest train stations in the United States, Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal, both in Manhattan.

In addition, connections are available to nearby commuter rail systems: Southeast Connecticut's Shore Line East and Central Connecticut and Southern Massachusetts' Hartford Line in New Haven, and Southeast Pennsylvania's SEPTA in Trenton, New Jersey. Service is being considered to Northeast Pennsylvania as far as Scranton, Pennsylvania via the Lackawanna Cut-Off.

Intercity rail[edit]

While rail freight transportation in New York City and Long Island has atrophied (most freight activity takes place in northern New Jersey), the city has more frequent passenger rail service (intercity and commuter) than anywhere else in the nation. Intercity service is provided by Amtrak. Fifty-four trains run each day on the busiest route—the Northeast Corridor from New York to Philadelphia. For trips of less than 500 miles (800 km) to other Northeastern cities, Amtrak is often cheaper and faster than air travel. Amtrak accounts for 47% of all non-automobile intercity trips between New York and Washington, D.C. and about 14% of all intercity trips (including those by automobile) between those cities.[47] Amtrak's high-speed Acela trains run from New York to Boston and Washington, D.C., via the Northeast Corridor, using tilting technology and fast electric locomotives. New York City's Penn Station is the busiest Amtrak station in the United States by annual boardings. In 2004 it saw 4.4 million passenger boardings, more than double the next busiest station, Union Station in Washington, D.C.[48] It was expanded with a new concourse in 2017,[49] and waiting hall in 2021.[50]

Overnight trains connect New York City with Chicago (where numerous connections are available to the west coast services), Atlanta, New Orleans, and Miami. There are two daily trains to Miami, one daily train to Charlotte, and one daily train to Savannah. Chicago is connected with New York City by two trains: one runs daily via Upstate New York and Cleveland, while another runs three times a week on a longer route via Cincinnati. Major destinations with frequent service include Albany, Baltimore, Boston, Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Providence, and Washington, D.C. There are also international daily trains to Toronto and Montreal in Canada, via the Empire Corridor to Albany and points west.


A lineup of brand-new MCI D4500 coaches for MTA is seen at the LaGuardia Bus Depot in Queens.

As of 2014, over 5,710 MTA Regional Bus Operations-operated buses carried about 2.5 million daily passengers 24/7 on more than 238 local routes, 62 express routes, and 7 Select Bus Service routes, amounting to 793 million annual bus trips.[51] Buses owned by MTA account for 80% of the city's surface mass transit.[7] New York City has the largest clean-air diesel-hybrid and compressed natural gas bus fleet in the United States.[51] Local bus routes are labeled with a number and a prefix identifying the primary borough (B for Brooklyn, Bx for the Bronx, M for Manhattan, Q for Queens, and S for Staten Island). Express bus routes operated under MTA New York City Bus use the letter X rather than a borough label. Express bus routes operated under MTA Bus (formerly controlled by the NYC Department of Transportation) use a two-borough system with an M at the end (i.e., BM, BxM, SIM, or QM). Additionally, MTA offers precise bus arrival time using QR code located at each stop. Some stops also have digital panels indicating arrival times.

New York Waterway operates connecting bus routes to/from the West Midtown Ferry Terminal and East 34th Street Ferry Landing.

Private bus companies Hampton Jitney and Hampton Luxury Liner operate daily, year-round service from points on the east side of Manhattan to the villages and hamlets of Long Island's east end, including the Hamptons, Montauk, and the North Fork. Hampton Jitney also runs limited service to and from Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Megabus waiting area, 10th Avenue

Several Chinatown bus lines, which began operating in 1997, offer curbside intercity coach service, mainly to Chinatown and Midtown Manhattan.[52] Two discount intercity bus services, BoltBus and Megabus,[53] have provided bus service between New York City and several other U.S. cities since 2008.[54] In addition, Tripper Bus and Vamoose Bus provide bus service between New York City and the Washington, D.C. suburbs of Arlington, Virginia, and Bethesda, Maryland.[55] BestBus provides daily service from a stop along West 34th Street near 9th Avenue to Washington, D.C., Silver Spring, Maryland, and Manassas, Vienna, and Springfield in Virginia and summer weekend service to Rehoboth Beach and Dewey Beach in Delaware.[56]

Other transit[edit]

Other transit in the city includes:

Major transit hubs[edit]

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

Major rail stations include:

Major bus hubs include:


The Staten Island Ferry at the South Ferry terminal building in Lower Manhattan.
Ferries departing Battery Park City and helicopters flying above Manhattan

The busiest ferry in the United States is the Staten Island Ferry, which annually carries over 19 million passengers on the 5.2 mile (8.4 km) run between St. George Ferry Terminal and South Ferry. Service is provided 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and takes approximately 25 minutes each way. Each day eight boats transport almost 65,000 passengers during 104 boat trips. Over 33,000 trips are made annually.[59] The Ferry has remained free of charge since 1997. Vehicles have not been allowed on the Ferry since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, though bicycles are permitted on the lower level at no cost. The ferry ride is a favorite of tourists as it provides excellent views of the Lower Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty.

Since the 1980s ferry service on the Hudson River and East River has been restored and significantly expanded providing regular service to points in Manhattan, mostly below 42nd Street. Pier 11 at Wall Street, East 34th Street Ferry Landing, West Midtown Ferry Terminal and Battery Park City Ferry Terminal are major embarkation points. The terminals are run in public-private partnership with privately owned carriers.

In February 2015, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city government would begin NYC Ferry to extend ferry transportation to traditionally underserved communities in the city.[60][61] The first routes of NYC Ferry opened in 2017.[62][63] All of the system's routes have termini in Manhattan, with routes reaching to Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx, as well as a future Staten Island route.[64]

Under the NY Waterway logo, routes are run to Hoboken Terminal, Weehawken Port Imperial, Edgewater Landing, and Paulus Hook Ferry Terminal as well as other ferry slips along the west bank of the Hudson in New Jersey. Its East River shuttles between Wall Street and East 34th Street call at four slips in Brooklyn and Queens. It also operates routes to the Raritan Bayshore.

SeaStreak runs to the Raritan Bayshore, supplementing the unaffiliated NY Waterway service. However, from 2012 to 2014, it also ran weekday morning and afternoon/evening service between East 34th Street and Pier 11 in Manhattan and Rockaway Park, Queens, with a stop at Brooklyn Army Terminal. The service began in late 2012 in the wake of massive subway infrastructure damage and service disruptions in Queens and Brooklyn from Hurricane Sandy, and was originally intended only as a temporary transportation alternative until subway service was restored, but it proved to be popular and was extended several times after that. However, it was ultimately discontinued in October 2014, despite vigorous efforts by local transportation advocates, civic leaders and elected officials to convince the city government to continue funding the subsidized service.[65]

New York Water Taxi makes an East River crossing to Red Hook. Liberty Water Taxi travels between BPC Ferry Terminal and Liberty State Park in Jersey City stopping at Paulus Hook. The companies also run seasonal excursions, notably to the Yankee Stadium and Gateway National Recreation Area beaches.

Additionally, there is year-round ferry service to Ellis Island and Liberty Island[66] and seasonal service to Governor's Island.[67][68] Circle Line Downtown[69] and Circle Line Sightseeing[70] operate tourist routes into the Upper New York Bay or circumnavigate Manhattan.

Ferry landings include:

Roads and expressways[edit]

Despite New York's reliance on public transit, roads are a defining feature of the city. Manhattan's street grid plan greatly influenced the city's physical development. Several of the city's streets and avenues, like Broadway, Wall Street and Madison Avenue are also used as shorthand or metonym in American vernacular for national industries located there: theater, finance, and advertising, respectively.

In Manhattan, there are twelve numbered avenues that run parallel to the Hudson River, and 220 numbered streets that run perpendicular to the river.

An advanced convergence indexing road traffic monitoring system was installed in New York City for testing purposes in May 2008.

To keep roadways, tunnels, and bridges safe for pedestrians and drivers, New York City has made efficient use of timers to regulate traffic lighting and help conserve energy.

Bridges and tunnels[edit]

The Brooklyn Bridge, one of New York's most recognizable structures.

With its Gothic-revival double-arched stone towers and diagonal suspension wires, the Brooklyn Bridge is one of the city's most recognized architectural structures, depicted by artists such as Hart Crane and Georgia O'Keeffe. The Brooklyn Bridge's main span is 1,596 feet 6 inches (486.61 m), and was the longest in the world when it was completed. The Williamsburg Bridge and Manhattan Bridge are the two others in the trio of architecturally notable East River crossings. The Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge, which links Manhattan and Queens, is an important piece of cantilever bridge design. The borough of Staten Island is connected to Brooklyn through the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. The George Washington Bridge, spanning the Hudson River between New York City and Fort Lee, New Jersey, is the world's busiest bridge in terms of vehicular traffic.[71][72]

New York has historically been a pioneer in tunnel construction. Most carry rail lines, but there are four exceptions. The Lincoln Tunnel, which carries 120,000 vehicles per day under the Hudson River between New Jersey and Manhattan, is the world's busiest vehicular tunnel. The Holland Tunnel, also under the Hudson River, was the first mechanically ventilated vehicular tunnel in the world and is considered a National Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers. Two other notable tunnels connect Manhattan to other places; one is the Queens Midtown Tunnel, and the other is the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel. At 9,117 feet (2,779 m), the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel (formerly the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel) is the longest underwater tunnel in North America.


A less favored alternative to commuting by rail and boat is the New York region's expressway network, designed by Robert Moses. The city's extensive network of expressways includes four primary Interstate Highways: Interstate 78, Interstate 80, Interstate 87 and Interstate 95. Interstate 78 and Interstate 87, which have, respectively, their eastern and southern termini in the city, as well as Interstate 95 enter the city limits, while Interstate 80's eastern terminus is in Teaneck, New Jersey. I-278 and I-287 each serve as a partial beltway around the city; Interstate 278 in Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx, and Interstate 287 in Westchester County, Rockland County, and Northern New Jersey. I-495 begins at the Queens Midtown Tunnel as the Queens-Midtown Expressway, becomes the Horace Harding Expressway between Queens Blvd and the Nassau County limits and finally becomes the Long Island Expressway into the Long Island suburbs. The 'LIE' moniker is commonly used by denizens of the city to describe the entire length of highway.

New York's limited-access parkways, another Moses Project, are frequently congested as well, despite being designed from the outset to only carry cars, as opposed to commercial trucks or buses. The FDR Drive (originally known as the East River Drive) and Harlem River Drive are two such routes that run along the eastern edge of Manhattan. The Henry Hudson Parkway, the Bronx River Parkway and the Hutchinson River Parkway link the Bronx to nearby Westchester County and its parkways; the Grand Central Parkway and Belt Parkway provide similar functions for Long Island's parkway system.

Private automobiles[edit]

Rush hour in Manhattan

The city's traffic lights are controlled from a Department of Transportation center in Long Island City, with frequent adjustments to alleviate the city's chronic congestion.[73]

Around 48% of New Yorkers own cars, yet fewer than 30% use them to commute to work, most finding public transportation cheaper and more convenient for that purpose, due in large part to traffic congestion which also slows buses. To ease traffic, the Mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg, in 2007 proposed congestion pricing for motor vehicles entering Manhattan's business district from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. However, this proposal was defeated when Sheldon Silver, Speaker of the New York State Assembly, announced that the bill would not come up for a vote in his chamber.

The number of gas stations in Manhattan is 40 and falling, causing congestion around them.[74]

Although the rate of electric vehicle ownership in New York City is low compared to the rate of ownership of traditional gas vehicles, there were over 3,000 electric vehicles registered to New York City and Westchester residents between 2011 and 2014, out of almost 300,000 total vehicles registered during this time.[75] There were over 200 public charging stations in New York City,[75] including 105 charging stations in Manhattan, by the end of March 2016.[74] Most charging stations are 208 V or 240 V "Level 2 chargers," but there are also 120 V "Level 1 chargers" in private homes and workplaces; 480 V "DC fast chargers" in some locations; and several Tesla Superchargers around the city, for use only by Tesla, Inc.-manufactured vehicles.[75]

Congestion pricing[edit]

Congestion pricing in New York City was a proposed traffic congestion fee for vehicles traveling into or within lower and midtown Manhattan. The congestion pricing charge was one component of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's plan to improve the city's future environmental sustainability while planning for population growth, entitled PlaNYC 2030: A Greener, Greater New York.[76] However, it was not approved as it was never put to a vote on the Assembly.[77]

Delivery trucks[edit]

Since the beginning of the 21st century, the growth of e-commerce companies such as Amazon has resulted in an increase in delivery trucks within New York City, with 1.5 million packages being delivered per day by 2019. Several logistics hubs and warehouses have been built within the city to more quickly distribute packages in the New York City area.[78] In 2016, NYCDOT commissioner Polly Trottenberg said that 90% of goods transported into New York City arrived via truck.[79]

The influx of large motor vehicles on the already constricted city streets has had a considerable effect on the flow of traffic. In the most congested areas of Manhattan traffic vehicle traffic moves 23% slower than it has from 2010 to 2019, and for the bridges and tunnels funneling traffic to and from the city, traffic has slowed down even more considerably.[78] As a result, traffic-related pollution increased around 9% from 1990 to 2019, even when adjusted for population growth.[80]

Though it is legal for delivery trucks to double park in most locations while making deliveries during off-peak hours, this often leads to congestion on the surrounding streets when double parking occurs during peak hours.[81] There are often complaints that delivery trucks take up bike lanes and parking spaces. In 2018 alone, four delivery companies (UPS, FedEx, FreshDirect, and Peapod) were fined a combined $27 million due to parking and traffic violations.[78] However, some delivery companies continued to double-park, incorporating any double-parking fines into the delivery fee.[82] Further, the city's Stipulated Parking Fine Program allows drivers to eliminate their previous double-parking violations by paying a predetermined fine without challenging it in court.[83] As a result, in 2019, the NYCDOT started enforcing rules to restrict deliveries in the midtown zone during peak hours, impose a time limit on deliveries, and ban commercial double-parking on streets with one lane of traffic.[82][84] To reduce peak-hour traffic and truck emissions, the NYCDOT also operates the Off-Hour Deliveries Program in Manhattan's midtown zone, which requires deliveries in that zone to be made between 7 pm to 6 am.[85]


Yellow cabs in Lower Manhattan
A boro taxi drops passengers off inside the "yellow zone" in Midtown Manhattan. It is not allowed to pick up new passengers in the yellow zone.[86]

There are 13,237 taxis operating in New York City, not including over 40,000 other for-hire vehicles.[87] Their distinctive yellow paint has made them New York icons.

Taxicabs are operated by private companies and licensed by the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission. "Medallion taxis", the familiar yellow cabs, are historically the only vehicles in the city permitted to pick up passengers in response to a street hail. In 2013, a new type of street hailed livery vehicles called "boro taxis" in "apple green" color are permitted to pick up passengers in the outer boroughs and the northern part of Manhattan.[86] A cab's availability is indicated by the light on the top of the car. When the light is lit, the cab is empty and available; when it is not lit, the cab is unavailable.

Fares begin at US$3.00 and increase based on the distance traveled and time spent in slow traffic. The passenger also must pay for tolls incurred during the ride.[88] The average cab fare in 2000 was US$6.00; over US$1 billion in fares were paid that year in total.[89]

Since 1999, 241 million passengers have ridden in taxis in New York City. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, of the 42,000 cabbies in New York, 82% are foreign born: 23% from the Caribbean (the Dominican Republic and Haiti), and 20% from South Asia (India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh).[90] Additionally, a large number of American citizen taxi drivers in New York are Puerto Rican or of Puerto Rican descent.[citation needed] In 2014, 23.1% of taxi drivers were from Bangladesh, 13.2% from Pakistan, 9.3% from India, 6.5% from Haiti, 5.9% from the U.S., and 4.4% from Egypt.[91]

In 2005, New York introduced incentives to replace its current yellow cabs with electric hybrid vehicles[92] then in May 2007, New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, proposed a five-year plan to switch New York City's taxicabs to more fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles as part of an agenda for New York City to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as surging fuel costs.[93] In 2010, Nissan won a contract to provide the New York with a design based on their NV200 minivan model.

Pedicabs, pedestrians, and bicycles[edit]

A stationary pedicab in Manhattan
Bikes and a cab

Cycling in New York City is a rapidly growing mode of transport. In 2009, an estimated 200,000 city residents bicycle on a typical day,[94] and make 655,000 trips each day, greater than the number of the ten most popular bus routes in the city.[95]

The city annually hosts the largest recreational cycling event in the United States, the Five Boro Bike Tour, in which 30,000 cyclists ride 42 miles (68 km) through the city's boroughs.

More than 500 people annually work as bicycle rickshaw, or pedicab, drivers, who in 2005 handled one million passengers.[96] The City Council voted twice, including an override of Mayor Bloomberg's veto due to the market cap, in 2007 to license pedicab owners and drivers and allow only 325 pedicab licenses.[97] Neither the limit on pedicabs nor the law itself went into effect due to a successful New York City Pedicab Owners' Association lawsuit over permit issuance.[98] Ultimately, 943 pedicab business owners permits were issued in November 2009 after a second law was passed to address shortcomings of the 2007 law.[99] Today, pedicabs meet market demand in midtown for both ecological transport as well as quick trips within the central business district during afternoon rush hours when motor traffic moves cross town at an average speed of 4.5 miles per hour.

Walk and bicycle modes of travel account for 21% of all modes for trips in the city; nationally the rate for metro regions is about 8%.[100] In 2000 New York had the largest number of walking commuters among large American cities in both total number and as a proportion of all commuters: 517,290, or 5.6%.[101] By way of comparison, the next city with the largest proportion of walking commuters, Boston, had 119,294 commuter pedestrians, amounting to 4.1% of that city's commuters.[101]

Citibank sponsored the introduction of 6,000 public bicycles for the city's bike-share project, Citi Bike, in mid-2013.[102] Research conducted by Quinnipiac University showed that a majority of New Yorkers supported the initiative.[103] Throughout the first year operations, there were more than 100,000 registered members who rode over 14,700,000 miles (23,700,000 km),[104] including 70,000 members in the first three months alone.[105] In 2014, Citi Bike announced that it would expand its operations by 6,000 bikes and add 375 new docking stations by 2017.[106] In November 2018, a further, five-year expansion was announced, which would double the bike-share system's service area to 35 square miles (91 km2). In addition, the number of bicycles would more than triple, from 12,000 to 40,000.[107][108][109] Stalls would be installed in the remainder of Manhattan, as well as parts of Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx.[110][111][112]

A "green wave" refers to the programming of traffic lights to allow for continuous traffic flow (a series of green lights) over a number of intersections in one direction. In New York City, this “green wave” prioritizes bikers by timing traffic lights around the average biking speed, in addition to mitigating the negative effects of heavy automotive congestion.[113] After a series of bicyclist deaths in 2019, the highest death toll for cyclists in two decades, the city decided to retime traffic lights, so that vehicles would have to travel an average of 15 miles per hour (24 km/h) between consecutive green lights.[114]

Transportation commissioner Polly Trottenberg has pushed for increasing bike lanes to demonstrate the city's progress and commitment to transportation safety.[115] However, with the expansion of cycling in New York City, there has been pushback from motorists. For example, in 2019, motorists and Upper West Side residents objected after two hundred parking spaces along Central Park West were eliminated to allow bike lane expansion.[116]

Dollar vans[edit]

Passengers at the ticket window of the Chinatown bus company Fung Wah Bus.

New York City has many forms of semi-formal and informal public transportation. Dollar vans in the New York metropolitan area serve major areas in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx that lack adequate subway service. They pick up and drop off anywhere along a route, and payment is made at the end of a trip.

Similar to dollar vans, Chinese vans serve predominantly Chinese communities in Chinatown; Flushing; Sunset Park, and Elmhurst.

Jitney buses also provide transport to parts of Hudson County and Bergen County in New Jersey.[117] Of particular note is the frequent Interstate express service offered along New Jersey Route 4 between the George Washington Bridge Bus Terminal and Paterson, New Jersey, provided by Spanish Transportation.

Highly competitive Chinatown bus lines operate routes from New York City's Chinatowns to other Chinatowns in the Northeast, with frequent service to major cities like Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. These companies use full-size coaches and offer fares much lower than traditional carriers like Greyhound and Coach USA, who in turn have gone after the Chinatown carriers by offering online fares as low as $1 on BoltBus, NeOn, and Megabus services.

Aerial tramway[edit]

Roosevelt Island Tramway over the East River.

Built in 1976 to shuttle island residents to Midtown, the Roosevelt Island Tramway was originally intended to be a temporary commuter link for use until a subway station was established for the island. However, when the subway finally connected to Roosevelt Island in 1989, the tram was too popular to discontinue use.

The Tramway is operated by the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC). Each cable car has a capacity of 125 passengers. Travel time from Roosevelt Island to Manhattan is just under five minutes and the fare is the same as a subway ride.

In 2006, service was suspended on the tramway for six months after a service malfunction that required all passengers to be evacuated.


An Air India Boeing 747-400 arrives at JFK, with El Al Israel and Swiss International jets at Terminal 4. JFK is the largest entry point for international arrivals to the United States and the Americas.

New York City is the top international air passenger gateway to the United States.[118] New York is the busiest air gateway in the nation.[119] In 2011 more than 104 million passengers used the major airports serving the city,[120][121] John F. Kennedy International (also known as JFK), Newark Liberty International, and LaGuardia. Teterboro serves as a primary general aviation airport. JFK and Newark both connect to regional rail systems by a light rail service.[122]

JFK and Newark serve long-haul domestic and international flights. The two airports' outbound international travel accounted for about a quarter of all U.S. travelers who went overseas in 2004.[123] LaGuardia caters to short-haul and domestic destinations.

JFK is the major entry point for international arrivals in the United States and is the largest international air freight gateway in the nation by value of shipments.[124] About 100 airlines from more than 50 countries operate direct flights to JFK. The JFK-London Heathrow route is the leading U.S. international airport pair.[125] The airport is located along Jamaica Bay near Howard Beach, Queens, about 12 miles (19 km) east of downtown Manhattan.

Newark was the first major airport serving New York City and is the fifth busiest international air gateway to the United States.[118] Amelia Earhart dedicated the Newark Airport Administration Building in 1935, which was North America's first commercial airline terminal. In 2003, Newark became the terminus of the world's longest non-stop scheduled airline route, Continental's service to Hong Kong. In 2004, Singapore Airlines broke Continental's record by starting direct 18-hour flights from Newark to Singapore. The airport is located in Newark, New Jersey, about 12 miles (19 km) west of downtown Manhattan.

LaGuardia, the smallest of New York's primary airports, handles domestic flights. It is named for Fiorello H. LaGuardia, the city's great Depression-era mayor known as a reformist and strong supporter of the New Deal. A perimeter rule prohibits incoming and outgoing flights that exceed 1,500 miles (2,400 km) except on Saturdays, when the ban is lifted, and to Denver, which has a grandfathered exemption. As a result, most transcontinental and international flights use JFK and Newark.[126] The airport is located in northern Queens about 6 miles (9.7 km) from downtown Manhattan. Plans were announced in July 2015 to entirely rebuild LaGuardia Airport in a multibillion-dollar project to replace its aging facilities.[127]

Manhattan has three public heliports, used mostly by business travelers. A regularly scheduled helicopter service operates flights to JFK Airport from the Downtown Manhattan Heliport, located at the eastern end of Wall Street. There are also the East 34th Street Heliport and the West 30th Street Heliport.


The Queen Mary 2, the world's second largest passenger ship and largest ocean liner, steams out of New York on a transatlantic voyage.
A lightly loaded New Panamax container vessel transits the north end of the Anchorage Channel.

The Port of New York and New Jersey, with its natural advantages of deep water channels and protection from the Atlantic Ocean, has historically been one of the most important ports in the United States, and is now the third busiest in the United States behind South Louisiana and Houston, Texas in volume of cargo. In 2011, more than 34 million tons of oceanborne general cargo moved through the port. Bulk cargo represented another 52 million tons per year. Some 367,000 vehicles were imported and 284,000 were exported.[128] In 2005 more than 5,300 ships delivered to the port goods that went to 35% of the U.S. population.[129] The port is experiencing rapid growth. Shipments increased 5.2% in 2011. There are three cargo terminals on the New York City side of the harbor, including the Howland Hook Marine Terminal on Staten Island, and the combined Red Hook Container Terminal/Brooklyn Marine Terminal. Several additional larger cargo terminals and a passenger terminal are on the New Jersey side.

Originally focused on Brooklyn's waterfront, especially at the Brooklyn Army Terminal in Sunset Park, most container ship cargo operations have shifted to the Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal on Newark Bay. The terminal, operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is the largest port complex on the East Coast, with 4.3 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) of containerized cargo, which accounts for 61% of the North Atlantic container market. $208 billion of cargo passed through the Port of New York and New Jersey in 2011. The top five trading partners at the port are China, India, Italy, Germany, and Brazil.[128]

The New York Harbor is also a major hub for passenger ships. More than half a million people depart annually from Manhattan's New York Passenger Ship Terminal on the Hudson River, accounting for five percent of the worldwide cruise industry and employing 21,000 residents in the city. The Queen Mary 2, the world's second largest passenger ship and one of the few traditional ocean liners still in service, was designed specifically to fit under the Verrazano Bridge, itself the longest suspension bridge in the United States. The Brooklyn Cruise Terminal is her regular port of call for transatlantic runs from Southampton, England. Cape Liberty Cruise Port in Bayonne is the third passenger terminal servicing the city.

Water quality in the New York Harbor improved dramatically in the late 20th century. New Yorkers regularly kayak and sail in the harbor, which has become a major recreational site for the city.

Current and proposed expansion projects[edit]

Boring machine for the new East Side Access tunnel

Several proposals for expanding the New York City transit system are in various stages of discussion, planning, initial funding, or construction. Some proposals will compete with others for available funding:

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]