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Written by : Pete Crocco
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in the underbelly of new york city is one of the oldest subway systems in the world built in 1904 the new york city subway runs 24 hours a day seven days a week it runs continuously through the boroughs of manhattan brooklyn queens and the bronx staten island has a line as well but you have to take the ferry to get there welcome to urban caffeine my name is thea and in this video we are going to talk about the new york city subway this video is actually the reason why i even started blogging about new york in the first place i wanted to create a video that i wish i had seen when i first came to new york i wanted a video that was detailed and hand-held you through the basics of understanding how to navigate the new york city subway watch and re-watch this video and i guarantee you will be a subway superhero by the end of this the new york city subway is one of the most efficient ways to get around the city and in this video i will help you navigate what bill hayes calls the human rubix cube in this video we are going to talk about how to understand why the subway lines are grouped the way they are and differentiating between local and express trains then we'll take a look at the subway map and how to read it we're also going to learn how to interpret the inconsistent signage system of the new york city subway i will make another video on the metro card and how to pay for new york city public transportation so subscribe and stay tuned for that video these are the subway lines of the new york city subway yes it seems weird how they are grouped together and how they seem so random with the multiple colors and alphanumeric labeling this is a result of decades of reordering and reshuffling to understand this grouping we have to know that the current new york city subway system was built by three independent subway companies the independent subway system the brooklyn manhattan transit corporation and the inner borough rapid transit company they built tracks and tunnels independent from one another so this is why you would see that stations don't all look the same and they have different aesthetics from one another by the 1940s the new york subway was consolidated under one operator today the new york city subway is owned by new york city leads to the new york city transit authority which is part of the metropolitan transportation authority which is run by new york state today these are the subway lines that run these respective tracks and like i said this is a result of decades of reshuffling for example you'll notice that the ind lines has letters from a to g but there's this odd m that's because the m used to be part of the bmt line or perhaps you might notice there's a j and an l m and n but where's the k there actually used to be two k lines one of them got decommissioned and the other got absorbed into the sea line as you can see the history of the subway system is as convoluted as the subway itself that is why we are not going to go over the detailed history of the subway but instead talk about the current subway system and how to use it to understand the subway in general we'll break down one of these subway groups the a c and e you'll notice that subway lines are grouped by color but it is not common to call them by color people don't call this the blue line instead they call this the a c e line if you look closely all the trains are grouped together by color according to the avenue that they converge at usually around midtown manhattan i'm noting this because you'll see why when you talk about local and express trains and to also help caution you that although subways share the same name doesn't mean they share the same stations the a line which happens to be the subway's oldest line terminates at 207th street in manhattan runs through brooklyn and terminates in queens in three different terminals ozone park lefferts boulevard far rockaway mott avenue and rockaway park this is why you will see the a train that's headed to queens labelled differently depending on where it is going to terminate the sea line terminates at 168th street in manhattan and at euclid avenue in brooklyn it runs parallel to the a line however they don't stop at the same stations that's because the a train skips some stations while the c train stops at all of the stations for this reason the a train is also referred to as the 8th avenue express train and the c train is the 8th avenue local train the e-line which terminates in queens and at the world trade center in manhattan converges with the a and c on 8th avenue and like the sea the east stops at all stations on 8th avenue so it is also called the 8th avenue local train the idea of express and local trains extends to all the other train groups i'm pointing this out because often you'll hear the voice of the subway say something like this local train the next stop is secondary now you know what a local and express train is crosstown trains are trains that cross manhattan in the east-west direction rather than the north-south direction the crosstown trains are on 59th 53rd 42nd and 14th streets i have another video that explains the street grid system of manhattan and it explains the avenues and streets and how to navigate in general and the link is in the description below one crosstown train we'll note is the 7 train the 7 train terminates in flushing queens runs along 42nd street in manhattan and ends in hudson yards when the 7 train is in queens it has local and express options the local 7 is designated with a circular shape and the express 7 has a diamond shape there is also a shuttle that runs between times square and grand central times square gives you access to trains running along the western portion of manhattan and grand central gives you access to the eastern side of manhattan so how do you know which stops are for the express train and which stops are for the local train the map will tell you the official map used by the mta is this the design of this map was first published in 1979 and has adopted minor changes since then all the white dots are for both express and local trains and the black dots are for local trains only and the name of the train line is also denoted next to the dots it happens pretty often that routes will get modified for example you might be on the c train here on 110 and suddenly the conductor announces that the train is going express that means that it is going to skip all the local stops in 2018 they also came out with a map that they used digitally honestly between google maps or any other map app that you have and station signage you can get around just fine which brings us to the next topic while there's a nice organized existing map of the subway system good luck finding a map of the subway stations some stations like times square are pretty convoluted that's because these stations were assembled by unifying independent train lines that were not compatible in terms of size and length for example on 42nd street the a c and e do technically connect to the seven and one two three but you have to walk through this long tunnel which is practically an avenue away that's b
Thanks for your comment Mathilda Mccorry, have a nice day.
- Pete Crocco, Staff Member
the new york city subway is wild this system is the lifeblood of new york city it's big and a little complicated but in this video i want to give you a few pieces of key information that will make things a lot clearer first let's find out how the subway got to where it is they started building the subway around 1900 and it was actually three separate systems at first that was later unified in the 40s it took several more decades to develop fully into what it is today which is now 472 stations throughout the boroughs and more than 665 miles of track it's a pretty old and imperfect system but if you go to new york you'll probably find yourself among the 5.5 million daily writers the system can be pretty complicated but with some basic not so obvious rules it can make it a lot easier to get around first a note on the map mapping the subway and listing out all of the available options at every single station is a really difficult task that's been taken on many different times the current prevailing map was made in 1979 let that also stand as a testament as how slow and difficult it is to get anything changed and any construction done in the subway system okay so let's go over three useful tips for when you're using the subway first of all express versus local so take a look at this map what you'll probably see first is that different lines have different colors each color has several different trains on it the train names will be a number or a letter so for example this yellow one right here is the nqr and this red one over here is the one two three okay i see how that could be kind of confusing but this is a remnant of the old subway systems the numbered ones was one subway system and the lettered ones was another and they actually had different width and length of trains and so they weren't able to combine them and so they still have those dimensions today anyway if you look at the ends of these lines you'll notice that they branch off in different directions so for the main trunk of line the only real difference between these trains is which stops they stop at but don't worry this isn't as complicated as it sounds there are express trains and there are local trains so let's keep looking at the one two three if the stop on the map is a black dot that is a local stop if it is a white dot with a black circle like this that's an express stop when you're in the station everything is super clearly marked just pay attention to the signs around you you'll often wonder if the train coming is a local or express train and there will actually be an announcement that will say this this is a bronx bound a local train but what's gonna happen is it's actually gonna sound like this so here's a little tip the express train is skipping the local stops right so it's doing that by taking the middle track that's between the two platforms at those local stops that means when you go to an express stop the local train is almost always the one up against one of the walls if the train is in the middle track it's likely an express train okay here's my next tip number two uptown versus downtown when looking for a station you'll want to look for this the green railing the round light bulb the black and white subway sign and it should say uptown or downtown when you see these at express stops you can just go down any of them and then figure it out when you're down there because the platform is so big and you can cross over wherever you want but a local stops be careful because you can't always switch underground so you might need to know which one is downtown and which one is uptown before even going underground let's just say you're right here on 50th and you're trying to get on the one train and you want to go to the world trade center you know that the world trade center is downtown so if you turn and face downtown then you'll know you'll need to go into one of the subway stations on the right hand of the road this is because the trains just like cars stay to the right hand side of the road and this is important at the local stops where you can't switch the platform underground if you do mess up and go into the wrong turn style either you've paid the fare for that ride and you have to get out and now walk across and pay another fare or if you have the unlimited card which i'll talk about in a second you'll swipe and then you'll have to wait 15 minutes until you can swipe that same card again often the train will be designated by its final location and direction so you'll hear something like this this is a bronx bound nine train and you'll know that it's a bronx bound train so having some idea of where the burrows generally are will help you understand which direction the trains are going if that means it's uptown or downtown or out to brooklyn or queens or wherever just kind of study a map beforehand maybe and see if you can remember where each burrow is in relation to the others once you are on the train double check when you get to the next stop or two to make sure that those are the stops you were expecting because if they are you're going in the right direction and i'll add one quick note this map may look like the trains will take you anywhere but in manhattan right here there are actually very few stops going east to west with the exception of this one right here which is this s which stands for shuttle and this shuttle simply just goes back and forth between times square and grand central station if you want to go left to right just like this but further north like across central park or something your best option is probably going to be the bus i'm just going to say quickly it is okay to study the map it's a confusing system don't feel dumb for standing in front of the map finding out where you are following the trains don't even be afraid to ask people people are super nice and everyone gets lost at some point and someone will point you in the right direction okay on to my last point number three price and practicality there are two main types of passes you can buy there is an unlimited one and there is one that you pay per ride where you load up the card and you pay 2.75 cents per trip the unlimited one can either be for a week or for a month if you're just visiting for a few days it's probably going to be most cost effective to get the week unlimited pass and if you're really concerned about being cost-effective know that this is much cheaper than taking a taxi if you want to prove to someone that new york has it all just show them your metrocard gold there is a one dollar fee for each card so if you are getting the pay per ride pass you should just get one and share it with the people that you're with because you can go through the turn style pass it back and then they can swipe and charge the same card however if you're getting an unlimited pass you can only get one per person because as soon as you swipe the card there's a 15 minute delay before the person behind you would be able to use it and it's intended just for you anyway the metro cards that you'll be using for the subway also work for the buses and they also work for the tram that goes out
Thanks langarij your participation is very much appreciated
- Pete Crocco
About the author
I've studied legal anthropology at University of Dayton in Dayton and I am an expert in history of the roman empire. I usually feel curious. My previous job was brokerage clerk I held this position for 25 years, I love talking about urban exploration and kayaking. Huge fan of Stephen Colbert I practice qi gong and collect film memorabilia.
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