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    Metro New York: lines, map, card, prices and timetables

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    Joel Fulleda

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    La Metro in New York (MTA, also known as Railway) thanks to its capillary and efficient web of tracks that extends throughout the Manhattan area, it is an absolutely necessary means of transport for anyone who wants to make a profitable visit to the city. However, due to its complex and articulate structure, it may seem strange to the visitor that the Metro is the most comfortable way to get around New York.

    There are many questions to ask: how many lines are there? Which are the fastest? How is it possible to recognize them? How is the Metro map made? Not to mention the numerous doubts about the prices of the cards, the timetables, the coverage of the zones, the safety ... In this article we want to help you shed some light on the New York Metro so that, when you arrive in the city, you can immediately use it to its fullest potential.


    • Covid-19 directives
    • New York Metro: lines, trains and stations
      • The colors of the lines
      • La differenza tra Local Trains ed Express Trains
      • Uptown or Downtown? Watch the direction!
    • Metro New York: opening hours and waiting times
    • Metro New York: prices and cards available
      • SingleRide Ticket
      • Pay-per-Ride Metrocard
      • Unlimited-Ride MetroCard
    • New York Metro: useful info
    • Other useful tips

    Covid-19 directives

    The New York subway service continues at regular times even in this particular period, but there are some guidelines to keep in mind if you need to take the subway.

    The use of a mask is mandatory inside stations and trains, while it is not mandatory to wear it (although it is recommended) if the stations are outdoors.

    If for some reason you do not have one available, you can ask for one free of charge from the staff on duty.

    Those who use the subway without a mask will face a fine of $ 50.

    New York Metro: lines, trains and stations

    1055 kilometers: this is the impressive overall length of the Metro in New York. There are 26 lines available, and each single line can correspond to an average of 3 trains (marked with numbers and letters), which reach a total of almost 470 stations, spread across four boroughs of the city: Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens.

    This data is interesting: you will mainly (if not exclusively) use the stations located in Manhattan, but just in case, with the subway you could also reach areas less traveled by tourists: convenience is not only from an organizational point of view, but also from an economic point of view. , and soon we will also tell you why.

    The colors of the lines

    In the previous paragraph we did not mention the colors of trains, which is one of the most frequent signs of recognition when it comes to a metropolitan service. The first piece of advice we give you is not to rely too much on colors, but rather on letters and numbers, to memorize the lines that are useful to you. Because? The answer is simple: in many cases, a color corresponds to multiple lines, which can send you haywire.

    In the case of the means of the A-Division (marked with numbers):

    • red trains run on lines 1, 2, 3
    • green trains run on lines 4, 5, 6
    • purple trains run on line 7

    In the case of the means of the B Division (marked with letters):

    • blue trains run on lines A, C, E
    • the orange trains move on lines B, D, F, V
    • yellow trains run on lines N, R, W, Q
    • brown trains run on lines J, M, Z
    • lime green trains run on line G (does not operate in Manhattan, only in Brooklyn)
    • the light slate gray trains run on the S, L lines.

    La differenza tra Local Trains ed Express Trains

    A clarification must be made regarding the type of train: in the New York subways you will find the Local Trains and Express Trains.

    • Local Trains run on line 1 (RED), on line 6 (GREEN) and on line 7 (PURPLE) as regards the A Division, on lines C, E, F, G, M and R as regards the B Division;
    • the Express Trains the remaining are: lines 2, 3 (RED), lines 4, 5, 6 (GREEN), line 7 (PURPLE) as regards the A Division; lines A, B, D, J, L, M and R as regards the B Division.

    What is the difference? Local Trains are slower means, because they make all the stops on the route; Express Trains are faster, but only make a limited number of stops. In some cases - let's take the red lines for example - the journey is exactly the same, but the Local trains (line 1) will make more stops, offering a more complete service, but slower than the Express trains (lines 2, 3).

    How to recognize them, then? In the subway stations and maps you will find the Local and Express stops marked with white dots; Local-only stops will instead be marked with black dots. Usually the Locals run on the internal tracks, the Express on the external tracks. In station signs, local trains are marked with a circle, express trains with a rhombus.

    Our advice is to check well the map of the New York Metro (here the PDF version) before taking one or the other train: if you are not careful, and take an Express instead of a Local, you will go faster, but you may find yourself moved by several stations compared to the desired one, perhaps reached only by the Local.

    Also keep in mind that, after 22.30 pm, the Local Trains no longer pass, and are replaced by Express Trains, which however stop at all the stations, as if they were locals. To remain in the example, after 22.30 pm you will no longer be able to take the RED 1 line, but on the other hand the RED 2 and 3 lines will make all the stops on the route.

    Uptown or Downtown? Watch the direction!

    Another fundamental precaution: the direction of the train is indicated by the words Uptown (to the north, towards Central Park, so to speak) e Downtown (to the south, towards Battery Park). Most of the metro entrances allow access to the platforms of trains that go in both directions, so just pay attention to the signs. However, pay particular attention to the entrances of the stations that they only serve one direction: you risk being on the other side of Manhattan in the blink of an eye!

    For example, if you have to go north and at the entrance of the station you are interested in it is specified that it only goes towards Downtown, in that case you will have to look for the entrance to the same station that allows you to go towards Uptown. An example? There 49st Station, one of the stations near Times Square. Look at the two images.

    We know, it sounds very complicated, but don't worry. Each station has its own sign with all the useful information: line number (or letter), type of train (Local or Express) and direction (Uptown and Downtown). Plus, the maps provided at every corner by the MTA are incredibly simple to understand. After a couple of trips on the Metro in New York, lines, stations and stops will no longer be a problem for you.

    Metro New York: opening hours and waiting times

    Even if you are going to be in New York in the evening, you don't have to worry: the subway remains open 24 hours on 24. As for any limitations of the service, it is good to re-read the paragraph on Local and Express Trains.

    As for waiting times, you can consult this useful resource on the official website, which shows the train timetables of each single line: just click on the one you want and you will find the table, and the frequency averages. In general, for the main lines, the wait should not exceed 8 minutes, remaining on the average of 4-6. Obviously, night trains are rarer and the wait can be up to 20 minutes in some cases.

    Metro New York: prices and cards available

    Until 2003, i was used to pay for the Metro coin. Here are the various types of tickets to access the New York Metro:

    SingleRide Ticket

    In the very rare case that you only have to make one trip, you will need to get one SingleRide Ticket, valid for a ride on the metro or buses. The cost is $ 3, and must be used within 2 hours. Inside each station, there are vending machines, you can pick it up there. If you have children up to 110cm tall, they will travel free.

    Pay-per-Ride Metrocard

    Most New York travelers find it convenient to purchase a rechargeable call card Metrocard Pay-per-Ride. In the meantime, you will have to buy the metro card at a cost of $ 1, and then recharge it for a minimum of $ 5,50 (maximum $ 80).

    Where is the convenience? Every single ride costs 2.75 dollars, instead of 3 dollars. In addition, for every refill of at least $ 5,50 you will receive a 5% in addition, useful for accumulating credit that can be spent on other trips. For example, if you spend $ 20, you will actually be credited $ 21 to your card. Finally, for those traveling in small groups or families, the possibility of using it should not be underestimated one card for 4 people.

    Unlimited-Ride MetroCard

    Another useful solution is the Unilimited-Ride Metrocard, individual card, at a fixed price and duration with the possibility of unlimited travel, valid for all MTA metro and surface buses. You will also find this type of card at the station counters. There are two types:

    • 7-Day Unlimited-Ride MetroCard: $ 33, 7-day validity from the day of first use; good solution even for those who stay for a short period of time. If you do some calculations, you will understand that you will use the subway in New York even 5-6 times a day, if not more. Multiply by the days of stay, and see if it suits us!
    • 30-Day Unlimited-Ride MetroCard: $ 127, 30 days valid from the day of first use; solution suitable for a much more limited range of travelers, but still very convenient if you are staying in the Big Apple for a longer period of time. 

    New York Metro: useful info

    Some indications and advice that may be useful to you:

    • unlike other subways in New York there are no tariff zones. With your ticket you can go from one station to the next, or get to Queens!
    • avoid rush hours: You may panic if this is your first time taking the New York Metro. Clogged lines, chaos, noise, nervous people can only make you more confused;
    • for any doubt or problem, look for a MTA employee: you will find them inside and outside the trains.
    • if your itinerary includes a stop at a station covered only by locals, try to study how to get near this station with the express and then take the local: you will save time. It is also a good school to understand the operation of the Metro in New York: modern and efficient lines like these are designed for the best optimization of the time available to you.
    • a frequently asked question concerns the safety of the New York Subway. The railway lines are well monitored and there is no need to worry. Obviously, as in all the subways of the big capitals, it is good to pay attention to thefts (keeping bags tight, putting the wallet in the inside pockets) and not lingering too long in the stations after 23pm. You can also take a look at our in-depth analysis. on safety in New York.
    • no vari New York Pass DON'T concessions are included for the Metro, nor the Metrocard itself.
    • attention! On other specialized sites you will find different ticket prices. Those we have reported are updated to the day of publication of the article: always compare yourself with the official website!

    Other useful tips

    In addition to understanding how the New York subway system works, there are other tips that could be useful for organizing your stay:

    • things to do in New York to plan an itinerary
    • 1 day and 4 day itineraries
    • information on the best neighborhoods to sleep in New York
    • how to save with the flight + hotel solution in Manhattan
    • our in-depth section dedicated to the city: New York Travel Tips
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