How to Take on NYC’s Transportation System like a Pro

In NYC, the journey really is the destination. This city has so many remarkable ways to get around, and hopping on a ferry or riding the subway often becomes an adventure in and of itself. Read on for a guide to each major form of public or private transportation and when to pick one over another.

Yellow Cabs

Cabs are arguably the most iconic form of transportation in New York — in part because of their distinctive yellow color, in part because they do a great job of shuttling you from place to place in a relatively short period. Like buses and ride-sharing apps, below, this form of transportation is best for accessing “subway deserts.” Of all of New York’s transportation options, however, both taxis and ride-sharing apps are the most expensive.

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Ride-Sharing Apps

Uber, Lyft, via, and other ride-sharing apps are best used in the same neighborhoods/circumstances where you’d use a taxi. The major downside of such apps is that they’re competing with the taxi industry, which many feel is an important NYC institution that should be preserved. (This can be avoided by choosing the taxi industry’s Curb app.) They’re also known to be more expensive than taxis for shorter journeys, starting at $2.55 to a taxi’s $2.50.

The upside is that rides can be much more affordable for longer trips, such as airport commutes, and can also be ordered on demand — such as when you’re really tired after a night of bar-hopping. Plus, Uber and Lyft drivers are graded on their driving (by passengers) and are therefore known to be extra-responsible behind the wheel.

Subway

The subway is the most popular form of Manhattan public transportation, with 5.7 million people riding it every single day. (That’s more than the population of Wyoming, Vermont, Alaska and the Dakotas combined.) At $2.75 per ride, it’s the most convenient and affordable option by far, and you rarely have to idle in traffic the way you would in a taxi.

Bus

We recommend buses for the same neighborhoods as cabs and ride-sharing apps, particularly those in more remote boroughs (Belmont, Red Hook) where taxis and cars aren’t circulating as much in the first place. They’re also helpful for specific routes that aren’t served by the subway. For instance, for the same price as a subway swipe, the crosstown bus can take you from the Upper West Side to the Upper East Side in a fraction of the time.

Bikes, Motorbikes, Scooters

Though some visitors, as well as New Yorkers, feel confident taking on the city streets by bike and motorbike, we’re hesitant to recommend these alternative forms of transportation to visitors — except in the most remote and quiet parts of the city (namely, parks and greenways). They can be very difficult and dangerous to maneuver in NYC’s notoriously busy and often hectic streets. If you do choose to bike the city streets, follow the advice of Dave Jordan, who trained Joseph Gordon-Levitt to play an NYC bike messenger: “Be the fish in the coral” and go with the flow of traffic, even if you are sometimes going against the “rules.”

Unlike in other world cities, like Los Angeles, e-scooters and e-bikes are not currently legal in New York.

Ferries

Ferries — like the Roosevelt Island Tramway — are generally only useful for getting from Manhattan to another part of the city (Staten Island, Governor’s Island, Ellis Island/Statue of Liberty, Red Hook). They can also be used to get to Jersey City. Among the majority of New Yorkers, ferries are seen as more of an “experience” than a form of transportation; the Staten Island in particular affords incredible views of New York Harbor.

LIRR, NJT, PATH and Amtrak

Trains and commuter rails are generally only useful for getting out of the city entirely. Take the PATH to northeastern New Jersey, NJ Transit to pretty much any part of New Jersey, and the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) to — you guessed it — Long Island. Amtrak can take you to most major day- and weekend-trip destinations throughout the Northeast, with the exception of certain rural areas that can only be reached by car or bus, like Litchfield, Newport, and the Berkshires.

Make use of all these transportation options on your next NYC visit. And if you need a place to stay, don’t miss the exclusive offers at The Excelsior Hotel.

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