Occasionally, on my tours, I'll give a customer directions from a tour's end spot to their next plans, via the subway, and they are hesitant. Whether it's a mix of fear of the unfamiliar, safety concerns, or just a preference of the private comfort of a cab, I do sympathize.
But here's my professional opinion on why tourists should use the subway to get around:
- It's reliable! Our system is unique in the world, in that it runs 24/7. Short of a natural disaster, the trains never stop running. Don't risk getting stuck in traffic, or with a cab driver who doesn't know where you're going. Google maps offer public transit directions now... find the best/closest route, and get there fast.
- It's inexpensive! For $2.75, you get into the system, no matter how far you're going, transfer included. No fare zones. One ride, one fare. Plus discount fares for seniors, kids 44" or shorter are free.
- It's safe! Subway crime has remained on a steady decline over the last 30 years.
- Travel like a local! Everyone from construction workers to janitors to Wall St traders ride the subway. It's our city's great underground melting pot. You haven't experienced NYC until you've become a straphanger.
- It's an art scene! The MTA has an official arts program, that helps design station walls with beautiful art pieces, murals, and musicians. Each station is unique.
So there's my pitch.
And now, some tips!
- Grab or download a subway map (my favorite app: Exit Strategy). Know your routes, and plan your travel in advance. And, as noted before, you can get updated directions via Google Maps now.
- Check the MTA website before you go, particularly on nights & weekends... as off-peak repairs do cause trains to be re-routed or temporary service suspensions.
- Your best mass transit route to JFK from midtown: Take the LIRR (Long Island RailRoad)-- buy a ticket in advance at Penn Station!-- to Jamaica and take the AirTrain. This is the quickest way. To save some money, just take a Queens-bound E train to Jamaica instead for your AirTrain transfer. The AirTrain is $5 and stops at every terminal. Going to LaGuardia... well, the city's still figuring that out.