Depending on where you are trying to go, there are usually a number of ways to get there, each with their own benefits and drawbacks. For the carless New Yorker, here are the pros and cons for the different modes of transportation…
By Taxi/Gypsy cab/Car service - Hopping in a car is a convenient way to get to where you want to go, especially if it’s late and pouring down rain. Taxis are usually a quick, easy way for the eager commuter to get home as fast as possible. If you are carrying a big suitcase, it’s much easier to throw it in a trunk than to try hauling it up and down subway stairs.
Traveling cross-town (West<—>East), along the water, or in the deeper parts of the outer boroughs, taxis can get you many places the subways don’t go. It’s also nice getting dropped off at an exact address.
The drawbacks to traveling by cab is that it’s usually more expensive than subway or bus, especially once you factor in the tip. Of course, if you split a cab ride among several passengers, the fare becomes significantly cheaper.
During rush hour, traffic can turn a cab ride into an excruciating waste of time. It’s not uncommon for a frustrated passenger to jump out of a cab early (after paying) and walking the rest of the way. Also, in front of tourist hotspots or along small side streets, finding an empty cab can sometimes be very difficult.
If a cab sounds right for you, check out our article on How To Hail A Cab.
As for gypsy cabs, we’ve already discussed their potential drawbacks and unpredictable nature in our previous article, Dare You Trust The Gypsy Cab? Of course, they’re not all bad. If you get the right driver, sometimes you can haggle a bargain rate. Plus, it’s always fun pulling up to a club and stepping out of a mysterious black car looking like a movie star.
While car services are more expensive, they’re a very convenient way to have a car waiting for you exactly when and where you want. Try the convenient iPhone app that let’s you book a (legit) car service within minutes, Uber Car (uber.com).
By Subway – The MTA (NY Subway) covers a lot of ground, doesn’t cost that much, and is relatively reliable (although every New Yorker has a subway delay horror story, especially on weekends in the summer). A $2.25 subway ride from JFK Airport sure beats the $45 flat fare for a cab, and a monthly unlimited subway pass is much more affordable than taking cabs every day.
During rush hour or when weather has blocked the roads, subways are much faster than by car. Of course, you should pay close attention to any service alerts. Some of the drawbacks to taking the subway are having to pay attention to service changes. Sometimes lines are down or rerouted, and it’s very important to keep an eye out for signs. The G train, undeniably the least reliable of the subway lines, is notorious for not showing up on time (or at all), skipping stops, and giving up before reaching the final stop. Be sure to plan ahead and make sure you don’t overlook any changes in service.
Another drawback to using the subways is the lack of cell phone service. “I’ll have to call you back, I’m heading into the subway.” Most are underground, with the exception of a few lines in the outer boroughs.
By Bus – Buses are the same price as the subway, which means they are typically much cheaper than a cab ride. The best time to use the bus is when you are traveling to a place along the bus route that is not accessible by subway. Bus is often the best way to get to La Guardia Airport, as the M60 bus takes you right from Manhattan to the terminals for only $2.25. While buses often have designated lanes to keep them moving past traffic, the rush hour can be just as frustrating as in a cab.
By Foot – If it’s less than 20 blocks, walking is surprisingly fast, especially at a New Yorker’s pace. New Yorkers are used to doing a lot of walking, and it certainly saves you money. Walking is a great way to get cross town, and it’s often necessary in the outer edges of Manhattan where subways can’t reach. With no need to hunt down a cab, wait for a bus or subway, walking gives you a chance to soak in the city firsthand.
Of course, going long distances will take much longer. Also, on a rainy or super hot day, or late at night when you just don’t feel comfortable alone in the streets, a cab can be well worth the money.
By Bike – Bike paths are becoming more and more common in the city. People are pushing for healthier, eco-friendly, affordable options to get around. If you own a bike, riding to work and around town can save you a lot of money, keep you in shape, and be a lot of fun.
Of course, showing up to a wedding in a helmet covered in sweat might not be the best way to start off your big day. It can also be hard to carry your bags on a bike.
If you do take a bike, be sure to get a good lock and learn how to safely navigate the bike lanes.
Now that you know the nuances between each method of transportation, choose wisely. There are so many great things to see in New York, and getting there is easy as can be!