The history of the New York City subway dates back to October 27, 1904, when the first passengers boarded the subway. As of July 2022, the New York City subway system consisted of 472 stations and 28 lines, and accommodated 5.15 million passengers on a typical weekday. The New York City Subway is the only subway in the world that operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Rest assured, you can purchase tickets using a contactless card, and Google Maps can assist with navigation.
New York City Subway Fares [Year], and Where to Buy Tickets
New York City subway tickets are available for single rides or as pre-paid options for a specific time period. Tickets can be used on the subway and local buses simultaneously. Updated ticket prices for New York City public transportation as of July 2022 are available.
💳 Paying by Card with OMNY
The simplest way to pay is by using your phone (Google Pay, Apple Pay) or a contactless card, which you swipe at the turnstile. The display will instantly reveal the payment status. This system, known as OMNY, sets the ticket price at $2.75.
With the OMNY system, free transfers remain available. You just need to consistently use the same phone or card at the turnstile. After 12 paid rides in one week, all subsequent rides are free. However, you still need to swipe your card at the terminal.
The OMNY system operates across all subway lines and local buses. It is set to fully replace the outdated MetroCard in 2023.
🎫 Regular Ticket
A regular ticket costs $3.00, and can only be purchased from machines in subway stations. It is valid for 2 hours from the time of purchase and can be transferred between subway lines. However, transfers between the subway and buses are not permitted.
🔋 Rechargeable MetroCard
If you purchase a MetroCard for $1.00, a regular ticket will cost you only $2.75.
📅 Weekly and Monthly Pass
If you use the subway at least 13 times a week, it is worth considering the Unlimited Ride MetroCard. A 7-day pass costs $33, and a 30-day pass costs $127 plus $1.00 for a new MetroCard. The weekly pass expires at midnight on the seventh day. MetroCards activated on Monday afternoon expire after 11:59 p.m. the following Sunday.
🧒 Tickets for Children
Up to three children under 112 cm can travel free of charge with an adult passenger. Taller children must have an adult ticket.
The MetroCard is similar to a rechargeable card. It can be purchased for $1.00 at vending machines located at stations and stops, in stores around the city, or at an MTA kiosk. The MetroCard can be topped up with a minimum of $5.50. Payment can be made using cash or a credit card. Swipe the card through the reader at the turnstile when entering the subway or bus.
- For more information, visit the transport company’s website
New York City Subway Map
To navigate the New York City subway, I recommend using the Google Maps mobile app, which automatically searches for connections and displays departure times. If you do not have data access while in the city, you can download the entire area offline.
For this purpose, I suggest downloading the New York City subway schedule to your phone.
New York City Subway Lines
The subway in New York City consists of 11 primary lines and 28 services. A line refers to the physical subway tracks, which are color-coded. Several services run on a single line, and these are designated by a letter or number. Further distinctions are made:
- Express trains: These trains stop only at major stations, approximately every third to fifth station.
- Local trains: These trains stop at every station.
Pay close attention to the station announcements and the displays on the sides of the trains. They show the line designation and the name of the destination station. This helps to avoid a common mistake: boarding an express train when you need to go to one of the smaller stations.
For easily finding connections, including transfers, use the Google Maps app. Simply input your origin and destination, and the app will also show you the nearest departure times. A subway map of New York City is posted at each station.
Line Name Quarters ⬤ 1 Broadway–Seventh Avenue Local Manhattan ⬤ 2 Seventh Avenue Express Manhattan, Brooklyn ⬤ 3 Seventh Avenue Express Manhattan, Brooklyn ⬤ 4 Lexington Avenue Express Bronx, Manhattan, Brooklyn ⬤ 5 Lexington Avenue Express Bronx, Manhattan, Brooklyn ⬤ 6 Lexington Avenue Local Bronx, Manhattan ⯁ 6 Pelham Bay Park Express Bronx, Manhattan ⯁ 7 Flushing Express Queens, Manhattan ⬤ 7 Flushing Local Queens, Manhattan ⬤ A Eight Avenue Express Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens ⬤ B Sixth Avenue Express Bronx, Manhattan, Brooklyn ⬤ C Eight Avenue Local Manhattan, Brooklyn ⬤ D Sixth Avenue Express Bronx, Manhattan, Brooklyn ⬤ E Eight Avenue Local Queens, Manhattan ⬤ F Queens Boulevard Express/Sixth Avenue Local Queens, Manhattan, Brooklyn ⯁ F Culver Express Queens, Manhattan, Brooklyn ⬤ G Brooklyn-Queens Crosstown Local Queens, Brooklyn ⬤ J Nassau Street Local Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan ⬤ L 14th Street – Canarsie Local Manhattan, Brooklyn ⬤ M Queens Boulevard/Sixth Avenue Local Queens, Manhattan, Brooklyn ⬤ N Broadway Express Queens, Manhattan, Brooklyn ⬤ Q Second Avenue/Broadway Express/Brighton Local Queens, Manhattan, Brooklyn ⬤ R Broadway Local Queens, Manhattan, Brooklyn ⬤ S Franklin Avenue Shuttle Brooklyn ⬤ S Rockaway Park Shuttle Queens ⬤ S 42nd Street Shuttle Manhattan ⬤ W Broadway Local Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan ⬤ Z Nassau Street Express Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan
How to Travel on the NYC Subway
Safety on the Subway
The New York City subway may be smelly and crowded, but it’s safe. Use common sense. Do not carry your wallets in your back pockets, keep your purses zipped up, and conceal your valuables. Beware of pickpockets; they are common.
Trains run every 2-5 minutes during peak hours. At night, intervals are longer, with the subway usually running every 10-20 minutes.
Watch Your Direction of Travel
Certain subway entrances only allow for one direction of travel. The sign will then indicate Uptown (northbound) or Downtown (southbound). Pay close attention to your direction of travel and the displays on the trains.
At some stations, you need to choose the correct entrance from the street to avoid needing to cross through the underpass. In such cases, the sign at the entrance will read, for example, “Downtown & Brooklyn”.
How to Identify Which Subway Stops Where
Stations on maps are marked with a dot:
● Only local trains stop here.
○ Larger stations where both local and express trains stop.
Notably, subway transfer stations often stretch across several streets. If you need to switch from one line to another, there’s no need to ascend to street level. Instead, use the pedestrian passages, marked on the subway map with a black straight line.
Traveling by Subway at Night
At stations, look for an area marked with a yellow sign reading Off-Hours Waiting Area. This area is well lit, monitored by security cameras, and equipped with a phone or panic button for summoning help.
Colored Balls at Subway Entrances
Pay attention to the column of balls near the subway entrance. A green lantern indicates stations that are open 24 hours, while those with a red ball close after dark.
Photographing in the New York City Subway
Photography is permitted in the subway, but tripods and flashes are not.
Facts about the New York City Subway
New York’s Largest Subway Station
You can access 13 different lines from Times Square-42nd Street Station. This is the most of any New York City subway station.
Busiest Subway Stations in New York City
The ten busiest subway stations are all in Manhattan. Once again, Times Square tops the list with 65,020,294 annual passengers (as of 2019).
Lowest and Highest Stations
The deepest station is 191st Street on Line 1, with a platform 174 ft below ground. Conversely, the highest station is Smith-Ninth, standing 89 ft above street level.
The Link Between Pizza and Ticket Price
The price of a subway ticket in New York City roughly equates to the cost of a slice of pizza at a kiosk. If one becomes more expensive, the price of the other usually increases soon after.
Between 1953 and 2003, metal tokens served as subway tickets. Thieves would steal these tokens by sucking them out of the turnstiles. The issue became so prevalent that police officers resorted to spraying chili into the turnstiles.
Ghost Stations in New York City
There are nine unused stations within the entire New York City subway system, known as ghost stations. The most beautiful of these is the abandoned City Hall Station on Line 6, which was in use between 1904 and 1945. The others include Court Street (closed 1946), 18th Street (1948), Myrtle Avenue (1956), Sedgwick Ave (1958), 91st Street (1959), Worth Street (1962), and Dean Street (1995).
The 76th Street Station is shrouded in mystery, having never seen a single train pass through and not appearing on any maps.
The Guardian Angels of the New York Subway
In the 1970s, the subway was riddled with crime and the security situation was deteriorating every year. On February 13, 1979, New York native Curtis Sliwa founded the Guardian Angels initiative. The Guardian Angels were a group of volunteers in red berets and white tank tops. Predominantly robust, young men, they patrolled the subway in their spare time to maintain security.
TV Documentaries about the New York Subway
For more information, see the MTA website. Feel free to share your experiences with the New York City subway in the discussion section.