The Train Is Your Friend

To a newcomer, the daily task of learning and riding the subway seems daunting.  The numbers, the letters, the different colors, local, express, shuttles, delays, service changes, no service, and a lot of other things that could make even the most patient person’s right eye twitch.  It can be scary but it doesn’t have to be.  Here are my five tips to making the New York train system your friend or at minimum a close acquaintance.

  1. Get on.  The only way to learn something is to bite the bullet and do it.  I refused to get on the train when I first arrived dubbing them dirty and overcrowded.  That’s no lie, it is but you quickly learn that taxis and Uber don’t magically zip you around the city in minutes like the movies.  The train is the quickest method of travel in this city.
    My suggestion is to pick a location, maybe a park, restaurant, or somewhere you’ve been dying to go, and visit that spot making yourself familiar with that line and the connections available on it.  My former location was Whole Foods in Union Square.  Try it out.
  2. Uptown and Downtown.  This was explained to me like this:  Uptown is towards Harlem and The Bronx.  Downtown is lower Manhattan and Brooklyn.  If you pay attention to the signs in the stations you will see Uptown & The Bronx and Downtown & Brooklyn all over.  If you’re in Brooklyn and want to get to the city follow the Uptown signs.  If you’re in Harlem and going to Brooklyn follow the Downtown signs.  If this still makes no sense to you go here because it was explained so beautifully.
  3. GPS and Maps.  Unless you’re elderly or afraid of technology, you have a smartphone.  It does more than text and make stories for Snapchat.  If you find yourself lost, whip out that bad boy and use the map to guide you back to where you need to be.  It will give you directions using your preferred method of transportation.
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  5. MTA Alerts.  Sign up for MTA Alerts by text or email.  Any changes affecting your line (sick passengers, signal problems, mechanical issues, and broken rails) are delivered right to your phone or inbox so you can adjust accordingly.  Just a warning, if you sign up to get the texts your phone will blow up but it does help especially during the morning and evening rush.
  6. Time.  Give yourself time to get to your location on time.  Most people don’t live a block away from a train station and either have to use the left and right to get there or even bus there depending on where they live.  Learn to estimate how long it takes to get from your home to the closest train station and that’s half the battle.  Okay, I’m lying.  It’s more like ten percent of the battle but it helps!

Happy train riding!

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