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Getting Around in New York


Most of Manhattan is laid out in a grid. The streets run south to north and avenues run east to west. This makes it relatively easy and straightforward to find your way. Streets are numbered (except in downtown Manhattan) and the numbering rises as you go north. Most avenues are numbered from East to West below 59th Street. Building numbering on avenues starts at the south end of the avenue and rises as you move north. Above Washington Square, Fifth Avenue divides Manhattan into east and west; numbering starts at Fifth Avenue on each side (except where Central Park interrupts) and increases in either direction.

Addresses west of Fifth are written as, for example, 220 West 34th Street, while those east of Fifth are written as 220 East 34 Street. However, for numbered streets below Washington Square (there are only two, 3rd and 4th streets), Broadway divides the streets into East and West. Because of this dual-numbering system, it is always advisable to keep in mind the closest intersection to your destination (6th Avenue and 34th Street, Broadway and 51st, etc). In Greenwich Village and downtown Manhattan (generally considered as below Houston Street), confusion sets in as streets meander, dead-end and intersect themselves. Streets in Greenwich Village are particularly notorious for defying logic. For instance West 4th Street intersects with West 10th Street and West 12th Street, and you can stand on the corner of Waverly Place and Waverly Place. As a convenient guide to distance, there are 20 blocks per mile along the avenues (walking North/South). The average person can walk roughly 1 block per minute. Walking East/West on the streets, the blocks are generally much longer.

Walking is what many New Yorkers do, but not at the normal tourist pace. So if you are gazing at attractions make sure to keep an eye out for the fast-walking throngs or you might be knocked to the ground by a mob.

By Subway

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority ( is the umbrella organisation for the city's multiple forms of transport ranging from subways and buses to an extensive system of commuter trains. The often daunting and complicated subway system has a reputation for being sluggish and dangerous, but over the past decade it has been cleaned up a bit (crime-wise at least) and is a reliable means to get around. Some 24 routes (lettered and numbered) web across the five boroughs. Subway fare is US$2, or US$7 for the 1-Day Fun Pass with unlimited rides on the subway and local buses.

The New York City Transit Authority issues MetroCards for using the bus and subway system in the city. While it is possible to pay for a bus using exact change (in coins) you must have a MetroCard to enter the subway system. Cards can be bought online, at stations (either from a vending machine or from a token booth), or at many grocery stores and newstands (look for a MetroCard sign on the store window).

By Bus

There are many different bus lines, which provide good transport away from the subway. Bus lines are identified by letters followed by numbers. The letters indicates the borough in which the line mostly operates (M=Manhattan; Bx=Bronx; B=Brooklyn; Q=Queens; S=Staten Island). Bus maps for each borough can be found at the MTA website.

Even in Manhattan, with its dense subway network, buses can often be the best way of making a cross-town (ie. east to west or vice versa) journey. And outside peak hours, a ride by bus from the tip of Manhattan at Battery Park to Midtown is a good and cheap way of taking in the sights. Buses are particularly useful when going across Central Park (eg. going from the Metropolitan Museum to the Museum of Natural History).

When boarding a bus with a MetroCard, insert the card into the card slot in the top of the farebox by the driver. The farebox will swallow the card, read it and return it to you. You should see the front of the MetroCard and the magnetic strip will be facing you and on the right side as you stick it in the machine. It will be vertically oriented. This is different from entering the subway where you don’t stick it in as much, but slide it horizontally oriented through the swipe device, with the front toward you and the magnetic strip on the bottom.

The fareboxes also accept coins but not paper money as they are unable to read paper money. As a safety precaution, drivers do not handle money. Change is not given, so exact fares must be paid. The fareboxes accept dollar coins, and will also add up your pennies, even though it says not to use pennies. Rarely used half-dollar coins cannot be used because the coin slots on the fareboxes are not big enough.

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