Subway of Superlatives

Opened in 1904, the New York subway is today one of the oldest public rail transportation systems in the world. And New York wouldn’t be New York if there weren’t a couple more impressive facts.

The subway runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year. It is one of the most-used metro systems in the world. 5.7 million passengers use the 6,400 cars every day, which makes for 1.7 billion passengers each year.

The 25 different lines connect 472 stations across over 236 miles (380 km) in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. No other subway system has anywhere near as many stations. A huge number of tracks converge, and if you were to extend them all into one long track, the stretch would add up to about 665 miles (1’070 km) and reach from New York to Chicago or from Italy to Denmark.

Although the name “subway” implies that the New York system runs underground, about 40% of the tracks and 39% of the stations are above ground. Most of these are in Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx. The majority of the stations in Manhattan are underground.

A New Life for Old Subway Cars
“Hundreds of cars taken out of service and submerged in the Atlantic.” Admittedly, this notice left us perplexed when we first read it. What at first sounds like a ruthless act of pollution is in fact part of a large-scale project to build artificial reefs off the coasts of Delaware and South Carolina. These subway car reefs provide food and protection for many species of fish and mussels. The pioneer project has caught on across the world.

What's coming?

The future is here! For a long time, there was neither telephone reception nor WiFi in the NYC subway. As of January 2017, however, all stations offer phone and WiFi reception – and that’s one year ahead of schedule.

Also, the 2nd Avenue Subway, the result of about 100 years of planning, was inaugurated on January 1, 2017 and finally offers additional service to three stations on the Upper East Side. Further construction on the line is planned down to South Ferry in Lower Manhattan.

And there’s even more: the MTA has ordered new subway cars. These will not only have broader doors to make entering and exiting easier; they will also replace the doors that previously separated the cars with accordion-like joints. In essence, these new subways will glide down the long tunnels like centipedes, and passengers will be able to walk all the way from the very back to the very front of the train. Aside from that, the new subway cars will of course be state-of-the-art: along with timely display systems, they’ll offer WiFi and mobile phone charging stations.

There’s also a plan to renovate the subway stations and to allow for an easier payment system via the Metrocard. When all these things are finished, the New York subway will also finally be welcomed into the 21st century.

Last But Not Least – NYC Subway Etiquette
Want to move around like a New Yorker? We’d recommend observing the following dos and don’ts:

• Each subway line is marked with a different color, but New Yorkers never refer to these colors. Instead, the lines are identified by numbers or letters – you take the “A Train” or the “6” and not the “blue” or “green line.”
• Never eat in the subway.
• Have lots of luggage with you? It’s best to remove your backpacks and put bags on the floor, not on the seat next to you.
• If a car is noticeably empty, there’s usually a good (and odorous) reason for that. You’re best off not getting in.

Finally, the most important tip for visitors: riding the subway is a must-do. This is where New York is at home, where you can breathe in its very essence, and where life takes place. This is where rich and poor, tourists and New Yorkers, bankers and artists, crazy people and geniuses all meet in the same space. And it’s not just the subways themselves that are full of life – the stations and platforms are just as vibrant, thanks to the countless street musicians, performance artists, comedians, puppeteers, dancers, etc. So it’s time to hop on the subway – the underground of Gotham City.

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