Fred’s transit notes from New York City

Brooklyn Bridge - City Hall NYC subway station.

If you read my previous post, you know I’m now living in New York City and no longer a regular contributor to The Source.

I will chime in from time to time with a guest post though, and my first such post is simply a collection of observations of New York City transit in comparison to Los Angeles from the perspective of a new resident. You can read Carter’s review of the NYC transit system from the perspective of a tourist here.

  • Buses. For the most part, the buses I’ve ridden have incredible frequency during the weekday. I’m talking service every three minutes. Off peak or during the weekends I’ve definitely found myself waiting a while. Bus service is also not immune to special events. A few weeks ago the New York Marathon put bus service in disarray and there was no good information posted at bus stops. I ended up giving up on my planned bus outing since the bus I was waiting for never showed up.
  • Nextrip? Not so much. NYC MTA is currently testing real time bus arrivals for three lines, two in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn. Aside from the fact that so few lines offer real time information, the information that is provided is not so great. Bus stops do have QR codes, but they lead to a web pages that list every stop unlike Metro’s system which leads to a page specifically for the stop that was scanned. Also, the real time information provided is not given in terms of how many minutes away a bus is but instead how many stops away a bus is. I much prefer Metro’s method. Note: I’ve only tested the real time system on the Brooklyn B63 bus line.


  • TAP or swipe? NYC’s fare media is a paper card with a magnetic strip that must be swiped at rail stations or dipped (almost like an ATM card) on buses. Getting a Metro Card from a subway station could not be easier and the ticket vending machines are far superior to Metro’s. The fact that they are touch screen makes them instantly more user friendly. However, the actual act of using the card makes me miss my TAP card. I don’t like having to pull my card from my wallet and orient it correctly every time I need to use it. With TAP I was able to keep my card in my wallet and just tap the wallet on the sensor. Also, more often than not my first swipe isn’t read by the fare gate and I’m forced to swipe multiple times in just the right way to be granted access.
  • A portal to my heart. By far the best part of the NYC subway system (and there are lots of good parts) is the fact that stations have so many portals (entrances). One of my biggest issues with the Red and Purple Lines has always been the lack of portal options at most stations. A few of the downtown L.A. stations offer riders plenty of options, but most just give riders one way in and out. Not so in New York where stations often have so many portals it can be downright confusing. But there’s no denying the positive effect of having the stations so accessible from nearly every corner on a street.
  • People drive! Yes, people who live in New York City drive, and just like in L.A. many do it because they find public transit inconvenient. A waitress at a local Brooklyn diner revealed to me that she drives from Queens because “public transit would take too long.” Sound familiar?
  • There’s a ton of apps for that. There is no shortage of NYC transit apps. A few of my favorites so far: Exit Strategy (essential for deciding which of the many portals you should use), iTransNYC (off line subway navigation) and City Transit (a clean and readable subway map app).