New York City Subway | Historic, Iconic, Busy & Efficient

by NYJ Team

Possibly one of the most distinctive icons of New York City, equal in status to the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building, the New York Subway is a labyrinth of lines and routes that sprawl across the city, commuting millions of people each day and easing congestion in one of the major locations of the world.

The New York Subway is one of the ten busiest systems in the entire world, even beating cities such as London and Mexico City in terms of how many boardings are recorded each year.

Made up of nearly 470 passenger stations, and covering 230 miles of routes, the New York Subway enjoys a long and interesting history that is intertwined with the story of the growth of New York City into one of the largest metropolitans in the world today.

NYC Subway

Click for more on the NYC Subway

In 2005, 1.45 billion people frequented the New York Subway – marking a record for the system. Nearly 6.5 million people use the system each and every day, and these figures are expected to rise as the price of fuel increases in the world.

The New York Subway is owned by the City of New York and is always in the process of development.

Interestingly, and despite its name, the New York Subway is not only about underground transport, with just over 40% of its routes running above ground. However, in densely populated areas such as Manhattan, the tracks run almost exclusively below ground, saving precious space and ensuring that the local population can travel conveniently and fast to their required destinations.


The New York Subway was created out of a number of individually constructed routes that aimed to take the earlier inhabitants of New York to various locations on the outskirts of the core city. Railroads that were created as a means to take people to the entertainment area of Coney Island, as well as tracks that ran in Manhattan and Brooklyn made up the first routes.

When several whole counties and some of others united to form the City of Greater New York in 1898, city planners decided that the most important form of transport would be the underground subway. However, the cost of creating such a huge project was well beyond the means of the city or a single private company. As such, the city contracted with the privately owned IRT (Interborough Rapid Transit Company) with an agreement to share the profits.

The first subway was built on a route running from City Hall to the Bronx in 1904, followed by numerous extensions over the years. Initially it was undecided how to run these subways – using either direct current as proposed by Thomas Edison, or Nikola Tesla’s alternating current. Today, however, the New York Subway works on direct current.

A series of contracts signed between the city and the private companies IRT and BRT (Brooklyn Rapid Transport Company) from 1913 onwards ensured that the lines continued to grow at a rapid pace, joining existing lines and improving on others.

In later years, the city decided to build and operate its own new system with investment from the private sector, which let to the creation of the Independent Subway System. The IND system, as the new system came to be known after the city acquired BRT and IRT in 1940, was the latest and most innovative subway development of its time. The city almost immediately began eliminating redundant lines throughout the city.

Lines continued to be built around New York, although many stations were not maintained and their conditions began to reach dangerous levels in the 1980’s. Reconstruction and refurbishment began in the mid 1980’s and work continues to be done on many lines even until today. Ground has also been broken to begin the construction of future lines.


Despite being a unified company, the New York Subway stations are divided by traditional early company operators, namely IRT Lines, BMT Lines, IND Lines and Staten Island.

The stations are as follows:

IRT Lines

  • IRT East Side Line
  • IRT West Side Line
  • IRT Grand Central/Times Square Shuttle
  • IRT Flushing Line
  • Bronx IRT – Woodlawn Line
  • Bronx IRT – Lennox/White Plains Rd./Dyre Avenue Line
  • Bronx IRT – Pelham Line
  • The Brooklyn IRT

BMT Lines

  • BMT Astoria Line
  • BMT Brighton Line
  • BMT Broadway Line
  • BMT Canarsie Line
  • BMT Culver Line
  • BMT Jamaica Line
  • BMT Myrtle Avenue Line
  • BMT Sea Beach Line
  • BMT West Side Line
  • BMT 4th Avenue Line

IND Lines

  • IND 6th Avenue Line
  • IND 8th Avenue Line
  • IND Concourse Line
  • IND Crosstown Line
  • IND Fulton Line
  • IND Queens Boulevard Line
  • IND Rockaway Line
  • IND World’s Fair Spur

Staten Island

  • Staten Island Rapid Transit


The New York Subway uses, and has used, a large number of cars according to the needs of the system. Essentially, the cars used are divided into A Division (numbered lines) and B Division (lettered lines).

A Division Cars

A Division cars, also known as numbered lines, comprise at present two distinct types of cars: The R142/R142A and the R62/R62A. Cars 1101 – 1250, 6301 – 7180 and 7211 – 7810 make up the first type, while cars 1301 to 1625 and 1651 to 2475 make up the second type.

Retired A Division cars include the R110A/R130; the R33/R36 Mainline; the R21/R22 and the R12.

B Division Cars

B Division cars, also known as lettered lines, comprise a large number of cars that are currently being used. These incorporate the R160, R143, R68/R68A, R46, R44/44 SIRT, R42, R40/R40M, R38 and R32/R32A.

A number of retired cars also made up this fleet in years gone by.


The majority of users today use the prominently displayed numbers or letters that appear on the cars, following an effort made by the city to get people to move away from referring to the lines by their station names.

In 1979, a color code was introduced that essentially grouped trains by their main lines. This new system hoped to simplify the other systems that were put in place over the years. Unfortunately, however, old habits are hard to break and New Yorkers still feel most comfortable with signage that is referred to by letters and numbers.

Getting About with the New York City Subway with MetroCard

The easiest and most common way of riding the New York City subway is through the purchase of a MetroCard. This card enables users to pay for their fares on the subway and also save money in the process. While fares per line traditionally cost around $2, the cost is reduced with the use of a MetroCard.

Subway users simply swipe the MetroCard through the turnstile of the subway and walk through when the screen reflects the word GO. Passengers can check how much fare money is left on their card at any MetroCard reader in any station, although the balance is also displayed at the turnstile after every use. The MetroCard can also be used on the bus.

Subway NYC

The New York City subway system is clearly one of the most efficient in the world. Where once the subway had a reputation for being unsafe and dingy, today it serves millions upon millions each year in safe, convenient and clean conditions. There is no doubt that the subway continues to be the favored and most effective way for locals and visitors alike to get around this great city.

Click to visit New York City Subway official website.

Note: This information can change without notice. Confirm all details directly with the company in question.

Rikers Island | About the World’s Largest Jail

by NYJ Team

Rikers Island in New York City is considered the world’s largest penal colony. This notorious jail occupies the entire 1600 km2 island after which it is named and is home to over 130,000 inmates on an annual basis.

To keep these prisoners in line, the New York City Department of Correction – with a budget of over $850 million – employs 10,000 police officers and hundreds of civilians.

Rikers Island

Click for more details on Rikers Island


Rikers Island prison was established in 1884, after the city purchased the island from the descendants of an original Dutch settler to the area, Abraham Rycken in the 1700’s. The city paid $183,000 for the island and set about immediately converting it to an incarceration facility.

Landfill was added to the island in the 1950s in a bid to expand the existing space. In recent years, in order to cater to the growing demand for prisons in the New York City area, extra inmates began their incarceration in new facilities built on an eight hundred bed barge that was constructed in the East River.

Rikers Island Facilities

Rikers Island has come to be known as a city within a city, with nearly 20,000 people present on the island on any given day. There are ten jails that make up this facility, each housing different criminal types. The majority of the jails have been built in the last seventy years, with several of them being floating detention centers constructed from original Staten Island ferries.

What used to be known as the Rikers Island Infirmary now houses special case prisoners, including those who are going through detoxification, those who are mentally ill and those who require special health treatment.

In order to serve the needs of the visitors and staff on Rikers Island, many facilities have been set up, including clinics, schools, religious institutions, supermarkets, sports fields and barbershops.

Reaching Rikers Island

To reach Rikers Island visitors have various options. Passengers could take the Q101 Express bus, also known as the Steinway Transport Corporation bus that is marked Rikers Island Limited Stop Service.

The Q101 bus service departs from the south end of the Plaza on 27th and 28th Streets, making its last stop on 19th Avenue. The bus then heads onto an unmarked bridge, known as the Francis Buona Bridge.

There are also several privately owned ferry services that take visitors to and from the island, while the Corrections Department provides transportation for those visiting inmates on the island.

While it is possible to reach the Rikers Island parking lot by car, this is generally not encouraged because of the lack of parking space in the area.

Visiting Rikers Island NYC

Rikers Island is part of New York City’s less glamorous landscape but still manages to instill a lot of curiosity and interest among visitors and locals alike. While city authorities prefer to keep the facility away from the public eye, the irony is that Rikers Island is on of the first things that visitors see from the air when they fly into La Guardia airport.

Click for more information on Rikers Island.