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

by Denise Marie

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.

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.

Click to book your New York CityPass


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.

New York City Subway | The Largest Subway System in the World

by Denise Marie

With a little planning and preparation, the subway in New York City is easy to navigate. The routes extend to four of the five boroughs: Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens, with the Staten Island Railway serving Staten Island.

Open for business 365 days a year, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, is the ideal and most affordable way to get around the city.

The Subway System

The New York City subway has 468 stations that serve 24 subway lines. This is more than any other subway system in the world. All the subway cars and buses in New York City are air-conditioned and either new or renovated. The subway system extends to four of the five boroughs: Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens.

To reach Staten Island, passengers must use the Staten Island Railway (SIR). There is no direct subway link to the SIR, but riders traveling to and from Staten Island get a free transfer to the New York subway lines.

Click to book your New York CityPass


Each subway route is named by either a letter of the alphabet (A,C,E, B,D,F,M,G) or single-digit numbers (1,2,3,4,5,6,7). One you pay your fare, you can ride as many routes as you like as long as you do not exit the subway. The entire subway system is covered by your same single fare regardless of how long or how far you ride.

The New York City subway system is open all year round, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Typically every station is always operating. Free subway maps outlining the routes are available at subway station booths, or can be accessed online. Maps are available in several different languages.


The cash fare to ride the New York City subway is $2.50. Fares are cheaper if you use a MetroCard, which can be purchased at subway station booths, Metrocard vending machines, Metrocard bus and vans and neighborhood merchants.

Up to three children 44 inches tall and under ride for free on the New York City subway when accompanied by an adult.

Subway Safety

It can be very dangerous to stand to close to the edge of the platform. Riders are urged to stay well back from the edge and hold children’s hands when waiting for the train. It is advised not to lean over the edge of the platform to see if the train is approaching, as trains can come from either direction. Stay away from the edge of the platform. Before stepping onto the train, make sure the train has come to a complete stop.

Never go down onto the tracks if you have dropped something. Instead, use the station’s customer assistance intercom or tell a train station employee or police officer. Always keep off the tracks as they contain more than 600 volts of electricity.

When on a subway train, be smart and be aware of your surroundings. The emergency cord stops the train so use it only to prevent an accident or injury such as if someone is caught between closing doors. If someone is sick, do not pull the cord since it stops the train and prevents medical services from reaching you. It is better for the train to reach the next station so the person in need can receive medical attention as quickly as possible.


Due to the fact that many areas of the New York subway are more than a century old, not every station is equipped with elevators or escalators. Many stations are in the process of being renovated for wheelchair accessibility.

People with disabilities who are unable to access the subway may apply for Access-A-Ride door-to-door paratransit service. Paratransit refers to a “demand-response” service where customers who are eligible can book their trip in advance.

Click to visit the New York City Subway website.