GETTING AROUND: A DIY GUIDE
BENJAMIN KABAK | Photos: Victor llorente
It's a Saturday and you want to get around New York City, but the F train is making stops along the D in Brooklyn and the E in Manhattan, the 2 and 3 aren't running south of Chambers St., and signal problems have torpedoed service along the N, R, and Q trains. Or it's a Tuesday morning and, well, have you noticed that the MTA melts down every during any hour that might have a shot at being considered be rush hour? The subway isn't what it once was, and short, easy trips are often infuriatingly unreliable. But the subway isn't the be-all and end-all of travel in New York City. Anyone looking to get around town, with or without the subways, has plenty of low-cost, versatile options in 2018, and most won't run up against inscrutable delays.
Here’s what’s available to you:
Don't leave the fate of your travel in the hands of the MTA: take to control of it with your feet instead. NYC's bike share program covers most of Manhattan and brownstone Brooklyn, Williamsburg and Greenpoint, and western Queens. For $169 a year—not much more than the cost of one 30-day Metrocard—enjoy unlimited 45-minute rides around town and the exercise benefits to boot. Motivate, the bike share's parent company, recently introduced 200 e-bikes into the system, and the lucky riders who can find them can zip around town at nearly 20 miles per hour.
Beware the day pass rates though: a $12 24-hour pass makes Citi Bike an expensive short-term option, and a $3 single-ride charge exceeds the cost of a subway fare. Not to mention that New York drivers remain a safety hazard on the road for any cyclist.
Dockless Bike share
Though the invasion of the electric scooters hasn't arrived in New York City (yet), dockless bikes have descended upon parts of the city isolated from the Citi Bike network. The Rockaways, Staten Island's North Shore, and the Fordham neighborhood in the Bronx host the city's pilot programs, which are testing out a bike share that doesn't require a dock. Download the respective app (JUMP, Lime, Pace, or CitiBike), unlock a bike, and leave it on the sidewalk at the end of a ride. It's that simple. Each bike is about $1-2 per ride (though Citi Bike members can use the ones in the Bronx as part of the regular membership), but beware of the geographical limitations. Bikes left outside of the pilot zone are subject to a hefty fine.
East River Ferries
As his signature transportation achievement, Mayor Bill de Blasio has invested nearly $600 million in an East River ferry system, and boats now run from Soundview in the Bronx, Astoria, and Long Island City; the Brooklyn and Manhattan East River waterfronts; and Bay Ridge and the Rockaways. For the same cost as a MetroCard swipe ($2.75), enjoy a nice day on the water for your commute to Wall Street, Midtown, or that weekend trip out to the beach. If you live and work near the water, the boats are a great way to avoid the hassle of the subways, but with service only every 20-30 minutes at best, they fill up quickly, especially with tourists and on the weekends. It’s also worth noting that not everyone (myself included) is convinced a ferry system with boats that fit only a few hundred people is a smart use of taxpayer money.
If you can't stand the thought of another transit trip with only a few inches of personal space and crammed up against someone's armpit, Car2Go, a car-share network with parking spots through the western parts of Queens and Brooklyn, may be right for you. One of those tiny Smart cars cost just 41 cents a minute, with relatively affordable hour and day rates. On the downside, you'll have to contend with traffic. Driving in the city isn't for the faint of heart, and you'll feel each and every pothole on the BQE in those tiny cars.
(Honorable mention: the fun electric mopeds operating in North Brooklyn, courtesy of local startup Revel. They run $4 a ride, but tack on a one-time $25 registration fee.)
Taxis and Ubers (and Lyfts)
The yellow taxi remains an iconic part of NYC lore, even as Uber and Lyft and Via and every other app-based hailing service has flooded NYC streets with black cars. Stick your arm out and flag down a yellow cab or a green one if you're outside of the cordon area in Manhattan. Or fire up that phone and call for an Uber. Fares vary based on time and distance, but those charges and tick up quickly especially in all the traffic created by these new cars flooding city streets—which is why the city recently signed off on a one-year cap on new ride-hail vehicles. An average cab fare from Midtown to Brooklyn will run you from $30-$40 though pool services can bring down the price (and take you through some new neighborhoods as well).
The Subway and MTA Buses
If nothing else here seems appealing enough, it's still tough to beat the subway and buses. For regular commuters, a 30-day pass costs $121 but it pays for itself after 47 rides. That's just a month of daily commuting, and a handful of other rides sprinkled throughout. And when the subways work, there's no faster way from Forest Hills to the Financial District, or Bay Ridge to the Bronx. Sure, you may be stuck in traffic or underground for an unforeseen amount of time, but who doesn't want to live the ethos of Dick O'Neill's character in The Taking of Pelham One Two Three uber-NYC subway movie classic: "Screw the passengers. What the hell did they expect for their lousy 35 cents—to live forever?"
(Honorable mention: just walking.)