New York City subways (metro/train).

9/20/2018 – The New York City Subway is the largest rapid transit system in the world by number of stations, with 472 stations in operation (424 if stations connected by transfers are counted as single stations). Stations are located throughout the boroughs of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx. The Staten Island Railway is not officially considered part of the subway, as it lacks a rail link with the subway system, so passengers traveling between Staten Island and another borough must take the Staten Island Ferry or an MTA bus; free transfers are allowed to the subway and bus systems. The PATH in Manhattan and New Jersey and the AirTrain JFK in Queens[18] both accept the subway’s MetroCard but are not operated by the MTA and do not allow free transfers. However, the Roosevelt Island Tramway does allow free transfers to the MTA and bus systems, even though it is also not operated by the MTA.

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The system is also one of the world’s longest. Overall, the system contains 236 miles (380 km) of routes, translating into 665 miles (1,070 km) of revenue track; and a total of 850 miles (1,370 km) including non-revenue trackage.

By annual ridership, the New York City Subway is the busiest rapid transit rail system in both the Western Hemisphere and the Western world, as well as the eighth busiest rapid transit rail system in the world; only the metro (subway) systems in Beijing, Shanghai, Seoul, Guangzhou, Tokyo, Moscow, and Hong Kong record higher annual ridership. In 2017, the subway delivered over 1.72 billion rides, averaging approximately 5.6 million daily rides on weekdays and a combined 5.7 million rides each weekend (3.2 million on Saturdays; 2.5 million on Sundays). On September 23, 2014, more than 6.1 million people rode the subway system, establishing the highest single-day ridership since ridership was regularly monitored in 1985.

Of the system’s 25 services, 22 pass through Manhattan, the exceptions being the G train, the Franklin Avenue Shuttle, and the Rockaway Park Shuttle. Large portions of the subway outside Manhattan are elevated, on embankments, or in open cuts, and a few stretches of track run at ground level. In total, 40% of track is above ground, despite the “subway” moniker. Many lines and stations have both express and local services. These lines have three or four tracks. Normally, the outer two are used for local trains, while the inner one or two are used for express trains. Stations served by express trains are typically major transfer points or destinations.

Lines and routes

Many rapid transit systems run relatively static routings, so that a train “line” is more or less synonymous with a train “route”. In New York City, however, routings change often because of changes in the availability of connections or the setup of service patterns. Within the nomenclature of the subway, the “line” describes the physical railroad track or series of tracks that a train “route” uses on its way from one terminal to another. “Routes” (also called “services”) are distinguished by a letter or a number and “Lines” have names. They are also designations for trains, as exemplified in the Billy Strayhorn song “Take the “A” Train”.

There are 25 train services in the subway system, including three short shuttles. Each route has a color and a local or express designation representing the Manhattan trunk line of the particular service. The color light green is exclusively assigned to the Crosstown Line route, which operates entirely outside Manhattan, while the shuttles are all assigned dark gray. The lines and services are not referred to by color (e.g., Blue Line or Green Line) by native New Yorkers or by most New York City residents, but out-of-towners and tourists often refer to the subway lines by color.

The 1, C, G, L, M, R, and W trains are fully local and make all stops. The 2, 3, 4, 5, A, B, D, E, F, N and Q trains have portions of express and local service. The J train normally operates local, but during rush hours it is joined by the Z train in the peak direction; both the J and Z run local, express or skip-stop on different parts of their shared route. The 6 and 7 are also fully local, but during rush-hours, express variants of the routes, designated by diamond-shaped route markers, are operated alongside the locals. The letter S is used for three shuttle services: Franklin Avenue Shuttle, Rockaway Park Shuttle, and 42nd Street Shuttle.

Though the subway system operates on a 24-hour basis, during late night hours some of the designated routes do not run, run as a shorter route (often referred to as the ‘shuttle train’ version of its full-length counterpart) or run with a different stopping pattern. These are usually indicated by smaller, secondary route signage on station platforms. Because there is no nightly system shutdown for maintenance, tracks and stations must be maintained while the system is operating. This work sometimes necessitates service changes during midday, overnight hours, and weekends.

When parts of lines are temporarily shut down for construction purposes, the transit authority can substitute free shuttle buses (using MTA Regional Bus Operations bus fleet) to replace the routes that would normally run on these lines. The Transit Authority announces planned service changes through its website ( , via placards that are posted on station and interior subway-car walls, and through its Twitter page (“NYCT Subway (@NYCTSubway).


In November 1993, the subway system introduced a fare system called the MetroCard, which allows riders to use cards that store the value equal to the amount paid to a station booth clerk or vending machine. The MetroCard was enhanced in 1997 to allow passengers to make free transfers between subways and buses within two hours; several MetroCard-only transfers between subway stations were added in 2001. With the addition of unlimited-ride MetroCards in 1998 (for 7-day and 30-day periods, later 1-day “Fun Pass” and 14-day periods, both of which have been discontinued), the New York City Transit system was the last major transit system in the United States with the exception of BART in San Francisco to introduce passes for unlimited bus and rapid transit travel.

In April 2016, MTA solicited proposals for a contactless “New Fare Payment System” to replace the MetroCard by 2022. On October 23, 2017, it was announced that the MetroCard would be phased out and replaced by a contactless fare payment system also by Cubic, with fare payment being made using Apple Pay, Google Pay, debit/credit cards with near-field communication technology, or radio-frequency identification cards. The October 23 announcement calls for the expansion of this system to a general-use electronic fare payment system at 500 subway turnstiles and 600 buses by late 2018, with all buses and subway stations using electronic fare collection by 2020. However, support of the MetroCard is slated to remain until 2023.

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9/5/2018 Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue subway station. Brooklyn, New York City. Photo by
9/5/2018 Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue subway station. Brooklyn, New York City.
Photo by

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