The One Thing I Hate About Riding The NYC Subway

by joeheg

For the most part, I’m a big fan of using mass transit when in New York City. For most places tourists visit, there’s likely a subway line nearby. If you’re an obsessive planner like me, you’ll try to stay at a hotel that’s convenient to get to from the airport and for whatever other locations you’re visiting during your trip.

For instance, if we’re flying to JFK, I’ll try to find a hotel that’s close to either the A or E lines, which are the two train lines that directly connect to the JFK Airtrain from Manhattan.

If we’re going to see a Broadway show during our stay, I’ll also try to find a hotel that’s near a subway line that will take us to somewhere in Midtown between 42nd and 47th Streets.

While this map may look like a spaghetti model, if you’re from the New York City area, it makes perfect sense.

a map of a city

Using this and Google Maps to help with the subway schedules, I can find the optimal place to stay for each trip. That is except for one problem – service changes.

I understand that with a large transportation system like the New York City Subway, there are times when you have to take certain lines out of service for repairs. I appreciate that the MTA does major repairs over weekends, especially 3-day holiday weekends. when the least number of passengers will be affected.

However, unless you’re well versed with the NY subway system, most of these system outage messages are written in a code to which you do not have a decoder ring.

Here are a series of notices posted at a major tourist subway stop at 47th St-Rockefeller Center during a trip to NY.

If you were looking to head to Coney Island, you’d have to get off the Subway and take the bus.

a sign on a pole

If you’re headed to JFK Airport, too bad. You’ll need to lug your suitcases over to the E train at the Queens-bound F platform.

a sign on a post

I still can’t make sense of these next two signs. On Monday to Friday evenings, the trains aren’t stopping here. Not to mention, this sign is posted on the track after you’ve paid your fare. But if you’re headed to Brooklyn, the D train will make F stops and vice versa, whatever that means.

a sign on a wall

a sign on a wallFor our weekend trip, the F train, which went from the Lower East Side to 42nd Street, wasn’t running. So we needed to take a train down to Canal St and change trains.

To make things worse, when trying to get back to our hotel, there was an announcement that our train was delayed due to a medical emergency and ……

At least that’s what I could get from it.

Fortunately, I found on Google Maps that the other train which stopped at the station also headed downtown. We had to walk 1/2 a mile from the subway stop to our hotel but at least we were able to get back to the room safely.

Final Thoughts

I get that track closures are inevitable, either from planned maintenance or emergencies. That’s where the MTA’s out-of-date station infrastructure shows its limitations. While some stations will show the arrival time of trains, at most locations you’re in the dark unless you already know the schedule.

And when there’s a delay or diversion, the PA system is insufficient to tell people how to get where they want to go.

Until things change, we’ll keep giving ourselves extra time to get to our destination when using the NY subway or take a Taxi or Uber/Lyft if things get really bad.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

1 comment

JohnB October 5, 2022 - 1:19 am

I guess I’m used to these signs, as my whole family is from NYC. I think all the changes are on the MTA website. Usually there are signs at the turnstiles, so you can see them before paying the fare. My opinion is that these signs are mainly for commuters who know the ins and outs of each line. And, yes, there are commuters 24/7/365 on MTA services.


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