BEA Part of It/New York, NY: If I Can Make It There

You’re here in NYC for BEA! And I hope that in addition to getting tons of lovely books, you’ll also take some time to explore the city. For some of you, this may be your first trip to NY but even if it’s not, the public transportation here can be pretty overwhelming. I’ve put together a list of tips and things you should know to help you figure out how to get around.
There’s a lot to say about subways so get ready!

Buying a Ticket
Before you even get on a subway, you will need to buy a Metro Card and you’ll almost always see machines at any entrance. Since most of you will only be here for a few days, you should either get Single Ride tickets ($2.75) which have to be used within 2 hours of purchase OR if you know that you’ll be using the subway a bit, just get a Metro Card with x amount of money on it. I suggest the latter so you won't have to constantly get on line for those machines (which can get pretty long!).

Which Subway to Take?
There are all these different subway lines and in different colors! Here’s my breakdown:

NQR (yellow) - along 5th/Broadway
BDFM (orange) - along 6th Ave
123 (red) - along 7th Ave
ACE (blue) - along 8th Ave
456 (green) - along Park Ave

I’d say for the most part, these 5 lines make roughly the same stops (ie. 42nd St, 34th St, 14th St, etc) but along different avenues. So whenever you’re trying to get to — whether it’s by subway, taxi or walking — you need to know the cross street and avenue.

7 (purple) | L/S (grey)
These two lines travel across avenues. So for example, if you had to get from Port Authority to Grand Central (or vice-versa), these are the subways to look at.

G (neon green) | JZ (brown) - runs mostly within Brooklyn
I am admittedly less familiar with these two. I didn’t even know about the G line until I started writing this up. Most likely, you won’t be taking these subways.

3 Main Subway Stations
  1. Port Authority (42nd & 8th Ave)
  2. Penn Station (33rd-34th, between 7th & 8th)
  3. Grand Central (42nd, Park Ave) — The prettiest station of the bunch!

Important things to know
  1. Rush hour is a crazy time at any of the aforementioned subway stations! So watch out when it’s 8-9am or 5-6pm. It gets super crowded and people are irritated when you get in their way. Don’t take it personally.
  2. This is a really, really important one. When you see an escalator, remember these words: WALK LEFT, STAND RIGHT. Yes, there are “lanes” when you use an escalator. If you plan to just stand, stay to your right. If you want to walk up/down, stay to your left. I have given many people the stink eye for not following this.
  3. Don’t be surprised by homeless people, musicians or random people asking for money on the subway. Most ignore them, while some do give money. If you see an empty subway car, chances are there’s a bum in there and people are avoiding the smell. (I know that sounds sad but it’s true.)
  4. Stick with local subways. Express may be faster but if you're not sure which stops they skip, local is a safer bet. 
There are two kinds of buses: MTA which is public transportation within NYC and NJTransit, which travel to/from NJ & NYC.

I don’t take MTA buses often. In fact, the only time I do is for BEA so I will just direct you to this informative map. You can pay for the bus with your Metro Card though, so that’s another good tidbit to know.

[Update! For BEA attendees, the subway stations at 34th street are going to be important stops. The M34 bus goes crosstown on 34th street, with a stop near the end of it's run conveniently by the Javits Center. (Thanks Angela!)]

I commute from NJ so I take NJTransit every day at Port Authority. You should know that the bus # and the gate # are two totally different things. So if you take the 192 bus for example, it won’t be at Gate 192. Definitely go to one of the info kiosks before standing in line for the wrong bus. Also, these buses usually don’t accept cash when you travel from NY —> NJ. Buy a ticket beforehand!
I personally don’t think taking a taxi is that expensive, especially if you’re sharing with a friend and can split the fare. I mean, I wouldn’t take them everywhere! But if you’re tired and lazy, just take a taxi and make sure you tell them the correct cross streets. On top of the yellow taxis (there are black ones which are like personal car service ones? I never take those), there’s a little sign and if you see the light on, that means it’s empty. (Also - all taxis accept cash or card)

Even with all this information and as someone who’s in the city every day, I still use Google or Apple Maps (if you don’t have these on your phone already, you should) and a transit app to help me out. Here are my recommendations:
  • Transit, HopStop or Embark NYC Subway. I've used all three and they all get the job done but I like Transit the best. Probably because it's simple, functional and pretty. (I'm a designer - I notice these things!)
  • If you just want a subway map on your phone and you're comfortable figuring out your route, download NYC Lite by KickMap.

To see my BEA Part Of It/New York, NY posts from last year ... 


  1. Ugh, don't even bother with the G train if you don't have to...I had to use it when I went to college in Brooklyn because it was the only subway for blocks. Service is terrible, the train itself is a dump, and very unsafe after 11pm-midnight if you're alone.

  2. For BEA attendees, the subway stations at 34th street are going to be important stops. The M34 bus goes crosstown on 34th street, with a stop near the end of it's run conveniently by the Javits Center. Get to 34th street and you'll be able to grab a bus within a block!

    The black cars are for car services - if you call for a cab, this is what's likely to show up. Sometimes they'll try to pick up people on the street, but technically that's illegal and you're unlikely to be able to use your credit card with them. Also, if you've street-hailed a black car, if they try to charge you an outrageous fare, you don't have any recourse. Calling ahead you can get the fee settled in advance, and of course the traditional yellow cabs have the fare meters.

    (You might also see an occasional green cab these days! These are the Boro Taxis, which can only pick up riders in the outer boroughs and the north end of Manhattan, but they can drop you off anywhere in the city. So if you're in Midtown and see a green car that looks like a taxi but is blowing past you, that's why)

  3. I love taking the subway, as weird as that sounds. Also, it took me FOREVER to figure out the difference between uptown and downtown, but I am good now. I wish this post had existed during my first BEA.

  4. You did a great job breaking down all the ways that people can get around NYC, Rachel! I feel like this would be helpful for anyone coming to visit, and not just people in town for BEA. Love that you thought to make this an addition to our series this year - it's a most helpful one!


with love,