New York: Transportation

Approaching the City

The two major New York City airports saw a combined total of 54,215,216 passengers pass through their gates in 2003. Thousands of flights depart each day from New York to more than 500 destination cities around the world. John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) handles the most international flights—more than 200 a day—of any other airport, in addition to domestic traffic. LaGuardia Airport, somewhat closer to Manhattan, offers mostly domestic connections. Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey also serves the metropolitan area. A rapid rail link to Newark Liberty was completed in 2001 and construction on the JFK and LaGuardia branches of the AirTrain system are expected to be complete within the next few years, creating easier access to the airfields while reducing traffic.

Interstate, U.S., and state highways form a virtual web around and through the New York City area, with I-495, I-95, and U.S. 1 being primary routes. The New Jersey Turnpike (Interstate 95) is the major artery leading into the city from the south. From the north, the New York Thruway (Interstate 87) connects with the Major Deegan Expressway, which follows the east side of the Harlem River through the Bronx. The New England Thruway (another part of I-95) also leads into the city from the north. Interstate 80 from western New Jersey parallels I-95 as it approaches New York City.

The two main train stations, Pennsylvania and Grand Central, serve as both commuter and long-distance terminals for more than 600,000 people every day, as well as providing Amtrak connections. In the past decade, Grand Central Station underwent a renovation that restored it to its previous magnificence, with a gourmet food market, five restaurants and lounges, entertainment, and updated information kiosks. The Port Authority Bus Terminal—the largest in the world—is the main station for bus transportation locally and nationally.

Traveling in the City

New York City consists of a collection of islands, making bridges and tunnels an important aspect of navigation. The Lincoln Tunnel connects Interstate 495 to Manhattan, and Queens links up via the Long Island Expressway. The Brooklyn Bridge in the southern part of Manhattan crosses the water to the eponymous borough, and the Holland Tunnel gets commuters to New Jersey. In all, there are 12 major bridges or tunnels connecting the boroughs.

Traffic in New York is probably the heaviest in the nation. The term "gridlock," a traffic jam out of which no one can move, was invented there and many intersections are clogged during any given day. Many residents do not own cars, relying instead on plentiful taxis or public transportation. A $100 million system of sensors has been installed under the city's roadways to enable the New York City Transportation Department to monitor congestion, identify trouble spots, and control the flow of traffic by changing the duration of traffic lights. Much of Manhattan is laid out in a grid pattern, but other boroughs require a good street map for visitors. Broadway Avenue runs from north to south through the city, intersecting the numbered east-west streets. Parking in a garage in Manhattan ranges from $6.00 to $15.00 per hour.

Subways are one of the best bargains in the city. A $1.50 token or Metrocard fare payment permits travel on more than 704 miles of subway track, including local and express trains. The subway system is well-maintained and policed so that it is much safer and cleaner than its somewhat unshakeable 1970s-era reputation would indicate. Subways and buses are the only sure way to beat Manhattan's numbing gridlock on surface streets. Many New Yorkers walk or ride bikes to their destinations.