Transportation

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New York City has the most extensive and complex mass transit infrastructure in North America. The entire system extends over the Eastern Seaboard and links up New York with other important cities in the Northeast Corridor such as Boston, Philadelphia, Albany, Newark, D.C., Baltimore, New Haven, Hartford, etc.

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Contents

Public Transportation

Because of the density of the population and the extensiveness of the network, New York City is distinguished from other cities for its low personal automobile ownership and its significant use of public transportation. New York City has, by far, the highest rate of public transportation use of any American city, with 54.2% of workers commuting to work by this means in an average year. About one in every three users of mass transit in the United States and two-thirds of the nation's rail riders live in New York City or its suburbs. New York is the only city in the United States where over half of all households do not own a car. Manhattan's non-ownership is even higher - around 75%; nationally, the rate is 8%. This is because it is simply not practical to own a car in Manhattan. Logistically it’s impossible to move from place to place efficiently in one. Parking is a nightmare and expensive. Houses do not come with parking spaces and so garaging a car effectively is problematic and also expensive. Further, insurance rates in the city are high and in for commuters from North Jersey it’s even worse as the State’s corrupt government has ensured that New Jerseyans pay through the nose for any car they drive. The farther out one goes from Manhattan the more common it is for residents to own a car. In some parts of Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx households might have the need for one car, but rarely two. However, Staten Island resembles most American suburbs and there car ownership is more common.

New York City also has the longest mean travel time for commuters (39 minutes) among major U.S. cities. Which pales in comparison to driving as one can spend up to two hours waiting to enter Manhattan from anyone of its tunnels, bridges and ferries during peak hours. The Holland Tunnel (one of the main entry points from New Jersey) is busy non-stop nearly taking an hour or more to traverse even during off-hours. Under conditions such as these, the convenience of owning a car quickly turns into an expensive pain in the ass and so most New Yorkers look to car rental solutions if they are planning a road trip over the weekend. A popular mode of transport for those can afford it is “black car” services where clients keep monthly accounts with livery companies or common taxi services. Otherwise the best and most used system in the city is the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).

Rail

The MTA, a public benefit corporation in the state of New York, runs all of the city's subways and buses and two of its three commuter rail networks. Ridership in the city increased 36% to 2.2 billion annual riders from 1995 to 2005, far outpacing population growth. Average weekday subway ridership was 5.076 million in September 2006, while combined subways and bus ridership on an average weekday that month was 7.61 million.

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It links up the entire city (except Staten Island, which is served by the Staten Island Railway) with a network of buses and subways using one MetroCard that can be purchased at any subway station. The card is loaded with chunks of ridership access either by amount of rides or by days. For tourists, there are one-day unlimited fun passes while for residents purchasing quarterly or monthly access is the better choice.

Life in New York City is so dependent on the subways that the city is home to two of only four 24-hour subway systems in the world. In fact the subway system is part of New York culture, being a favorite venue for street performers and public artistic displays.

Other rail systems (including Amtrak) link up to the MTA at one of two transportation hubs in Manhattan, Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal. This way it is possible for someone in Chicago to come and take the train into the city and link up seamlessly to the MTA at one of the stations and attend a business meeting in Manhattan without missing a beat.

PATH

The Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) is a rapid transit system that links Manhattan to Jersey City, Hoboken, Harrison and Newark, in New Jersey. A primary transit link between Manhattan and New Jersey, PATH carries 240,000 passengers each weekday on four lines. While some PATH stations are adjacent to subway stations in New York City and Newark as well as Hudson-Bergen Light Rail stations in Hudson County, there are no free transfers. The PATH system spans 13.8 miles (22.2 km) of route mileage, not including track overlap. Like the New York City Subway, PATH operates 24 hours a day. Opened in 1908 as the Hudson and Manhattan Railroad, a privately owned corporation, PATH since 1962 has been operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Commuter Rail

New York City's commuter rail system is the most extensive in the United States, with about 250 stations and 20 rail lines serving more than 150 million commuters annually in the tri-state region. Commuter rail service from the suburbs is operated by two agencies. The MTA operates the Long Island Rail Road on Long Island and the Metro-North Railroad in the Hudson Valley and Connecticut. New Jersey Transit operates the rail network on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River.

Buses

As previously stated, buses make up part of the MTA network and are a real integral part of the system. The system is extensive with over 5,900 buses carrying about 2.01 million passengers every day on more than 200 local routes and 30 express routes. Buses owned by MTA account for 80% of the city's surface mass transit and run in conjunction with the subways 24hours a day. The Port Authority Bus Terminal, near Times Square, is the busiest bus station in the United States and the main gateway for interstate buses into New York City. The terminal serves both commuter routes, mainly operated by the New Jersey Transit, and national routes operated by companies such as Greyhound and Peter Pan.

Pedestrians, Skaters, and Bicycles

One of the most convenient methods of transportation in New York City is of course walking. Cycling and in-line skating as well have become mainstays with New Yorkers on the move because the city has provided generous bike lanes. Additionally, the city has plans to expand its over 500 miles of to 1,800 miles by 2030. In 2009, an estimated 200,000 city residents bicycle on a typical day, and make 655,000 trips each day, greater than the number of the ten most popular bus routes in the city. The City Department of Transportation estimates there are an additional two in-line skaters for every cyclist in New York. Walk and bicycle modes of travel account for 21% of all modes for trips in the city; nationally the rate for metro regions is about 8%. In 2000 New York had the largest number of walking commuters among large American cities in both total number and as a proportion of all commuters: 517,290, or 5.6%.

For pedestrians it should be noted that the sidewalks of New York are jammed with people. On main thoroughfares during weekdays, they are literally packed like sardines trying to navigate a strong current. Still, with no parking fees and the ability to maneuver at will, it’s one of the most efficient ways to get around the city.

New York Trivia: It's also worth mentioning how New Yorkers refer to their headings in relation to their current physical location. Heading northwards is always referred to as going "uptown". Heading south is always referred to as heading "downtown". If your character was in The Bronx and he was heading to Harlem he's still going downtown even though Harlem is in Uptown Manhattan. That's because it's south of the Bronx. Up and down is always relative. 

Ferries

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The busiest ferry in the United States is the Staten Island Ferry, which annually carries over 19 million passengers on the 5.2 mile (8.4 km) run between St. George Ferry Terminal and South Ferry. Service is provided 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and takes approximately 25 minutes each way. Each day eight boats transport almost 65,000 passengers during 104 boat trips. Over 33,000 trips are made annually. The Ferry has remained free of charge since 1997. Vehicles have not been allowed on the Ferry since September 11th, though bicycles are permitted on the lower level at no cost. The ferry ride is a favorite of tourists as it provides excellent views of the Lower Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty.

Since the 1980s ferry service on the Hudson River and East River has been restored and significantly expanded providing regular service to points in Manhattan, mostly below 42nd Street. Pier 11 at Wall Street, East 35th Street, and new landings at West Midtown Ferry Terminal and Battery Park City Ferry Terminal are major embarkation points. The terminals are run in public-private partnership with privately owned carriers. Under the NY Waterway logo routes are run to Hoboken Terminal, Weehawken Port Imperial, Edgewater Landing, and Paulus Hook Ferry Terminal as well as other ferry slips along the west bank of the Hudson in New Jersey. It also operates routes to the Raritan Bayshore, as does SeaStreak. New York Water Taxi makes East River crossings to a variety of slips in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens including Fulton Ferry and Red Hook. Liberty Water Taxi travels between BPC Ferry Terminal and Liberty State Park in Jersey City stopping at Paulus Hook. The companies also run seasonal excursions, notably to the Yankee Stadium and Gateway National Recreation Area beaches.

Additionally, there is year-round ferry service to Ellis Island and Liberty Island and seasonal service to Governor's Island, Circle Line Downtown, and Circle Line Sightseeing, operate tourist routes into the Upper New York Bay or circumnavigate Manhattan.

Roads and Freeways

Manhattan follows a grid system with twelve numbered avenues that run parallel to the Hudson River and 220 numbered streets that run perpendicular to it.

Main entries to the city by car are in any number of tunnels and bridges some of which have become iconic landmarks like the Brooklyn Bridge. Other bridges include: the Williamsburg Bridge and Manhattan Bridge (both cross the [East River). The Queensboro Bridge links Manhattan and Queens. The borough of Staten Island is connected to Brooklyn through the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. The George Washington Bridge, spanning the Hudson River between New York City and Fort Lee, New Jersey, is the world's busiest bridge in terms of vehicular traffic.

The Lincoln Tunnel, which carries 120,000 vehicles per day under the Hudson River between New Jersey and Manhattan, is the world's busiest vehicular tunnel. The Holland Tunnel, also under the Hudson River, was the first mechanically ventilated vehicular tunnel in the world and is considered a National Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers. Two other notable tunnels connect Manhattan to other places; one is the Queens Midtown Tunnel, and the other the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. At 9,117 feet (2,779 m), the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel is the longest underwater tunnel in North America.

Expressways - A less favored alternative to commuting by rail and boat is the New York region's outdated and congested expressway network, designed by Robert Moses. The city's extensive network of expressways includes four primary Interstate Highways: I-78, I-80, I-87, and I-95. I-278 and I-287 each serve as a partial beltway around the city. The Long Island Expressway begins at the Queens Midtown Tunnel and runs through the heart of Queens east into the Long Island suburbs.

Also designed by Moses are a series of limited-access parkways, which are frequently congested with traffic as well, despite the fact that they were designed from the outset to only carry cars, as opposed to commercial trucks or buses. The FDR Drive and Harlem River Drive are two such routes through Manhattan. The Henry Hudson Parkway, the Bronx River Parkway and the Hutchinson River Parkway link the Bronx to nearby Westchester County and its parkways, and the Grand Central Parkway and Belt Parkway provide similar functions for Long Island's parkway system.

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Taxis and Black Cars - There are 13,087 taxis operating in New York City, not including over 40,000 other for-hire vehicles (black cars and limos). Their distinctive yellow paint has made them New York icons. Taxicabs are operated by private companies and licensed by the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission. "Medallion taxis", the familiar yellow cabs, are the only vehicles in the city permitted to pick up passengers in response to a street hail. A cab’s availability is indicated by the lights on the top of the car. When just the center light showing the medallion number is lit, the cab is empty and available. When no lights are lit, the cab is occupied by passengers.

Air and Sea

Airports

There are no less than three major international airports serving the New York metro area: John F. Kennedy International (also known as JFK), Newark Liberty International, and LaGuardia. Teterboro serves as a primary general aviation airport. JFK and Newark both connect to regional rail systems by a light rail service.

Heliports

Manhattan has three public heliports, used mostly by business travelers. A regularly-scheduled helicopter service operates flights to JFK Airport from the Downtown Manhattan Heliport, located at the eastern end of Wall Street. There are also the East 34th Street Heliport and the West 30th Street Heliport.

Seaports

The Port of New York and New Jersey, with its natural advantages of deep water channels and protection from the Atlantic Ocean, has historically been one of the most important ports in the United States, and is now the third busiest in the United States behind Los Angeles and Long Beach, California in the amount of volume. Each year, more than 25 million tons of ocean borne general cargo moves through the port, including 4.5 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) of containerized cargo. In 2005 more than 5,300 ships delivered goods to the port that went to 35% of the U.S. population. The port is experiencing rapid growth. Shipments increased nearly 12% in 2005. There are three cargo terminals on the New York City side of the harbor, including the Howland Hook Marine Terminal, Red Hook Container Terminal, Brooklyn Marine Terminal in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Several additional cargo terminals and a passenger terminal are on the New Jersey side.

The New York Harbor is also a major hub for passenger ships. More than half a million people depart annually from Manhattan's New York Passenger Ship Terminal on the Hudson River, accounting for five percent of the worldwide cruise industry and employing 21,000 residents in the city. The Queen Mary 2, the world's second largest passenger ship and one of the few traditional ocean liners still in service, was designed specifically to fit under the Verrazano Bridge, itself the longest suspension bridge in the United States. The Brooklyn Cruise Terminal is her regular port of call for transatlantic runs from Southampton, England. Cape Liberty Cruise Port in Bayonne is the third passenger terminal service the city.

Originally focused on Brooklyn's waterfront, especially at the Brooklyn Army Terminal in Sunset Park, most container ship cargo operations have shifted to the Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal on Newark Bay. The terminal, operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is the largest port complex on the East Coast. $114.54 billion of cargo passed through the Port of New York and New Jersey in 2004. The top five trading partners at the port are China, Italy, Germany, Brazil and India.

Water quality in the New York Harbor improved dramatically in the late 20th century. New Yorkers regularly kayak and sail in the harbor, which has become a major recreational site for the city.

Environmental Impact

New Yorkers are well-informed and thoughtful people and as such it has been quite keen to keep up with California in embracing green initiatives. Some of this is borne out of a social conscience, but most of it is out of the desire to have a higher quality of life in the city. The New York City in the summers can get quite unpleasant with the amount of asphalt and glass trapping heat on the streets below. Anything to help alleviate the miserable conditions is met enthusiastically by its citizens.

So fortunately for New Yorkers, their habit of using mass transit has been a huge boon in keeping the city’s vehicular carbon footprint at a minimum and making the transition to green vehicles relatively painless. Most of the fleets of mass transit vehicles servicing the city have been fitted with alternative fuel solutions and even the taxis are converting over to hybrids.

Now if they could only do something about those assholes in New Jersey…

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