7 Transportation Alternatives in NYC
Check out our guide to transportation alternatives in New York City. Discover new ways to travel in the city.
Filled with a mix of tourists from around the world and locals looking to get to work or make their dinner reservations, the streets and community of New York City are always alive and buzzing.
If you’re staying in New York City for work, first see our guide to the best co-working spaces in New York City—but no matter your reason for coming to NYC, you’ll be happy to hear there are lots of alternative transportation services NYC offers.
From a morning commute on the ferry to a day of errands done in a ZipCar, our NYC transportation guide has tips and tricks on traveling throughout the city. Whether you’re more of a hands-on traveler, or you like to sit back and relax, there’s something in this list for everyone.
If you’re looking for an easy way to get around in the city and surrounding area, ZipCar is a fantastic form of NYC transportation. ZipCar is the world’s leading car-sharing network and offers on-demand access to cars by the hour or the day. What this means is that you can wake up in the morning, have a cup of coffee, and decide on a whim you want to drive out to the Hamptons or up to the Catskills. Just join online, book your roundtrip car by the hour or the day, then return it when you’re finished. You’ll use your ZipCard to lock up and that’s that. ZipCar offers an easy transportation alternative when you’re looking to be on your own schedule. Choose from smaller cars like a Ford Focus or Honda Civic or opt for a cargo van if you need more room. Whatever vehicle you choose, the day is yours.
Running every 7 to 15 minutes from 59th Street and Second Avenue in Manhattan to Tramway Plaza on Roosevelt Island, the Roosevelt Island Tramway is one of the more unique forms of New York public transport. Hitch a ride on this modern aerial tramway to see the East River, the Upper East Side, and the entire city skyline from a whole new perspective. The tramway is one of the few aerial commuter tramways in North America, so even if you have nowhere to “commute to” it’s worth the ride. The best time to do the trip, if you aren’t planning on roaming around Roosevelt Island, is between the hours of 10 am and 3 pm. This will help you avoid rush hour on the tram and will ensure a pleasant ride. The ride is short, about 3-5 minutes across the river, and costs $2.75 each way. Seniors are $1.25 and kids are free, so bring the whole gang, if you’d like.
If you’re trying to skip traffic and find a collaborative transportation alternative, NYC is home to Citi Bike. Serving Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and Jersey City, Citi Bike is New York’s official bike-sharing system. Biking is faster than walking, cheaper than a taxi, and more fun than the subway. If you’re a visitor or tourist, try out the day pass, and take a ride to Central Park or along the Hudson River Greenway. 24 hours of a Citi Bike short-term pass will cost you $12, or you can opt for the 72-hour pass for $24. If you’re a New York local or planning to be in the area often, you might consider the annual membership. For $169 per year, you’ll get unlimited 45-minute rides on a classic Citi Bike. Run your errands, go grocery shopping, or take a quick ride around the city just for fun. Overall, Citi Bike is NYC transportation that was designed for quick trips, convenience, and affordability. With 13,000 bikes and over 850 stations across Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and Jersey City—you’ll have no problem finding two wheels to get you around town—just be wary of pedestrians.
Popular ride-hailing programs Uber and Lyft navigate throughout the city and are a good option when you don’t want to do the subway, but don’t want to drive, either. If you know where you are going, get an estimate with the app and see how much it will cost. If you’ve yet to dive into the world of ride-hailing apps, the way Uber and Lyft work is pretty straightforward and simple. You use the mobile app to submit a trip request. This is automatically sent to an Uber or Lyft driver near you and alerts the driver of your location. The driver then comes to pick you up and take you to your requested location. You pay, give them a rating if you’d like, and all is good. For a transportation alternative, NYC’s ride-hailing programs do a good job of getting you where you need to go. If you’d rather go the route of a taxi, you know the drill. Hail one like they do in all the popular New York City movies—and make sure to ask beforehand about flat rates. Going to and from some places, like the airport, can cost about the same in a taxi or Uber/Lyft. Currently, taxis at JFK Airport charge a flat fare of $52 for trips between the airport and Manhattan with a $4.50 surcharge during peak hours.
A semi-formal and well-known transportation alternative, NYC’s Dollar Vans serve major corridors in Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx. The Dollar Vans are known to be fast and cheap and are a great way to get around if you’re looking to forego the subway. Board the van at their designated stops or hail them as you would a taxi. Keep in mind that in Queens and Flatbush ($2 per ride), you can request a drop-off anywhere along the route, but in Chinatown, Flushing, and Sunset Park ($3-$4 a ride), you must board and depart at designated stops. The commuter vans have visible markings to help you pick them out from a crowd, like the blue diamond decals located in each rear passenger door, the windshield, and the rear door window. The license plates are another way to make sure the vans are legitimate, as they’ll begin with a T and ends with C, or end with either: LV, LB, LA, or BB. Once you nail down the Dollar Vans, they’re a super-easy way to get around (they now even have an app where you can check and leave driver reviews).
Operated by Hornblower, the NYC Ferry is a dependable and beautiful way for commuters to connect in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx along the East River. The ferries are the same price as a subway ride and offer perks like charging stations and concessions. For an NYC public transit alternative, the ferries are safe and easy to use. There are ticket vending machines at each ferry location, or you can hop on board the greenway by downloading the tickets through the mobile app. The six routes span more than 60 miles of nautical waterways and connect visitors and locals to neighborhoods, parks, job centers, and more. Grab some concessions at the New Stand then sit back and read your book while you meander along the water — your commute is now far more luxurious.
If you’ve ever been to New York City, then you’ve seen the pedicabs—and have most likely been asked if you’d like a ride. Pedicabs are bicycle-powered rickshaw-type vehicles and a popular transportation alternative NYC is known for. The pedicabs are everywhere throughout the city, similar to the horse-drawn carriages, and offer a unique form of New York public transport. Catering more to tourists who are looking for a romantic ride through Central Park, rather than a city local who wants to get to the office, the pedicabs are a fun experience, but make sure to choose wisely (there’s the occasional horror story of people being overcharged). In recent years, NYC passed a law that required the pedicabs to charge the passengers on a per-minute rate with no additional fees. This rate should be posted and typically ranges from $3 to $10 per minute.
From the pedicabs to the ferries, if you’re on the hunt for a transportation alternative, NYC is home to quite a few. Try one out or try them all to see what your favorite mode of travel is in the Big Apple.
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