How To Use A Subway System

Many U.S. cities have subway systems to transport locals and visitors around the city. Some tips to help you navigate these underground transit systems.

Every day, millions of people in major U.S. cities, hop onto a subway to travel to work and school. To these savvy city residents, this is just a routine part of their day, and most probably don't give it much thought at all. But for tourists visiting these cities, the prospect of traveling by subway can be somewhat daunting. To the out-of-towner, the various subway lines look like tangled skeins of yarn, and just the thought of trying to get around in this manner can be unnerving. However, traveling by subway is a fast, efficient, and inexpensive way to get around a city, and with a little preparation, tourists can quickly learn to navigate through the maze.

Before you travel to a city that has a subway, go online and find a website that offers maps and other information about the city's system. In New York, the line is called MTA/PATH and in Boston, the MBTA. The Atlanta subway network is called MARTA and in L.A., the MTA. The subways of Washington DC are known as WMATA and in San Francisco you will use MUNI/BART. Commuters in Chicago use the CTA. For example, searching for a "Boston subway map" will result in a number of websites all offering maps of the city's subway system.

Print out a copy of the map for the city to which you are traveling and become familiar with the arrangement of the various lines. In New York, the different rail lines are designated by numbers and letters. Boston, Washington DC, and Chicago use colors to designate the different lines, while Atlanta has the North, South, East and West lines. These maps indicate which streets are served by the various lines and the location of the hub points.

Using a street map and the subway map, pinpoint the hotel in which you are staying and the location of the various places that you plan to visit while in the city. Jot down the lines that you will need to use to get from place to place, including any transfers, and familiarize yourself with this information. You should also check to find out cost of fares, and whether or not you will need to purchase tokens or tickets or can use cash.

Once you arrive at your destination, it's time to put your plans into action. Using your map and pre-plotted directions, find the location of the subway line and get ready for your first trip. In some cities, the subways run underground and many lines converge in one location. The entrances to these underground stations are usually marked with the name, color or number of the line, and the street name.

Once you get underground, look on the wall for a map. The various lines should also be listed. You may have to walk a bit to get to the right platform. Find the correct train and get on board. If no seats are available, you can stand up during the trip but hold on to the overhead handles during the ride. Each city has a certain degree of subway etiquette, and normally, people tend to stay to themselves and keep a respectable distance. For men, it's best not to keep your wallet in your back pocket, and women should not be carrying a lot of valuables in a purse.

Be aware of your surroundings, but relax and enjoy the ride. If you get lost, don't be afraid to ask for help. There are usually employees located at the hubs and city police officers can also help you if necessary. You may get lost temporarily, but the subway lines are arranged in such a manner that you can always get back to the point at which you started, no matter how far you stray. Think of it as an urban adventure, and enjoy!

© High Speed Ventures 2011