Buses are the secret to New York City. Sure, that sounds ridiculous and you've probably seen buses driving past and thought to yourself “why would anyone ever catch the bus!?” but I'm here to tell you that you'll love it, and you're missing out if you don't jump on one this week or weekend. Catching the bus in New York is easy, quick, clean, and doesn't require you to inhale the New York summer subway system.
There are way more buses and bus routes than I could possibly have imagined in New York. I've been using the subway since the first day I arrived, but the buses always seemed like a route that required too much thought and planning.
Turns out with updates to Google and upgrades to the New York bus system, you'll see bus routes appearing on Google Maps more often when you're looking for public transport. They even now show the live position of the bus, and therefore you can see just how fast you're going to have to run to catch the next bus.
Every bus stop clearly marks which buses stop there (which you can match up to your Google Maps suggestion. And if you follow all the instructions below, you'll be a professional at catching the bus in no time (as there are a few quirks).
So make it your mission this weekend to catch a bus. It'll get you where you're going quicker than the train sometimes, require less walking, and you might also find that being above ground will make you happier because you're not shoulder to shoulder with all the other sweaty folk during an NYC summer.
Tell me all about it when you do!
- On a non-Express bus, you must have either:
- Exact change (no dollar bills, and no pennies, only nickels, dimes, and quarters), it's $2.75 for regular buses
- An unlimited Metro Card
- Routes with an “M” prefix operate mainly in Manhattan. “B” is for Brooklyn, “Bx” for the Bronx, “Q” for Queens and “S” for Staten Island. Routes with an “X” prefix (e.g. x19) are express routes which cost more ($6.75 in the same exact change, and you cannot use an unlimited Metro card).
- “Limited” buses make limited stops, and “Local” buses make all stops (you'll know if there is an orange “Limited card” in the name at the top of the bus
- If your route talks about “Special” or “SBS” you need to validate your ticket before you board, at one of the machines at the bus stop. Press “Start” and follow the instructions (which is just inserting your unlimited Metro Card if you have one). You can enter through any doors when the bus stops (you'll see all the doors open on this one)
- When you want to get off, pull the cord on the side, or push the button, and then when the bus stops, you have to touch the door where it says to on the yellow panels. The door will automatically swing open.
How to catch a bus according to NY.com
Here’s the official guide for how to catch a bus in New York from NY.com:
- Go to the bus stop – Bus stops are located at street corners and have a yellow painted curb and a sign that displays a bus emblem and route number
- Work out which bus it is – Routes with an “M” prefix operate mainly in Manhattan. “B” is for Brooklyn, “Bx” for the Bronx, “Q” for Queens and “S” for Staten Island. Routes with an “X” prefix are express routes. You‘ll know whether the bus that arrives is making limited stops if you see an orange “Limited” card in the bus window. Limited stops are at major intersections, transfer points, and major attractions, such as Lincoln Center. Locals make all stops.
- Get on the bus – You can ask for assistance, the bus can “kneel” towards you to help!
- Pay for the trip – As you board the bus, hold the MetroCard with the black stripe on the right and the MetroCard name facing you. The farebox is directly in front of you as you board. Dip the MetroCard into the farebox. Please note that you cannot use an Unlimited Ride MetroCard on Express buses, unless you purchase a 7-day Express Bus Plus MetroCard. If you don’t have a MetroCard, you need EXACT CHANGE: You need the exact fare — $2.75 in nickels, dimes, and quarters.
- Request a transfer – If you will require a transfer to another service within an hour, you can request a pass from the driver so you don’t get charged twice!
- Sit or Stand
- Notify the driver you want to get off – Stops are every 2-3 blocks, except for limiteds. You should try and notify at least a block early.