Public Transport in New York City: Exploring the Best Commute Options for Renters

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When it comes to renting apartments in New York City, one of the top things to consider is how close you are to public transit options. Luckily, the public transport in New York City  connects all five boroughs, making it super easy for millions of people to get around.

Getting the hang of public transit in the Big Apple can make a big difference in your daily life and commute. Given the city’s infamous traffic and limited parking, relying on public transport in New York City can save renters a lot of time and stress. Plus, renters often have more options for affordable places to live, even if they’re a bit further from work or school.

So, whether you’re a young professional in Manhattan, a student in Brooklyn, or a family in Queens, mastering the public transport system in New York City is key to getting the most out of living in this fascinating urban jungle.

Let’s explore the main modes of public transport in New York City, so you can use them to their fullest and make your renting experience better.

Subway System

The New York City subway is the lifeline of public transit in New York. So, when searching for apartments for rent in the Big Apple, consider how different subway lines can impact your commute and lifestyle. Opting for a location with convenient subway access can save you time and make your daily travel more efficient and enjoyable.

Mosaic sign at the Fifth Avenue Subway Station in Manhattan, NY.

In Manhattan, the subway provides excellent coverage, with multiple lines serving most neighborhoods. For renters in areas like the Upper East Side, the Second Avenue Subway has greatly improved transit options. In Brooklyn, neighborhoods like Williamsburg and Downtown Brooklyn are well-served, while areas like Bushwick have seen increased popularity due to the L train. Queens renters benefit from the 7 line extension to Hudson Yards, while the Bronx is connected via several lines, making areas like Fordham more accessible.

Bus Network

While the subway often grabs the spotlight, New York City’s bus system is essential for many neighborhoods. Buses fill in the gaps where subway lines don’t reach, ensuring that residents in all parts of the city have access to reliable public transportation. With numerous routes and frequent service, the bus network plays a crucial role in keeping New Yorkers connected and mobile.

A New York City bus traveling down a busy street at sunset, with pedestrians and traffic visible in the background.

In Queens, for example, buses are vital in areas like Jamaica and Flushing, where subway coverage is less dense. For Brooklyn renters, buses connect subway lines and serve areas further from the subway, like Marine Park. In the Bronx, express buses to Manhattan provide alternatives for longer commutes. Staten Island heavily relies on its extensive bus network, connecting neighborhoods to the ferry and within the borough itself.

Commuter Rail

For renters in the outer boroughs or those looking at apartments in the greater New York metropolitan area, commuter rails are essential. They significantly reduce travel time, making daily commutes more manageable. Additionally, these rail systems offer a reliable transportation option that helps commuters avoid the stress of city traffic.

The West Side Train Yard for Pennsylvania Station in New York City from the Highline. View of the railcars for the Long Island Railroad.

The Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) serves eastern Queens and connects to Long Island, making areas like Forest Hills or Bayside attractive for those working in Manhattan. Metro-North serves northern Manhattan, the Bronx, and extends into Westchester, opening up options in neighborhoods like Riverdale or even suburban areas for those willing to commute.

NYC Ferry

The ferry system has redefined waterfront living in New York City. For renters in Long Island City, Astoria, or Greenpoint, the ferry offers a scenic and pleasant commute to Manhattan. In Brooklyn, neighborhoods like Red Hook and Sunset Park have become more appealing to renters thanks to ferry connections. The South Brooklyn route serves areas with limited subway access, making neighborhoods like Bay Ridge more attractive to Manhattan commuters.

A New York City ferry cruising across the water with the city skyline in the background.

This expansion has not only improved access to these areas but also provided a relaxing and picturesque alternative to traditional commuting methods. Furthermore, it has boosted the desirability of waterfront properties, making them highly sought after.

Citi Bike

Citi Bike has transformed short-distance travel in many neighborhoods. This bike-sharing service is not only a convenient and eco-friendly way to get around, but it also helps cut down on commuting time, making your daily travels more efficient. Additionally, it’s a great way to stay active and enjoy the outdoors. Whether you’re zipping through the streets to get to work or taking a leisurely ride to explore the city, it offers a healthy and fun alternative to traditional transportation methods. Plus, with numerous stations throughout the city, it’s easy to find a bike when you need one and drop it off when you’re done.

A Citi Bike station in New York City with a row of blue bikes lined up and ready for use, set against an urban backdrop.

In Manhattan, City Bike is perfect for renters in areas like the East Village or Chelsea for quick cross-town trips. Brooklyn renters in Williamsburg or Park Slope find Citi Bike a great complement to subway travel. The system’s expansion into the Bronx and deeper into Queens has added flexibility for renters in these boroughs, especially in areas slightly removed from subway stations.

Staten Island Ferry

For Staten Island renters, especially those in neighborhoods like St. George or Stapleton, the ferry is an essential link to Manhattan. It’s free, operates 24/7, and provides a unique and scenic commuting experience. The area around the ferry terminal has seen significant development, drawing renters who enjoy waterfront views and a cost-free commute to Lower Manhattan.

A Staten Island Ferry cruising through the harbor with the New York City skyline in the distance.

This increased development has made these neighborhoods more attractive, offering a blend of convenience and charm that appeals to a wide range of residents. Plus, the ferry ride itself is a pleasant way to start and end the day, with stunning views of the New York Harbor and skyline.

Roosevelt Island Tram and Light Rail

The Roosevelt Island Tramway offers a unique transit option for renters on Roosevelt Island, providing quick access to Manhattan’s East Side. While not in New York City proper, the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail in New Jersey serves areas like Jersey City and Hoboken, making these locations viable options for renters who work in Manhattan but seek more space or amenities without breaking the bank.

These transit options offer residents the best of both worlds: easy commutes to the city and the benefits of living in quieter, more spacious areas. Whether it’s the scenic tram ride or the efficient light rail, these alternatives add flexibility and appeal to the rental choices available to those working in Manhattan.

The Roosevelt Island Tram gliding through the air, suspended over the East River with the Queensboro Bridge and New York City skyline in the background.

From the extensive subway network to neighborhood-specific bus routes and expanding ferry services, the options cater to various lifestyles and locations. So, as you search for your ideal rental, remember that in New York, the right public transport connections can make the entire city feel like your neighborhood.

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Veronica Grecu is a senior creative writer and researcher for RentCafe. With more than 10 years of experience in the real estate industry, she covers a variety of topics in residential and commercial real estate, including trends and industry news. Previously, she was involved in producing content for Multi-Housing News, Commercial Property Executive and Yardi Matrix. Veronica’s academic background includes a B.A. in Applied Modern Languages and an M.A. in Advertising and PR.

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