New York City getting easier to get around

Navigating the crowded streets of New York may be getting easier for millions of business travelers as the city sees the biggest boost in public transportation in recent memory.

On Sept. 13, the city opened the first new subway station in 26 years, ushering conference goers to the doorstep of the once isolated Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. A citywide ferry system will extend service to the city’s outer boroughs over the next three years. The city’s bike share program is rapidly expanding, expected to double by 2017. And an app, created by the company that provides payment technology to over 60% of New York City cabs, has become the latest to allow riders to hail a taxi with the tap of a button.

So many options, says Chris Heywood, spokesman for the city’s destination marketing organization NYC & Company, “just makes the city more appealing and is a huge selling point for us as we try to draw more business travelers, more convention delegates and more leisure visitation.’’

Last year, a record 56.4 million people visited New York City, 12.2 million of them here on business, NYC & Company says.

Now, the 6.3 million people expected to attend meetings and conferences here this year no longer have to trek blocks or hunt for a cab to get to the city’s convention center, which lies a stone’s throw from the Hudson River. Last week, the 7 subway line began stopping at 34th Street and 11th Ave., the only subway stop south of 59th Street on the far West Side.

“The extension of the 7 line to the far West Side is a game changer in many ways, especially from a business  travel perspective,’’ Heywood said of the $2.42 billion project.

The city’s subway system will gain an even more significant addition next year, when the first phase of a new Second Avenue line is expected to be finished in December. It will mark the first major expansion of the city’s subway network in over half a century.

“The number 7 and opening of the Second Avenue subway … reflect a serious recognition we have to invest in our infrastructure,’’ says Mitchell  Moss, director of NYU’s Rudin Center for Transportation. The numerous other  transportation initiatives taking place are significant as well. “We’ve spent a lot on fixing, repairing and investing in the maintenance of the system. But it’s also clear we can’t just maintain it. We need to expand it. That’s the real change.’’

Citi Bike, New York’s bike share program, will increase from 6,000 to 12,000 bikes in the next two years. Bicycles became available in Queens for the first time last month, and new stations will soon be popping up on Manhattan’s Upper East and West side, and deeper into the borough of Brooklyn.

There are also plans to expand the city’s ferry service by 2018 to the Lower East Side, Astoria, Queens and other neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx.

For those visitors who prefer cabs to ferries and trains, there is now another app allowing a cab to be summoned via a tap on a smartphone.

Way2ride’s hailing function launched in July. The app is from Verifone, which provides in-cab technologies to nearly 14,000 of the city’s 20,000 yellow and green cabs. It is joining over 70 apps for taxis and hired car services, including Uber and Lyft, that are in New York City according to the NYU’s Rudin Center.

“What the last few years have shown is there is a demand among consumers for the ability to hail a cab with a phone … and we’re in a unique position to be able to provide the scale that consumers would expect of a taxi-hailing app,’’ says Jason Gross, vice president of strategy and innovation for Verifone, adding that would-be riders who’ve downloaded the Way2ride app can send requests to a taxi’s existing equipment.  The app, which previously just facilitated the payment of the driver, will roll out the e-hail function in several other cities, including Miami, Las Vegas, and Washington, D.C., in October.

Heywood says that it’s not just the accessibility of New York’s public transit that makes it appealing to visitors, but the affordability as well.

“We’re not a city that requires you to rent a car,’’ said Heywood who noted that unlike some other cities where the price of a subway ride increases based on geographic zones, a business trekker or tourist can travel from Manhattan to Coney Island for $2.75. “Take the Citi Bike … pick up a ferry, then take a subway. There’s so many different ways you can mix and match all of our public transportation options and really have fun with it as well.’’

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