New York City has extensive transportation options, with public transportation available to almost anywhere in the metropolitan area.  Here we give some general information about transportation options.  Follow these links for detailed instructions for getting to Columbia from LaGuardia, JFK and Newark.


The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) runs most of the buses, railroads and subways in and around NYC.  The route map for the subway system is here and the route map for Manhattan buses is here.  There are no zones in the NYC subway system, which means once you pay to enter, you can ride throughout the entire system without paying again.  Transfers between subways trains, where the lines meet at a station, can be done without any additional charge.  In addition, you can transfer once with no charge between the subway and the bus, or between two buses.

To use the subways and buses, you will need a Metrocard

These can be purchased in the subway stations, but not on buses.  A SingleRide Metrocard is $2.75.  If you buy a Pay-Per-Ride Metrocard, the fare for a single trip is $2.50.  On a pay-per-ride Metrocard, you can put on any amount of money between $5 and $80, allowing you to buy as many rides as you need.  You also get a 5% bonus, so if you add $20 to a Pay-Per-Ride Metrocard, the card gets credited with $21.  There is a $1 fee to purchase a Pay-Per-Ride Metrocard, but there is no cost to add more money to it.

There is also a $30, 7 day unlimited use Metrocard.  If you will be riding the MTA buses or subways either to/from Columbia or to travel around the city during the evenings, the unlimited use Metrocard is likely your best option.

While during rush hours the subways can be quite crowded, they are generally the best option for getting around the city.  The traffic, particularly in midtown and downtown, can be very bad during rush hours, making the subways by far faster.  There is also a subway arrival time app for the 1,2,3,4,5 and 6 trains, to help you avoid waiting for subways.

The buses in Manhattan are very useful if there is no subway in the direction you need to go.  However, they are generally slow and the subways are a much better option.  Walking is frequently a nice alternative to the bus, unless you are carrying luggage or the weather is poor.


Taxis are very common in NYC and everywhere on the streets of Manhattan.  They take up to four passengers and, for shorter trips when traffic is not bad, are cost effective and sometimes faster than the subway. (By law, they cannot take more than 4 passengers.)  There are now two kinds of taxis operating in NYC:  the regular Yellow cabs and a new Boro taxi, painted a lime green color.  You should not accept rides from the driver of any other type of vehicle, unless you have called a known car service to request a car.


Both types of cabs are licensed under the Taxi and Limousine Commissions and can take you anywhere you would like to go.  The difference is that Boro cabs cannot pick you up in Manhattan south of 110th Street on the West Side and south of 96th Street on the East Side.  Since Columbia is north of 110th Street, you can hail both Yellow cabs and Boro cabs around the Columbia area.  Boro cabs also cannot pick people up at the airports, but they can drop you off there.

Tipping is expected for taxi rides.  10% is generally expected and more can be given for good service.  Taxis take both cash and credit cards.

Private Cars

Manhattan is congested, garage parking is expensive and on-street parking is hard to find.  You should take these issues into consideration if you plan to drive to Columbia.  Detailed information is available here.