I spent a week in NYC earlier this month. Here are some unprocessed impressions I had of of the city, as of Summer 2022. (Disclaimer: Many of these are probably so obvious as to be uninteresting)

Transit

  • Google Maps' subway directions work great in NYC. The schedules/transfers were accurate, and the directions – e.g. “look for a train with sign X” – made it trivial to navigate the relatively complex subway system.
  • I never waited more than 10 minutes for a train.
  • Coverage was pretty good in Manhattan. I was going mostly to tourist-adjacent locations, so there’s a selection bias, but I never found it inconvenient to walk to a subway station.
    • Notable exceptions were traveling north/south on the east/west “coasts” of Manhattan.
  • The distinction between local and express trains wasn’t something I’d seen before in a metro, but seems like an obviously useful feature of the system.
  • Even during peak hours, the subway never felt uncomfortably crowded. I’d guess ridership is still below pre-COVID numbers. 1
  • Next time I visit the city, I should use the OMNY payment system instead of refilling Metrocards. OMNY has a price ceiling of 12 fares/week. I definitely used the system more than 12 times during my visit, but only realized that Metrocard would be more expensive after it was too late to get the benefit of using OMNY.
  • Uber/Lyft are silly expensive now. I didn’t use either of them during my trip – public transit sufficed.

COVID

  • Masks were still required on the subway, but this was not enforced as far as I could tell.
  • I was only asked for my vaccine card once – to enter St. Paul’s Chapel.
  • There were still places where masking was enforced: theaters, water taxis, concert venues. Many, many indoor spaces still had “masking strongly encouraged” signs.
  • The city had free COVID testing sites on street corners. Usually this was a single person under a tent. I also saw a few free vaccine/booster sites while walking around.

City Character

  • There’s still a lot being built. I noticed several new skyscrapers since I last visited in ~2019.
  • Times Square is still an odious assault on the senses. I don’t know why I needed to reconfirm for myself that it’s a hellscape not worth visiting.
  • The city is pretty clean, all things considered. You see a lot of sanitation workers – not just for garbage collection, but also for clean streets, stairs, subway stations, etc.
  • There are a lot of well-maintained public parks. – And these parks were pleasant to be in, with clean benches, buskers, green areas that were free of tents/garbage.
    • While Manhattan is quite loud, it was surprisingly easy to find a park or green space where you could be ~alone in silence.
  • Pedestrian walkways were resilient to construction. In Seattle, construction projects are often allowed to close streets, etc. In NYC, this seemed rarer – streets were still accessible despite construction.

Miscellaneous

  • It was remarkably easier to find a bathroom in NYC than in Seattle (or San Francisco). NYC had a surprising number of free public restrooms – and they were usually passably clean.
  • I saw a surprising number of dogs in the city. Most, as you’d expect, were smaller cat-sized dogs.
  • NYC has some of the best people watching opportunities.
  • Grand Central Terminal was disappointing. Half of it was turned into an Apple Store (!?).

The overriding impression I have of NYC each time I visit is that is the American city (for better or worse).


  1. This May 2022 Bloomberg article claims ridership is still ~60% of pre-COVID numbers. ↩︎