I've used NYC buses to get around for nearly 2 years -- and I'm convinced it's way better than the subway

Mark Matousek / Business InsiderNew York City buses are often cleaner and more comfortable than subway cars.
  • Many New Yorkers choose the subway when they’re looking for an affordable transportation option.
  • But the bus offers a better experience for the same price.
  • Buses are often cleaner, less crowded, and less prone to unexplained delays than the subway.

For many who work or live in New York City, especially Manhattan, transportation comes down to two options: the subway or a ride-hailing service, whether it be a cab, Uber, or Lyft. The subway usually wins out among the budget-conscious, but there’s an option many of them are missing: the bus.

The Metropolitan Transit Authority found that NYC bus ridership was 764 million in 2016 compared to 1.757 billion for the subway, despite the fact that there were nearly as many buses (5,710) as subway cars (6,418).

Like the subway, bus service is run by the MTA, and for the same price($US2.75) as a single subway ride, a local or select bus offers a superior experience.

Buses are cleaner and less crowded than subway trains

First, riding the bus is often cleaner and more comfortable than using the subway. An alarming percentage of New York subway stations haven’t been updated in decades and have visible signs of decay to show for it. On top of that, they can be hot, dirty, smell bad, and house enormous rats. It’s nearly impossible to imagine a transportation service in a major American city operating in a worse environment.

Things don’t get much better once you’re in a subway car. A packed rush-hour commute isn’t ideal, but it’s not cause for concern in a city with NYC’s population density. No matter how you travel to work, you likely won’t have much space.

Nyc busMark Matousek / Business InsiderBoarding an M-15 Select bus on a weekday night after rush hour.

The real problem comes during less concentrated travel times, like weekend mornings or weekday evenings. Using the subway on a Saturday morning or late on a weekday night can result in congestion similar to rush hour, making the prospect of a seat – or even a few feet of personal space – unlikely.

That’s not true on the bus, where it’s often easy to find both a seat and an appropriate amount of personal space outside of rush hour. Some newer buses even have charging ports, which can help prevent your phone from dying in the middle of the afternoon or late at night. When you combine those factors with the natural light offered by above-ground transportation, travelling by bus allows you to avoid the claustrophobia a subway ride can induce.

It’s easier to predict travel delays on the bus

Of course, a bus is more susceptible to street traffic than a subway car, but street traffic has the advantage of being easier to predict than subway delays. There’s a psychological comfort in knowing a trip may take longer than you’d hope that can make bumper-to-bumper traffic easier to endure than an unexplained, 10-minute delay that stops your subway car between stations and leaves you without cell service. Sometimes, the bus can be faster than the subway and nearly as fast as a ride-sharing service at a fraction of the cost, especially on weekend nights or other times when surge pricing is likely.

Nyc busMark Matousek / Business InsiderI find bus seats to be more comfortable than subway seats.

The only major downside to riding the bus is the fact that it runs on a more limited schedule than many subway trains. In general, trains arrive more frequently on a given subway track than a bus at the average bus stop, so the subway can be a better option if you’re in a hurry.

But if you have the time, the bus gives you the best of both worlds: a comfortable ride at a reasonable price.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Business Insider.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.