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Green & Gorgeous: 12 Environmentally Minded Hotels

By Liza Weisstuch
June 20, 2018
aerial of resort along green coast
Courtesy Terranea Resort
Hotels around the US are making efforts to take care of the environment as well as they take care of guests.

Once upon a time, when you booked a hotel, the key things to look for were location, amenities, dining options, and wifi. These days, however, savvy travelers are increasingly attentive to how to plan a getaway without leaving a huge footprint on the local community, not to mention on the planet. Hotels are stepping up and investing money and time to upgrade their facilities so they're more energy efficient, and to work with local farms and organizations to make sure products are locally sourced and nothing goes to waste. Here are just a few of the many examples of hotels that are being as attentive to the earth as they are to guests. 

1. TERRANEA RESORT

Rancho Palos Verdes, CA

terranea-resort-aerial-02062017-110116_original.jpg?mtime=20180619122638#asset:102189(Courtesy Terranea Resort)

Terranea, a 102-acre resort on the coast of Southern California, diverts 80 percent of its waste from landfills through a thorough sustainability program that includes a strong emphasis on food waste recycling. That makes it one of the most comprehensive recycling programs in the vast Los Angeles area. Speaking of food, seasonal dining menus with local, organic products are the M.O., honey is harvested from the resorts garden, and the chef even harvests his own sea salt from an on-site sea salt conservatory. They’re equally attentive to water use, channeling waters from wet ponds and vegetated wetlands to irrigate its vast property. Those wetlands, moreover, are a habitat for native avian species. In addition to these systemic measures, there’s a serious attention to detail, from biodegradable golf tees to employee uniforms made of bamboo or organic materials.

2. THE SAGE INN

Santa Fe, NM

santa-fe-sage-inn_derailed-patio-firepit-02062017-103145_original.jpg?mtime=20180619122614#asset:102185(Courtesy Sage Inn)

You could say that the green experience at the Sage Inn in Santa Fe, New Mexico starts before you even walk through the doors. The hotel is located across the street from the Santa Fe Farmers Market, which is widely recognized as one of the country’s best. The hotel itself is staffed by employees who regularly participate in trainings about sustainable practices. The facility follows stringent conservation practices, including use of high-impact water-saving systems and 100 percent energy efficient lighting, not to mention use of nontoxic cleaning products and recycled products. In 2016 they scored the Tier Two Silver Silver level of the Santa Fe Green Concierge Certification program, overseen by HospitalityGreen’s, and with new practices being implemented regularly, Tier Three Gold level could be in the stars.

3. SHERATON PUERTO RICO HOTEL & CASINO

San Juan, PR

sheraton-puerto-rico-infinity-pool-at-dawn-02062017-105438_original.jpg?mtime=20180619122615#asset:102186(Courtesy Sheraton Puerto Rico)

Few hotel brands are better known than Sheraton. That’s why it was a milestone when the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel & Casino became the first of all the Sheratons in the world to receive the prestigious LEED certification. Among the many measures to earn this prestigious accreditation are the property’s “cool roof,” which lowers the building’s temperature (a huge energy-saver given the tropical heat), a closed-loop system that converts food waste to fertilizer, which is used in the garden that supplies the hotel’s kitchens, and a water-filter system that traps sediment so it can run clean water into the sea. What’s more, if you happen to be on the beach and your phone runs out of battery before you take a selfie to send to your friends at home, call on the hotel’s so-called Energy Butler, which uses wireless chargers to refuel batteries to guests’ mobile devices on and off the property.

4. ST. JULIEN HOTEL & SPA

Boulder, CO

st-julien-hotel-spa-02062017-103145_original.jpg?mtime=20180619124405#asset:102191(Courtesy St. Julien Hotel & Spa)

St. Julien Hotel & Spa in Boulder, Colorado, composts up to 20,000 pounds of materials a month. Also, thanks to its work with a Clean the World, local nonprofit, it’s donated more than 10,000 pounds of amenities and products—soaps, bedding, candles—to relevant local charities. Now, for context, consider that an African Bush Elephant weighs about 13,000 pounds. Yes, that’s a lot of recycling and reuse, and it accounts for close to 80% of the 201-room hotel’s would-be waste. Even the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has stepped up to recognize these and other environmental efforts. But that’s not where St. Julien’s community involvement ends. They regularly partner with other nonprofits to host community events. On America Recycles Day, they teamed up with local groups Blue Star Recyclers and PCs for People to collect more than 1,000 pounds of donated computers.

5. THE SHIRE WOODSTOCK

Woodstock, VT

the-shire-in-woodstock-vermont_porch-02062017-103149_original.jpg?mtime=20180619122640#asset:102190(Courtesy The Shire)

Numbers don’t lie. When you break conservation efforts down to numbers, the sheer force of the green initiatives at The Shire in Woodstock, Vermont are overwhelming and well deserving of its recognition as a Green Hotel by the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation and the Vermont Small Business Development Center. For instance: 135 photovoltaic panels that generate over 42,000 kilowatt hours each year and a solar hot-water-generating system that generates over 32,000 BTUs of heating capacity annually, and several tons of of yard and landscaping waste get composted annually. And, of course, there’s a comprehensive recycling program, eco-friendly cleaning products, and rain water collection barrels that store irrigation water. After all, this is Vermont.

6. LE BALUCHON

Quebec, Canada

auberge-le-baluchon-_mjc1650-02062017-112925_original.jpg?mtime=20180619122528#asset:102176(Le Baluchon)

You know the old saying: One person’s trash is another’s….hand-woven reusable bag. Le Baluchon, a self-dubbed “eco resort” in Quebec’s Saint-Paulin neighborhood, is particularly creative with its recycling efforts: when an employee brings in a plastic bag, it goes to local artists who weave the would-be trash into nifty reusable bags that are sold at the Au bout du monde Eco-café, the resort’s rustic, organically-minded eatery. What’s more, a lot of hotels recycle, but Baluchon actually has its own recycling center. And thought it takes all materials, but guests often see the second life of paper, which is recycled into notepads. Its list of other green-minded measures is long and wide-ranging, from investing $1.2 million in a wastewater management system to developing a computerized energy management plan to sending used cooking oil offsite to be processed into biodiesel fuel.  And speaking of fuel, in an effort to cut back emissions onsite, no motorized activities are allowed on the property. 

7. HOTEL VINTAGE PORTLAND

Portland, OR

kimpton-hotel-vintage-portland_sally-painter-02062017-103143_original.jpg?mtime=20180619122611#asset:102183(Courtesy Hotel Vintage Portland)

Sometimes it’s the little things that make the biggest impact. Small things, like putting divided trash bins in each room so guests can separate trash from recycling and offering guests to turn down turndown services boosted the Hotel Vintage Portland, a Kimpton property in Oregon, from a 44 rating to 62 on the notable Energy Star Scorecard since 2008 to 2012. But the hotel didn’t just leave the responsibility to its visitors. In 2016, the hotel, which is retrofitting into an historic building, invested $16 million to upgrade its various mechanical system to improve efficiency, from installing efficient boilers, replacing heat pumps, and retrofitting HVACs. The result: it pushed up the score from 62 to 85 in just one year.

8. HYATT REGENCY ATLANTA

Atlanta, GA

hyatt-regency-atlanta-polaris-chef-thomas-02062017-103141_original.jpeg?mtime=20180619122604#asset:102181(Courtesy Hyatt Regency Atlanta)

We’ve heard lots about the boom in urban gardens in the last few years. Usually it’s a reference to a plot of shared land close in a public park or plot of land in an inner city area. In Georgia, however, arguably the most spectacular urban garden is on the roof of the Hyatt Regency Atlanta. It sits 25 stories above Peachtree Street, a bustling and historic thoroughfare in downtown, and it’s fertile ground for tomatoes, peppers, and a variety of other veggies and herbs that chefs in the hotel’s three restaurants—Polaris, Twenty-Two Storys, and Sway—use in their kitchens. There are also beehives, which the hotel upkeeps in partnership with the Metro Atlanta Beekeepers Association, for honey used in the restaurants and sold in the Hyatt’s 24-hour market and coffee shop.

9. HARRASEEKET INN

Portland, ME

harraseeket-inn-in-freeport-02062017-103140_original.jpg?mtime=20180619122550#asset:102179(Courtesy Harraseeket Inn)

Harraseeket Inn, right outside Portland in Freeport, Maine, is the ideal model of locavore culture. The family-owned luxury country inn does its part to help the community—and the planet—by buying almost entirely local for its restaurant and tavern. That means supporting local sustainable fisheries, baking with Maine flour, and buying hormone-free dairy as well as meat and poultry that’s mindfully raised. But it doesn’t end when the meal is over. They work with a local farm for composting and they use a biodiesel reactor to turn used fry oil into 40-gallons of biodiesel fuel each week. That’s what powers their John Deere tractor, Mercedes station wagon, and Chevrolet pick-up truck. 

10. HILTON CHICAGO

Chicago, IL

hilton-chicago-historic-lobby-02062017-112609_original.jpg?mtime=20180619122601#asset:102180(Courtesy Hilton Chicago)

Chicago is arguably one of the country’s most exciting culinary destinations, so it makes sense that the Hilton Chicago’s environmentally-minded, high-impact initiatives are largely focused on food and committed to community. To wit: in addition to partnering with sustainable hotels in the Midwest, the hotel teams with Windy City Harvest, a nonprofit that employs teens from low-income communities to teach them about urban agriculture. Those young people develop the rooftop farm and beekeeping facility that supplies the restaurants.

11. GOLDEN ARROW LAKESIDE RESORT

Lake Placid, NY

golden-arrow_lake-placid_complex-whiteface-02062017-105118_original.jpg?mtime=20180619122549#asset:102178(Courtesy Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort)

Lake Placid in upstate New York can get pretty frigid in the wintertime, especially on the shores of Mirror Lake. With its 3,400-square-foot green roof that serves as insulation for the building, Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort is well equipped to keep guests warm without much waste, while solar panels on an adjacent roof are the heat source for the laundry service and hotel pool. Situated within the sprawling 6 million acres of Adirondack Park, the family-owned hotel was the first of six American resorts to score the ultimate platinum designation in Audubon International’s hotel eco-rating program. The rooftop herb garden, reserved parking spots for Hybrids, and an in-room recycling program that helps sends an estimated 486 cubic yards of waste off to be recycled each year are just a few of the other factors that earned it that prestigious recognition.

12. INN BY THE SEA

Cape Elizabeth, ME

inn-by-the-sea_pool-w-milkweed-02062017-103142_original.jpg?mtime=20180619122605#asset:102182(Courtesy Inn by the Sea)

From solar panels to recycled cork floors to a salinated cleaning system for the pool, the Inn by the Sea in Cape Elizabeth, Maine (just outside Portland) boasts a variety of design features that demonstrate why the beachside resort earned its prestigious LEED Silver level certification as well as recognition from the state’s environmental agencies. But more than that, it’s the things that guests do at the sprawling 61-room hotel that really drive home its owners’ commitment to the planet and community. In the warm weather, for instance, a local naturalist offers “beachecology” walks and the property’s head gardener leads classes about cultivating indigenous gardens that can create room and board (ie: habitat and food) for wildlife. Year-round, they work with the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland to temporarily foster dogs at the hotel, each of which is ultimately adopted by guests. They’ve seen 73 dogs off to permanent homes so far.

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Inspiration

Hotel We Love: Sheraton Redding Hotel at the Sundial Bridge, Redding, CA

At the top of the Sacramento Valley in the northernmost part of California, the small city of Redding (population 90,000, give or take) is just a short drive from Sacramento and San Francisco, but it might as well be a world away. Surrounded by no fewer than seven national forests, offering easy access to jaw-dropping lakes, mountains, waterfalls, and redwoods, Redding is the jumping-off point for adventures of all kinds, from kayaking and hiking to olive-oil tasting and winery-hopping. The downtown area has plenty to recommend it, but if you'll be heading north to Lake Shasta Caverns,  west to take in the waterfall loop, or putting in time at Turtle Bay Exploration Park, the new Sheraton Redding Hotel at the Sundial Bridge is a good choice, offering comfort and convenience at a fair price.  THE STORY In January 2018, after a decade of planning and construction, the smallest Sheraton property in the country officially opened for business. According to the Record Searchlight, the hotel acquired its parcel of land from Turtle Bay Exploration Park in an effort to help the non-profit generate enough revenue to remain afloat, and so far, the plan seems to be working. The hotel was bustling when I visited, with families, couples, and business travelers traversing the lobby, bellying up to the bar, and enjoying the amenities. THE QUARTERS The brand-new accommodations comprise 124 rooms and 6 suites, all of which feature floor-to-ceiling windows, warm wood paneling, and crisp white linens, not to mention walk-in showers or tubs, 48-inch flat-screen TVs, portable work spaces, in-room safes, and mini-fridges. Traditional rooms sleep four, with two queen beds or one king; the deluxe patio rooms are a step up and offer the same bed configurations, plus a private, topiary-screened outdoor sitting area. Book a club room for access to the lounge and its free breakfast, all-day snacks and beverages, and cocktail-hour wine and hors d’oeuvres, or go all out with one of the cushy suites. THE NEIGHBORHOOD From its perch on the northern edge of town, the Sheraton is a five-minute walk from the Sacramento River and, as the name implies, Santiago Calatrava’s stunning Sundial Bridge. With opaque blue glass under foot and a 217-foot cable-stayed pylon creating a de facto sundial overhead, this cantilevered contraption is one of only two Calatrava bridges in America, and it’s well worth a visit. The bridge connects Turtle Bay Exploration Park’s two campuses, which span 300 acres and boast playgrounds, botanical gardens, a forestry and wildlife center, and hands-on educational activities, like the opportunity to feed beplumed birds at the Parrot Playhouse or a North American beaver on a behind-the-scenes tour. By car, the hotel is just off state route 44 and a few minutes from the I-5 on-ramp, so it's easily accessible from the highway and a quick half-hour drive north to Lake Shasta Caverns. THE FOOD On the premises is Mosaic, a beautiful room that nods to the area's natural splendor, pairing the wood that lines floors, walls, and ceilings with luxe-industrial elements like a granite bar, exposed ductwork, a wood-fired pizza oven, and Edison bulbs galore. Have breakfast here before setting off for Turtle Bay or one of the area’s many state or national parks; try the berries and granola with vanilla yogurt for a light (albeit sweet) start, or an omelet with fennel sausage, caramelized onions, smoked Gouda, and potatoes for something a bit heartier. The pizzas also earn rave reviews. On the way back from Lake Shasta Caverns, stop off at Moseley Family Cellars, a small winery that puts the state’s grapes to good use, and treat yourself to a nice glass of red, then dial it back a notch with a casual dinner. Less than 10 minutes away by car, Guadalajara delivers solid Mexican fare in a kaleidoscopically colorful dining room, where the waitstaff is super-friendly and the portions are huge and reasonably priced. The mole enchiladas, filled with shredded beef and served with rice, refried beans, a smattering of iceberg, and a wedge of tomato alongside a basket of complimentary chips and salsa, taste great after a day on the road—and run just $14.50. ALL THE REST In addition to the usual perks—pool, 24-hour fitness center, free WiFi—the Sheraton Redding is dog-friendly, providing beds and other amenities for an extra $45 per night. Mosaic restaurant even offers a special menu for your canine companion, with entrées like The Charlie, a burger patty with rice and diced apple, and the Max, grilled chicken with kale and carrots, if you choose to eat outside on the patio. Parking is $10 a day if you’re handling it yourself and $12 a day to valet. Tours of Turtle Bay that include meet-and-greets with animal ambassadors are available for $75 per person, but if that’s not in the budget, you can chat with a Turtle Bay trainer and one of their creatures for free on Friday and Saturday mornings in the hotel lobby. For your little ones who can’t get enough of the camping thing, Sheraton staff will set up both tent and sleeping bags in the comfort of your own room. A s’mores package is available for purchase, with marshmallows and all the fixins for roasting by the on-site fire pits. You can also rent kids’ fishing poles at the front desk. RATES & DEETS Starting at $119. Sheraton Redding Hotel at the Sundial Bridge820 Sundial Bridge DriveRedding, CA530.364.2800sheratonredding.com  

Inspiration

Hotel We Love: Hotel Zoe, San Francisco

San Francisco is the kind of city that offers such an overwhelming bounty of things to do, eat, drink, and see that you'd almost feel the FOMO start to set in if you spend too much time in your hotel. In the City by the Bay, location is a premium and Hotel Zoe, situated front and center in the Fisherman's Wharf district, delivers just that at a supremely excellent price. Go for the location, stay for the way this locally-minded hotel offers a distinctly local experience. THE STORY Given its waterside locale, It makes sense that the $17 million renovations that were completed in 2017 transformed what opened as a Best Western in the early 1990s into a nautical-themed haven. Its tasteful subtlety gives the space a luxurious yet casual feel. Browns, blues, and cream colors infuse the lobby with an oceanic feel, the couches, chairs and table resemble classic nautical furniture designs, and decorative touches evoke undulating waves. It's a conceptual extension of the mesmerizing bay just outside. THE QUARTERS That nautical theme extends to each of the 221 rooms, but still only subtly. The desk chairs, for instance, resemble captain's chair. Otherwise it's all stark minimalism, brown and grey tones, blonde wood, and rounded edges, calling to mind a yacht's cabins. Except for one thing: this being San Francisco, and all, there are delightful technological accents. The rooms, which range from single queen to double queen to single king, are equipped with Cubie radios, which can charge four gadgets at once, complimentary high-speed wifi, and streaming capabilities for Netflix and Hulu. All the rooms without a city view feature an interior courtyard. It's also worth noting that the hotel is right in sync with the eco-mindedness that pervades this city, opting for giant bottles that dispense shampoo and conditioner instead of small disposable sizes. The local love is also evident in the mini fridge, which features Sierra Nevada and San Francisco's own Anchor Steam beers and Simi Cabernet. THE NEIGHBORHOOD If central location is your top priority, this is your spot. Lombard Street, the notoriously steep and twisty road, is a quick walk away, as is the other waterfront attractions, like the Buena Vista, known the world round as the bar that created Irish coffee, Also in walking distance is the city's epic Chinatown, North Beach, which is chill during the day but livens up at night, and the Embarcadero, the scenic three-mile thoroughfare that runs along the water and ends at the famed circa-1898 Ferry Building. THE FOOD Pescatore is the hotel's restaurant, an Italian affair that's sophisticated yet laid-back, with huge windows overlooking the street, patio seating, and dark wood and tiled accents. The's a wood-fired oven, but the menu is far more than just gourmet pizzas. Charcuterie, local seafood, and homemade pastas are just a few other options. Breakfast and lunch are also offered here. The hotel's chill lobby becomes a bit more buzzy around 4PM each day, when Bar Zoe opens across from the front desk and the cocktails start flowing, imbuing the space with a lounge-y vibe. ALL THE REST There are quite a few added bonuses offered to guests, like a complimentary glass of wine upon arrival and free bike rentals. Helmets are available upon demand. An outdoor seating space off the lobby in an inner courtyard features firepits that invite extended sessions of loitering before hitting the town. RATES & DEETS Starting at $229 Hotel Zoe 425 North Point StreetSan Francisco, CA 94133(415) 561-1100 / hotelzoesf.com

Inspiration

Hotel We Love: Thunderbird Lodge, Redding, CA

Just a few hours north of Sacramento and a couple hours south of Oregon, tucked away among protected parkland, volcanoes, redwoods, and more waterfalls than you can shake a stick at, northeastern California’s Shasta Cascade region is a veritable haven for outdoor enthusiasts. But you don’t need to be a card-carrying member of the REI Co-Op to appreciate the area’s natural beauty—there’s a ton here for all skill levels to explore. With clean, freshly appointed rooms, reasonable rates, and a convenient central location, the Thunderbird Lodge in Redding, California, makes a great base of operations, especially if you’re planning to spend most of your time on the go.   THE STORY This classic roadside motel was originally part of the mid-century Thunderbird chain; today, there are only a few left in existence, and they’re all independently owned and operated. An immigrant couple from Zambia bought Redding’s Thunderbird Lodge nearly 20 years ago, and their sons and daughters-in-law took over operations in 2010. (Thankfully, the vintage sign remains the same.) THE QUARTERS The property was completely remodeled in 2015, and its 58 guest rooms now feature contemporary dark-wood furniture, white linens with pops of color via accent pillows, throws, and bed skirts, and flat-screen TVs, refrigerators, and microwaves, all in various configurations. Book a king, queen, or double-queen room for a short stay; if you’re planning on sticking around a bit longer, consider a kitchenette room, which comes equipped with proper cooking facilities. The ground-floor accommodations are perfectly fine, but if you can handle the stairs, book a room one flight up, where the vaulted ceilings and exposed beams offer an airier, much more spacious feel. THE NEIGHBORHOOD Located right in the middle of downtown Redding, the Thunderbird is walking distance to landmarks like the Cascade Theatre, a circa 1935 nonprofit venue that hosts concerts, dance performances, and free summer kids’ movies; there’s also an array of independently owned restaurants, breweries, and shops within a few-block radius. The motel isn’t far from the freeway either, so it’s easy to get out of town to explore the region’s outdoor attractions—it’s a quick drive from downtown to Lake Shasta Caverns, Whiskeytown Lake, the immense, 602-foot-high Shasta Dam, and waterfalls upon waterfalls upon waterfalls. THE FOOD There are a few vending machines on the property, and the motel offers a basic continental breakfast, but other than that, you’ll have to look elsewhere for sustenance. Luckily, there are some solid options nearby. For a no-frills, pre-hike diner meal, Corbett’s should do the trick—it’s right across the street and opens at 7:00 a.m., so you can fuel up and be on the trail nice and early. The motorcycle-themed Coffee Bar is a little further, but it’s worth the walk for the consciously sourced caffeine and tidy selection of pastries and small bites. (You’re in California, after all, so be sure to try the avocado toast.) Open only for lunch, Wilda’s Grill is infamous for its Buddha bowl, a heaping helping of beans, rice, and protein under a shower of avocado, cilantro, and shredded cabbage, a steal at $7.50. With a cheap lunch, you can treat yourself to a fancier dinner, and Moonstone Bistro serves pretty plates of seasonal, organic fare at the price point to match. Grab a table in the intimate, dimly lit dining room or take seat on the patio (the strip-mall view is terrible, but on a nice evening, the fresh air is worth the sacrifice), have a cocktail and a few appetizers, and don't pass on the bread plate. To keep things casual, beer-drinkers would do well to commandeer a spot at the bar at the family-owned Woody’s Brewing Co., order a round of tater tots—or, as my bartender more accurately described them, fried mashed-potato balls—loaded with blue cheese and bacon, and enjoy with a pint of microbrew. Final Draft Brewing Company is another local favorite within walking distance. Finally, awesomely, there’s a branch of Heavenly Donuts, a mini-chain with six locations in the western United States, just two doors down from the Thunderbird. The drive-thru window is open 24 hours, and they serve a ridiculously good strawberry-jelly donut. Consider yourself warned. ALL THE REST The Thunderbird is Fido-friendly, with a charge of $15 per pet per night. Parking is included with the room rate, but the space is tight and can be tough to navigate, especially on weekends. WiFi and continental breakfast are also free, and there’s a small pool on the premises that’s clean and well-maintained. RATES & DEETS Starting at $65. Thunderbird Lodge1350 Pine StreetRedding, CA530.243.5422thunderbirdlodgeredding.com

Inspiration

5 Reasons Why We (Sort of) Love NYC’s Public Transportation

Ah, the MTA. With subway stations that beg to be cleaned and bus and train service that often keeps commuters waiting (and increasingly infuriated, as in 2017's "summer of hell"), New York City's Metropolitan Transportation Authority has, of course, earned its bad reputation with New Yorkers, right? But... From Monday to Friday, more than 8 million of us choose the MTA to commute to our destinations. Perhaps it's the 665 miles of track that allows us to go practically anywhere, or the (relatively) reasonable price of $2.75, but whatever it is, the MTA has remained our number-one travel resource. And while most of us have reason to curse NYC’s public transportation (and if you're reading this while waiting for a delayed train, maybe you're cursing it right now), here are five reasons to appreciate the maligned MTA. 1.  NYC HAS 24/7 PUBLIC TRANSIT In cities around the world, the midnight chimes signal the end of train service for the day. For the city that never sleeps, that is just unacceptable. Although the MTA’s service can be sparse after midnight, apps like Transit help commuters track the next bus or train, and I can always count on the MTA to get me home (in just about any kind of weather). So, dare I call the MTA “reliable”? Yes, but before New Yorkers raise their pitchforks at me, it is “reliable” in the sense that you can rely on it to get the baseline job done.   2. THE FARE IS REASONABLE Hear me out on this. NYC taxicabs start at $2.50, with a meter that hikes up unbelievably fast in traffic, and car services like Uber and Lyft are subject to price surges based on demand. The MTA is one of the few sources of transportation that offer unlimited-ride Metrocards, free transfers, and a one-fare subway zone. Cities like Singapore and Hong Kong charge you based on how far you go and transferring from line to line, making the MTA’s $2.75 price a pretty good deal. The MTA also rewards your spending: If you put $5.50 or more on your card, you get a 5 percent bonus, essentially earning free rides over time. 3. THE SYSTEM IS IMPROVING (REALLY!) Those fares go to good use. Free Wi-Fi, countdown clocks, and new and improved trains have made a positive impact on the commuting experience. By adding foldable chairs and removing tail-end seats on some trains, the MTA has made room for additional passengers. In addition, the MTA is considering installing platform doors, which would follow the lead of public transportation in some European and Asian countries, limiting train track litter and delays caused by passengers. The MTA will test this out during the (dreaded) L train shutdown in 2019. 4. THE SUBWAY IS A CITY INSIDE A CITY First, the people. We’ve all witnessed it: The red-carpet-ready riders, the hipsters, the business folks, and the rest of us ol’ regulars all ride together in the same subway car. From the far ends of four of the city’s five boroughs, we join together, at least for a few minutes, to ride the MTA. The result? A mini melting pot that is relatively rare in many cities around the U.S. and the world. 5. THERE’S A LOT OF GOOD THINGS TO SEE If you’re on a train that runs aboveground or on a bus, getting a view of the NYC skyline and iconic landmarks can be a much-needed reminder of why you’re putting up with all the other stuff. And for those of us who take the underground trains, the artwork that adorns some subway stations provides a taste of NYC culture, often carefully curated to suit the neighborhood and institutions served by that station. The classic West 81st station at the American Museum of Natural History welcomes visitors with playful mosaics that include dinosaurs and other fossils, while the new 2nd Avenue subway line's stations offer a series of portraits by Chuck Close to entertain passersby (nycgo.com).

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