If you’re not flying into New York City, the question is: how do you get there? I recently took a day trip to the Big Apple and that was the million-dollar question. Nobody in their right mind wants to battle the traffic and then search for parking. You have to have plenty of time, money and, most importantly: patience. That leaves a couple of public transit options: Amtrak train, park & ride train, or park & ride ferry. Without a doubt, taking the NY Waterway ferry is my new favorite way to reach Manhattan!
Train to NYC
Depending on where you’re coming from, you can either take local public transit (like NJ Transit) or Amtrak. NJ Transit, like many local trains, is cost-effective but can be inconvenient and slow. Amtrak is comfortable and fast. But it’s expensive. And, while the train ride is relatively quick (especially if you take a more expensive Accela train), Amtrak asks riders to arrive 30 minutes prior to departure. That adds an extra hour to your travel time. You’re also locked into a departure time for your return trip; no changing your mind or missing your train. Also, anyone who has ever taken a train in or out of Penn Station in NYC will acknowledge it’s rather stressful. When they announce it’s time to board the train, it’s an all-out shove-fest free-for-all of people trying to get a seat. Sure, seats are reserved but for economy, a specific seat isn’t confirmed.
Park & Ride Train
With NJ Transit, travelers can park at one of a number of train stations and then ride into Penn Station NY. There’s also a Penn Station in Newark, NJ so be sure you’re headed to the right stop. There’s a great PDF map of the NJ Transit system showing what stations go where. While the majority do end at Penn Station in Midtown, there are other light rail options.
The train is a relatively cheap option. From Secaucus to Penn Station it’s $4.25 one-way for an adult. The ride is roughly fifteen minutes. There’s a parking lot located at Secaucus Junction that costs $24-$29 on a weekday. Anyone who has ever taken a regional train in the US can confirm it’s not, ahem, the best experience you’ll ever have in your life. Let’s just leave it at that.
Park & Ride NY Ferry
NY Waterway operates ferries on the Hudson River, East River as well as the Belford/Monmouth area. These ferries connect NJ ports with popular NY destinations. It’s important to note that not all ferry terminals have parking. The NY Waterway also operates buses, free of charge, once you get to NYC.
I took the Hudson River ferry from Port Imperial/Weehawken to Midtown (W. 39th St.). The ferry also goes to Wall Street and the World Financial Center. From Weehawken to Midtown, it only took 8 minutes. Ferries are frequent and clean. Not to mention, you can get a great view of the city as you approach.
The ferry isn’t as expensive as Amtrak but a ride is more expensive than the park and ride train. Weehawken to Midtown is $9 one-way for an adult. Conveniently located across the street from the Weehawken port is a parking garage. It’s $14 to park on a weekday before 9 am.
Planes, Trains &
Automobiles…the NY Waterway Ferry
As an experiment, I compared the three methods for reaching Manhattan from Philadelphia on a weekday, including at least 12 hours of parking for the park & ride options. This isn’t scientific so be sure to do your own comparison. I found that the Park & Ride options were essentially the same in terms of cost. Amtrak was more than twice as much. Again, be sure to double-check prices as they’re likely to change.
Obviously, all of these options come down to where you’re coming from, how much you value your time and your money. If you’d rather sit back and let someone else do the work, Amtrak is probably your best bet. But for those looking to balance out time and cost, the NY Waterway ferry is a great option that is largely overlooked. Next time you’re heading into The City, consider a NY ferry!
Did I miss an option? What’s your best way to get to Manhattan?