Monday, October 17, 2011

Riding the Rails (NYC pt. 1)

Stacked parking in NYC
This past weekend, my thirteen year old and I went to New York City to visit friends and to see some sights. To get there we chose the mass transit method of transporting ourselves. I figured that it would be good to reinforce to the next generation that you don't need to drive everywhere and to work on the stigma that only poor people take public and mass transit.

So, we arose at 3 am Friday morning, and left the house to catch the 3:30 am bus to South Station in Boston. We had a very uneventful bus ride. The main item of note was that the bus was so full after stopping in Portsmouth, that we skipped the Newburyport stop (I presume another bus was dispatched), and we headed straight to Boston. This meant that we arrived at South Station slightly early. It was great to see so many people taking the mass transit option to reach trains and planes.

Once at South Station we had a leisurely fast food breakfast and perused the magazine rack at the newsstand (great selection). We alighted onto the 6:15 am Northeast Regional train heading for Newport News, Virginia. The train was smooth as can be. The boarding and seating is organized and progressed really well. Like the bus ride, the train was early arriving in New York. We sat back and enjoyed our books and other reading material (For those keeping track, I read a fiction way book on the way to NYC and two on the way home).

I know that I could save time, approximately 2 hours by driving from Dover to NYC. The benefit in my mind is the ability to relax and read or sleep, which my son did. Hungry? No need to look for an exit to get food, either bring your own, or check out the cafe car. Interested in watching a movie, surfing the net, reading, or any other leisure activity that might not be possible driving? Do it. Interested in connecting with your thirteen year old? Good luck. Best part, in my opinion, is that the train has what I'd call first class seating on an airplane, for the whole coach. Legroom is generous, seats recline, armrests are nice. Always changing view is good.

Cost wise, I am not sure what to think. It was around 150 dollars for the two of us (kids fare is affordable) to bus and train it. You can do the bus from Portsmouth to NYC for about that cost for one passenger. You can do other bus rides from South Station for a third the cost.

The train was packed, just as the bus had been. At various times, and for what seemed to be the majority of the trip we didn't see any vacant seats in our car, or others we walked through. People seemed very amenable, and chatty even. We didn't encounter an unhappy passenger or even a scowl. Everything was all good. The travel fairies were with us.

To me, the best part was getting off the train in NYC and being able to walk out and not worry about parking. On street (only 50 cents for ten minutes - $3 an hour) parking appeared to be a rare occurrence. In a lot you are lucky to find a garage for 25 dollars for a half day, but lots weren't that apparent either. The property owners seem to have determined that property value is better suited to a use other than parking. That can be a huge thing to overcome.

Once we were in the City we walked (it always amazes me how far one will accept walking when there is visual stimuli), and rode the subway for the most part. We did take a cab at one point, because it was cheaper to do so than to take the subway for 4 of us. Still, as my son noticed the car/bus method of travel in the City is the slowest option most of the time. Foot or subway travel is the quickest for the most part.

Anyway, it is always fun to dream. Dover will not have a subway in my lifetime, or probably ever. It has a bus service, COAST and FasTrans, but overall we have a low critical mass for this form of mass transit to take off (intra city and inner city). It is rewarding to see services like C&J, the Downeaster, and other Amtrak lines being used positively. Incidentally, the train ride home was more packed than the ride to NYC. Until the Massachusetts stops, there were no free seats in our car at all the whole ride home.

Tomorrow, I'll add an entry about actually being a planning tourist in NYC.

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