In 1993, Jon Melnick, a transportation planner with the New York City Transit Authority, published an article in the NEW YORK TIMES about travel from Delaware to Connecticut. He took two days and 22 buses to travel from Newark, Delaware to Old Saybrook, Connecticut. My memories of bus trips were not that great (unshaven men holding paper bags shaped like bottles and rest stops serving hockey pucks for hamburgers). Just for the fun of it, I decided to give Mr. Melnick, and anybody else, an alternative to flying, Amtrak or driving. The alternative: regional rail systems!
Unfortunately, the trip has to start on either a bus or Amtrak because Newark, Delaware is not served by a regional rail system. While it is on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, it is too far north for the Maryland regional rail system (MARC) and too far south for the Pennsylvania system (SEPTA). My first thought was let’s at least keep this trip all-rail and take a short hop on Amtrak from Newark to Wilmington. Unfortunately, the first and only northbound train isn’t until 4:34 pm with arrival in Wilmington at 4:47 pm.
The lateness of Amtrak’s stop at Newark will force us to either take a bus from Newark to Wilmington or else make this a two-day trip (Melnick took two days and stayed over in New Rochelle, New York). If we opt for the bus, we could be in Wilmington in time for the 6:14 am which gets into Philadelphia at 7:03, Trenton at 8:03 and New York at 9:22 am. Going a little later on the first off-peak train, we would leave Wilmington at 9:01 am, arrive in Philadelphia at 9:47 am, Trenton at 10:53 am and New York at 12:11 pm. Amtrak from Newark just misses the 4:41 pm and puts us on the 5:20 pm from Wilmington which gets into Philadelphia at 6:07 pm, Trenton at 7:18 pm and New York at 8:40 pm. While trains run as far as New Haven, the lateness of the hour would cause us to miss the last train to Old Saybrook.
At Wilmington, we can pick up the SEPTA (SouthEastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority) “R2” service. Fare to Philadelphia is $4.00 during peak (rush) hours and $3.00 off-peak. Equipment is electric MU coaches.
At 30th Street in downtown Philadelphia we would switch to the R7 line to Trenton, New Jersey. The $11.50 joint fare makes SEPTA-NJTransit the least expensive route between Philadelphia and New York City. Making a convenient change at Trenton, we take New Jersey Transit and go directly into New York’s Penn Station.
As an alternative (and to add more systems to somewhat approach Melnick’s 22 buses), we could get off NJTransit in Newark, New Jersey and take PATH to either midtown or World Trade Center.
Since all Metro-North service to New Haven originates from Grand Central Terminal, we will need to take a subway. From Penn Station, we can take an IRT 1, 2 or 3 to Times Square and then the Shuttle to Grand Central.
Metro-North’s New Haven line has two types of service: local which run as far as Stamford, Connecticut and express which stops only at 125th Street but then becomes local between Stamford and New Haven. Off peak travel from New York to New Haven costs $8.75 and departs at seven minutes past the hour from early morning until after midnight. Rush hour costs $11.75 and can be as often as five minutes apart.
The last leg of the trip will be over the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CDOT) “Shore Line East” service which goes as far as Old Saybrook. This line runs over an Amtrak-owned route and is operated by Amtrak, but with equipment owned by Connecticut. This equipment is painted in old New Haven Railroad colors. Trains make five stops between New Haven and Old Saybrook and take about 50 minutes for the trip. The cost is $4.00. There are convenient connections with Metro-North trains at New Haven, but service is mostly rush hour.
Regional rail systems have seen growth and modernization in the last few years because of increased demand for their services. At the start of our trip, nearby Maryland has built a new system in just a few years. Riding Amtrak between Baltimore and Washington and riding Washington’s METRO “Red” line, I have seen it grow steadily. SEPTA and New Jersey Transit have both modernized and expanded their services. For example, SEPTA service to Wilmington only began in 1989. Metro-North has added new equipment to the New Haven line to such an extent that many trains cannot platform all cars in the stations. The Shore Line East is a brand new service.
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