Travelling to NYC
February 7, 2005 11:35 AM   Subscribe

NYC Travel Filter (Thanks in advance from a confused Californian and NYC newbie) [+]

On Sunday morning I'm flying into JFK. I need to get from there to Valhalla, NY (near White Plains). I know I need to take the "Harlem Line" train from somwhere in Manhattan. So what's the best way to get from JFK to Manhattan? I think I need to go to Grand Central Station (is that the same as Penn Station?), and is that where I can catch the Harlem Line train? And how long does the trip from JFK to Grand Central usually take? Will the fact that I'm travelling on a Sunday make any difference? Am I correct in assuming that my return journey should be just reversing all the routes/trains?
posted by ruwan to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (13 answers total)
The easy thing to do is to hail a cab. But you can do it with mass transit and save $50. This is not for the faint of heart, but it will work:

1. From your terminal at JFK, hop on the AirTrain monorail toward the A train subway (*not* to Jamaica).

2. Get on a Manhattan-bound A train.

3. Let simmer 30-45 minutes. (Some would take that literally.)

4. Get off the A train at Fulton Street in Manhattan and transfer to the 4/5 Bronx-bound line.

5. Take the 4/5 three stops to Grand Central. Exit the subway and find the Metro-North ticket counters in the grand hall, and away you go--er, continue to go.

For reference, here's the NYC subway map. JFK is on the far right; Grand Central, where trains go to Westchester, is where the green and purple lines cross in Manhattan. Don't call them green and purple when you get here, though.
posted by werty at 11:47 AM on February 7, 2005

Best answer: You need to get to Grand Central Station, not Penn (and yes, they are different). There's a bus service, New York Airport Service, that is $15 and runs directly from the airport to Grand Central. It takes approximately an hour and 15 minutes, but it is easy and cheap.

Alternatively, you can take a taxi, which will be faster but more expensive. (I'm sure someone else can quote you the price; I always take the bus.)

Alternatively #2, you can take a car service directly from JFK to Valhalla for probably around $100 (expensive, easy, much faster than going to Valhalla via NYC).
posted by xo at 11:49 AM on February 7, 2005

Oh, you could also do the AirTrain via Jamaica, and take the E train to the downtown 6 rather than the A to the 4/5. That may be faster, although the E-to-the-6 transfer is a bit of a nuisance.

*Or* you could take the AirTrain to Jamaica and take LIRR to Penn Station, then cab it cheaply back to Grand Central. (When I take AirTrain I do the LIRR route, but once I'm in Manhattan the cab takes me home.)

In short, lots of options, all of them useful, none of them simple. That's New York for you.
posted by werty at 11:50 AM on February 7, 2005

p.s.: Train schedules for Valhalla here. Do look up Sunday specifically, as the schedules are different on Sundays (different still on Saturdays; M-F will be constant unless it's a holiday).
posted by xo at 11:55 AM on February 7, 2005

5. ... Exit the subway and find the Metro-North ticket counters in the grand hall..

Whoaaaa, chief, you sort of hopped blithely over a lot there.

You should know that you will need to go upstairs from the subway, then follow the signs for Grand Central/Metro North. This is a large subway stop and it's easy to take a wrong turn after coming up the stairs and end up lost in the alternate exits or lost out on the street. Make sure you are exiting the turnstiles at the Grand Central/Metro North side and go upstairs AGAIN after exiting the turnstiles.

One you are upstairs, you will also need to make sure you get to the ticket counters instead of ending up outside on the street, or in the shops, or wandering around the halls again. It's rather complicated for a newbie. I'd say once you get upstairs the second time, ask someone to point you toward the Metro North counters.
posted by spicynuts at 12:21 PM on February 7, 2005

When you get out of the subway train at Grand Central, walk up the first up staircase you see. Then just be sure to specifically follow the signs that say "EXIT - Grand Central - Metro North". If you're riding the 4/5/6 subway from the south, and if I remember correctly, you should get on towards the rear of the train since from there you just walk right out of the train, up two staircases, and into the heart of Grand Central. From the other end of the platform, you'll be in corridors a while or come out in the ass end of Grand Central. (And if you're riding to Astor Place from the north, you want to be in the third car from the back. You learn these things riding the subway to the same stops a lot.)

You will also most likely have to wait to use ticket counter, so be smart and use one of the ticket machines they have all over the place.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 12:48 PM on February 7, 2005

And if you buy your ticket from a human, don't ask him/her what track your train is on. They don't have the info and hate to be asked. Turn around and ask at the round information booth in the middle of the great hall.
posted by scratch at 12:52 PM on February 7, 2005

Having previously lived right by Grand Central, and having travelled frquently enough for work to have tested out all the options many times over, I'd say by far the best cost/complexity balance in your case would be the NY Airport Service bus. Easy to get onto the bus at the airport, easy to get from where the bus stops at Grand Central to the ticket booths (just head in the door and down the ramp into the main concourse), relatively cheap at $15, and fairly fast on a Sunday.
posted by thomascrown at 12:53 PM on February 7, 2005

BTW - a handy online resource is Hop Stop - which provides directions from one New York City address to another whether you’re walking, taking the subway or the bus (via Lifehacker).
posted by ericb at 1:47 PM on February 7, 2005

the bus is simplest--definitely.
posted by amberglow at 1:51 PM on February 7, 2005

Are you sure you don't want some suggestions about where to eat?
posted by Caviar at 4:39 PM on February 7, 2005

And while you're hustling through Grand Central, do yourself a favor and take a few minutes to check out the Main Concourse -- one of the most beautiful restored railway terminals in the world and a wonderful, soaring space. The vaulted ceiling is a famous "folly" -- in true New Yorker fashion, we have a God's eye view of the night sky. It was accidentally painted backwards!
posted by thinkpiece at 5:47 AM on February 8, 2005

When you get on the train to Vahalla if there is not an announcment make sure to ask the conductor that you are on one of the cars where the doors will open at Valhalla. Sometimes there are 8 cars and I believe Valhalla is one of the stations where there is enough room for only 6.
posted by mlis at 6:05 AM on February 8, 2005

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