New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made of....wait....what?
May 13, 2010 4:44 PM   Subscribe

Driving to NYC from Philly this weekend and could use some help navigating in, around and out of the Big Apple.

I am driving to New York (Broadway) from Philly this weekend and started playing with Google maps, trying to figure out how to get to and around NYC between parking, restaurant and theater. I did a round trip map and was surprised to see that it has me entering NYC (via 495E and using the Lincoln Tunnel) a totally different way than leaving NYC (via 7th avenue south to I-78W and using the Holland Tunnel) - both connect to I-95. It's a pretty big difference in routes. Seems to me it would be easier to go back through the Lincoln Tunnel instead of driving 50+ city blocks south. Most places I go, I just usually go back the way I came. Is this not possible in NYC? Or is it just not advisable?

I have no problem getting around Philly, but I'm a little bit apprehensive and I'd appreciate any tips for driving in New York City.

Oh and if anyone can recommenced a place where you can rent a GPS/Garman/TomTom for the weekend, that would be super cool too.
posted by NoraCharles to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (19 answers total)
Lincoln tunnel is closer to Broadway, but the Holland tunnel isn't that far away, shouldn't be too bad unless there is traffic. Here's the issue, though: Where do you plan to park? I'd ask for recommendations so you don't wind up having to sell blood for midtown parking.
posted by cestmoi15 at 4:55 PM on May 13, 2010

My public library lets members borrow GPS units but the waiting list is incredibly long. You could check with yours, but asking a local friend is probably a better bet.
posted by knile at 5:00 PM on May 13, 2010

Best answer: Do you have a particular reason why you want to drive and not take public transportation?

I live right outside of Philly, and I usually drive to the Hamilton NJ Transit station to skip the awfully slow SEPTA train. Hamilton is usually a quick 45 minute to a hour ride into NY Penn Station, walking distance from Broadway shows. Depending on how many people on your car, it will be cheaper than parking in Midtown. Bonus? 1 hour 'sober up' time on your way home after you grab a few drinks after the show!

If, for some reason, you feel you want to park closer, I highly suggest the Harrison PATH station. Harrison is on the WTC path line, but you can easily change trains to 33rd street, and walk or subway from there to Broadway shows.

I really don't recommend driving into midtown Manhattan if you don't absolutely have to. It's fun, almost a sport, but the cost and headache associated with driving in far outweighs the benefits.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 5:06 PM on May 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

You can buy a TomTom at Radio Shack. They have very liberal return policies, in case you decide you .. don't like it.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 5:07 PM on May 13, 2010

Don't drive. Take the train -- NJT from some station towards the end of the Trenton line. From Philly (30th Street) you can also take Boltbus or Megabus; I've never used these, though, and depending on where exactly you're coming from you might have the problem of parking near 30th Street. It's also possible to take a local train from Philly (30th Street, again) to Trenton and than from Trenton to New York.
posted by madcaptenor at 5:23 PM on May 13, 2010

(That being said, if you insist on driving, Lincoln Tunnel both ways is probably easier in that you have to drive less in the city.)
posted by madcaptenor at 5:25 PM on May 13, 2010

I know it's not what you're looking for, but I'd strongly consider Geckwoistmeinauto's and madcaptenor's recommendation to take public transportation (I usually take the Bolt Bus from 30th Street; it has no stops, power at every seat, and is cheaper and more convenient than the SEPTA switchover).

The drive between NYC and Philly isn't terrible, but parking in NYC definitely is. Unless you get very lucky or know the art to finding spots in Manhattan, you may end up paying as much for parking near Broadway as you would on bus or train tickets.
posted by eisenkr at 5:27 PM on May 13, 2010

Why are you taking your car into the city? You don't need it. Driving from one to the other isn't a big deal, but what you do with your car while you're here is. You don't need it. I'm from the other side of the city, so I don't know what Jersey transit is like, but I imagine that it is a better option than driving.
posted by Brian Puccio at 5:45 PM on May 13, 2010

Tunnels -- I find the Holland a lot easier (simpler approach, no trucks, and I find the merge easier after the toll booths) than the Lincoln, and it drops you out right on the West Side Highway anyway. Go through on the right hand side of the tolls booths (if you have ezpass you'll save some time). As you exit the tunnel, stay right and take the first exit. Get in the left hand land as you cross the first traffic light (road works ahead close the right lane). Shortly you'll be at the West Side Highway and turn right and go as far north as you need. Toll is $8 inbound (on either tunnel). No toll outbound. Plus, your regular toll on the turnpike.

Parking -- go to and print out a coupon. You can easily park midtown for $10 or $15. Some of the coupons require you to give up your ticket stub. Some do not. (I pick up a discarded ticket from the ground outside the theater if I want to keep mine for the scrapbook). Most coupons require you to pay with a credit card.

Lights -- remember, NO RIGHT TURN ON RED anywhere in nyc unless it's specifically permitted by signage.

Really, look at the bus first. I have a friend in Philly who comes to NYC fairly regularly, and he *always* takes the bus.
posted by devbrain at 5:49 PM on May 13, 2010

I'd agree with those who suggest public transit, especially given that it sounds like you're looking to go to the theater? Meaning Broadway? If you're going to the theater district, I'd strongly recommend against driving in. There are decent areas of the city to drive in, but that's one of the worst! Plus, all the tolls and parking (particularly in high-traffic areas) are really expensive.
posted by wondermouse at 5:59 PM on May 13, 2010

Take the bus. It's easier.

That said, the choice between the Lincoln or Holland tunnel will vary according to the traffic conditions around the time you're entering New York. You really can't tell in advance whether one is better than the other. To get up to date traffic info, turn the radio to AM 1010 (the NYC equivalent of AM 1060). You'll get traffic alerts every 10 minutes, on the 1s. I usually turn the radio on at around Exit 11 or 12 of the Turnpike. You'll have to make a choice of whether to head to the Holland at Exit 14 or so.

Also, if you enter at the Holland, take into account that you'll be driving local routes up Manhattan to get to Midtown. On the radio, pay attention to any alerts about traffic on the West Side. From the Holland to Midtown without significant traffic is, hmm, about 20 minutes if you hit most of the lights.

Note that whenever I see people driving around Midtown, and the Times Square area in particular, I assume that, if they had a choice in the matter, they are crazy people or masochists.
posted by chengjih at 6:04 PM on May 13, 2010

Oh, the same thing with the radio applies when you're leaving Manhattan: check to see which outbound route is least problematic. AM 1010 WINS.

You may want to do the Google Maps thing with both routes printed.
posted by chengjih at 6:06 PM on May 13, 2010

Seconding chengjih above: listen to 1010 WINS. Traffic is every 10 minutes on the ones. It's my experience that the Holland Tunnel to Midtown when you hit most lights is more like 8-10 minutes. It takes 25 minutes to get from 49th and 8th to Bay Ridge (south Brooklyn) with no traffic. You'd be surprised how fast traffic can move. I would just avoid driving on Broadway or 7th ave. If you are hanging out in the theater district, don't bother driving east of 8th ave. Just park and walk.

Also, for parking, I've used a number of times to check prices of local garages. You can actually print the quote you get and bring it to the garage. If you don't print the reservation they will sometimes, but not always, honor the discount price.

Street parking in that area is better west of 8th Ave, but is still pretty awful. Meters go until 6pm (or 7pm?) on the avenues, but many side streets have no parking allowed 7am-7pm due to truck deliveries.

If you've never driven in Manhattan, please watch out for pedestrians as much as you'd watch out for cars. Many people dangerously wait in the parking lane waiting to jay walk, or at least for the light to change. And when making left turns, make sure no pedestrians are trying to cross the street you're turning on to. Just drive slowly and you should be fine.

Also, odd numbered streets head west and even numbered streets head east. And in that neighborhood, even numbered avenues head North, and odd numbered avenues head South.
posted by anthropoid at 6:34 PM on May 13, 2010

As a former Philly resident living in NY and working in NYC - take the bus / train. I'm a competent driver (Only accident I've been in, someone rear-ended me after I was at a standstill for over a minute), and I am still terrified of driving in NYC, not to mention paying for parking, IF it's available. Unless you plan well ahead of time, you could be looking for a spot while your show is starting. It's not worth the stress or money.
posted by GJSchaller at 6:34 PM on May 13, 2010

I'm on the Jersey side of the river but near Philly. I've taken a few different routes into NYC and I can't see why you would want to drive between the two cities. Buses and trains will get you to midtown where you'll want to be. Personally I usually drive to Hoboken, park in a garage and take the PATH to 33rd, but the parking's not cheap (though much, much better than in the city) and you have to take the turnpike. Other PATH stations also work, but you have to switch trains. NJ Transit is fine, the Hamilton station is probably the right one - just have a schedule and know your fares ahead of time. I've been hearing good things about the Bolt bus lately as well, though again check your schedule.
posted by graymouser at 6:39 PM on May 13, 2010

Best answer: Everyone is overthinking this, and your gut instinct is spot on. Take the Lincoln Tunnel in and out. You're right that taking the Lincoln in and the Holland out makes no sense. Park in a garage within walking distance of the venue (you won't have to go far to find one), enjoy your show, and go back the way you came. By the way - and I say this in all seriousness - there is a big costume party this Saturday at a club near Times Square, so if that's the day of your show, keep an eye out for people walking the streets in fabulous, glittery outfits. It's all part of the experience!
posted by infinityjinx at 6:45 PM on May 13, 2010

Response by poster: Ok, ok, we'll take the train. Sheesh. :-)

Having a station name like the one Geckwoistmeinauto suggested was a big help, so we decided to drive halfway and take the train the rest of the way in. Should be a beautiful day tomorrow, so the walk up to the restaurant and theater (we're seeing Promises, Promises) should be nice.

Thanks for all the great replies and suggestions!
posted by NoraCharles at 1:27 PM on May 14, 2010

When we drive from the DC area, we take the Lincoln tunnel in and out, and we use the ramp to go straight up to the parking garage that sits on top of the Port Authority bus terminal. The nice thing about leaving the car there is that its easy to run packages back to the car if we need to - you don't get the same flexibility with one of those "we bring your car to you" garages.
posted by ersatzkat at 5:24 PM on May 14, 2010

Response by poster: Follow Up: The train was truly the very best idea. Once we were in a cab from Penn Station to the restaurant and I saw how crazy those cabbies drive, I KNEW it was the best decision to not drive myself. I was much more relaxed and able to enjoy the day.

So although those replies here didn't answer the question I posed specifically about driving, I found them to be very helpful suggestions, so again, thank you!

Oh and Promises, Promises was great!
posted by NoraCharles at 12:19 PM on May 16, 2010

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