Commuting from Brooklyn to Ewing, NJ: how bad will it be?
January 31, 2011 4:53 PM   Subscribe

What should I expect if I were to commute from Brooklyn, NY to Ewing, NJ approximately twice a week? What is the suggested method (car, train, combination, etc)?

It has been decided that my husband and I are moving from California to NYC (Brooklyn) this spring. My job's East coast location is in Ewingville, Ewing, NJ. Unfortunately, due to the nature of his work, living outside of New York is not an option.

GoogleMaps says a commute like this is somewhere around 1.5ish hours, but I suspect that's too short to be true with traffic, and I didn't readily see toll information either. I currently pay a toll in California, and on most days the commute is already over an hour (but not quite 1.5 hours), so I'm mentally prepared/adjusted to commuting 5 days a week.

Don't worry, I do have the option of working from home most, if not all, days (especially in winter), but I will want to go to the office at least once or twice a week most likely. What am I in for?
posted by amylicious to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What a public transit commute will be like completely depends on where in Brooklyn you're planning to live. Trenton is on the NJ transit NE Corridor line which has a ton of express trains, and honestly Ewing is so close I might just take a cab from there. NJ Transit leaves out of NY Penn Station and Newark Penn Station. If you can position where you live so that you can quickly/easily get to NY Penn Station on the subway, it will be easier. If you could live in Queens on the LIRR which also goes to Penn Station, it would be even easier. If you lived somewhere in Brooklyn (I'm thinking like Bay Ridge) where you could quickly and easily drive to Newark and take the train from there, that would help too.
posted by Ashley801 at 5:04 PM on January 31, 2011

Where in Brooklyn?

Public transport is going to suck. Subway to Penn (depends on where you live, anywhere from 15 to 50 min), NJT to Trenton (an hour or more) bus to Ewing.

posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:05 PM on January 31, 2011

(Just want to add that if you've never done a train commute before, even if public transit is longer, a train commute is nothing like a car commute. On the train you can nap, work on your laptop, eat breakfast, etc. Personally I'd sacrifice a good sized amount of commute time to not have to drive.)
posted by Ashley801 at 5:11 PM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't think that public transportation will work so well. I don't think there is any direct NJ transit option between Ewing and NYC. I think you would have to change buses in Trenton. And you still be dropped off at a bus stop, not at your office. How far is that walk?

You would have to make this daily trip in a car. An hour and a half could actually be a realistic number for this commute - because you are commuting against the tide. When the rat race is entering NYC and Brooklyn, you are leaving. And When they are leaving, you are returning home. The highways around NYC are crazy packed at rush hour not matter which way you are going - but some parts of California are much worse.

If you are driving out of Brooklyn everyday in reverse commute, then you will want to talk the Verrazano Narrows Bridge to the Goethals Bridge to the NJ Turnpike to whatever exit works best for your job (exit 8A or 8). The Verrazano is $13 round trip, goethals is $8.00 round trip, the NJ Turnpike will cost you about $4.00 round trip. Your daily commute will be in the range of $25 per day.

You will want to live in South Brooklyn. The quickest you can get out of Brooklyn, the better. If you are in some parts of Brooklyn, it can 45 minutes just to get to a bridge or a tunnel. You should check out Bay Ridge - a great South Brooklyn neighborhood, and it is where the Verrazano enters brooklyn.
posted by Flood at 5:14 PM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

You might consider finding a place to park your car outside of NYC.

On the "living outside of New York" problem, is this a situation like being a city employee where you have to be in the five boroughs? Or do you just need to be very close to the city? Because living in the Jersey City/Hoboken/etc. area is just as close to town as living in Brooklyn, but you won't have to deal with bridges and tunnels every day.

Agree that if you're going to live in Brooklyn, Bay Ridge/Sunset Park/Dyker Heights or thereabouts is your best bet. Similarly, have you ruled out Staten Island? That takes another bridge out of your path.
posted by zvs at 6:02 PM on January 31, 2011

I'm assuming by Ewingville you mean somewhere just south of the New Jersey Route 31 and Interstate 95 junction. Taking public transportation would most likely mean ending with a cab ride, unless there's a bus line from the Trenton NJ Transit/Amtrak station to where you need to be. If you need to take a cab, I'd suggest taking it from the Hamilton Station, which is very close to I-95 and would be shorter, especially if your final destination is close to I-95.

That said, driving is probably your best option. Once you get the NJ Turnpike, I'd suggest taking Exit 9 to NJ Route 18 North to US Route 1 south to I-95. It shaves off a chunk of miles from the NJ Turnpike to Exit 7A- I-195 to I-295 to I-95 route you'd otherwise be taking (I don't think Exit 8 would make much sense, and Exit 8A wouldn't be an improvement over Exit 9). Route 1 can be slow, but you'd be reverse commuting, and it's not bad at all if you can adjust your commute times to miss the worse of rush hour.
posted by mollweide at 6:05 PM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Love these responses, and I'm open to more so please keep responding if you have anything additional to say. Knowing all of my options is extremely helpful!

Here are some answers to some of the questions that people brought up:

Yes, it is more of a city employee type of situation where we must live within the 5 boroughs, or definitely within NY state. We are semi ruling out Staten Island (despite it eliminating the need of one bridge), because we only have 1 car and my husband will need to be able to easily use the subway on days where I will be driving to NJ.

We have not decided on an area of Brooklyn, but are definitely paying attention to how close particular neighborhoods are freeways and ways OUT of the city. Bay Ridge has been a top contender but we are open to exploring other options (or other boroughs but Brooklyn seems like the best fit) if they make sense. Help here is definitely appreciated, since we are not 100% familiar with the various neighborhoods.

I have done commutes by train before in the San Francisco Bay Area. It has been several years, but it is definitely something that I'm used to and have done before on a daily basis.

Again, I likely won't need to commute 5 days a week -- looking at 1 or 2 days, or so, since I know it is pricey commute with the fares/tolls involved.

Keep it coming because we will need all the help we can get and will likely be frequenting Ask Mefi over the next several months as we approach the move and get situated on the Right Coast :)
posted by amylicious at 6:37 PM on January 31, 2011

A driving commute on the turnpike is very wearing. My husband changed jobs while we were living in Jersey City to a job in Princeton. Within two months of this daily commute (Turnpike and Route 1), he was ready to move. We're from Texas, so it's not like we don't know how to drive; it's just that NJ commuter driving, even against traffic, is grinding, even in good weather.

My experience in NJ was that outside the PATH (essentially Hoboken & Jersey City), you will need a car. Perhaps with a twice-weekly commute you could get a standing taxi order to get you from the train station to your job, but my personal experience with NJT while in New Jersey was that you couldn't count on finding a bunch of taxis at a stand the way you would expect at an airport.
posted by immlass at 7:14 PM on January 31, 2011

The Jersey -> Brooklyn commute is almost always going to be ugly. Going against the tide should help a bit,'s not a drive I ever like to make. Bay Ridge will be the easiest among your options, and you'll be looking at around $20 tolls round trip each day (unless I'm estimating this wrong).

The Staten Island Ferry is convenient for connecting from the Staten Island RR to the Subway on Manhattan, and free! If at all possible, living in Hoboken or Jersey City will really be the best of all worlds, unless you're 100% positive and certain that you need to live in NY.
posted by schmod at 7:23 PM on January 31, 2011

Having looked at the New Jersey Transit website, the big problem is that you'd have to take the train and THEN one or two busses to work, which is a little absurd. It would also be fairly expensive -- in the neighborhood of $30 a day, at least. As much as I'm a huge advocate of public transit and feel that one should do everything possible to avoid owning a car in NYC, I think driving would be a much easier solution.

That said: while it would be easier for you and your husband to find a house with parking on Staten Island, or in the more remote parts of Brooklyn, I would strongly suggest finding a place that's as close to the subway as possible. You may have a car, but you won't want to drive everywhere -- particularly not into Manhattan. And most of your new friends won't have cars, and will be much more likely to come visit you if you're within reach of the MTA.

Also....I don't mean to presume, but judging from your profile, I'm not so sure Staten Island would be a very good fit for you, culturally speaking. If you want to live someplace reasonably young and hip but easy to drive out of, try finding a place in Park Slope (or Sunset Park, if you're shorter on funds) that's close to 4th ave. You'll have no problem zipping south on it during your reverse commute, while everyone else is crawling toward Flatbush Avenue.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 7:25 PM on January 31, 2011

Public transit in greater NY outside of Manhattan is eroding along with the fiscal crisis. In a complicated commute such as you plan, this leads to long waits at various stations for late, broken, overcrowded transit. Out in the suburbs you find buses that run only once an hour, or taxis being very elusive. Maybe if you really only need to go once a week, it will be fine, but if you edge up to three times a week, you'll want a car.

I live in Bay Ridge. It is nice: diverse, safe, good restaurants, affordable housing. Make sure if you move here that you get a place that comes with parking because street parking here is a blood sport.

Good luck!
posted by egret at 8:22 PM on January 31, 2011

Yeah, for real, don't rule out Staten Island. (It's also much cheaper.) If you live near the ferry, it's 25 mins to lower Manhattan and the infinite subway connections there. That said, I'd be lying if I said it was a super-fun place... but there's some great parts.

If you're considering Bay Ridge vs. everywhere else, bear in mind that it's about a 45 minute commute to Manhattan no matter how you slice it. Dyker and Bensonhurst are further out and slower... Sunset Park is closer in and a not as nice, although still decent. Egret's point about parking in Bay Ridge is a good one (it's hellish)... but none of those other neighborhoods are much better either. Not many other places in Southern Brooklyn are accessible by subway.

Park Slope is also not a good place to park...
posted by zvs at 10:06 PM on January 31, 2011

Driving from Bklyn to Jersey can do your head in - unless you don't mind sitting in traffic.

One route you could also think of, since you would be doing a (somewhat) reverse commute is to take the Brooklyn-Battery tunnel up to the Holland Tunnel and over. It will be cheaper than The Verrazano route and if you live in the southern half of Park Slope/Red Hook-ish, the Brooklyn-Battery tunnel is often overlooked.

On the other hand getting to and then through Penn Station can also be a drag, not to mention the connection at the Jersey end of things. On the plus side, it would be cheaper all around and on the train you can do lots of other worthwhile things (reading and or working being no.1)

I did a job once just north of the George Washington Bridge (the absolute other end of Manhattan from Brooklyn) and getting through or around Manhattan was something we talked about regularly. I started looking into hot air balloons. (As it turns out not so practical because of air traffic to the various airports that ring the area).
posted by From Bklyn at 11:45 PM on January 31, 2011

oh, jeez. really? bklyn to ewing? ugh.

what people are telling you about public transport is right: after you get to nypenn station, expect a 90 minute train ride to trenton, and then another bus (or two, depending) ride of perhaps up to 40 minutes. unless you live in madison sq. garden, a public transpo option will be hella-harsh. i mean, sure, you can read and work on the train, but you can also sit and stew. especially when the train stops. which it does about three to four times i year (i'm a regular on the NE corridor, and my wife works in ewing as well, but we live near there; also my sister lives in bklyn, so we drive up fairly regularly).

so, if you're totally doing this, you definitely want to live in staten island. driving from staten island to ewing will take about 75-90 minutes each way. sure, it'll be a reverse commute, but the turnpike is almost always a nightmare, especially right north of 195, where the "cars only" and the "cars - trucks - buses" lanes converge. this kind of commute is much worse than living in tracy and working in sf (we used to live in the bay area too!), because the roads are simply not built for the amount of traffic and use, and they're constantly being worked on in a grand example of "too little too late." the roads here are narrow, people drive fast, the roads change names and designations abruptly with little to no warning, new jerseyans don't seem to understand the concept of road signs anyways, and then there's the lovely "jug handle" left turn. you will DEFINITELY need a good, up-to-date GPS out here.

finally, having come from the best coast, let me tell you that this really is the least coast. in addition to the traffic hassles, the weather sucks. you cannot get decent mexican food outside of nyc, and in nyc it's dicey (say 'so long' to those mission-style burritos). people are much more brusque here than in the bay area, and it's often downright unfriendly. in short, it's a really difficult transition. not impossible, but something you'll want to gird yourselves for. you can mefi mail me if you want more dish on ewing and the greater nyc area. best of luck.
posted by deejay jaydee at 7:35 AM on February 1, 2011

or tl;dr: it will be very bad.
posted by deejay jaydee at 7:36 AM on February 1, 2011

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