so far away argh!
May 5, 2011 10:57 AM   Subscribe

What would be the most streamlined/cheap/quickest way to get to go between Rochester, NY and Port Jefferson(Long Island), NY on a semi regular basis?

So, I am going to be moving out to Port Jefferson come this summer to start my new life as a graduate student. The boyfriend, a graduate student in Rochester, will be Rochester-bound for the next 3-4 years(organic chemistry, he is chained to his glovebox). Eventually he will start looking for post-docs, hopefully he can find one near enough by that we can live together.

We want to be able to see each other as often as possible(schedules permitting). Maybe once every 3-weeks to a month? We're both on stipends of about $1600 a month(although my financial situation can be/is supplemented by my parents). I will have my first summer off, and can spend summers after that in places other than school as long as I am researching. I will own my residence as well, so I don't really need to worry about subletting.

I have a car, he does not. He is willing to buy one(something small/cheap/gas-sipping like a Toyota Yaris or the Hyundai Accent) if it is cheaper than flying out on a regular basis, but the thing is, the closest large airports are in the city, and that's a long/scary(mostly scary) drive and a 1.5 hour train trip away to boot. So that adds inconvenience factor to flying out. And gas is $4 a gallon now. o.o Would being a member of a airlines frequent flyer thing help? Which one? JetBlue?

So, how the heck do we do this? I have never lived in LI/NYC area before and know nothing about the transportation resources available. ...Lots of anxiety over this long-distance thing, I don't want our relationship to slowly fizzle out because we can't physically get to each other(I'm sure there will be another question about that in later weeks, although I've read a lot of the previous stuff too.)

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
posted by lettuchi to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (19 answers total)
Don't know how long the trip is, but you could take the Lake Shore Limited to Penn Station and then get on the LIRR. Might not be faster than driving but you can sleep or read or do whatever the whole way there, and it's more comfortable than the bus.
posted by mneekadon at 11:21 AM on May 5, 2011

Sorry, that's on Amtrak.
posted by mneekadon at 11:22 AM on May 5, 2011

Not sure I'm understanding the "long scary drive" part. Is your boyfriend far from the Rochester airport? There are nonstops from Rochester to both LaGuardia and Kennedy, and they look prety cheap, too - $130 to Kennedy on JetBlue, $160 on LGA on US Air. As for your end, the airports are about an hour away from Port Jeff by car, which is a bit of a schlep but not terrible (and you'd be staying on the outskirts of the city).

If you're only flying once or at most twice a month, this seems a lot cheaper than buying a car. Obviously if you fly up to see him, you'd have to pay for parking at the airport (and unless he has friends to take him to the Rochester airporter, he'd be paying for cabs). But that seems like the most reasonable approach, especially once you factor in how much quicker it will be than driving 7 hours.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 11:48 AM on May 5, 2011

Kennedy/LGA are in the city, but Islip is much closer for you, and seems to have direct flights to Rochester - not sure it's the best option, but it is an option.
posted by pupdog at 11:51 AM on May 5, 2011

Response by poster: The long scary drive is from Port Jeff to the airports in NYC.
posted by lettuchi at 12:00 PM on May 5, 2011

Megabus runs between Rochester and NYC.
posted by COD at 12:08 PM on May 5, 2011

Best answer: Don't know how long the trip is, but you could take the Lake Shore Limited to Penn Station and then get on the LIRR. Might not be faster than driving but you can sleep or read or do whatever the whole way there, and it's more comfortable than the bus.

Looks like between 7 and 8.5 hrs to New York Penn Station.
posted by The Michael The at 12:09 PM on May 5, 2011

Best answer: US Airways flies from ROC to ISP (MacArthur) but it's not a direct flight. Amtrak is a possibility, but you'll need to get from Grand Central to Penn Station to get the LIRR to Port Jeff.
posted by tommasz at 12:12 PM on May 5, 2011

Best answer: Just here to agree you need to check out Islip (Macarthur), which is on Long Island and very easy to get in and out of. Otherwise, you are looking at a long train ride. He could also maybe fly into Connecticut and take the ferry across? Not sure about CT airports though...and the ferry is not as cheap as one might think.
posted by fyrebelley at 12:13 PM on May 5, 2011

Ooops, ignore that. Amtrak does go to Penn Station now (it didn't when I was in college).
posted by tommasz at 12:13 PM on May 5, 2011

Best answer: He is willing to buy one(something small/cheap/gas-sipping like a Toyota Yaris or the Hyundai Accent) if it is cheaper than flying out on a regular basis

Buying a car, (especially a new one) for anything other than a regular commute is almost never a good decision from an economic perspective. Aside from gas, don't forget about insurance, taxes, and maintenance.

Similarly, if you're only going to be driving it occasionally, you're very unlikely to reap the benefits of a small, "fuel-sipping" car. Coincidentally, I did the math earlier today to figure out when it would be a good idea to ditch my 18mpg gas guzzler for a Prius -- $4.50 gas is painful. Turns out, even with insanely expensive gas, $5k for trading in my existing car, and driving 8,500 miles a year, it'd still take me 9-10 years to recover the cost of buying a $15k used Prius versus continuing to drive my gas guzzler.

Those small cars are going to be selling at a premium right now, thanks to high gas prices. For you, they're probably not worth the extra cost. If you're buying a used car, look for something with easy/cheap maintenance and a low initial price tag.

If flying/taking the train also suck (and they very well might), you can generally rent a decent car with unlimited/free mileage for $45 bucks a day.

Megabus runs between Rochester and NYC.
Yeech. And it's $75 each way. Those prices are nuts for discount bus service. Amtrak tickets look like they're only $50-$60 each way, and that's a vastly more comfortable ride.

My vote goes for LIRR + Amtrak. You don't need to get from Grand Central to Penn Station, as LIRR goes directly from Port Jefferson to Penn Station. Sounds pretty convenient to me.
posted by schmod at 12:18 PM on May 5, 2011

One can take the AirTrain from JFK airport to Jamaica station. From Jamaica, hop the LIRR to Port Jeff to eliminate most of the drive.
posted by xo at 12:31 PM on May 5, 2011

JetBlue flies direct between ROC and JFK, and I see flights as low as $49 each way. AirTrain between JFK and Jamaica station and then LIRR between Jamaica and Port Jeff. It's price competitive with Amtrak and much faster, even considering the hassle of dealing with TSA and flying.
posted by andrewraff at 12:44 PM on May 5, 2011

Best answer: Hello, neighbor! If I were making this trip, I would take the LIRR from Port Jefferson to Penn Station, and then Amtrak from Penn Station to Rochester.

If you'd prefer flying, Long Island MacArthur (Islip) airport is a 20-30 minute drive from Port Jefferson. It's also little - which means you get through security super fast (it is so much nicer than JFK!) but there are also fewer flights, so you'd have to check and see if it would get you to Rochester.

I hate driving through the city to get off of Long Island. Whenever I make forays to the north, I take the ferry across Long Island Sound. The ferry runs from Port Jefferson to Bridgeport CT, takes about an hour and fifteen minutes, and costs $51 for a car with a driver and no passengers. It works for me because I have family near Bridgeport anyway, so the ferry is extra-convenient. For driving out to Rochester, the ferry might not save you any time, but it saves you the stress of driving through the city (if you're willing to spend the ferry money).

That said, I'd personally choose the LIRR + Amtrak route, no question.
posted by pemberkins at 1:38 PM on May 5, 2011

Best answer: Don't forget to look at Southwest flights out of Islip, too--they don't fly to Rochester but they do fly to Buffalo, which might be an option for you if you or your boyfriend are willing to drive a bit upstate (hey, must be easier than the drive to JFK!). I live in Port Jeff now and have done the LIRR-to-AirTrain-to-JFK thing more times than I can count. It's convenient, but have to allow for about 2 hours of train time, and with the LIRR scheduling you can easily be forced to leave home 4 hours before your actual departure time, which kind of sucks. Flying out of Islip is so, so much easier in comparison. If you park at the airport you will pay something like $18 a day, but once you get settled and make friends it's not too hard to get a ride there.

As mentioned above, the ferry is a really nice option for getting off the island fast and avoiding city traffic, but it's not that cheap if you want to bring a car.

Good luck and welcome to the neighborhood! It took me a few years, but after the initial culture shock I've come to really enjoy living on Lon Guyland =)
posted by Jemstar at 1:55 PM on May 5, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone!
posted by lettuchi at 2:36 PM on May 5, 2011

I'm an ex-Roc-grad-student who used to go down to the city a few times a year, and I tried everything at least once to get there. The only thing I really liked was flying JetBlue to JFK. If you keep your eye on their deals and have some flexibility in your schedules, that might be the most reliable way to do this. Jemstar's tip about BUF & Southwest sounds pretty awesome, too. As you probably know already, ROC is a breeze in terms of congestion at the airport itself & with its privatized security, knock on wood.

The train just felt like it took forever. Driving felt like I was somehow wasting my time. Jemstar's suggestion of Buffalo is great if your partner & you have people you can call in favors for driving to/from BUF, which is a total cakewalk of a drive in my experience.
posted by knile at 3:12 PM on May 5, 2011

lettuchi: "The long scary drive is from Port Jeff to the airports in NYC."

I guess I was confused, then, because you are also contemplating driving to Rochester, which is quite a bit further away. What's more, the drive to Rochester starts out identically as the drive to LGA - you take the LIE (except for Rochester, you get on the Throgs Neck Bridge instead of switching to the Grand Central Parkway). The only way to avoid this would be, as someone mentioned, taking the ferry from Port Jefferson to Bridgeport, CT - not a route I'd recommend, as it's long, expensive, and Bridgeport is rather unlovely.

So if you're comfortable making the drive up to Rochester, the drive to LGA should not be much of a difference. And you get to LGA directly off of the highway (the aforementioned GCP) - no driving on city streets necessary. (The drive to JFK is similar.)

I personally feel that the bus, train, or driving will be long and expensive (especially if your boyfriend has to buy a car). And if your time together is limited (I'm guessing mostly weekends?), spending 15 or 20 hours out of the 48 you might otherwise get together in transit will be frustrating. (Google Maps suggests the train route would take over ten hours each way, door to door.) And there's the safety factor, too, since flying is safer than being on the road, particularly if you get tired.

Of course, you can try out a few different options without settling on anything in advance. Whatever you decide, good luck! :)
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 9:46 PM on May 5, 2011

Best answer: I did the Rochester to NYC thing for about a year, every other week. I can tell you that ROC to JFK on Jetblue is super easy. The Jetblue terminal in JFK is really nice for when you get inevitably stranded there.

I didn't travel to Port Jeff, but getting to Jamaica station to hop the LIRR from JFK is simple, and quick. If you plan ahead, and keep track of the deals you can often get tickets for less than a 100 dollars each way, and quickly gain enough points to get free flights.

The first flight out of ROC in the morning (6AM) is the one you want, as its already at ROC in the morning, and flies often when the others later in the day don't. There was a few times when I made it door to door in less than 3 hrs.
posted by HoldFast at 7:43 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

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