NYC to Rutgers
May 20, 2005 6:26 AM   Subscribe

Question for NYCmefites and/or mefis that know about Rutgers University. I have a friend here in Spain that is going to do a 2 month academic sojourn at Rutgers but wants to enjoy NYC to the fullest. She has a tight budget, where should she stay?

So here are the particulars. She is a young History professor that will be working at Rutgers University (Center for Historical Analysis, 81 College Ave) for two months. She needs to go to the university around 3-4 times a week, but would like to spend as much time as possible exploring NYC (obviously!) so she has some questions:

1. First of all this is happening Sept 1 - Oct 30, the first 20 days with her significant other, the second month she'll be on her own (a studio is fine either way).

2. She can't really spend more than $1000 a month on rent.

3. Because she wants to spend as much time in NYC as possible, she was thinking about staying in Brooklyn, but she is concerned about the commute. How long is it, what does she have to do (metro, trains,etc.). Specifically:

3a. How long and how expensive is the commute?

3b. How does she get from Penn Station to Rutgers? (and how does she get to the Center for Historical Analysis, 81 College Ave.?)

3c. New Jersey transit web site talks about peak morning and evening hours, what are these and how do they affect the price of the ticket?

4. Does anybody have a suggestion for an intermediate solution, somewhere in between Rutgers and NYC? Like in NJ, but close to Manhattan? Or any other area of NYC?

She's been checking out Craigslist, but any and all first-hand knowledge is welcome: people who know the area well, the commute, the University, or who know about good sublets for that period in an interesting part of NYC or NJ that is near the trains that she will have to take. Any overall advice for living in NYC or Rutgers?
posted by sic to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I went to school there, but I lived in New Brunswick, so I don't have much to help in that regard. But I did go to Manhattan quite a bit:

3a) There's a train line that runs between downtown New Brunswick, where Rutgers is, and Penn Station. It takes about an hour, give or take 10 minutes. $13.00 round trip, with weekly or monthly rates being significantly less. On the linked page, scroll down past the schedule for the fares.

3b) 81 College Ave is two somewhat long blocks from the train station. An easy walk. A little scary at 2 AM, because it's a pretty deserted area of campus.

3c) These are NYC commuter rail lines, so traveling to NYC in the morning (6-9 AM, ish) or back home at night (4-7 PM) costs more, to keep the non-commuters away. She should generally be going the opposite directions, so this shouldn't have much effect, and it's moot if you get a weekly/monthly pass.
posted by smackfu at 6:45 AM on May 20, 2005

I didn't go to Rutgers, but New Brunswick, NJ, is an hour's train ride from Manhattan alone--to drive or take multiple trains from Brooklyn will be a good 90-minute commute each way.

NJ Trainsit charges more for trains during rush hour. The comment above mine has exact pricing; note that $13 is probably the peak rate, and that NJT just approved a price increase that may add a dollar to that cost.

If your friend has access to a car, her best bet may be to rent in a town on the Jersey side of the Hudson, like Jersey City or Hoboken. Rents are comparable to Brooklyn, the PATH train is affordable (if clunky), and the drive time to Rutgers will be bearable.
posted by werty at 6:48 AM on May 20, 2005

If she is thinking of staying in the general New Brunswick area then there is a Rutgers Off Campus Housing website .
posted by blueyellow at 7:55 AM on May 20, 2005

To travel in and out of brooklyn to NJ on a daily basis is very tough, and I speak from experience. I do it from a city in NJ that is like 30 minutes *closer* to NYC than New Brunsick, and it sucks ass. My commute is at the very least 1.5 hours each way, and that's when there are no delays (which is rare). And this is not a pleasant ride of pretty subway cars and nice people. It's a lot of switching trains...and it's a lot of sweating, as NJ transit does not list the track numbers before the train is called, so it's a 'free-for-all' once they announce the track numbers.

If she were to choose living in brooklyn, it is a really bad idea. The commute from brooklyn will be very difficult, even to the closest points to manhattan. My estimate is that public transportation will take *at least* two hours each way (on a normal commute), and when you're dealing with so many variables such as NJ transit AND the NYC subway, chances are that you are going to hit delays constantly. New Brunswick is way out southwest in NJ, and maybe even closer to Philadephia than NYC.

Another problem with relying on NJ transit is that when traveling, the last trains M-F running out of Penn Station are during the 11 o'clock hour, and then they resume at like 6 am. So if she's hanging out in Manhattan at night, she'll have to get to Penn any event she's participating in, she'd have to leave around 11ish to get to Penn Station on time. Saturday nights, i believe the trains run until the 1ish hours, but that is still very early for a Saturday night.

I would urge her to pick something on the NJ side of things, rather than the NYC boroughs. If being close to the city is REALLY her priority, and 24 hour access into NYC is important to her, tell her to settle in an area that has 24 hour access to NYC (without relying on NJ transit) like a city that is serviced by thePATH Train. The PATH services a few large, industrial and developed cities like Newark, Harrison, Hoboken, and Jersey City. Each city has its own benefits and drawbacks. Each city is much grittier than what you will find out by New Brunswick, which is really all about malls and highways and shopping routes. And each city on the PATH is not as safe for a single (she'll be alone, right?) woman as something you'd find out west by New Brunswick.

But her commute from these PATH points to New Brunswick will still be about 1 hour.

If cost is the real issue, it would be better for her to pick something closer to New Brunswick, as it gets much cheaper out there, and then just arrange weekends in NYC at cheap hotels or something.

but listen, then again, she's only doing it for 2 months, right? So i think the long commute might be bearable for her. It's really very subjective. Just good to let her know what she'll be dealing with.
posted by naxosaxur at 7:59 AM on May 20, 2005

The last njtransit train is at 1:41am (weekdays and weekends) (schedule). I agree that she is better off being in NJ and path accessible if being able to get in and out of NYC at all hours is important. The New Brunswick area isnt that bad a place to live, multiple theaters, many good restaurants, some pretty good bars and a few clubs. I vaguely remember that at some point it was ranked as a top city for singles.
posted by blueyellow at 10:12 AM on May 20, 2005

I would recommend downtown Jersey City, for cost, closeness to the city, local food and hangouts and a managable commute to to Rutgers. My sister is in the dr. program out there and makes the commute daily. She says it takes 45 minutes to an hour from here depending on the time of day.

New Brunswick is not closer to philly than NYC, but it maybe close to 1/2 way.

It takes less time to get from Jersey City to Manhattan then from Brooklyn.
posted by jeffe at 10:19 AM on May 20, 2005

newark is getting nicer, in parts, and hoboken has some great areas too - she definitely should be on the jersey side & access nyc via path rather than being on the brooklyn side, which will be a miserable commute.
posted by judith at 10:20 AM on May 20, 2005

There are sometimes summer rentals available in Manhattan, or easy commuting cities, mostly from people travelling for the summer etc., especially professors. Sometimes these can be reasonably priced if the lessor is just looking for someone to watch the place and or get back some of the maintenance fees. You typically need to know the lessor, but the professors she will be working with may know someone who is going to be taking a summer sojourn. Hard to find, but worth asking.
posted by caddis at 10:31 AM on May 20, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks for all the great responses so far. My friend is now a believer in the magic that is AskMetafilter (can you believe that she was skeptical?)

She also mentioned that she would like to work at the NYC library, (supposing that she stays in NYC - although the consensus seems that she should stay in NJ) - anything she should know about NYC library?
posted by sic at 10:48 AM on May 20, 2005

$1,000 is unlikely to get you a short-term studio anywhere you'd want to live in Manhattan or Jersey City (or Brooklyn for that matter, although that's out of the question for commute reasons.)

The best move, I'd suggest, would be a studio somewhere right on the Northeast Corridor line in New Jersey. She'll have a fast, pain-free ride BOTH to Rutgers and to Manhattan, and can easily meet her budget.

There are plenty of apartments within walking distance of the stations, many of which are in reasonably charming locations, like this one.
posted by MattD at 1:25 PM on May 20, 2005

unless Rutgers gets her the library job, it'll be next to impossible, given her student visa (i'm assuming). She can look here tho
posted by amberglow at 7:43 PM on May 20, 2005

My brother goes to Rutgers. He's in France right now, or I'd ask him to tell you firsthand. I would recommend staying in the New Brunswick area and simply taking the train into Manhattan on the weekends. School is more important than play.

It's a shame she won't have a car, or I might actually recommend something right around here. My studio is $800 / month, is 10 min drive from Manhattan (via GWB) when there's no traffic, and is right off the Turnpike (I can be at Rutgers in 1/2 hr). Would I do the commute from here to Rutgers every day for 2 months? Heck no. She will honestly probably only have time to go to the city on the weekends. Due to the length of the commute, living in NY would actually leave less time for studying and therefore mean less time to enjoy the city.

Hope this helps!
posted by Eideteker at 7:59 PM on May 20, 2005

Response by poster: Amberglow: I didn't explain myself well, I meant she wants to do some of her research at the NYC library, not actually get a job there! The question was more about the ins ans outs of doing research there -- as an alternative to spending all of her time at the Rutgers library...

un abrazo, guapo!

Eideteker: I didn't quite understand your post; where are you located? From where you are the commute by car is easy but by train is difficult?

ps) I may have to mark this entire thread as 'best answer'! You guys are great...
posted by sic at 3:30 AM on May 21, 2005

If she really wants to be able to pop into manhattan whenever she feels like it, Jersey City is definitely her best bet. As Jeffe mentions above, it actually can be faster to manhattan than Brooklyn (Not always though, brooklyn's a big place. And the PATH trains are awfully slow late at night). A nice area in JC is the around Hamilton Park. 1000 bucks will find you a share no problem. She could pay as little as 600 for a nice place with a roommate or two.

She should rule Brooklyn out right now. It's a lovely place, but it isn't for commuting to Rutgers.

Frequent trips to NYC won't be much of a hassle from New Brunswick, but remember the trains stop before two. So you either have to call it an early night, or hang around until they start again in the morning.

As for the library, Rutgers has a really great system. It's also way easier to navigate than the NYPL. All the really cool people know floor 2a in Alexander library is the coolest looking (wide stacks, and something actually cool and lovely about the flourescent lighting), but 3 has the best places to hide away with plastic bottles full of wine and shakespeare.

I recommend not picking a town along the NE corridor line though. Metuchen is nice, but it saves you almost no time, and now you've got to take a train both to both places. New Brunswick offers more in terms of social opportunities and things to do.

Lastly, there is an express train that runs from Newark to New Brunswick. I don't know how to find it. I've never been able to successfully plan to be on it, but it's about 20 minutes long. A real treat. Usually it runs around rush hour and it's too crowded for the conducter to take your ticket. So you get a free, fast ride.

PS. I went to Rutgers, live in Brooklyn, frequently visit Jersey City. I'm actually about to make the Brooklyn -> New Brunswick commute. It takes about 1.45hhr to 2.30 depending on all the variables. (Subway to PATH to Train. Miss any or all and the time starts adding up quickly)
posted by miniape at 4:57 AM on May 21, 2005

sic: I am in Ridgefield Park (as much you can tell from my userinfo, so I'm not too worried about any crazy mefites tracking me down and killing me (except for my sworn enemy, Naxos Axur)). I'm right off of the NJ Turnpike, so commuting by car is simple. Unfortunately, Bergen County is really lacking a rail system. To get to Rutgers, you'd have to take a bus to Manhattan to get the train to New Brunswick (unless you drove). It's the problem with living in a MegaSuburb: everything is geared to get you to the city, not to other parts of the MegaSuburb.

I still recommend living in New Brunswick. It's not a bad place to be, and probably much cheaper. She can easily commute to the city on the weekends.

P.S. - Great handle. I've used "sic" as my e-mail signature for almost a decade now. Or maybe longer than that... oh geez does time fly.
posted by Eideteker at 8:18 PM on May 24, 2005

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