Newark Airport to Philadelphia on a Friday night?
February 12, 2012 3:23 PM   Subscribe

How do I get from Newark Liberty International Airport to Philadelphia on a Friday night?

My flight arrives around 5:15 p.m. I figured I would take Amtrak to Philadelphia, but now I see that the next train isn't until 6:47, and it's sold out in coach, so I would need a $125 business class seat. In Philly, I'm staying with a friend near Poplar and N 29th St.

Here are the options I've figured out:

Amtrak: $125, arrive at 8:15 (7:47 plus local transit). Does anyone know what will happen if I reserve tickets and then my plane is late?

NJ Transit/SEPTA: $25.75, arrive at 8:55. Downside: additional transfer, less comfy than Amtrak. There's also another itinerary that will get me there a little earlier if I backtrack via Newark Penn Station and add another transfer.

Car rental: $81 at Hotwire plus gas (88 mi) and tolls, arrive around 7:30 (30 min + 1:42 for driving). Not sure how easy it will be to park in Philadelphia. Then I have the pain of driving it back to the airport afterward. I'm heading to NYC on Sunday night but taking a train the whole way would be easier.

Shared ride shuttle: there are some web sites that advertise such a thing, but they don't list prices and I assume it is expensive.

Other sensible options?
posted by grouse to Travel & Transportation around Philadelphia, PA (23 answers total)
You'll have to research the particulars, but there's a bus called "BoltBus" that runs between Philadelphia's 30th St. Station and NYC's 6th Ave, about five or six blocks away from the WTC. Perhaps you can take the train from Newark to NYC, and the late bus from NYC to Philadelphia. They serve the commuter crowd, the buses are relatively clean and somewhat wi-fi'ed, and the fare is quite cheap.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:42 PM on February 12, 2012

One of the problems is that you will be in the middle of rush hour. Having gone to Newark Airport on NJ Transit (from NYC) in that time frame, I say with some authority that you might find yourself riding mostly illegally in the vestibule between cars, especially if you have luggage.

Amtrak in business class is pretty nice, and you get free drinks which might be nice after a flight.

The shared ride shuttles are kind of crazy - when I took one about 40 miles from Newark to home, it cost me $55 (in 2006).

Dunno about the rentals, so I can't help you there.
posted by mephron at 3:46 PM on February 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

As for getting to Philly from EWR, I would suggest taking the NJT/SEPTA combo as that's probably the most reliable and least expensive.

Regarding Amtrak, my recollection is that as long as you have an Amtrak ticket, you can get on any later Amtrak train on that route. You might give Amtrak a call if you are strongly considering the Amtrak option.

As for getting to NYC from Philly on Sunday, Blazecock Pilon's suggestion of BoltBus is spot on--there's also MegaBus that runs from 30th St Station in Philly to NYC. I've taken BoltBus many times and it is consistently cheap (<25$) and reliable (especially on a Sunday evening when there's little traffic).
posted by scalespace at 3:50 PM on February 12, 2012

Much of this depends on luggage and whence cometh you, i.e. how tired or jet-lagged you'll be. If you are lugging more than one suitcase or even a large unwieldy suitcase, I'd just take the $125.00 Amtrak. Remember you have to take Airtrain to the actual Amtrak station, so you already have one transfer no matter what. If the Amtrak is too pricey then perhaps take it to Trenton and then switch to SEPTA. You shouldn't have a problem getting on a later train. I take it to Philly & DC a lot and if I miss a train, hop on the next one, rarely a hassle except for the expensive Acela ones.

The Bolt Bus option seems ludicrous, frankly. To go from Airtrain -> NJTransit -> maybe PATH ->walking from WTC -> or Penn Station to Subway to then get on bolt to go to Philly. Wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.

I don't know about the shuttle rides, and I'd shy away from rental cars just for the hassle of parking in both NY and Philly.

But really take the train, there are some times in life where it pays to spend a little extra dough. This might be one of those times.
posted by xetere at 3:57 PM on February 12, 2012

you might find yourself riding mostly illegally in the vestibule between cars, especially if you have luggage.

Well, that sounds unpleasant.

Thanks for the BoltBus/MegaBus suggestions for Sunday. The current schedule for Fridays, has a BoltBus leaving Newark Penn Station that would get me there at 8:55 p.m. for $20.75 ($8.75 NJT + $12 BoltBus).
posted by grouse at 3:59 PM on February 12, 2012

It's not clear whether you're prioritizing cost or time. Maybe that would help with other suggestions.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:13 PM on February 12, 2012

I personally would avoid any options that involves coming back into NYC and traveling to Philly via bus or car. Like xetere says, the work of of it alone puts it in "wouldn't wish on my worst enemy" territory, plus you never know what traffic might do to you. I would do either the Amtrak (if you're willing to shell out the cash) or the NJTransit/SEPTA combo.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:16 PM on February 12, 2012

Well, a little of both? I just want to see what the options are. I don't think I need anything cheaper than the $25.75 NJT/SEPTA combo, but I'd love to find options that were more convenient than it.
posted by grouse at 4:16 PM on February 12, 2012

Regarding Amtrak, my recollection is that as long as you have an Amtrak ticket, you can get on any later Amtrak train on that route. You might give Amtrak a call if you are strongly considering the Amtrak option.

This is no longer the case: all travel between NYC and Philly (and I believe elsewhere on the Northeast Corridor) is "Reserved," which means your ticket is good for your train and your train only. You can change at a major station with minimal trouble, but you can't just walk on the other train and "change" the ticket.

As for your options: the "back-tracking to Newark" route means you need to be at the EWR NJT station in 36 minutes from the time your plane lands; that's optimistic at best given disembarking, collecting luggage, and getting the EWR AirTrain to the NJT stop.

So given the rest of your options, just shelling out for the Amtrak is your best bet if you can afford it. Especially in Business Class, it's quite nice, and so much more pleasant after a flight. I've flown internationally with 99.9999 lbs of luggage, landed at EWR, and waited for the NJT/SEPTA combo, and as soon as I arrived home in Philly, I swore: never again, regardless of cost.

I'd also recommend springing for a cab from 30th St Station to your friend's place; it'll be a 10-15 minute ride, affordable, and way better than schlepping across to 22nd St. and then waiting for the 7 or 48 bus.
posted by The Michael The at 4:50 PM on February 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I used to live in Philadelphia and frequently took the Septa/NJT transit to and from NYC. It's not as cushy as Amtrak, but given the price differential, it's a pretty good deal and more comfortable than a bus or a shuttle during prime commute time. The transfer at Trenton is generally not a big deal. I'd agree with whomever said that getting either Mega or Bolt bus is going to be way more hassle for about the same amount of money and the rental car option also sounds like a pain in the ass.

One caveat...this is an extremely popular route and if you'll be traveling next weekend, it's a holiday weekend. The trains will likely be even more crowded than usual, so if you're carrying anything larger than one carry-on sized wheelie bag or something of an equivalent size then I'd advise sucking it up, paying the $125 and taking Amtrak. It's been almost 8 years since I've lived in Philadelphia so I can't recall if either SEPTA or NJ Transit have overhead space for luggage/bag storage. Depending upon how crowded the train was, it could be an uncomfortable ride for both you and whomever ends up sitting next to you if you have a lot of luggage and nowhere to put it.

If this is a trip that you are likely to be making again, note that if you buy your Amtrak tickets at least 3 weeks in advance, you can get quite a deal. For example coach class on a non-Acela train is $49 one way between DC and New York if you purchase it in advance (the sooner you buy your ticket the more choice of trains you'll have).

Finally if you get the Amtrak ticket and your plane is late, you can exchange it for a ticket on a later train as long as there are seats available. There is no charge unless they only have more expensive seats available (which since you're limited to business class wouldn't be an issue unless the next train was an Acela).
posted by kaybdc at 4:58 PM on February 12, 2012

I am a Philly resident and I do this commute a lot.

I am pretty sure Bolt Bus goes to NEW YORK Penn Station, not Newark. I don't recommend EWR->NYC->Boltbus to 30th St. Philly- that's hectic and introduces the possibility of getting delayed (IE missing the boltbus, which does not refund your fare).

Traffic is rough, so the train might be easier. However, street parking in Philly is usually relatively easy to find.

Amtrak is best, take a cab from 30th St and it will likely be $10-15. If you're going to miss the Amtrak train (flight delayed) you can exchange the ticket for another one at the Amtrak desk - but the fare for the later train will likely be more (it's always more to buy a ticket at the last minute). You can also get a refund minus a service fee if you call them.
posted by seachange at 5:02 PM on February 12, 2012

Thanks for all the useful comments!

I am pretty sure Bolt Bus goes to NEW YORK Penn Station, not Newark.

The BoltBus web site says "Newark, NJ (Newark Penn Station)" which seems unambiguous to me.
posted by grouse at 5:06 PM on February 12, 2012

just shelling out for the Amtrak is your best bet if you can afford it.

Yeah, coach on the next train is $100 anyway. Business is only +$25. I think the whole do-not-have-to-change thing is probably worth it. Where are you coming from?
posted by carter at 5:15 PM on February 12, 2012

Seattle. Nonrefundable air tickets already purchased.
posted by grouse at 5:16 PM on February 12, 2012

As a veteran of the NYC to PHL via NJT and SEPTA, I will give you this advice if you choose to take them:

Friday evening is the worst train trip of the week - it can be full of loud people and as you get later into the evening, some may be slightly inebriated. Those ear plugs/headphones you have with you for the flight are your friend.

At the Newark Airport train station, I'm not sure if you can buy a ticket from the NJT ticket machine that will get you to Philly or not. If you can, do it. Otherwise you'll be buying a SEPTA ticket in Trenton from a person - SEPTA has no ticket vending machines. On your return trip to NYC, if you choose to use the SEPTA/NJT system, you CAN buy a ticket (two individual tickets in reality) from 30th St Station to NYC Penn Station. Do it all at once to avoid the hassle of having to get an additional ticket as you watch your train leaving the station.

In Trenton, so far as I know, the SEPTA train runs every approx 40 minutes. This means that if you miss a train by a few minutes (known to happen), you're waiting a while. If you'd like to have someone to point a finger at, try SEPTA, they refuse to wait for the incoming NJT. They're charming like that. Best seats on the SEPTA train are the ones in the middle of the car - it is just one double seat on each side blocked off from the rest of the car. Grab it if you can. There's also more room for luggage.

In terms of getting from one train to another, there will be other people doing this too, ask and follow them, they know what they're doing.

Have a fun trip.
posted by sciencegeek at 5:18 PM on February 12, 2012


Hmm, five hour flight, maybe I would be ready to get the train and then a cab in Philly, if you can afford it. You'll be walking in the door by 8 if everything goes okay. However I have been getting lazy lately ;)
posted by carter at 5:25 PM on February 12, 2012

Riding in the vestibule is unpleasant, yes. Also, you tend to have to move out at every stop for people to leave, then get back on. There's a chance to get a seat at those times, but move fast or people will move from a seat they're squashed into and snag it.

Also, the conductors have been known to just toss people off the train for that - because it is illegal and not always that safe - and then you're somewhere random, like Metropark in Metuchen, or New Brunswick, and it's a pain in the ass.
posted by mephron at 5:47 PM on February 12, 2012

There's a Greyhound bus departing at 8:30pm from the NY Port Authority terminal to the Philadelphia bus terminal. It costs $15 if you buy online ($20 in person). So you'd have three hours to get from Newark to the Port Authority.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 6:36 PM on February 12, 2012

The BoltBus web site says "Newark, NJ (Newark Penn Station)" which seems unambiguous to me.

One more piece of evidence that Newark means Newark: they do list the New York Penn Station stops, although it's not obvious because they don't call them that. (They're the stops they call 33rd and 7th, or 34th and 8th).

As for the NJT/Septa question: one thing to know is that there are more NJT trains than Septa trains: Septa Trenton line schedule, NJT Northeast Corridor line schedule. So if you get on the first train you see at Newark Airport, you may have to wait around an extra-long time at Trenton. (Of course, if you don't, you'll have to wait at Newark.) Also, I seem to recall that there are overhead luggage racks on both trains, although whether you'll be able to use them on the Newark-Trenton leg is another question.

If you take BoltBus, note that Newark Penn Station and Newark Airport are not the same place! They're six minutes by train and an extortionate $8.25 (because you're paying the airport surcharge) apart.

In the end I'd vote for Amtrak if you like spending money, and Boltbus from Newark Penn if you don't. Psychologically, something about stopping at every little town for a hundred miles on the NJT/SEPTA combo will get you down.
posted by madcaptenor at 10:05 PM on February 12, 2012

xetere: "The Bolt Bus option seems ludicrous, frankly. To go from Airtrain -> NJTransit -> maybe PATH ->walking from WTC -> or Penn Station to Subway to then get on bolt to go to Philly. Wouldn't wish on my worst enemy."

This isn't right. It'd be Airtrain -> NJTransit (direct to New York Penn Station) -> Exit Penn station at 7th Ave and 33rd and you're across the street from the spot where Bolt Bus leaves. No idea why anyone would take the PATH in this scenario at all, unless they mistakenly got on a NJ transit train to Hoboken instead of straight into NYC Penn.
posted by Grither at 4:51 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Amtrak. Make it easy on you. This will be an unpleasant leg of your trip no matter what you do.
posted by vincele at 6:07 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thanks for all the advice! I bought the Amtrak tickets.
posted by grouse at 8:11 PM on February 13, 2012

Hmm, I agree that Newark Penn Station is unambiguous. It looks like Bolt Bus has added routes while I wasn't looking. Nevertheless, I'm glad you're going with Amtrak.
posted by seachange at 9:23 AM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

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