EWR to Amtrak connection logistics?
December 31, 2012 11:00 AM   Subscribe

Are either of these connections from Newark airport to Amtrak reasonable? Ground truths needed!

I'm headed to Washington DC from Calgary. The airlines want to put me on a flight that has a 3 hour layover in Newark, then spend an hour flying me to BWI, which is nowhere near my actual destination. So I'm looking at flying just to EWR and taking Amtrak the rest of the way; Union Station in DC is a much better location for me to arrive at, and as a big dude, the larger Amtrak seats are more comfortable anyways. (The total cost is about the same whether I fly all the way or take the train, and it's on business so my company is on the hook.)

My flight would arrive at 6:55 on a Friday night, Air Canada (terminal A). I can book an Amtrak NE Regional train that leaves the Newark Airport station at 8:03 PM. Or I could head to Newark Penn Station and catch an 8:34 Acela or a 9:21 NE Regional. The Acela and the NER from EWR station both arrive at basically the same time (11:00); the 9:21 train arrives an hour and a half later, which is a little late but not unreasonable for me. I assume I can make that one without any real problems.

Because of preclearance, this is effectively a domestic flight (i.e. no customs/immigration) and I intend to only have carry-on baggage. I've gone from EWR into NYC before by AirTrain / NJ Transit, but the only thing I really remember is the journey taking longer than I thought it would, which is probably part of my worry.

So is 1 hour enough to make it to the Amtrak station? Or 1 and 1/2 hours to Newark Penn? Any other ideas?
posted by Homeboy Trouble to Travel & Transportation around Newark, NJ (7 answers total)
I think the 9:21 is not unreasonable. Either of the earlier trains are risky if you have even a short delay flying.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:11 AM on December 31, 2012

Best answer: I did this yesterday. Assuming you arrive on time - in other words, that you de-plane at 6:55 or so - and that you have no luggage, one hour is totally sufficient to make it from terminal A to the Amtrak platform at the EWR station. Buuuuuut! If your flight is delayed more than 30 or so minutes I don't think you'd make it.

(You may remember the AirTran connection to manhattan taking a long time because you had to wait for a manhattan-bound train. An AirTran from the EWR terminals leaves every three minutes; it's the waiting for a manhattan-bound Amtrak or Nj Transit train that can take a while.)
posted by minervous at 11:11 AM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: There are two "Newark" stations that are next to each other on that NJ Transit line, and it can be a little confusing. Be double dog ultra super maha sure which station your train departs from before you book anything.

You mention the existence of two stations in your question, but then you sort of double back on that (referring to Newark Penn as "EWR").

I think you have time to catch either the 8:34 or the 9:21 (9:21 is a better bet), but you probably don't have time to deal with finding yourself at the wrong train station and having to double back to get to the right place. So make sure you're crystal clear on where your chosen train departs from and how to get there.

The nice thing about Amtrak tickets is that, if you buy a ticket for the 8:34, you can probably hop on the 9:21 if you miss it. Whether the same is true if you buy a ticket for the 8:03 is a little murkier, though.
posted by Sara C. at 11:30 AM on December 31, 2012

Response by poster: You mention the existence of two stations in your question, but then you sort of double back on that (referring to Newark Penn as "EWR").

Sorry; for clarification:
8:03 PM - NE Regional train from Newark Airport station (arr. DC at 11:00)
8:34 - Acela from Newark Penn station (arr. DC at 11:10)
9:21 - NE Regional from Newark Penn station (arr. DC 12:30 AM)

The flight is a direct, so there is a reduced chance of delay on my end, but I suppose late-day arrivals in the northeast are always subject to uncertainty.

How lenient are Amtrak staff on moving tickets to a later train? I thought that this was mostly a reserved-seat kind of service. Newark Penn will have staff on duty when I get there if I miss the 8:03.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 2:05 PM on December 31, 2012

It's usually easy enough to do if there is another train of equal or lesser fare from your same station. So if you book the Acela for 8:34 (which probably will be a reserved seats sort of thing) and miss it, you should be able to easily downgrade to NE Corridor at the same station at 9:21. While the NE Corridor trains are "reserved seats" in the sense that if you get a ticket, you get a seat to put your ass in, they are not reserved in the sense of an airplane.

There's a slight chance that the later train would be full and they wouldn't be able to fit you on it, but that's somewhat unusual in my experience of Amtrak travel.

Newark Penn will have staff on duty when I get there if I miss the 8:03.

Yeah, seriously, you want to avoid this sort of confusion. You mention that the 8:03 is at Newark Airport, not Newark Penn. The slightest wavering on this point on the day could destroy your whole trip. You need to be 100% crystal clear on which train is at which station for this to work at all. If you don't think you can be life or death make or break POSITIVE which train is where and when, you shouldn't even try.
posted by Sara C. at 2:39 PM on December 31, 2012

Best answer: 8:03 from the Airport should totally work. If you miss it, the Amtrak ticket can be exchanged for a different one of the same value (probably 1 hour later).
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:01 PM on December 31, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for your help, everybody. I'm posting this from Amtrak's wifi, so I guess it must have worked. (And my flight was 20 minutes late to boot.)

Sara C - I promise I was not as confused as I may have seemed; if I had missed the 8:03, it was the last Regional that stopped at EWR. So the only way to get to DC would have been to go to Newark Penn and catch a train from there.

In any case, for the record: it took me 6 minutes to walk to AirTrain, the train was literally waiting with it's doors open. Another 17 minutes on the AirTrain, then a few minutes going through the rail station. Total time was 26 minutes, but I caught the AirTrain just so.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 5:21 PM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

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