Manhattan optimization assistance needed!
April 5, 2013 9:22 AM   Subscribe

I need to rent a ZipCar minivan to drive upstate with a bunch of friends. Which location should I pick it up from so as to maximize how quickly we get out of the city and minimize both sketchiness and inconvenience?

I don't drive very much in Manhattan, nor do I spend a whole lot of time in some of these neighborhoods. I'm hoping you guys will have better info than me!

We'll be picking the minivan up on a Friday morning around 10AM and dropping it off that Sunday night, possibly after dark. We specifically need a minivan, we'll all be coming in from Brooklyn or Queens, we'll have luggage to deal with, and we'll be driving up to the Catskills.

The locations I'm considering are:

Riverside Drive @ W 135th
Pros: Close to the subway, less time driving in Manhattan
Cons: Long subway ride and multiple transfers for people from Brooklyn, not much else there, possibly sketchy/deserted at night?

W 42nd @ 12th Ave
Pros: Maybe less sketchy? Not as long of a subway ride?
Cons: Lots of walking or dealing with a crosstown bus, probably a lot of traffic

W 14th @ 8th Ave
Pros: very easy subway ride, lots of people around even at night
Cons: That's a LOT of Manhattan to be driving through afterward

Any any all thoughts, strategies and anecdata are welcome!
posted by Narrative Priorities to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you picked up at 14th St & 8th Ave, you could continue west and get on the FDR/Harlem River Drive to avoid driving through Manhattan.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:26 AM on April 5, 2013

Best answer: I'm actually going to recommend another route - getting your car in either Brooklyn or Queens.

I actually have picked up Zipcars in Brooklyn and taken then up to the Catskills without incident - taking the Triboro Bridge from off the BQE lets you dodge Manhattan altogether. (Which worked for me, because I am SCREAMINGLY PHOBIC about driving in Manhattan.) Then you do the Cross-Bronx Expressway over the George Washington Bridge and presto, you're on your way north.

Also, checking out a Zipcar near you makes it easy to get everyone to the spot without schlepping all your luggage too far.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:32 AM on April 5, 2013

Having done almost exactly this most weekends for a year, I think you'll want to pick a zipcar location near Columbus Circle. It's close to several subways so you won't have to schlep your bags too far, and its also just a couple blocks from the westside highway, where northbound traffic at 10am on a Fridsy morning will be very light.
posted by minervous at 9:40 AM on April 5, 2013

Best answer: 135th and Riverside isn't terribly sketchy at night, especially with a large group. But if you're coming from Brooklyn, it's a trek. I would pick up the car at a mutually convenient spot in Brooklyn or Queens.

Also, NYC area driving pro-tip: if you are heading north from the city, take Triboro Bridge to the Bronx River Parkway to the Taconic. The latter two are the same road - follow it all the way to I-84, take 84 west across the Hudson. You avoid the always-unpredictable George Washington Bridge, and the possibility of getting stuck in traffic on the Tappan Zee/Thruway in Rockland County, which can be a slog. I've taken the Taconic upstate on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, and it was fine.
posted by breakin' the law at 10:16 AM on April 5, 2013

I live very close to 14th and 8th and own a car. Honestly, not that big a difference between your choices. 14th to 42nd on West St is not bad usually. 8th and 12th are both quite close to West because of how the city narrows. The bad section tends to be north of there when the cruise ships come in, but 10 AM Friday is probably not bad.

Don't do Brooklyn/Queens unless all of you live there. The Cross Bronx is often a shitshow as is the BQE (which you will prob take to most parts of BK), whereas West St/West Side Drive, while still having shitshow potential is much less likely to be so, especially at non-rush hour times.

Really UT/DT doesn't really matter that much, its getting cross-town you should strive to avoid.

Also do not try to go cross town to catch the FDR. That's like crazy talk. West Street is a highway from 54th street (or so) up.

Really your biggest potential traffic issue is the GWB, which none of those options avoid. Just pay attention to the radio and be prepared to continue up to the Henry Hudson/287/Tappan Zee if that's the case.
posted by JPD at 10:18 AM on April 5, 2013

Also: there are definitely ZipCars in Williamsburg. There may also be ZipCars in Long Island City. Both areas have decent-to-good subway access, are right off the BQE, and a fairly short jaunt to the Triboro.
posted by breakin' the law at 10:19 AM on April 5, 2013

Yeah b't'l is right about triboro to BRP if leaving from BK/QN, though under normal circumstance take the Saw Mill to 287 and the Tappan Zee. The 84 route is like option C time wise.
posted by JPD at 10:20 AM on April 5, 2013

Response by poster: I'd considered renting the minivan in Brooklyn, but 1) we'd be coming up from South Brooklyn and then picking people up in Williamsburg and Maspeth, and 2) I've had such terrible experiences with the BQE. But if your Friday-morning luck has been good, I'm happy to be reasoned with!
posted by Narrative Priorities at 10:21 AM on April 5, 2013

Best answer: Yes, rent it in BK then. You won't be saving any time or any hassle by starting out from Manhattan and you'll hate yourself on Sunday night. If you are that BQE averse take Grand to Maspeth Ave to get to Maspeth from W'burg, and then usually the BQE north of the LIE isn't quite so bad as south of the LIE.
posted by JPD at 10:24 AM on April 5, 2013

Also - when I was renting cars a few years ago I generally found ZipCar was not the best option price wise for multiday rentals. That may have changed but make sure you price it out.
posted by JPD at 10:26 AM on April 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: But if your Friday-morning luck has been good, I'm happy to be reasoned with!

I've spent more hours of my life on the BQE than is probably healthy, and I think that late mornings tend to have the lightest traffic of anytime between maybe 6am and 8pm on weekdays. So I think you'll be OK. Then again, I also think the BQE's traffic rep is somewhat overblown - yeah, it's bad, but the CBE, LIE, Van Wyck and Belt are worse in my experience - so maybe I'm a cock-eyed optimist.
posted by breakin' the law at 10:33 AM on April 5, 2013

+1 Columbus Circle. Escaping to the Henry Hudson from there is a cakewalk. However I would get it in my home borough. Queens-bound BQE is always quiet in the morning, the traffic is all the other way.
posted by zvs at 11:16 AM on April 5, 2013

Either of the downtown/midtown westside options should make it easy to enter and leave via the West Side Highway.
posted by benbenson at 12:02 PM on April 5, 2013

« Older I thought cacti were easy   |   Tell me what you did last summer Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.