Get me to the GRE
January 28, 2014 5:40 AM   Subscribe

How reliable are NJ Transit buses from Port Authority?

I'll be taking the GRE tomorrow in New Jersey, because I waited too long to find a local testing center. I live in Manhattan. Obviously, it is essential that I not be late.

My options for getting to the testing center, according to google maps, are NJ Transit rail or bus. The train is extremely ill-timed for the test, so I'd have to get up much earlier, but I'm comfortable with the ticketing system and the protocol, and I tend to think it's reasonably reliable (correct me if I'm wrong). I know nothing about the bus, but the timing and the proximity to the testing center are much better with that system.

Either way, I'll be headed out of Manhattan, during rush-hour times. I'm not sure how bad that traffic is - I'd assume it's much worse in the other direction but I guess I'm not sure.

My question is, if I take the bus, how worried do I need to be about delays? What else should I know - do I need to arrive early to purchase tickets? How do I pay? Is there anything else I should know?
posted by R a c h e l to Travel & Transportation around New Jersey (13 answers total)
My gut says just take the train for something important like this. I've had reasonable luck with the buses but also been caught in morning traffic snarls - there are just way more variables involved in bus travel.

Though I would ask, where in Jersey?
posted by UncleBoomee at 5:50 AM on January 28, 2014

It's Fairlawn, NJ - I guess since I'm already putting that out there, I may as well link to the testing location. It's 0.7 miles from the train station, closer to the 171 or 164 buses.
posted by R a c h e l at 6:16 AM on January 28, 2014

If it were me, I would either 1) get a room at the Hyatt tonight ($143 on Priceline right now) or 2) hire a town care to get me there and take the train home. That's just my anxiety, however.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 6:21 AM on January 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

These buses are very reliable - thousands of people take them daily for work and business meetings. The Fairlawn route is straightforward not a long distance - both are pluses.

Though there is traffic, you will be going in the opposite direction - it clears up as soon as you are past the immediate areas to the tunnel. Listen the traffic news the morning of for any unusual incident.

Tickets must be purchased prior to boarding the bus. The ticket counters are located on the main level of the Port Authority. Just give yourself extra time to buy the tickets and then getting to the departure gate.
posted by Kruger5 at 6:34 AM on January 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Are you going to be headed to NJ during the MORNING rush hour? If so, that should not be a problem, since you'll be going against traffic. But I would probably take a bus an hour before the one you're planning to take, just in case.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:52 AM on January 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah. I live in Central Jersey and will sometimes take the bus to or from Manhattan if the schedule works better for me. PABT are extremely reliable except for buses headed in the peak direction during the peak hour -- e.g., I wouldn't necessarily recommend it if your test was at 6 PM. But for stuff like this, definitely take an earlier bus just in case.
posted by voiceofreason at 7:20 AM on January 28, 2014

You should be fine, though as everyone says, the earlier bus would be a good plan. The buses are very comfortable, so try to avoid falling asleep and missing your stop (you could ask the driver to make sure to warn you of the stop, since you're not familiar with the area.)
posted by asperity at 7:43 AM on January 28, 2014

You'll be going against the morning rush traffic, so it shouldn't be too bad. The train should be even better, and you'll get there early.

If you are that concerned about it, and money's not an issue, I would take These Premises Are Alarmed's advice and find a hotel near enough to the testing facility, and get a room there for the night.
posted by tckma at 10:37 AM on January 28, 2014

If it were me, I would either 1) get a room at the Hyatt tonight

And, how exactly would getting a room at a Hyatt help? The OP is using mass transit, no car. The testing place is in Fair Lawn NJ, at a testing center.
posted by Kruger5 at 11:46 AM on January 28, 2014

I take a NJT bus from PABT to Northern NJ every weekday for work. When I leave around 7:30 AM it is generally very smooth, running on schedule. Later in the morning there can be small delays, 10 minutes or so (if you are only going a couple zones). It goes back to no real delay as you near 9:30 AM.

That is almost all of the time. On the rare day there is a problem in the tunnel out (or in, affecting the supply of buses) that can mean significant delays. The Port Authority treats buses as a high priority so problems get fixed.

You need a ticket to board a bus at PABT. You can buy them with a credit card or cash at any of the blue and orange ticket machines scattered throughout the terminal. Figure out where your bus departs from and I'd plan to arrive 5-10 minutes before your scheduled departure. And I'd lean towards arriving a little early.
posted by mountmccabe at 1:27 PM on January 28, 2014

Thanks for your help, all - I REALLY appreciate it. Yes, I will be taking extra-early buses and leaving plenty of time at every step, but this test also has me getting up significantly earlier than I usually do so I'm trying to minimize that as well.

Change of plans: looks like the best route has me picking up a bus at the GW Bridge Bus Terminal instead. Any insight into that, or how that might differ?

/threadsit (sorry)
posted by R a c h e l at 3:14 PM on January 28, 2014

GW Bus Terminal??

Skip it and stick to the Port Authority - that other terminal is in a very sketchy neighborhood and surroundings. I haven't come across anyone that takes a bus from there.
posted by Kruger5 at 3:23 PM on January 28, 2014

Update, for other njt noobs:

I did end up going to go GW Bridge bus station - the time savings was significant. It's quite easy to get to, since it's connected to the A train via underground tunnel; honestly, my walk to the subway was sketchier than anything at the bus terminal and the terminal was small enough that it was very easy to navigate. The bus was, however, more than half an hour(!) late (strange, because I'm pretty sure that's where the route starts). Luckily, I had enough of a buffer built in that I still got there on time.

Ticket accepting machines on the buses appeared to be broken, I'm pretty sure I never paid for my trip out. Not sure if I did something wrong there, oops.

The main issue I ran into was my way back: I was at the stop when the bus I needed came by, but he saw me, began to pull over, and then kept driving. I assume that means I should have gestured in some way to be like "yes, please, stop" but, being an exclusively urban bus rider, I didn't even think of that. I caught the next bus (an hour later) only by running out of the building I was in as others were boarding it.

I made it, but this was definitely a little tougher than other bus systems I've used.
posted by R a c h e l at 6:45 AM on January 30, 2014

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