Getting from Newark Airport to northern Manhattan during rush hour.
September 28, 2016 9:42 AM   Subscribe

A relative who is visiting us will be getting into Newark Airport today at 4:30. I'm wondering if it would be easier and faster to take public transportation or just splurge on a taxi, considering it is rush hour.

We live in northern Manhattan (Inwood). When we use Newark Airport, we take the AirTrain, New Jersey Transit to Penn Station, and then the A subway train to where we live. It's pretty straightforward and easy.

But I was thinking for our relative who is coming in today, that it might be easier for her to just take a taxi, to avoid the crowded rush hour conditions at Penn Station and on the subway. But then I was thinking, maybe rush hour traffic in a taxi would be just as bad?? I don't drive, so I don't really know about the car traffic part.

Any votes for public transportation vs. taxi?
posted by merejane to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (20 answers total)
What's more important to you/her, convenience/ease, cost, or saving time?
posted by greta simone at 9:54 AM on September 28, 2016

For what it's worth, Google Maps allows you to enter a desired departure time for driving directions, and will take into account historic traffic data for that time & day of the week to give you an estimated time. According to them, driving from EWR to Inwood would take 35–60 minutes via I-95 and the George Washington Bridge. For comparison, public transit would take about 80 minutes.

A bigger factor is how much luggage she'll have. The thought of maneuvering a large wheelie bag through Penn Station at rush hour gives me the heebie-jeebies; but if she's traveling light, it would be a lot easier.
posted by Johnny Assay at 9:57 AM on September 28, 2016

I always recommend the AirTrain/NJ Transit connection into Manhattan from EWR, but if your relative has more than a token amount of luggage, isn't used to public transit, and doesn't mind paying an extra $60 or so, a taxi might be a good idea. Between waiting and line changes, it takes me about an hour to get from EWR to my home in SoHo/West Village using transit. Even with bad rush hour auto traffic into NYC,I don't see a taxi being much more time consuming.
posted by deanc at 9:59 AM on September 28, 2016

A taxi will also face rush hour, in the form of traffic.

So the difference, to me, is what your relative's priorities are:

1. Speed of travel: probably public transit, or an even split between the two.

2. Cost: transit obviously

3. Crowdedness: a taxi would be better if this person is easily overwhelmed by crowds, because there won't be a crowd in the taxi. This is also true if this person has never been to New York and will have trouble navigating the transit system.

4. The general "stuck" feeling of rush hour in a major city: this is a tough call, but I'd pick public transit every time for this. I hate the feeling of being in endless bumper to bumper traffic.
posted by Sara C. at 10:05 AM on September 28, 2016 [3 favorites]

AirTrain, New Jersey Transit to Penn Station, and then the A subway train

For what it's worth, every time I come to Manhattan this is the arrangement I use and prefer. I can't imagine that a taxi would be any more pleasant or rapid an experience, unless your relative is terrified of taking public transit. You might want to remind relative to just ask people in official uniforms if they're heading in the right direction or standing on the correct platform (AirTrain usually has someone walking around, but Penn Station can be a bit confusing for a first timer).
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 10:13 AM on September 28, 2016

Ok., this is about a different route but does apply to Taxis in NY at rush hour. Things depending, drivers just might be knowing a smarter route than the average driver, which might be worth the splurge. I've definitely had that experience.*

* Okay, okay, here goes. I had to make a dash from JFK to central Manhattan one day between four and six in the afternoon to catch a specific bus, and my flight was ridiculously late and immigration hell on a stick so I came out of there like 90 minutes later than planned. I dashed out, dismissed the bus as can't-find-won't-work, ran to the taxis, finally got a cab and told the driver "I need to get to the Cornell city club in so-and-so much time to catch that bus."
So he kind of looked at me and said "that ain't gonna work". Then he drove off at speed and zoomed in and around the big clog-ups, and I ended up making it with ten minutes margin. Gorgeous tip for the man...

posted by Namlit at 10:42 AM on September 28, 2016 [8 favorites]

I'm with public transit on this one, so long as she doesn't travel with a ton of luggage, since I hate sitting in traffic and would rather be on a moving train, even if its crowded.
posted by craven_morhead at 10:44 AM on September 28, 2016

I guess if you take the GW Bridge instead of the tunnels, a cab might make sense? I've never made the EWR > GWB drive, so I don't know about that part, but the rest was my evening commute for a couple of years. IIRC, inbound bridge traffic is not so bad in the evenings, and from there, getting to Inwood should be a snap.
posted by the_blizz at 10:54 AM on September 28, 2016

I like to take the Newark Airport Express bus -- it's easy if you have luggage, cheaper than a taxi but less stressful than the AirTrain, New Jersey Transit to Penn Station to my mind. The bus has three drop-off points: Grand Central, Bryant Park and Port Authority. A taxi (or train) could be taken from the drop-off point.
posted by Lescha at 11:14 AM on September 28, 2016

Uber Pool from Newark might also be an option worth considering. Depending on the situation, it can even be half the price of a regular uberX or taxi and take you right next to your destination.
posted by beisny at 11:23 AM on September 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

I now see that Uber Pool is a $29 flat fee to Manhattan from Newark.
posted by beisny at 11:27 AM on September 28, 2016

Car if she has luggage. Taking a crowded A train uptown during rush hour from Penn Station all the way to Inwood with luggage does not strike me as a pleasant experience.
posted by zarq at 11:34 AM on September 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

NYC is big enough that traffic is traffic. People will swear by this or that route, but it's rush hour. There's traffic. Every New Yorker has sat in a taxi in traffic before.

(Also Penn Station to Inwood on the A train is like 10 minutes. Once she finds the train and gets on one going in the right direction, the subway itself is the fastest and easiest part of this whole question. Also, Penn Station absolutely has elevators, making the luggage question moot unless she either has a colossal number of bags or hasn't heard about rolling suitcases yet.)
posted by Sara C. at 12:00 PM on September 28, 2016

Inwood is a lot easier to get to than anywhere further South and it will be against traffic. Take the cab or Uber. Expensive but easy.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:03 PM on September 28, 2016

Taxis are much more expensive than public transportation and they may take longer due to traffic but that can be worth while for a traveler with heavy luggage that doesn't want to lug it across multiple stations.

If your relative takes the taxi route, make sure they have enough cash for the ride and agree on the price ahead of time. The last few times I've taken a cab from EWR to Manhattan, the driver waited about 10 minutes before announcing that they only accept cash. Then they offered to stop by a sketchy ATM in a sketchy part of North 'Jersey. The first time it happened, I insisted on a well-lit Manhattan ATM near my hotel, the next time I remembered to bring enough cash.
posted by b1tr0t at 12:20 PM on September 28, 2016

If they have any luggage (other than a simple carryon), I'd book a car with Carmel or Dial 7. I just priced out a sedan from Carmel from EWR to a random address in Inwood and it's their flat $46 plus tolls and tip. If the friend can afford this, I'd say go for it; it's much more relaxing than dealing with the Airtrain/NJTransit/MTA (especially if you don't live in NYC and you have to stop to buy a metrocard, etc). Last time I took a cab from EWR to the UWS, it was around $100 after tolls and tip.

SuperShuttle is also an option, if they don't want to deal with the train but are also trying to save money. If you're one of the first dropoffs, it's not too bad; if you're one of the last, it can feel like forever.
posted by melissasaurus at 12:33 PM on September 28, 2016

(Also Penn Station to Inwood on the A train is like 10 minutes.

On average it takes a little over half an hour to go from Penn Station to 207th Street during rush hour. Here's the schedule.
posted by zarq at 2:15 PM on September 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

at that time of day, definitely airtrain-penn station-A train. it will be crowded but fastest and least expensive.
posted by eusebis_w_adorno at 3:46 PM on September 28, 2016

Seconding that a cab might run more on the order of $100 than $60, if that affects your decision.
posted by hyperion at 4:00 PM on September 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Thanks for all the great advice!

My relative ended up having to take a later flight, and landed in Newark Airport quite late. Given the late hour, she opted for a taxi.

But I do think, having read all your comments, that under normal circumstances, the AirTrain/NJ Transit/A train might be the best option. It's fairly straightforward, does not take TOO long, and is MUCH less expensive than a taxi. However, I am intrigued by the Uber Pool and Carmel/Dial 7 options, and will consider them the next time I am (or a family member is) using EWR.
posted by merejane at 2:46 PM on October 7, 2016

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