From DC to NYC by public transit
October 10, 2006 5:51 AM   Subscribe

How far from New York City can one get solely by using public transport?

Actually, I live in Washington, DC, so I've tried this going from here north -- but any direction is fine, really. As far as I can tell, one can do it, except for the there is a gap between Newark, DE and Perryville, MD.

Until Perryville I can use MARC, and from Newark/Wilmington I can use SEPTA, and from there on out it seems like relatively smooth sailing through New Jersey on NJ Transit.

I guess my main question is, "How can I bridge that gap?" Also, if I can get further than New York City (by LIRR, Metro-North, etc.), details of those route would be great. I'd like to avoid using Amtrak, Greyhound, Chinatown buses, taxis, etc. if at all possible.

If this trip is possible, I'd love to try and do it. Yeah, I know I'm pretty crazy.
posted by armage to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (22 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
MetroNorth goes as far as New Haven, and the Shore Line East picks up at New Haven and goes to New London. I always wondered about how to get to Providence from there, and if you can bridge that gap, you can get to Boston.
posted by The Michael The at 6:05 AM on October 10, 2006

This could be a really good hitch challenge; trying to get across the contiguous USA by public transport only. Hmmm. Hope I can get three months off work...where did I put my bus pass?
posted by parmanparman at 6:06 AM on October 10, 2006

I'm guessing Amtrak doesn't count as public transit? Because that bridges the gap, easily....
posted by raf at 6:25 AM on October 10, 2006

RIPTA goes as far east from Providence as Westerly, RI, leaving a 15 mile gap to New London. If you took the ferry from New London to Block Island, and then Block Island to Galilee, RI, you would still have an 8 mile gap to Narragansett to pick up a bus to Providence.
posted by The Michael The at 6:26 AM on October 10, 2006

I have actually taken local trains from Bryn Mawr/Swarthmore, PA to a point on the Shore Line East. I did it once, for Thanksgiving. It was SEPTA to NJ transit, whatever it is from NJ to NYC (Path? I forget,) and then MetroNorth to SLE. (It is worth nothing that SLE does not run on the weekends.)

It takes all day and I went with a really dull companion, which made the day longer. However, past New London/Old Saybrook, you're stuck in CT; you can't really get far north in the state either. It was kind of fun to see how far we could get. It *was* cheaper than Amtrak, but that's a 4 hour ride compared to the 8-10 it took us.
posted by cobaltnine at 6:29 AM on October 10, 2006

(Oh, and it should be pointed out that New London service is only 3x daily, and without a monthly pass, you can only take it 1x daily. The schedule's here. )
posted by cobaltnine at 6:31 AM on October 10, 2006

Response by poster: raf, using Amtrak kind of takes away from the point of the exercise, since you could simply take it from Washington DC to New York or Boston and be done with it. Long-distance coaches are the same. I'm looking for a challenge, and a way to see part of the country without having it rush by outside the window from start to finish.

(Anyone who's ever travelled in Japan on relays of short-distance trains using the Seishun 18 Kippu will understand what I'm trying to do here.)
posted by armage at 6:32 AM on October 10, 2006 [1 favorite]

Cool idea! I was thinking about how far south you could start, but then I checked the DC metro website. Nada. I wonder why DC has such a great subway system bnut no light rail that goes to the suburbs
posted by overhauser at 6:35 AM on October 10, 2006

Response by poster: overhauser, there are VRE and MARC commuter rail services that go into Virginia and Maryland, respectively. However, VRE runs mostly rush-hour, uni-directional service to Fredericksburg and Manassas during the weekdays.
posted by armage at 6:46 AM on October 10, 2006

Just to be totally pedantic, to satisfy my own itch on this question because I love playing about with Google Earth, and because you got some good real answer already.. I'll answer the original question only:

"How far from New York City can one get solely by using public transport?"

It depends if you count planes and boats as public transport. I do, but many people do not. If you do, however... the nearest land to the antipodal point of NYC is Ile Saint-Paul in the Southern Indian Ocean, but it's uninhabited, so no public transport there. The nearest inhabited land to the antipodal point of NYC appears to be the Kerguelen Islands, a place I have never heard of before but which looks absolutely fascinating. Assuming you could get a scheduled flight or cruise ship there, I'd say that's your furthest chance.

Hmm.. I kinda wanna go there now.
posted by wackybrit at 7:35 AM on October 10, 2006

Response by poster: Heh, thanks for the answer, wackybrit—it's definitely in the spirit of the question :-)
posted by armage at 7:37 AM on October 10, 2006

you could take a folding bike, and ride the 50mi or so from Newark DE to Perryville MD. Not really public transport, but it bridges the gap (for free, I might add.)
posted by ofthestrait at 7:58 AM on October 10, 2006

This guy went to the Kerguelen islands and wrote up about his experience including how to get there. You basically would have a choice of your own yacht, joining part of a French expedition or chartering a passage on a vessel. So not exactly on the subway. I think they are supposed to be the windiest place on earth.
posted by rongorongo at 8:34 AM on October 10, 2006

There's a 73-mile gap between Morgantown, WV and Cumberland, MD that I'm having trouble surmounting. Greyhound has ditched that part of Appalachia, and local public transit goes in every other direction. Amtrak to Baltimore is cheap from Cumberland. (And I don't think I could pedal a bike in that topography, ofthestrait.)
posted by davy at 8:39 AM on October 10, 2006

"you could take a folding bike, and ride the 50mi or so from Newark DE to Perryville MD."

Google Maps says it's only 21.8 miles but they want to send you via I-95, a no-no for human-powered transport. That part of the region is fairly flat though, a person in half-decent shape could pedal it, though if you have to use Pulaski Highway (US 40) I'd recommend biking on the sidewalk if possible as it gets pretty busy. I don't know enough about the small local roads to say much except that's how I'd rather do it -- with a compass and a decent map.
posted by davy at 8:46 AM on October 10, 2006

I've been ruminating over this very question for the last three years, and I always run into the Perryville MD - Newark DE gap. Anyway, MARC is co-operated by Amtrak with MTA Maryland, so riding MARC is practically riding Amtrak, which makes the whole avoid-Amtrak issue moot.
posted by brownpau at 9:00 AM on October 10, 2006

It's not quite public transport, but the Chinatown busses will get you to and fro for around 40$ roundtrip.
posted by GilloD at 9:10 AM on October 10, 2006

If you took Metro North to New Haven, CT, from there you could board a CT Transit bus to Hartford, CT. From Hartford, you could take a Peter Pan bus to Boston, choosing a route that stops in small towns like Springfield, MA and Amherst, MA, if you like. From Boston, I've gotten all the way to the tip of Cape Cod (Provincetown) via local bus. But I guess it's quite a ways from Boston to the next city with a commuter transportation web.
posted by xo at 10:18 AM on October 10, 2006

I knew about the Marc, I used to ride it to DC all the time when I lived in Balmer. I always considered that a Baltimore rail system, as it goes north and south of that city, but now that I look at the system map, I guess it's a little more DC-centric than I thought.

I hadn't heard of the VRE before, but now that I look at the website I see why: it's way incomplete, and only runs one way each rush hour, like armage said.

They really need something to hook up with Dulles.
posted by overhauser at 11:27 AM on October 10, 2006

Alternate route to New London:
1) Get to New York
2) Long Island Rail Road to Greenport via Ronkonkoma
3) Suffolk County Public Bus to Orient Point
4) Cross Sound Ferry to New London

The ferry is technically cheating, but this is quite a scenic route, I should know...I live here...
posted by weaponsgradecarp at 2:31 PM on October 10, 2006

I've pondered this problem both for the Portland, OR and Seattle regions. Portland to Salem is very easy (Trimet 96 -> SMART 1X line OR Trimet 12/96 -> SMART 201 -> 1X), but I got stumped trying for Eugene. For Seattle, I was trying to find a way to Anacortes. No luck. I settled for downtown Seattle to Boeing Surplus, which was harrowing in its own right for an out-of-towner. I was pretty happy with my adventure finding a route from Portland to Fry's Electronics in Wilsonville. Yay. No more needling the girlfriend for a ride.

I second the bridging the gap with a bike idea. Also, often small communities (towns/counties) will have dial-a-ride services. Google for the towns nearby. You could try contacting the transit organizations, DOTs or cities directly, as they might be just amused enough at your goal to suggest an idea. How about airport shuttles? People everywhere want to get to the airport without paying to park their car. Community College shuttles? Would taxis be cheating? Maybe there's a more complicated route that you're missing.
posted by Skwirl at 3:36 PM on October 10, 2006

wackybrit, that's not pedantic, it's beautiful and it's exactly the thing I was hoping to see when I clicked on this thread!
posted by lorimer at 11:25 PM on October 10, 2006

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