You already know your daily commute in New York City can often be a magical mystery of misadventure. But what happens when you throw a holiday weekend like Fourth of July into the mix of what has truly been a hot mess of mass transit in recent weeks?
We’re already anxious just thinking about it, but lucky for us, Montclair, New Jersey-based Clever Commute recently shared some ideas for proper prior planning to prevent peeved passengers. (Try saying that five times fast).
The free mobile app, which also has a paid premium plan, serves riders on New Jersey Transit, Long Island Rail Road, Metro North and PATH trains, as well as some New Jersey buses. Its most popular feature is the track predictor, founder and CEO Josh Crandall told Metro.
"NJ Transit and LIRR riders can benefit from our historical databases and algorithms to get a jump on the masses at NY Penn. I use it every day," he said.
In a metro region where mass transit, from commuter rail to the MTA, is turning into a daily annoyance, Crandall's biggest peeve has always been the "availability of timely and accurate information about the commute. It bothered me so much that I built this app!" he said.
To offer its tips for holiday travel, Clever Commute looked back to last year’s Fourth of July weekend. July 4, 2016, fell on a Monday, but this year, the holiday will be on a Tuesday. With many people expected to take Monday off, or kindly bosses and companies (hopefully) giving workers the day off, this Friday could potentially be a nightmare — just like last year.
Crowds began gathering in Penn Station the Friday before the last Fourth by 1 p.m., while the mass exodus began across town at Grand Central Terminal around 2 p.m., Clever Commute said.
Those numbers only increased as the afternoon wore on, with long lines at ticketing kiosks reported well into the 4 p.m. hour. By 5 p.m., ridership and congestion in Penn Station returned to mostly normal.
Port Authority passengers heading to New Jersey, however, experienced delays between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. due to accidents.
Based on those findings, here are Clever Commute’s “Five T’s” to keep in mind when heading to all points outside NYC via rail service this weekend.
No one wants to go to Penn Station, the Port Authority or any other transit hub of that magnitude if they don’t have to, but the extra trip to get advance tickets will pay off if you get tickets before a holiday mass exit — or use the ticket apps for the Long Island Rail Road, Metro North, New Jersey Transit and New York Waterway.
Thanks to the Penn Station’s track issues, which will cause “summer of hell” closures starting the week after the holiday, this year’s commute is expected to be worse than last year at the rail hub, so give yourself extra time — and plenty of it — just in case.
The LIRR, NJ Transit and Metro North are adding extra rail service on Friday, and all three offer handy Trip Planners for, you guessed it, proper prior planning on your part.
Most commuters don’t have the option of not going to New York’s Penn Station, but if you are able to, think about going the extra step to leave from Hoboken or Newark Penn Station for NJ Transit service or Atlantic Terminal or Hunterspoint Avenue on the LIRR.
• It can get warm when there are hundreds of people all waiting for the same train, so layer.
• Bring your own snacks and water.
• Those hundreds of aforementioned people around you likely have luggage, too, so pack light.
• Two words: Plan. Ahead. 'nuff said.