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Train or bus DC to NYC

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Mar 14th, 2012, 05:48 PM
  #1
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Train or bus DC to NYC

I was all set to book our tickets through Amtrak on the Northeast Regional train from Washington DC to NYC, just doing some final research before hitting the button then read a post about how luggage unfriendly Penn Station is. Would a porter to help us navigate, we want to get the subway downtown to 14th Street? If so how much do we tip?

I would love your thoughts then on train versus bus. We will have a medium suitcase each, DH wears a daypack and I will have a small cabin size roller.

Pro's for bus is having our luggage stored for the trip and maybe easier access at the Port Authority terminus. Which bus line to use?

Is the train more reliable time wise? We will be traveling on a Thursday mid morning in November.
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Mar 14th, 2012, 06:18 PM
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Whether you take the train or the bus, you will likley find it not so easy to get 2 medium pieces of luggage and an extra rolling bag and a backpack down and up the stairs into the NY subway.

If you take Bolt bus or Dc2Ny bus from D.C. to NYC, they let you out right on the street and it is easy to get c ab right where they let you out.

If you use Amtrak you do have to get up to the street level w/your bags to get a cab. There is one elevator that will take you to street level. Just ask someone where it is, then once you get to street level there are cab stands on both sides of Penn Station.

My advice: take a cab instead of the subway unless you really don't mind hauling the luggage up and down several sets of subway stairs (and people can get testy when they are in a hurry and you are going a little slower w/all the luggage).
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Mar 14th, 2012, 06:20 PM
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The porter at Penn station can take your luggage from Amtrak up to the platform. They don;t go anyplace near the subway. Instead I would take the escalator to the street and grab a cab. How much you give the porter depends on how much luggage you have. We gave $5 for taking i medium bag each down to the train platforms. (They put the bags on a trolly and take you down in advance in an elevator - so you can get better seats.)

You have too much luggage for the subway - since you are likely to have to carry it up at least 2 flights of stairs from the subway to the street. (IMHO you should not take the subway with more than one bag you can put on your shoulder.) I've seen 2 young women - ech with a medium bag and a small wheelie try to get up to the street at 96th St. They had to ask someone to mind the bags at the bottom - and pull the bags up the stairs one at a time - with one girl watching the luggage in the street at the top - so trusting a stranger to watch your bags and 3 climbs up triple flights of stairs.

As for bus versus train. You can get the Bolt bus for very cheap fares - but would still have to get a cab from the bus stop (in the street) to your hotel. Bus is subject to weather, traffic and accidents and more likely to be delayed than train (which may happen 4 or 5 times per year). Traffic is every day and buses considerably more likely to be delayed. Plus IMHO train is much more comfy - since you can walk up and down the aisles whenever you want.
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Mar 14th, 2012, 07:45 PM
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I do the subway/city bus/Bolt Bus with one small roller bag (the ones that fit in the overhead bin on a plane) and a messenger bag. And it's completely doable, but is a challenge. Normally I advocate for public transit, but in the case of having one person with two wheeled bags, I would say take a cab with your bags, instead of the subway. This is doubly true if you're traveling on the subway during rush hour (7:30 - 10 a.m.)

As far as Bolt/Megabus/DCtoNY buses, I have never had the bus NOT delayed in both directions. The shortest delay was 45 minutes (from NYC to DC on a Saturday morning) and the longest was 2.5 hours (NYC to DC on a Friday night.) Most times it's usually an hour late, due to traffic on the interstate, crosstown traffic in the city, weather, backup at the tunnel, etc. If money isn't a concern, take the train. There are several times I'd wished I'd paid the extra $50 or so to take the train (usually while I'm waiting on a crowded street in the rain in Manhattan waiting for the bus.)

Yes, Penn Station is a pain to navigate, but there are signs pointing to the subway.

However, if you can leave from Port Authority on Bolt Bus, at least you get to wait inside, which is much, much better.
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Mar 14th, 2012, 08:10 PM
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Never tried the bus, but have ridden the train in both directions between DC and NYC. The above posters have it right. Forget the subway, take a cab. The extra cost is more than compensated, IMO, by the ease of making the trip.
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Mar 15th, 2012, 12:46 AM
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Great, thanks so much for your advice. I think we might stick to the train but get the cab as suggested, sounds like a sensible plan.

As for getting to JKF when we leave, I guess that too is going to be a pain on the subway? We have an 8pm flight so would assume we would have to leave downtown around 4pm. Cab there too?
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Mar 15th, 2012, 01:11 AM
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Oh and another question, on Amtrak is it worth upgrading to business or is coach fine? What's the main difference apart from more money?
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Mar 15th, 2012, 04:29 AM
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Biggest difference is assigned seats and more legroom. I have never had a problem with coach but when I get on it, the train is fairly empty. By the time, it gets to NY / Philly, I have seen people having a hard time getting seats.
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Mar 15th, 2012, 04:36 AM
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Coach is fine - seats are way better than what you get on either the plane or the bus. And if you are using a porter to help with luggage you will board the train earlier than other travelers and should not have trouble getting seats together.
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Mar 15th, 2012, 06:51 AM
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Coach sounds fine, I really don't think its worth paying another $40 each for business. At first I thought we could get assigned seats but reading further we only get the reservation so the porter idea sounds like a winner all round.

Thank you again for your help.
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Mar 15th, 2012, 08:50 AM
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You can easily get to JFK by a combination of the Long Island Railroad and Airtrain. Take a taxi to Penn Station and hop on the Long Island Railroad. Many trains stop at Jamaica to transfer to the Airtrain.

If you don't want to do that, then just take a taxi direct to the airport or a car service. This will cost about $45 plus tolls and tip (total of $60 to $65) as opposed to half that for the both of you by train and Airtrain. You can also take an airport bus from near Grand Central for about the same price (just take a taxi there to the corner of Vanderbilt Ave. and 41st or 42nd Street to catch the bus).

Personally, I've never had problems finding a working escalator down to or up from the platforms at Penn Station, but you have to know where to look and you can't be in a hurry. But porters are not so easily found, and they are non-existent at bus stations.
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Mar 16th, 2012, 09:22 PM
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Thank you Doug, the Long Island Railroad and Airtrain sounds like the best option for us, we like to use public transport when we can.

However I guess we will still have to try and find those escalators. We are traveling with 26" cases this time as we are coming off a cruise. Normally we use 21", we will just have to manage.
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Mar 17th, 2012, 06:07 AM
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Maude, there are elevators at Penn Station. Just ask where they are. Persoanlly I do not take a 26" roller and a second roller on the esclator on my own, I always use the elevators. There are elevators up to main level from the tracks, and one elevator from main level to street level.
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Mar 18th, 2012, 01:23 AM
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emd3, good thinking, you make a valid point. I think we might go in to Penn Station and check things out one day just so we know the lay of the land.

Thanks to all for your helpful suggestions, I feel confidant that we are on the right track - oops, no pun intended!
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Mar 18th, 2012, 10:21 AM
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In Penn station as far as I know the porters are inthe Amtrak section only - there are 3 separate areas of Penn station - Amtrak, NJ TRansit and LIRR. You ned to start in your own specific section - since there are different tracks for each.

What you shuold know is that the track is only announced abuot 10 minutes before the train leaves. So once they call your track you have that long to get to the right doorway and down 2 flights of steps to the platform. One the track is announced people run/rush to get to the door in time to get a seat on the train. (At busy times the trains are more than full - with standees often to Jamaica - where a lot of people have to change trains.)
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Mar 18th, 2012, 01:33 PM
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But not if you have a porter and are using Amtrak. If you have a porter, they find out the gate #s ahead of them being published on the board, and they can take you and your luggage down early, and you board the train early before the rush.
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Mar 18th, 2012, 03:55 PM
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Of course the train is more reliable time-wise. It isn't a matter of some unforeseen delays on the bus, but the fact that it is on the road so traffic is variable, of course. I've taken the DC2NY bus and it was fine, there were no delays at all. But I still prefer the train, it's just a matter of money.

I've never thought of Penn Station as anything special in terms of luggage problems, but I never taken anything bigger than a 22 inch suitcase to NY on the train or bus (and a small tote bag/purse.
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Mar 18th, 2012, 04:56 PM
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Hi again, friends traveling with us like the idea of using nyairport service bus from Grand Central to JFK, any thoughts on this? I notice on the website there is a web special for $10 per ride, seems to good to be true.
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Mar 18th, 2012, 05:19 PM
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As long as you use the shuttle from one of the central ponts - Grand Central, Port Authority, Penn Station - they are fine. But you wil probably need a cab to get there unless you hotel is within a few blocks.

You do NOT want to use SuperShuttle - which claims to pick people up at hotels but has a terrible reputation in NYC - both for driving people around in traffic for an hour or more extra - dropping people at 7 or 8 hotels - and even making people being picked up at hotelslate for their flights - by driving them around and picking up at 5 or 6 differnt hotels (and not telling them that when scheduling the pick up.)
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Mar 18th, 2012, 08:31 PM
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My son uses the bus from Grand Central to JFK all the time, because he takes a train into the city from where he lives - he thinks it's great, and much more comfortable and slightly less time-consuming than the subway/AirTran combo.
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