As I haven’t found a place to stay yet near school, I’ve been commuting in to New York City for the last few weeks. The distance from Hartsdale to Columbia is about 20 miles by. Without traffic, it’s a half hour trip. Even with traffic, it’s usually less than an hour. The same trip, via public transportation, averages an hour and a half.
To get downtown using mass transit, the first problem is getting to the train station. I’m staying about 3 miles from Hartsdale station, 2 blocks from one busy road, and 3 blocks from another. The good news is that there’s a bus. The bad news is that the bus runs 3 times in the morning (6, 6:30 and 7:00) and 3 times in the evening (5:00, 5:45 and 6:30). It takes roughly 20 minutes to make the 3 mile trip.
The train service itself is fast and fairly regular. On average, it takes 25 minutes to reach the 125th St. station in Manhattan. Unfortunately, the 125th St. station is on the wrong side of Manhattan. Columbia University (my destination) is on 116th St., but on the west side, not the east side. The distance from train station to school is less than two miles.
One option is to take the cross-town city bus (the M60 line). On average, it’s a 10 minute wait for the bus, but on occasion it can be easily double that. The time spent on the bus varies depending on traffic. It can take anywhere from 10 minutes to half an hour to make that trip.
The other option is to stay on at 125th St. and continue all the way down to Grand Central (42nd St.), take the subway (S shuttle) across town to Times Square, and take another subway line north to the university (the 1 line). Distance is probably 4 or 5 times longer than using the bus, but both methods take roughly the same – 35 minute from the 125th St. station.
Or I could walk from the 125th St. station. At a brisk pace, that also requires around half an hour.
Why am I saying all this? Because it’s disheartening to see that in one of the densest and most popular metropolitan areas in the US, it’s still substantially faster to commute by car, even during rush hour. It’s cheaper too.
I suppose the ideal solution would involve denser communities in Westchester which could support more frequent bus service, plus a cross-town subway line in Manhattan…
(The bigger problem for me is actually the limited bus service on the Hartsdale end, particularly in the evening. As a result, I now drive to the White Plains station in the morning, and go from there, so that I can return at whatever hour I need without worrying about the last bus. Plus I don’t always have to get up at 6AM to catch the morning bus).