Jeff’s Travel Tips for M&Ts
Some of these are pulled from my largely-dormant website “The Transit Navigator.” If you have any questions or need my help at any time, send me an email (email [at] jeffkess.com) or text me — (321) 300-JEFF!
Recommended Transit Apps:
- The Transit App – Super easy to use, work’s everywhere, and pebble support.
- TransitTimes+ – My app of choice because it’s more customizable, but not as simplistic for the everyday user.
- DepartureVision – Yes, that’s the NY Penn Station departure board.
- You can also click/tap on a train and it will show estimated arrivals based on delays.
- Use this page to select a station besides NY. Works for any station on the system.
- That NY board shows NJT and Amtrak trains, but not LIRR trains. For that, you’ll want LIRR TrainTime.
The SEPTA to Trenton Loophole
Due to a weird policy requirement, it costs more money to go from Trenton to Center City than it does from somewhere in the suburbs to Trenton via Center City. What this means is, you always want to get your tickets as being to “Tunnel” rather than “Philadelphia.” In practice, go to an NJT Ticket Machine, press “Change Origin” in the bottom right, select New York Penn Station (if going to NY) or whatever other NJT station, and set “Tunnel” as the destination. You’ll get two tickets: one for the NJT leg and another for the SEPTA portion. On your way to Trenton, if the conductor says it’s not valid, say you are coming from [Bryn Mawr / Villanova / Haverford / Swarthmore / The Airport] and they never took your ticket on your first train (you “transferred at 30th” from that train). On the way back, if they ask, say you’re going to [Bryn Mawr / Villanova / Haverford / Swarthmore / The Airport]. The reason this works is you have to get off at 30th to transfer between the Trenton train and the train to any of these stations.
TL;DR: Buy tickets between “Trenton” and “Tunnel” to save money; say you are coming from Villanova if anyone asks.
People Going to NJ and NY (via NJ Transit)
TL;DR: Buy a single ticket between Trenton and your home station and the second leg is free. Always choose the “via Secacus/NY” option when buying your ticket.
Extra NJT Trains
If you look in the schedules, the trains shaded with your line’s color WILL run on the day before Thanksgiving (today, the day of posting) whereas most gray-shaded trains will NOT run.
The Fare Loophole going to North Jersey
I actually figured this out by mistake during a trip to see my great aunt in Summit. When you’re taking NJT from one leg to another, you only pay for the longer of the two trips. That means, you can get a ticket from Trenton to anywhere in the NJT system for the cost of Trenton to that transfer stop. How does that work? Just be sure you buy one single ticket (i.e. Trenton to [Your Stop] NOT Trenton to [Transfer Station]).
You live or are visiting people off of the Raritan Valley or North Jersey Coast Lines
Your life is easy. Change at Newark Penn Station (all trains stop there); fare is $11.50 from Trenton to anywhere.
You live or are visiting people off of the Main/Bergen/Pascack Valley/Port Jervis Lines
As you surely know by now, all service transfers through Secaucus. Since Secaucus shares a fare zone with New York, your ticket will be $15.50 from Trenton to anywhere provided you buy one single ticket (i.e. Trenton to Glen Rock, not Trenton to Secuacus and another Secuacus to Glen Rock). Note: It might give you the option to transfer in Hoboken, but unless you want two additional transfers and are going before 8am, don’t.
You live or are visiting people off of the Morris & Essex / Montclair-Boonton Lines
Since these lines stop at Newark Broad Street and the NE Corridor Line (from Trenton) stops at Newark Penn, you have three options for transferring and two options for tickets.
- You can transfer in Newark (using the light rail to get from Newark Penn to Newark Broad).
- You can change at Secaucus.
- You can switch trains at New York Penn Station.
When you go to purchase a ticket from Trenton to somewhere like Summit, it’ll give you two options:
- via Newark ($11.50)
- via Secaucus / New York / Newark LR ($15.50)
Always choose the second option (the one with Secaucus and NY)! Why? You get a free transfer to the newark light rail (no need to buy a ticket) AND have the option to transfer at Secaucus or New York (both of which are preferable to the light rail during, well, “questionable periods”). In practice, changing to the light rail in Newark is sometimes faster, but not the greatest. Secaucus is an easy transfer, but not all trains stop at Secuacus. The beauty of the last option, changing in NY, is that you don’t have any set time you need to be back. That means, you can spend the day in NY and then head home later that evening. Even better, if you’re just going to NY and get a ticket like this, you can use the NY – [Your Station] portion anytime within 6 months of purchase.
Amtrak Tips & Penn Station Navigation
TL;DR: Don’t take a “Holiday Extra” train unless it’s much cheaper; go to the lower level at Penn Station.
Holiday Extra Trains
If you’re taking Amtrak during the holidays, look out for “Holiday Extra” trains. They run direct, but use old equipment leased from NJ Transit or MARC (Maryland Area Regional Commuter railroad) and can’t go faster than 80mph. People also have to stand on them due to the lack of ample luggage space. Check here to see if you booked one of these trains. (Note: Northeast Regional Extra trains are just added trains with the same Amtrak equipment.)
Boarding a Train in NY Penn Station
If you’re in the main Amtrak waiting area with the giant departure board, you’ll see two small staircases in the center perpendicular to the track escalators. Go down and wait on the lower level. If you don’t see a whole bunch of monitors in front of you, “make a U-Turn” to your right past tracks 11/12 until you see the monitors. The small one on the bottom lists Amtrak trains; when you see your track posted, just walk to your track on that lower level and go straight to your train — no line.
Ever wanted a map of the station? Here you go!