I have always wanted to work in NYC. NYC being to me the center of the most amazing photographers I have ever followed or got inspiration from. I also had done enough research to know that NYC is also very well known to pay you for your level of experience and education. However, research online did not prepare me for what I’ve learned in the almost two years of commuting I currently do.
I remember applying to a job posting I found in my field of HIV/AIDS testing and case management which spoke directly to me. I have always worked with this population since I graduated from Temple as I started with those in the prisons and then transitioned over to social services. I applied, received a a call for an interview, interviewed, submitted my references, got the offer and accepted the position. I had exactly less than three weeks to prepare myself for this significant change and I thought there wasn’t much to it. I, however, do not realize that it was going to come down to the wire and I was going to learn very quickly that I should of did a better job in researching this.
Let’s start with the basic of transportation. I live in Philadelphia but in the outskirts. I have a train station less than 10 minutes from my house and I noticed Amtrak trains stopped there. I assumed that this was the only rail line that went straight to NYC, so I did my research and realized that Amtrak would cost me $ 1300 a month to get me to and from NYC in 45 minutes. Time wise was great but the way my back account is set up, $ 1300 is not in the cards for me.
I looked into the buses leaving from Philadelphia. As a child, I remembered my mom, sister and I taking Greyhound or Peter Pan buses from the bus station in Center City to visit her aunt in the Bronx. Monthly for the buses are $ 360 – $ 450 depending on the time of day and line preference, but now in Philadelphia we have several other buses that also go into NYC such as Bolt and the Mega bus. Unfortunately, these buses not offer monthly passes and you will be paying out of pocket each day for the ride. If you miss your bus or decided to work from home, you will forfeit your ticket. I personally did not like this option and it also didn’t work for me as I leave roughly 20 minutes from the Frankford Transportation Center and it would be another 40 minute ride to 30th Street. I immediately scratched this option off the table.
I looked into Septa. IF you live in Philadelphia, you have heard the large amount of horror stories dealing with this agency. They are the only transportation service company that services the entire city of Philadelphia and some rural areas of PA with their regional rails. I live in Outer areas of Philadelphia and have access to a regional rail. Considering that I am between two counties, I am able to purchase a Cross County pass for $ 115 that takes me into Trenton. From Trenton, I would have to transfer to NJTRANSIT and considering that I take an early train from Septa, I can take the NEC express train to NYC that only makes five stops. NJTRANSIT makes the monthly pass available via their app which is beneficial if you don’t want to carry a physical pass. I choose this option as I don’t have to go a machine or a ticket window in the beginning of the month. NJTRANSIT monthly price is $480. Yes… you are reading this right; the cost is $480 because Trenton is the most expensive stop of ALL NJTRANIT stops. (LUCKY ME) Once I got to NY, my main office is less than five minutes and was walking distance. However, shortly after beginning this new position, I was transferred to a new office which is downtown. I added MTA subway and another pass to my commuting cost. Monthly cost for MTA pass is $ 122.00.
Alternative to this option is off boarding NJTRANSIT at Newark. From Newark, you are able to take the PATH train to the World Trade Center and then to MTA subway. Another option if you are coming into Manhattan would be taking the Newark/ WTC PATH to Journal Square and then transferring to the Journal Square/33rd Street line. This would be requiring you to transfer about three times in the morning to make it into NYC. The cost breakdown was: NJT: Trenton to Newark: $ 353.00 PATH: $89 unlimited pass and $122 MTA pass. The cost is lower but the transferring becomes incredibly exhausting after a while.
Calculations of Full Commuting Cost:
Septa: $115.00 (This is solely for my cross county pass. Depending on how far deep you reside in Philadelphia, your pass may or may not be close to $200.00)
NJT: $ 480.00
MTA: $ 122.00
TOTAL: $ 717.00/month
NYC via Newark
Septa: $ 115.00
TOTAL: $ 679.00/month
Please note that you CANNOT claim your commuting expenses on your taxes.
The realities of commuting are plenty to mention.
Below is a photo of how Penn Station looks when NJTRANSIT delays are in full affect due to Amtrak problems.
This photo was taken during the rush hour which for NJT begins at 5pm to about 7. After 7pm the trains run local or semi express. AMTRAK owns the rails and Penn Station and 96% of time we will be facing delays because of them. In the midst of delays, AMTRAK trains take priority before NJT train and you may be adding 60/90 delays to your commute because you are just waiting at Penn Station for train to board. These delays may extend to the trains already en route to Trenton. I have experience sitting in the middle of nowhere for over an hour because of downed wires or disabled trains. I would advise you to follow NJT on Twitter to get a full idea of how often this happens.
Right now, I can picture many of you reading this and asking me why in the world I would incur this cost on a monthly basis. Do I wish someone would have explained this to me in the beginning? YES. Do I wish I did some research before accepting the position? YES. Sometimes you have to make a decision that may or may not make you feel comfortable. I am going on two years of commuting and I can tell you, it’s not easy. Some days I love the commute because I can get a lot of things done but some days I am wiped out by the time I get to my car. I have met some amazing people on this commute and I personally wouldn’t change it for anything. I hope this blog helps those who want to take their chance to commute and experience something new.
I hope this blog post helps those that were considering the decision to commute. Do your research and make sure this decision is for you.