So you don’t have a car. Maybe you never did or maybe your beloved automobile is collecting dust in the garage back home. Some students may recommend you shamelessly suck up to upperclassmen to get off campus, but I say – embrace New Jersey Transit!
As a junior now, I’ve lived on campus for two years with complete reliance on buses and trains to get me where I need to go, whether it’s home in Paramus, North Jersey or New York City. You don’t need a car to get off campus, so don’t let not having one restrict you to Ewing.
You may consider taking the bus or train to be inconvenient. Lugging all your belongings for a weekend at home is unpleasant, but provides quite a workout. As my father is quick to point out, public transportation is far cheaper than car maintenance, parking fees and insurance. All you need to worry about is having the right bus and train schedules, which can be obtained on each bus, at train stations and on the NJTransit Web site: njtransit.com.
To get off campus, your first resource is the 601 bus that stops by Brower Student Center on the perimeter of Lot 6. Twenty-five minutes and $1.25 later, you will be dropped off at the Trenton Train Station. The bus driver will usually announce when it’s coming up, and you’ll never be the only one getting off there, but start getting your things together when you pass a cemetery.
The Station is diagonally across from the bus stop. Inside, you can purchase train tickets to New York (Penn Station), Philadelphia (on the Septa trains) or anywhere along the Northeast Corridor line, including Princeton, New Brunswick, Newark and Secaucus. A round-trip ticket to New York costs $19.50. You can purchase them from the machines or the ticket counter, where someone can help you. There’s a $5 charge if you buy them on the train. A round-trip ticket technically consists of two tickets, so make sure you don’t lose the second one by the time you return home. I recommend buying tickets in advance if you know you’ll be making similar trips to save time.
At Secaucus Junction you can transfer to other trains that can take you all over New Jersey, north or south. Use the NJTransit Web site to find the right schedule or their handy Trip Planner. Make sure your ticket shows that you are transferring in Secaucus; otherwise you won’t be able to enter the station once you’re there.
At New York Penn Station, Madison Square Garden is right outside, and the subway within the station can take you everywhere else. Subway maps are available at ticket booths by the turnstiles. Multiple subway lines go to 34th Street, but only the A, C, or E trains get you right to Penn Station. My “Not for Tourists” guidebook has been an indispensable resource for getting around the city; you can get one at almost any bookstore or notfortourists.com.
Trains and buses run less frequently on weekends. I was surprised when I arrived at the Trenton Train Station one Sunday evening freshman year to discover that the 601 doesn’t run after 7 p.m. Luckily, there are always cabs lined in the rear entrance of the station. The trip should never cost more than $12, but ask the driver before you get in. I didn’t have enough cash with me at the time, but not all cab drivers will be nice enough to let you charge $12 at a gas station to your credit card in exchange for the trip.
I’ve cursed public transportation many times for being unreliable or a hassle, but I wouldn’t trade the experiences I’ve had for anything. I met my good friend and current roommate at the Trenton Train Station on my way to New York City. I discussed Einstein and Freud with Sidney, a cab driver and former chess player, shrimp farmer and architect from the Philippines (609-273-3327, if you ever need a ride to or from Trenton). I got hit on by an older man who said I have pretty hair and he’d treat me “real good.” I’ve watched the sun rise and set and the season change from my window seat.
You don’t have to rely on a car or an upperclassman to explore or visit friends at other colleges, just make sure you plan ahead. Happy trails!