Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Bowie to New York City Commute

I have to travel to New York City and Jersey City on a regular basis to meet with clients. Although a flight to Laguardia takes less than an hour of flying time, the total travel time adds up once you include the drive to BWI, arriving early, parking, passenger screening, boarding time, flying time and getting to where you need to go once you land in New York. Laguardia is not near any place that I ever need to go. And most of the travel time is not very productive.

In Bowie, we are lucky to have Amtrak service close by. I can usually get to the New Carrollton Metro station in 15 minutes. There is no need to arrive an hour or so early to go through screening. No need to take your shoes off when you check in, and you can bring more than 3 ounces of liquids.

On Monday, I went from home to train in 30 minutes. And once I was on the train, I had time to sleep for a bit and prepare for the day's meeting.

The trains are equipped with power outlets, so there is no need to worry about laptop battery life. I also have a Verizon air card, so I have Internet access for most of the trip (not in the tunnel under the Hudson).

Another benefit of taking the train is that the trains generally take you near where you need to go. If you're going into New York Penn Station, you are generally a short subway ride away from your destination. If you need to go to Jersey City or near World Trade, you can get off at Newark Penn Station, walk across the platform, and take the PATH train.

I never buy a return ticket in advance because I never know for sure when the client meetings will end. The train stations have handy kiosks, and I have purchased tickets less than five minutes from departure time.

Unfortunately the faster Acela trains do not stop in New Carrollton. Although those trains save some travel time, it also takes more time to get to Union Station.

Ridership is currently down, and ticket prices have been lowered. The best prices are available for advanced purchase.

I have had celebrity sightings (of sorts) on my last two trips - both on the platform at Newark Penn Station.

The first was former Maryland Governor Bob Ehrlich. He was traveling with a small posse. I never voted for Ehrlich, but I did have a good laugh when I saw his cameo appearance in The Wire as a security guard in the Maryland State House in Annapolis. Ehrlich and his posse took my train to Baltimore.

The second celebrity sighting was on Monday. I was waiting on the platform when I saw Frank Lautenberg, one of the United States Senators from New Jersey, board an Acela train. My travel companion said, "who?" I didn't know this at the time, but Lautenberg was the primary sponsor of a bill that provided more funding for Amtrak. It's nice to see that he also supports Amtrak as a passenger. I guess Joe Biden wasn't the only senator that liked to take Amtrak.

The picture above shows an Acela train heading North through Old Bowie. I took it during one of the many trips with my kids to Old Bowie to see the trains go by. More on that in a future post.


  1. Riding the train is a civilized as air transport is barbaric. And I was a flyer in the Navy.

  2. Bob, ha, were you allowed to bring more than 3 ounces of liquid products with you in your Navy plane?