Posts tagged travel

How to Travel Between Syracuse and New York

This is my third year living in New York, my fourth traveling regularly between here and Syracuse where I grew up. One point in 2013 had me commuting to New York in the morning, then back to Syracuse that same evening, twice a week for two months. I'm unsure how many times I've officially commuted between the two, but I have taken every method available to do so. Shy of maybe horse-drawn carriage or blimp. How does one travel between Syracuse and New York? What options are available? What's the "best" way? Randy Gingeleski Manhattan

By Bus

This is the cheapest way to get between the two, but also varies widely in comfort. Chances are you're in for a long, uncomfortable ride. To quote Goldman Sachs Elevator, "If riding the bus doesn't incentivize you to improve your station in life, nothing will." It's 6 hours for the trip (one-way) usually. There are times when it only takes 5, and an act of God can get you stuck onboard for 8. Say a prayer. There are three major bus operators that run this route. Average ticket price seems to be about $30 one-way.

Greyhound

Image source - Wikipedia
There are over half a dozen departures from New York (Port Authority at midtown) and Syracuse (Regional Transit Center) to the other, every day. Usually the same times. Along the way you'll almost always stop at Binghamton, then take a rest break at the Gouldsboro travel plaza. Sometimes there are other stops (Newark, Syracuse University, Scranton). You can get this info ahead of time on the website. Checking the Greyhound Syracuse Years ago, when I was first riding, Greyhound was great. The bus would only ever be about half full, so you could sit by yourself. At the time they'd just newly upgraded the interiors of all the buses. "Leather" seats, power outlets, A/C vents above your head, WiFi. Cheap. It wasn't bad at all. Over time, it's gotten to the point where every bus is 100% full. You had to get to the bus station at least an hour before your scheduled departure so you can stand in line. This will ensure (a) you actually get a seat and (b) you'll probably be able to choose a "good" seat. Here's where I usually try to sit if it appears the bus will be full:
The numbers being indicative of priority.
The numbers being indicative of priority.
These are the last places people grab seats. Why? They either see the bus is crowded when they first get on, sitting down in the first available spot near the front. Or they go all the way to the back, see there aren't any totally open rows, and drift back forward to an aisle seat. Anyway, not only are most buses at totally at capacity now, but there are some people you just wouldn't ever choose to sit next to. And somehow the least desirable people will always choose to sit next to you, trapping you against the window. One time it was a very obese woman whose arm fat rested on me the entire trip, while she held a crying baby. Another time it was a guy who'd just been released from jail and was headed back to New York. He asked me all sorts of questions about my phone, because when he got put away (for whatever) cell phones weren't around yet. But the things that were good from before are still good. And there are times (middle of the weekdays) when crowding isn't an issue.

Trailways

I'm reluctant to even list Trailways as it's own thing - they're a regional company that sometimes picks up slack with Greyhound. Even if you buy a ticket directly from their website, chances are you'll be put on a Greyhound bus. The companies pool resources for this route. Same times and stuff. Of the 90 or so times I've ever taken the bus, one time a few years ago it ended up Trailways. Based on that experience - they're ugly white buses, usually old. There won't be outlets, WiFi, or as much legroom on the Greyhound fleet. Price will be the same (about $30 one-way).
TRAIL1 0807 PAC 17562
Image source - Penn Live
Always book your bus tickets from the Greyhound site or from their desk at Port Authority. You want to minimize your chances of getting one of these (if my single experience was the norm).

MegaBus

Syracuse to New York Megabus
Image source - Wikipedia
I've taken the MegaBus once. It seems to run rather rarely, plus picks up / drops off in downtown New York on the street. The bus was at capacity, so I ended up with the first seat on the second story. Those of us from Syracuse aren't too keen on that.
Syracuse Megabus Crash
Image source - Syracuse.com
At first it seemed cool. Like I had a driver's view without the responsibility. Whenever the bus passed under a bridge, though, it kept looking like I'd hit it face-first. Legroom on the Megabus was about even with Trailways, which means worse than the modern Greyhounds. There also weren't electrical outlets, the seats were rough (also like on Trailways), and there was a really small luggage compartment. I only mention that because it looked like everyone's stuff was crammed together. On the other providers that's not an issue at all. What's the merit of MegaBus? This may have changed but they used to do really cheap tickets now and then. Like $9 each way, aiming to fill seats on undesirable times. Check their website.

By Car

You can drive. It takes between 4 and 5 hours, usually faster than the bus. Best Driving Route from Syracuse to New York Note that there's about $50 of tolls (dependent on where you're going) getting into New York. They don't really toll you on the way out. You'll also have to consider where you're going to park your vehicle. If you're too cheap to pay for parking in Manhattan, there's a decent amount of street parking here around St. John's. My current neighborhood of Fresh Meadows wouldn't be too bad of a place to leave your car. From here, you can be to Times Square (if for whatever reason you're willingly going there) within 45 minutes most times of the day. Board the Q46 on Union Turnpike, get off at the final stop of Kew Gardens, and board the train right there. The E stops right at Port Authority, the F at Bryant Park. Cross your fingers for an express train. Try not to ride too much later than 10 PM because things slow way down. Getting from Fresh Meadows to Times Square

By Train

This is by far the most scenic way to travel, and dare I say the most "pleasant." It's a relaxing 6 hour trip. Maybe there's just something romantic about train travel.
NBT Bank Stadium in Syracuse, via Amtrak train window.
NBT Bank Stadium in Syracuse, via train window.
There's only one train operator between Syracuse and New York - Amtrak. This shouldn't come as a surprise to any American. The passenger rail service in this country is nearly non-existent, with Amtrak renting the lines from commercial operators. So this travel method encounters some disadvantages, both stemming from that. It's kind of pricey for a 6-hour ride, with a regular one-way ticket always costing at least $61 in my experience. No matter how far ahead you book. The other downside - any sort of rail construction can cause major delays. This last time I took the train, it was scheduled to depart Syracuse at 11:40 AM. I didn't board until about 4 PM, with departure occurring soon after. They did have the courtesy call me at 8:15 AM to see if I could make the 9:06 train. So what do you get for that price, at twice the cost of Greyhound? A comfortable seat and a lot of room, no matter where you sit. Looking out the window is actually enjoyable. If you're traveling through the lunch or dinner hour you get a meal of some kind - the food's actually not half bad. Note that I'm talking about coach. I have yet to take business class, but may set that up for all my spring semester trips. It's my understanding that the provided food is better and the seats are even more comfortable. Just everything I like about coach already, better. Also, if you're on the Lake Shore Limited, apparently there's only a dining car for the first half of the trip. Near Albany the train splits - one half goes to Boston, the other to New York. It's weird.

By Plane

If you fly between New York and Syracuse, chances are you'll either be on JetBlue or Delta. They run multiple flights a day at pretty much the same times. It takes about 65 minutes from boarding to deboarding, with 35 minutes actually in the air. Prices for both are about the same - $75 to $110 one-way if booking a month in advance. If you book like 4 months in advance, I've gotten roundtrip on a weekend for $140 with Expedia. It probably would've been even cheaper with Skyscanner - I highly recommend Skyscanner for booking your flights. That will find you the cheapest ticket, without a doubt. Syracuse's Hancock International Airport is pretty hokey, all things considered. But hokey in a good way - it's a small and manageable part of the trip. New York metro airports can be sources of stress. It's only "international" because of flights with nearby Canada.
Image source - airport official website
Image source - airport official website
The only New York area airport I haven't flown into or out of is Newark. I personally prefer LaGuardia for flying out and JFK for flying in. It's common for me to go through LGA check-in/security in 5 minutes if I only have a carry-on. I can't say that about JFK, however do prefer their whole process for picking up checked luggage. Side note for Queens residents - If you live in Queens it's easy to get to and from the airport. I call a Lyft car, the drivers are always phenomenal and it's really not that unreasonable. During rush hour (Lyft calls it "primetime", rates increase 50%) on a Friday night it costs me $20 (before tip) to get from Fresh Meadows to LaGuardia. Historically they seem to treat their drivers better. You can get a free ride up to $15 with my coupon code RANDY84547. Appreciated.

JetBlue

My JetBlue flights have always been perfectly on-time, however the same can be said for Delta. During the flight you can expect to be offered some type of snack, and usually soda or juice in addition to water. There's also in-flight entertainment on the seatbacks. Legroom is generous. This is all standard JetBlue stuff. While Delta regularly offers a pronounced first-class, I've never seen one on the JetBlue flights between Syracuse and New York.

Delta

As I mentioned, Delta has also always been timely for me. Flying out of LaGuardia there sometimes seems to be an overbooking issue, though I've written about how you can capitalize on it. During the flight, water is offered. It's only an hour flight so that seems fair. Leg room is fantastic in exit rows, airplane-standard otherwise. There's no "in-flight entertainment." First-class never looks like it's worth it - usually small-ish planes are flying this route so there's no pronounced first-class difference.

What's Best?

I've stopped taking the bus altogether and now always do train or plane. God-willing I'll go the rest of my life without stepping on a bus. Driving can make you go mad, what with traffic delays in addition to the poor driving skills down here. And somehow there's always like a 50/50 chance of getting lost. Parking's a pain - park in Manhattan and it costs a fortune, park on some residential street in Queens and you suddenly have a 45-minute commute anywhere noteworthy. Personally, I like doing one leg of the trip as a flight then returning on the train. That's a good mix, relatively low stress, and not outrageously expensive if you book early.