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Checklist for Working in New York City

When I’m not blogging I’m working in New York City in the software development sector. I have worked in a mix of contractor/consultant gigs and as a salaried employee. The pay is good but the cost of living even in neighboring New Jersey, where I am from and where I live, is high.

Anyway, this is about what you should know if you plan on working in NYC as a commuter. Some of this may cross over if you plan to actually live within the City or one of the boroughs, but my perspective is one of someone who commutes from Northern New Jersey.

I’m sure that someone out there could maybe add to this list but these are my observations.

Bus service from areas near NYC in New Jersey are pretty good. The farther out you go the worse it gets, so you might have to rely on the trains. Farther away there are private bus companies that run the service rather than NJ Transit. Of course living farther increases your commute time and lessens your down time on weeknights since you get up earlier and have to go to sleep earlier. That is, unless you are one of those people blessed with the sleep deprivation gene that allows for very little sleep.

If you take the bus, know your route times. The good thing is that for the heavy routes, busses come every 15 minutes or so, but get the schedule for your route.

If you plan on doing the daily commute, get a bus pass if you can. It’s easier than carrying daily tickets and you can transfer busses if you have to. You just flash your pass to the driver, but if you have a ticket you surrender the ticket. This matters if you are in an area where there are several bus routes that use the same stops, with local bus service between them. Case in point: Your bus is really late and doesn’t look like it’s coming, or it’s standing room only and there are no seats. In the case of the bus not coming, you get on the local bus that comes and you flash your pass. You take the local bus to the next stop with multi route service and get off. You can then take one of the other route’s busses into the Port Authority Bus Terminal, since they all go to the same destination. In the case of your regular bus comes but there are no seats, if you don’t want to stand all the way to New York, and are willing to wait longer for a less full bus, you take it to the next multi route stop and get off, then board another route that comes. There are more frequent bus stops at multi route stops since this is where several routes intersect. If you gave your ticket to the driver you are screwed. If you had a pass, you’re good.

Another thing, make sure that you go to the bathroom before your departure, and if you have any bladder issues, skip the coffee until you get off the bus or closer to your actual job. There are tons of places to get coffee in NYC. Also, you don’t want to use the bathrooms at the PABT if you don’t have to. They’re full of homeless vagrants, and you get to see lovely things like poop on toilet seats and also they’re crowded. It ain’t pretty.

If you are far from your job once you get to the Port Authority Bus Terminal, you will have to master the NYC Subway. It’s easy, but you can get the maps online. A little pre route planning- just knowing where you are going and what train routes take you there, makes all the difference. The biggest thing is knowing the difference between uptown and downtown relative to where you’re going, and make sure that if you take an express train it doesn’t pass your stop. If you have to take the local, take that. Express trains are great if you need to skip many local stops to get to your destination faster.

In the subway, stay away from the yellow edge because if you fall into the track area you can get killed. There are no ladders that I can see and it’s about chest height even for a tall person so I imagine climbing out can’t be easy. They ought to have steps built into the wall to allow climbing out and I can’t understand why they don’t. Staying away from the edge also guards against some psycho pushing you, or tripping over, or if you black out for some reason at least you won’t fall in. It’s happened and people have died because of it. If you do end up down there, stay away from the electrified third rail and get out somehow.

In the summer it’s terribly hot and humid down in the subway stations, so beware of that. The train cars are air conditioned, but the stations and platforms aren’t. A large station like Penn or Grand Central would be air conditioned in some parts, but I mean the smaller ones. Also know that there are underground walk tunnels that connect certain station areas, like from the Port Authority Bus Terminal (PABT) and the Times Square and other stations and platforms, so you can use those in bad weather. I avoid them in summer because of the heat, but in the extreme cold and when it’s raining but not too hot they are great. Just watch out for the religious nuts and other groups that gather and seek people to listen to them or take their handouts. It gets annoying. One more thing about the subway. If you need to go cross town there is a Times Square to Grand Central Shuttle (S) that just goes back and forth all day, so if you need to get cross town fast that is a good way, then take the up and down trains from each area to get where you need to go faster. It’s also great if there are times when your train route is stopped for some reason, like a police investigation. You will have to find another train route and adjust. There are times when I was on the East side and my diagonal Broadway train was out, so I ended up taking the uptown to Grand Central and then the Shuttle back to Times Square. Hey, experience teaches you.

For closer destinations, some people walk or use the new rental bicycles. In a jam some people resort to the taxis, but they’re expensive.

If your job has the eTrac card that takes pre tax money out and puts it into the eTrac Mastercard that can only be used for commuter costs, get it. That’s pre-tax money that can be used to pay for bus, train, and subway fares. Not all have it, but if they do, USE IT.

Once you are working, remember to never leave work unless you go to the bathroom first. You don’t want to be holding that in with all the trains, walking, and waiting that is involved with commuting home at night.

Okay a quick one for the trains. I have taken NJ Transit trains into Penn Station from NJ. One thing is that the trains from the NNJ area come into the Secaucus NJ station and you must transfer to a train that goes into NY Penn Station. It’s a hassle. I like the bus, but the NJ Transit busses are subject to road traffic and Lincoln and other tunnel issues. The trains don’t leave as frequently and you have to be more on a schedule. If you have the option, I prefer the bus, you may prefer the train. You may not have the option though depending on where your origin is.

The waits at the train or bus station out of the City can be long at times, and hot in the summer, so just get used to it. Also, to board a departing bus at the PABT you have to have a ticket or a pass. You can’t pay the driver cash like you can when you are catching the bus at a stop. That’s to lessen the delays.

Okay, I’m not sure what I could have missed. There may have been something.

Leave comments below with anything I missed or your experiences!


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