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NJT + SEPTA vs Amtrak To Philly

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This year, we decided to spend the long 4th of July weekend in NYC. Flight is booked and hotel reserved at the Renaissance Midtown which is across the street from Penn Station. Not set in stone yet, but we are also considering taking a day trip to Philly. Amtrak is showing that the NER takes about 1.5 hours and the NJT + SEPTA option is showing as about 2.5 hours. Other than the obvious time difference, how is the comfort level aboard NJT + SEPTA? Is it about the same as Metrolink? 

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As a general rule of thumb, comfort will be pretty comparable to Metrolink. If you end up on a SEPTA Silverliner IV (instead of a V) and/or an NJT Comet or Arrow (instead of a Bombardier MultiLevel), it will probably be a bit more comfortable than Metrolink, but still won't hold a candle to Amtrak.

That said, if you have an extra hour and are willing to try a different (less comfortable) experience, you might as well take NJT and SEPTA one way and Amtrak the other.

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Taking SEPTA and NJ transit is a lot cheaper than Amtrak. As daid about an hour more,the comfort level is not as nice as Amtrak and you change to SEPTA in Trenton

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4 hours ago, greatcats said:

Point to ponder:  SEPTA trains do not have any restrooms. 

Who was the genius who thought that would be a good thing? :P

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50 minutes ago, seat38a said:

Who was the genius who thought that would be a good thing? :P

Someone who never rides the train and is trying to cut costs. 

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I would take Amtrak both ways, booking as soon as you can before the price jumps and/or the trains are sold out, instead of commuter rail, for the following reasons:

As you mention, the total trip each way is about two and a half hours. However, that is if NJT and SEPTA are an immediate connection, which would be rare. It is more likely that you will have a half hour to an hour wait, in Trenton (which is depressing and where there is nothing you would want to do), between trains both ways, so you could end up with six or seven hours of travel instead of sightseeing. it is also possible that NJT will cancel a train or that a train will have a long delay (not that Amtrak is immune, but with NJT it's almost standard procedure).

Also, because Philly makes a really huge deal out of the Fourth, SEPTA may very well be crowded.

If you have only one day to spend in Philadelphia, you don't want to spend half of it commuting. (There is a lot to do and see in Philly--more than people realize sometimes--so you want as much time there as possible.) If you were going to be there several days, that would be different, and commuting might be worth the savings.

You might want to look up what's going on there for the days you're considering, to help you choose which day to go.

And finally, as I always tell everyone, make sure you take a minute to look at the gorgeous main hall in 30th St. station!:)

Edited by Mystic River Dragon

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I too would take Amtrak both ways if you just have one day to visit Philadelphia.  However, Trenton station is not too bad a place and I had a decent lunch there.  Many years ago, under the bad old Penn Centeal days, the previous station station hD been referred to as the Black Hole of Calvcutta.  

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43 minutes ago, Mystic River Dragon said:

I would take Amtrak both ways, booking as soon as you can before the price jumps and/or the trains are sold out, instead of commuter rail, for the following reasons:

As you mention, the total trip each way is about two and a half hours. However, that is if NJT and SEPTA are an immediate connection, which would be rare. It is more likely that you will have a half hour to an hour wait, in Trenton (which is depressing and where there is nothing you would want to do), between trains both ways, so you could end up with six or seven hours of travel instead of sightseeing. it is also possible that NJT will cancel a train or that a train will have a long delay (not that Amtrak is immune, but with NJT it's almost standard procedure).

Also, because Philly makes a really huge deal out of the Fourth, SEPTA may very well be crowded.

If you have only one day to spend in Philadelphia, you don't want to spend half of it commuting. (There is a lot to do and see in Philly--more than people realize sometimes--so you want as much time there as possible.) If you were going to be there several days, that would be different, and commuting might be worth the savings.

You might want to look up what's going on there for the days you're considering, to help you choose which day to go.

And finally, as I always tell everyone, make sure you take a minute to look at the gorgeous main hall in 30th St. station!:)

Thanks for this.

Is the connection the NJ Transit website is giving me generally not reliable? With Metrolink, if two trains are shown as connecting train, the other train will wait for it. Unfortunately we are not 100% sure we will be going to Philly, so with Amtrak, buying saver ticket would hit us with the 25% cancellation fee. I could book business class but at $70+ each way, the amenities offered seems a bit of a rip off.

Edited by seat38a

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I believe, because they are two different commuter systems in two different states, they are not mandated to connect (the experts on here will know if this is correct). So any connection is really just good luck.

NJT often will slow down, sit for a few minutes, or be delayed enough that you will just miss the SEPTA "connection." To its credit, SEPTA will try to wait as long as it can without messing up its schedule. NJT, on the other hand, has been known to see a crowd coming off of SEPTA to get on NJT and close the doors and pull out just as everyone gets to the train. (Yes, I've seen them do this.) 

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49 minutes ago, Mystic River Dragon said:

I believe, because they are two different commuter systems in two different states, they are not mandated to connect (the experts on here will know if this is correct). So any connection is really just good luck.

NJT often will slow down, sit for a few minutes, or be delayed enough that you will just miss the SEPTA "connection." To its credit, SEPTA will try to wait as long as it can without messing up its schedule. NJT, on the other hand, has been known to see a crowd coming off of SEPTA to get on NJT and close the doors and pull out just as everyone gets to the train. (Yes, I've seen them do this.) 

You are correct that they are not mandated to connect. For all intents and purposes, these are two completely separate trains that just happen to line up in such a way that they can get you from NYC to Philly.

@seat38a And I really don't think Business Class on the NER is worth it, especially for that short a trip. All you get is a bit more legroom with somewhat nicer seats, window curtains, and one small complimentary soft drink. Really not a great deal.

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22 minutes ago, cpotisch said:

You are correct that they are not mandated to connect. For all intents and purposes, these are two completely separate trains that just happen to line up in such a way that they can get you from NYC to Philly.

 

Well, I've never heard of a "mandated" connection in any transit agency. Even a "guaranteed" connection, such as those offered by Amtrak or airlines, is simply a marketing gimmick.

But IMO it sells it a bit short to say this connection is more or less a product of happenstance and coincidence. Both agencies print connecting train information in their respective schedules. It's implied that the connection is reliable, but not guaranteed. Most of the time, you'll make it. Some of the time, you won't.

 

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Just now, fairviewroad said:

 Well, I've never heard of a "mandated" connection in any transit agency. Even a "guaranteed" connection, such as those offered by Amtrak or airlines, is simply a marketing gimmick.

But IMO it sells it a bit short to say this connection is more or less a product of happenstance and coincidence. Both agencies print connecting train information in their respective schedules. It's implied that the connection is reliable, but not guaranteed. Most of the time, you'll make it. Some of the time, you won't.

Right. My point was just that they likely won't go out of their way to make sure people make the connection. The schedules line up intentionally, but it's not guaranteed that it always works out.

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Thanks all for your insightful information. Really realizing how easy we have it with the State Supported Amtrak and its fare structure out here after trying to figure out Amtrak on the NEC. I picked our hotel close to Penn Station because we are planning on taking the Airtrain + NJT from EWR. Plus just in case we wanted to day trip it to Philly. So for example, if I book a ticket for the 4:00 train but whatever reason decide to take the 3:00 or 5:00 its none changeable correct at the saver rate?

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4 minutes ago, seat38a said:

So for example, if I book a ticket for the 4:00 train but whatever reason decide to take the 3:00 or 5:00 its none changeable correct at the saver rate?

The Saver fare has a 25% cancellation fee, but no change fee or restriction. The issue is that since Saver fares are only available 14+ days out, if you end up changing your ticket less than 14 days out, there won't be any Saver seats available, and you will have to pay the whatever the premium is for a Value seat.

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I would always use Amtrak between these 2 cities. The service is faster, far more comfortable, and does not require a transfer. No matter what day you travel the NJT Trenton to New York are always packed as they make there way up and down the corrider. Further NJT has been dealing with severe crew shortages, and cancelled trains/combined trains (expresses combined with locals) are not uncommon and not likely to be solved soon. As others have mentioned the connection between SEPTA and NJT is not a given, and as Amtrak owns the NEC its trains have priority.

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Thank you all for you wonderful insight. After reviewing everything, I've decided that we will stick around NYC and its 5 Bouroughs (Maybe parts of New Jersey). I feel its best to make Philly its own separate trip in the future.

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11 minutes ago, seat38a said:

Thank you all for you wonderful insight. After reviewing everything, I've decided that we will stick around NYC and its 5 Bouroughs (Maybe parts of New Jersey). I feel its best to make Philly its own separate trip in the future.

Make sure you drop by downtown Brooklyn. I hear it's great. :D

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On 2/10/2019 at 2:36 PM, cpotisch said:

Make sure you drop by downtown Brooklyn. I hear it's great. :D

Well I'm definitely going into Brooklyn to go to Peter Lugers. :)

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8 hours ago, seat38a said:

Well I'm definitely going into Brooklyn to go to Peter Lugers. :)

Then if you have the time, walk a mile or so south along the waterfront and get yourself some amazing ice cream at Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, right underneath the Brooklyn Bridge! :huh:  [/plugging my neighborhood]

Edited by cpotisch

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On 2/8/2019 at 7:44 PM, benale said:

Taking SEPTA and NJ transit is a lot cheaper than Amtrak. As daid about an hour more,the comfort level is not as nice as Amtrak and you change to SEPTA in Trenton

Also a lot slower, even compared to NER and not Acela.

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