Cost Analysis of Traveling from DC to NYC


My friend, recently began a prestigious internship located in New York City. She wanted me to come up to see her, so we could spend a romantic weekend together in the big apple. I live in DC and decided to do a cost analysis to see which method of travelling from DC to New York would be most convenient and cost effective.

A few stipulations I would like to make regarding this cost analysis

  1. My goal was to find the most cost effective method of travelling to Manhattan in NYC from DC.
  2. Time is a big constraint for me as well and my goal was to maximize the amount of time I spent with my friend while minimizing my travel time.

Travel Options

Here are the options that one can choose when travelling from DC to NYC.

  • Train
  • Bus
  • Plane
  • Car

Planes

Flying to NYC is very inconvenient and quite expensive. The cheapest flight I could find to NYC was $100 round trip. The problem with flying is all three airports local to NYC are inconveniently located relative to Manhattan. Cab fares are $75  each way from Laguardia/JFK, and $85 each way from Newark. The other option from Laguardia/JFK was to take a subway for $2.50 each way but took upwards of 90 minutes to get to her apartment.

A train from Newark to Manhattan cost $13 and the ETA to Manhattan would be 45 minutes. The train conveniently gets me to Penn Station but adds an extra leg of 45 minutes in my traveling time.

Putting a time table to this whole mess, it would take me 30 minutes to get to the airport in DC, 2 hours to go through security, fly and exit the airport, and an extra 90 minutes to get to Manhattan.  This puts my timetable at 4 hours of commuting with 90 minutes spend in the  boiling hot disgusting NYC subway in the summer. No thanks.

Here are charts summarizing my analysis.

Newark JFK Laguardia
Commute to Airport 30 30 30
Flight+Security 120 120 120
Train 45 0 0
Cab 45 30 30
Subway 10 90 90
Total Minutes 250 270 270

 

total w/ Cab Total w/ Train/Subway
Newark $185.00 $115.50
JFK $175.00 $102.50
Laguardia $175.00 $102.50

 

Car

Driving a car to NYC is convenient because you drive directly to your destination and do not have to rely on any public transportation, however, there are a few other costs you should be aware of.  First, parking costs in NY. Garages can cost anywhere from $20-$40  a night, and parking on the street in NYC just risks theft and getting expensive tickets if you park in the wrong place. Also you have to deal with the hassle of parking your car which can take anywhere from 10-30 minutes. The drive itself takes 4-5 hours without heavy traffic and adding an extra  10-30 minutes of parking after a long drive can be very tiring.

New York is about 240 miles away from DC. This means that if your car is the average car and uses about 25 miles per gallon on the highway, each way you are using 10 gallons of gas. Travelling both ways, you are using 20 gallons of gas multiplies by 3.30 a gallon comes out to $66 s of gas.

Tolls to and from NYC are as follows.

Tolls DC2NY NY2DC
Baltimore Tunnel $3 $3
Perryville $6 0
Delaware Bridge 0 $4
Lincoln Tunnel/GW Bridge $13 0
Delaware State $4 $4
NJ Turnpike $12.55 $12.55
Total $38.55 $23.55

This means that the total of driving to and from NYC including gas, tolls, and parking can cost upwards of $200. ($208.10 to be exact). Not the prettiest way of travelling to the city.

Train

Taking the train from DC is a very convenient option. The train gets into Penn station which is conveniently located a few stops away from her apartment. The train is also located 20 minutes away from my apartment in DC and takes 3.5 hours to get to NYC. The train has large plush seats, a food car, clean bathrooms, and a quiet car if you want to avoid noisy passengers.

The issue with the Amtrak is that the prices for convenient times to travel are much higher than the prices for inconvenient times to travel. What I mean by this is a train ticket at 5AM costs $68  if booked far in advance, however, a ticket to travel at 7AM costs $150. Because the metro service doesn’t run at 5AM, you have to pay for a cab to take you to Union Station as well and depending where you live in DC, this can cost anywhere from 10-25 dollars.

When returning from NYC, the same financial inconvenience applies. A ticket at 6PM which would get in around 10PM and provide ample time to catch a Metro, costs $150, however a ticket at 9PM costs $68 and gets in well past the metro’s closing time.

All in all, the train is a very convenient option, but it’s pricey depending on when you book your ticket and what time you book your ticket for.

Bus

Finally, the last option is the bus. The bus drops off in the exactly same place as the train does in NYC but is far less expensive than the train. It costs anywhere from 20-35 each way from DC and picks up/drops off within walking distance of my work/apartment. It also is not subject to any time limits and you can book a bus ticket at any point without risking any increase in prices. Some of the companies that offer this service are:

  1. Vamoose
  2. Greyhound
  3. Megabus
  4. Bolt
  5. DC2NY

Conclusion

Most of the time flying or driving on my own make very little  sense from pure cost standpoint. The debate is usually between taking the train and the bus. A bus will always be cheaper than taking the train; however, a bus will also be subject to traffic while a train will not. I have summarized a chart of the costs and times.

 

Cost Time (min)
Bus (depending on traffic) $40.00-$80.00 480/800
Train (depending time you leave) $150.00/$300.00 440
Plane (depending which airport) $103-$185 670/690
Car $208.10 600

 

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