How hard is the commute into New York City on Metro North? Well, the train experience is not exactly a walk in the park. But there are ways to ‘smooth out’ the trip. If you’re a novice suburban commuter trying to make it to Grand Central Terminal every day, I’ve got five tips that should improve your trek.
Never Buy Your Ticket on the Train
This is rookie-mistake stuff. The conductors charge a significant surcharge to make on-board ticketing especially painful. So plan ahead and keep more money in your pocket! And now with the MTA eTix app for smartphones, you can always buy yourself an e-ticket before the conductor shows up.
Get Used to the Center Seat
If you’re traveling during rush hour, usually only a few seats will be left when you show up. And I guarantee they will be center seats. There is absolutely nothing wrong with politely asking the person sitting in the aisle seat to let you in. Otherwise, you’ll be standing for the entire trip, and how fun is that? I know some may say their personal-space requirements prevent them from squeezing into the center seat. If you’re going to be a regular rush-hour commuter, I’d recommend you try reducing the size of your personal-space bubble. After a while, you’ll find it isn’t as uncomfortable as you’d think.
Expect Weak Cellular Spots Along the Way
Once upon a time, you’d see an ocean of open newspapers during the morning commute. No more. Now, everyone is on a digital device, many of them streaming movies and TV shows. If you don’t have work to do, streaming your favorite content is a great way to spend your time on Metro North. The only challenge you’ll face is the reality that the cellular signal is not evenly strong along the way. (There are multiple 1-bar pockets.) So, you’ll need to rely on buffering to keep your show playing smoothly. That means you shouldn’t randomly jump in and out of watching your content. Once you begin, keep going! If you happen to receive a non-critical text while streaming the last episode of “Stranger Things” on Netflix, I highly recommend that you wait to respond until after that end-credits scene is over.
Admire the Great Work the Conductors Do
I’ve watched a variety of Metro North conductors in action across many years. Without exception, each one has brought professionalism and a friendly attitude with every commuter interaction. That doesn’t mean they’re not sometimes tough when they need to be if a commuter gets a little out of line. It’s clear that the conductors are always in charge. That psychological hierarchy maintains the necessary calm for any public transportation commute.
Buy the Best Muffin at Grand Central Terminal
Once you arrive at Grand Central Terminal, I say it’s time to reward yourself! The best breakfast muffin you’ll find is the ‘apple cranberry walnut muffin’ at Magnolia Bakery on the plaza level. It’s simply amazing.
The bakers seem to only cook up one batch of these muffins on any given morning… so you’ve got to show up early to get one. Any time after 9am is a gamble.
Bonus Tip: Maintain a Flexible Mindset
So, after many years as a ‘train warrior,’ I’m not currently commuting into New York City. (Instead, I brave the unpredictable parking lot known as I-95 to Stamford, CT.)
But as much as everyone I know loves to complain about I-95, it’s not really half bad if you expect the hideous traffic and always have a good podcast to listen to while driving.
(I highly recommend Malcolm Gladwell’s “Revisionist History.”)
I also suggest that you apply the same flexible attitude towards commuting on Metro North to New York City on any given day. Combined with my commuting tips, you could even ‘enjoy’ your train experience!