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Imagine being able to take commuter rail from here to Philadelphia

Forget for a moment the question of why you'd want to do that, on a slow trip that would involve changing trains several times. The New London Day reports Connecticut legislators are considering a plan that would extend that state's commuter-rail system, which now ends at New London, to either TF Green Airport in Rhode Island or Worcester's Union Station - both of which are now also served by MBTA commuter rail.

The move, by legislators from the eastern end of the state, comes at the request of Electric Boat and Pfizer, which say they'd love to have a way to get their workers who now live past New London to work.

If it happens, and the Day says the tracks are already in place, that would let a Bostonian travel to TF Green, transfer to CT Rail, get to New Haven and get on an MTA Metro North train to Grand Central Station, hie over to Penn Station to get aboard a New Jersey Transit train to Trenton, where you'd take a SEPTA ride down to Philadelphia.

And then, from there, you'd take a train to Newark DE, and hope that by the time you get there, Maryland's MARC will have completed a possible extension there, which would let you get to not just Baltimore but Washington, DC, for a connection to Virginia's VRE and a trip south to Spotsylvania, where you'd then turn around and do it all in reverse.

So why would you do it? To say you did, of course.

In 1903, a couple wrote about their honeymoon taking trolleys from Wilmington, DE to Maine. Five years later, a New Yorker wrote a similar book about his trolley trek from New York to Maine. And while the latter is a fairly grumpy account - he seems to hate most of the things he encounters - he starts:

If the reader of this short tale has never ridden by trolley from Manhattan to Maine he should take half a dozen days off some time during the Summer months and do so. It will prove a revelation and a revel to him from start to finish.

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Comments

To say you did, or to save money.

Twenty years ago, when I was living in New York, I took commuter rail from there to Philly for a convention. It cost half what Amtrak would have, and took half an hour longer (so, 2.5 hours instead of 2), and enough people did it that I could buy a ticket for the whole trip in NY Penn Station. And when the train got to Trenton, the conductor announced the location of the SEPTA train to Philly, conveniently at the same platform.

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Voting closed 41

Amtrak is prohibitively expensive for many people with only a few stops between cities.

Busses are affordable but have even fewer stops between cities.

A commuter rail option would be useful.

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Voting closed 33

The only thing Amtrak excels at is charging a lot.

Nobody should avoid taking an intercity train if it runs where they're going. It should be the primary transportation choice.

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Voting closed 16

You may have missed a couple. If you've got enough baggage that the mile-long shlep from Grand Central to Penn Station is inconvenient, you'll probably wind up on the subway -- shuttle or 7 westbound from Grand Central to Times Square, then one stop south on the 7th or 8th avenue lines (any train) to Penn Station.

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Voting closed 19

Because, yeah, you could get on the subway, or take a cab or, if it's a nice day and you're not too burdened down with luggage, walk.

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Voting closed 24

The schlep from GCT to Penn may be a thing of the past soon anyway...

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penn_Station_Access

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Voting closed 22

...any decade now...

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Voting closed 19

Meh, why not just finally build the long-planned-out connection between Penn Station and Grand Central extending the lower tracks at GCT south along Park Avenue a few blocks, and turning onto 31st and going into Penn Station? You would probably want to combine parts of the MTA and NJT to facilitate through running trains, but frankly it's absurd that they don't now.

Also they still need new underwater tunnels for Penn Station so they can repair the old ones. Hopefully that can be done under this administration.

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Voting closed 13

Its funny to see this now- one of my co-workers was looking for a way to get from where they live in NH to a meeting in Philadelphia via train/ plane without going into Boston at all- struck out on all fronts and flew from Logan- the Worcester train idea probably would have sufficed for them

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Voting closed 20

Manchester didn't have a flight?! ...or just not a practical waypoint for them? Travelocity shows a couple of daily nonstops.
The only other alternative that comes to mind would be (again depending on where they live in NH) going to the Amtrack service in Vermont

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Voting closed 15

For the past year, the Vermonter hasn't run north of New Haven, and the Ethan Allen Express hasn't run north of Albany.

The closest you can get to Vermont on Amtrak is Greenfield, MA, which is served by one train a day from New Haven (the "Valley Flyer").

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Voting closed 17

It sounds silly as Adam describes it but one key benefit is connecting coastal and SE Connecticut with TF Green airport. CT as a whole is underserved with commercial airline service (most people New Haven west end up flying out of JFK or Newark). Folks in SE CT are currently stuck with an expensive Uber or parking rates to get to Green or Bradley. EB actually flies their own planes from New London to Norfolk. This could be a valuable alternative.

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Voting closed 18

I'm guessing Doctorow borrowed heavily from those accounts for the section in Ragtime when a character rides by multiple trolley lines from New York to Lowell. Somewhat inspired by that description, I have always wanted to take commuter rail from Boston to DC, which currently has two gaps. I've considered the idea of biking the gaps, but an actual system transfer between MBTA and CTDOT would be fantastic.

As for getting to Penn Station, there is an alternative option that skips Grand Central altogether. Deboard from the Shore Line East train at Bridgeport, then take the ferry to Port Jefferson on Long Island. It's about a mile walk from there to the Long Island Rail Road, which will get you to Grand Central without need for subways and ubers and such things.

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Voting closed 16

Whose chronicle of riding the rails down to Patagonia starts with him getting on the Orange Line.

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Voting closed 15

Around about 1915 it was probably entirely possible to take interurban trolleys from Maine to Minnesota if you had lots and lots of time and could carry enough nickels. I recall such things were occasionally done as a stunt though there may have been a gap of a few miles in Indiana requiring a bit of walking.

Man, but cars really screwed up this country.

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Voting closed 17

You would have had to change trains/trolleys dozens of times and stay overnight several times on a multi-day odyssey. With a car, Portland (ME) to Minneapolis can be done in under 24 hours, or as a two-day trip with under 12 hours of driving each day.

Heck, trains wrecked this country. Before trains, people could really take the time to enjoy the scenery and outdoor living as they spent a few months traversing the nation by covered wagon. Now that was the way to go as long as your last name wasn't Donner!

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Voting closed 18

You couldn't do it unless you were willing to stay overnight somewhere along the way. The first MBTA train which makes it out to TF Green Airport from South Station arrives there at 6:29 PM. That's fine if we assume the future Shore Line East train would be able to make it to New London in 50 minutes (assuming 5 minutes to change trains) as the current 7:25 PM departure from there, arriving New Haven at 8:30. There's a Metro-North train departing at 8:39, arriving Grand Central at 10:50.

Then it gets hairier. There's an 11:06 NJ Transit train from Penn Station which goes all the way to Trenton (arriving at 12:46 AM), but that's an awfully tight connection even if NYC traffic would be light at that time of night. The next train which goes to Trenton departs at 12:14 AM -- but it doesn't really matter anyway. The last SEPTA train of the night from Trenton departs at 12:02 AM.

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Voting closed 15

Wouldn't have to stay overnight somewhere.
Would have to travel overnight, though.
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Ignoring better things I was supposed to be doing with my time, I did some checking of schedules and maps.
Assumptions - besides what you said about assuming the CT connection, I'm (a) pushing the novelty angle to absurd degree by including as many different legs/systems/branches as I could find - zig-zagging without moving backwards, and (b) glossing over the current NYC subway pandemic overnight cleaning shutdowns (~2-4 AM).
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It could then go:
Boston - MBTA commuter rail - TF Green - Shore Line East - New London - New Haven - Metro-North New Haven Line - Grand Central Terminal - various nyc subway alternatives - World Trade Center - PATH - Exchange Place Jersey City - Hudson-Bergen Light Rail - Hoboken Terminal - NJTransit Morris & Essex Line - Broad Street Station Newark NJ - Newark City Subway light rail - Penn Station Newark NJ - NJ Transit NEC line - Trenton - NJ Transit River Line light rail - Camden - PATCO - 8th St Philadelphia - Market-Frankford Line - 30th St Station Philadelphia - SEPTA regional rail - Newark DE
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About 23 hours, including a couple of 2-hour slots of time to kill.

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Voting closed 15