Ditch the trip planner, use the PDFs

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Choosing among the three major NYC area airports is like choosing from the rack, iron maiden, or Malay boot. The Rapid Traveler has had a few Newark (EWR) experiences of late, and for each the fun started well before arrival at the terminal. Today he nearly missed his flight by carelessly boarding the wrong train, turning a 6-minute ride into a 70-minute ordeal. In doing so he violated one of his rules to never rely on trip planners and online schedules for rail and bus.

Having ridden the New Jersey Transit (NJT) Northeast Corridor Line between New York and Trenton (onward connection on SEPTA to Philadelphia) on weekends throughout college, The Rapid Traveler was guilty of careless planning amid meetings today. He quickly pulled up NJT’s trip planner and got this unhelpful result, listing only one train:

NJT1Wanting to see backup trains, he switched to the online schedule and got this list of alternating Northeast Corridor and Jersey Coast trains:



Arriving at Newark Penn Station about 5:50 (the needless confusion between New York Penn Station and Newark Penn Station is a subject for another post), The Rapid Traveler passed the broken monitors and hopped about the Northeast Corridor train just as the doors closed, thinking it was the 5:52, only to be lectured by the conductor a few minutes later that he was on a delayed express that skips the airport. Next stop was MetroPark 20 minutes away, then a half-hour wait plus an extra 5-minute delay for sweetener, and a sluggish limp back to the airport stop. Somehow he made the flight as the last to board, his seatmate dismayed to see the empty seat filled by an out of breath Rapid Traveler, dripping from the summer heat and his airport dash.


Photo by Mulad

This was a case of compounded stupidity, from not checking the train number to not passing up a departing train with others soon to follow, but the most basic error was in not pulling up the clear PDF schedule, a habit The Rapid Traveler inexplicably broke. In his student days he always carried the print schedule to avoid confusion. The PDF schedule clearly shows, in blue highlight, express train 3867 at 5:40.

Transit providers throughout the world employ similar online tools that are intended to simplify, but by selectively making a recommendation, they inadvertently exclude critical information. Always get the full panorama before zooming in.

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