Part of the allure of the Hudson River Valley lies in its nearness to New York City and the ease with which one can reach the city. Googlemaps gives a driving time from Poughkeepsie to mid-town Manhattan (about 80 miles driving, 65 as the crow flies) of an hour and fifty minutes, about the same as scheduled times for Metro North trains to Grand Central Terminal (GCT) (from 93 to 110 minutes).
So, decisions, decisions… Drive? or take the train?
Driving means being able to go whenever you’re ready. Metro North trains serving Poughkeepsie and GCT run once per hour during the day but much more frequently during “peak” workday morning and evening hours.
The one-way peak fare from Poughkeepsie to Grand Central is $23.75. One-way off-peak costs $17.75. Weekend travel is all off-peak, with trains going about once an hour throughout the day.
The first workday off-peak train from Poughkeepsie departs at 8:33am and arrives at 10:15, which is generally fine for my purposes. The return trip can easily land me on a peak train, however, as the first off-peak train doesn’t leave Grand Central until almost 8:30pm, arriving in Poughkeepsie around 10:15pm. That makes for a long day, and if my mission in the city is finished earlier I spring for the extra six bucks of a peak train and take the first one available.
A single fare subway ticket in New York, which I’ll probably need in order to get to my ultimate destination, costs $3. Subway rides cost less if you buy a Metrocard, but let’s assume that I use single-fare tickets, and that I need go to only one part of the city. Assuming I also want a ride back to Grand Central, the cost for the subway for the day will be $6.
Parking for the day at the Poughkeepsie train station costs $3.75, payable at a kiosk at the station. Weekend and holiday parking at the train station is free.
So, including the off-peak fare into the city ($17.75), a peak fare home ($23.75), round-trip on the subway ($6), and a day of parking ($3.75), we’re looking at $51.25 for the day’s travel, taking about the same time as it would to drive, without the ultimate flexibility of driving, but avoiding the vagaries of traffic.
The IRS mileage rate for business use of an automobile for 2016 is $.54. Multiply that times the 160 miles of an automobile trip, and we’re looking at $86.40 to drive. Of course, if one counts only the gas, it would be much less, but I prefer to calculate what I believe to be the real cost (to me directly, i.e., not including things like costs to the environment) of driving.
Taking the Taconic, Saw Mill River, and Henry Hudson parkways, the only toll one encounters would be at the Henry Hudson bridge into Manhattan, for which the E-ZPass rate is $2.54 each way.
A quick check of parking garage rates in Manhattan shows garages offering 12 hours of parking for $30. I’ll assume that I can find a garage that’s close enough to my ultimate destination that I can walk to wherever I’m going after I park my vehicle.
Adding up vehicle costs ($86.40), tolls ($5.08), and parking ($30), the trip to the city and back comes to $121.48, which makes the train look like a no-brainer (especially if you consider the environmental and social costs of driving). It’s not until you have three people traveling together that driving to the city looks cheaper, and even then only by about $25, and you’ll miss the fun of arriving at Grand Central Terminal.