Transit Adventures

A Cross-Sound Trip on LIRR, Metro-North and the Port Jeff-Bridgeport Ferry

This Trip was taken on October 8, a week ago

The Reason for the Trip: I’m currently writing a paper for my History and Theory of Urban Planning class on Crossing Long Island Sound: The Never-Built Crossing. A trip I’ve been thinking about doing for a long time is the LIRR to Port Jefferson, the Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Steamboat Company ferry across the sound and Metro-North back home. I’ve been deterred mainly on price; a one-way foot passenger ticket is $18. As a way to help myself starting my research I decided to finally go-ahead and take the trip.

I have a morning meeting for my part-time job at CityTech in Downtown Brooklyn (normally I’m there on Tuesdays and Thursdays). I leave the office at 11:18 for my quick 12 minute CityBike Ride to Atlantic Terminal where I arrive at 11:30. I have enough time to buy my first $10.75 ticket for the day and grab some water before heading out to track 2 for the 11:35 train to Far Rockaway for the switch in Jamaica to the train to Huntington. The goal of Huntington is a 40 minute photo stop. Boarding, only the middle of the train is open, this requires us entering from the bumper blocks to walk past a couple cars before getting to an open one.

We leave one minute late at 11:36 to slowly leave Flatbush Avenue/Atlantic Terminal. It’s my third trip on this line that I find really interesting. We pass an empty platform extension that’s dark with a tactile warning strip and some water cooler jugs. Then its slowly into the dark terminal out of the station. The tunnel Is super dark and slow. I’m sitting on the left and just have a wall here. The M7s wining as we leave.

  • 11:40 – finally leave the yard behind and pick up speed.
  • 11:41 – See a couple of lights from the opposite side of the train.
  • 11:42 – Reach Daylight in the trench and were wrong-railing taking the right-hand track.

We slowly enter Nostrand Avenue, arriving at 11:43 and some vested LIRR workmen board, we get the doors closed at 11:44. The sign says all trains are on Track 1A.

Then its over Crown Heights including Interfaith Medical Center, the Boys and Girls High School and a strange cul-de-sack.
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  • 11:46 – Transition from over to under Atlantic Avenue. No sign of the conductor’s. I guess they do their ticket sweep between East New York and Jamaica.
  • 11:48 – See a catwalk and perhaps provisions for another track before grates provide us with some light, we get the East New York announcement.

We stop at decrepit East New York for a good two-dozen people at 11:49. An L train stops on the ROW above us.
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  • 11:50 – Go back underground as we leave East New York. Still no sign of the conductors.
  • 11:51 – A couple lights and we switch onto the proper track.

We finally gather speed and I put my hands up to the window and see a nice enlarged area briefly at 11:55 that I assume is the former and abandoned Woodhaven Blvd Station where the station was abandoned.

11:56­ – back outside. I see the Morris Park Engine Shop, the Boland’s Landing Employee stop for the shop, as we slowly reach the switches at Jamaica and enter the station.
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We arrive a tiny bit late at 11:59 (my trains due to leave at 11:58). The connecting train is across the platform and an easy transfer. We leave at Noon.

12:03 – slowly past abandoned Hall Street and that former station.
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12:04 – The Far Rockaway Branch leaves and we see Hillside with its employee only station that we stop at.

We stop at Hillside Facility at 12:05, there is quite a group waiting to ride westbound, most are professionally dressed with their badges outside their sports jackets. These windows have the splotchy syndrome unlike the windows on my Flatbush Avenue train. I’m in the mood to type and do a full on photo essay.

  • 12:07 – Bypass Hollis
  • 12:08 – The nicely renovated Queens Village station with elevators. We’ve picked up speed and slowly switch from the right track over to let the Hempstead Branch leave us.
  • 12:08 – Pass Bellerose that the Hempstead Branch can only serve.
  • 12:09 – Floral Park with the platforms for all four tracks, the one on the Main Line seldom used. Then its over backyards.
  • 12:10 – First grade-crossing of the day and slow down.

We stop in New Hyde Park at 12:11, this stop I keep visiting because it’s the first stop in Nassau County on the Main Line and not that hard a bus ride. I didn’t have time today but a ticket from here to Huntington is $5.25, compared to $10.50 from Zone 1, Penn Station or Atlantic Terminal.

We stop at Merrilon Avenue at 12:13.

12:15 – rise up for a grade-separated crossing for Felltham Wood Products, with an abandoned sign.

We stop in Mineola at 12:16. The destination signs say the 11:05 to Ronkonkoma is held. A surprising number of people get on. There a couple people with strange tickets who’s travel plans have just changed.

We arrive in Carle Place at 12:20 I hear the wind.

We stop in Westbury at 12:22.

12:25 – A concrete plant with a siding and we rise up onto the viaduct, passing an westbound train as we enter.

We stop in Hicksville at 12:26. It also says the 11:13, Ronkonkoma train is held on the sign.

12:28 – Curve north, away from the Main Line. We pass the Hicksville car wash and into the woods.

At 12:34 we stop in Syosset with the mind the large gap between the train and the platform announcement. Immediately a diesel scoot train passes us, it’s going to Hicksville to make a connection, I’ll be boarding it to continue out to Port Jefferson 40 minutes after I arrive. I thought up buying one ticket but a direct ticket is less than $1 cheaper and it didn’t feel like an argument I wanted to make for the stopover.

We stop in Cold Spring Harbor at 12:39. My car in the front doesn’t platform, they announce the doors are now open at Cold Spring Harbor.

We arrive in Huntington at 12:41, to some freight cars going through. I don’t quite run up to the overpass in time for photos.

The stop is complex enough that 40 minutes for my photo essay doesn’t feel like enough time with the two parking garages and bridges to parking lots. An hour would have been fine without getting board. I get some deadheading action with some C3s getting shunted by a diesel and a photo of the rear of a non-C3 cab car going through the station.

My 3-car C3 scoot train comes in after doing a midday connecting run to Hicksville with a Ronkonkoma Branch train at 1:25. The scoot train passes a lumber-yard as it goes down the single track line out of Huntington, then some trees, there more grade=crossings here with the horn.

At 1:29 – We stop in Greenlawn where there doing work on the concrete overpass. Then were in the trees.

We come into Northport at 1:34, one person is waiting to get on, just before the station house. I see someone trying to buy a ticket. There is a westbound scoot that will stop soon. We soon speed up and past ballfields.

1:37 – Rise up onto a scenic viaduct over some industrial areas including huge mounds of dirt. We slow down again, passing houses.

We finally come into Kings Park at 1:40 for a meet with a scoot train westbound. I notice a train with a locomotive on the New York end, unusual that is the train stopped across from us, it turns out to have locomotives at both ends as we pass the tiny station house and more backyards.

  • 1:43 – The line becomes single-tracked again
  • 1:45 – Go through trees and on a higher embankment, it feels hilly.
  • 1:47 – Cross a road up-high and a stream

At 1:49 we go over a Main Street and into Smithtown with a quite empty parking lotto_port_jeff3

1:52 – See a vineyard before were back to the houses of the suburbs

At 1:54 it’s St. James with the single-track and historic station house.

We get to Stony Brook at 2:00 and the train empties out, it’s gotten the new fencing and shelters treatment.

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The train gathers speed as we go up onto an embankment. We then go through the woods past houses.

I see some trains full of railroad ties and we arrive at 2:05. I get my photos of the station. I’ve been here once before.
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I have a twenty-something minute walk down Main Street, slightly downhill to the ferry dock.
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Arriving at the dock area a sign tells me I’m 58 miles from New York. I can’t quite believe I’ve traveled so far.

I get there at 2:40. See cars getting off and ask about and find the line for foot passengers who board a special door at the stern with its own ramp. I ask about tickets and am told you pay on-board. I see people getting off handing over tickets. It’s doesn’t seem like a bad system.
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We board at about 2:50 onto the P.T. Barnam I walk up and find the ticket office on the main passenger cabin level. I pay my $18 one-way foot passenger fare. This seems expensive since a car and driver is only $55. Amenites here is seating, a small snack bar/concession area, and a lounge/bar in bow of the ship. It’s quite simple, nothing fancy.

I head up to the sun deck that lacks shade on this beautiful day. I find this sign amusing:

The ferry leaves a few minutes late. I’m sitting in the bow and see the door to the car deck below slowly roll down. The stern end of the car deck is completely open with just a fence. The trip is long enough and sea worthy enough that a double-ended ferry like those used on shorter crossings (the Staten Island Ferry comes to mind) doesn’t work. It’s much more efficient though for car decks to have doors at each end to avoid making vehicles turn-around while aboard. We slowly turn around in the harbor to start our voyage (cars on are trip go facing backwards, going the other direction vehicles will face forwards).
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We pass between two sandbars on a clearly dredged harbor and finally pick-up are relatively slow-speed for the crossing. I’m happy I’ve thrown a sweater in my bag to avoid freezing. Since I’m now moving in open water.
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I buy some disgustingly but good french fries as a snack and get some photos of a ferry passing the otherwise, the the Grand Republic because the Park City is sitting in port since only two boats are in operation on this weekday (in Summer and on weekends all 3 boats in the fleet are in operation).
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There is no moment when land isn’t visible but the sound does feel vast, it would have been one impressive bridge had a bridge ever been built.

Entering Bridgeport Harbor is neat, as we pass Stony Point and slowly turn in this harbor to back into the dock (Long Island-bound ferries require no backing up since cars enter through the stern and leave through the bow). This all occurs just before the I-95 bridge across the Pequonnock River that is much too low for our big ferry boat.
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We arrive at 4:15, here passengers leave, along with cars from the stern although passengers have their own gangway that slowly lowers down to the boat.
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I get off the ferry and immediately notice that the Bridgeport Port Authority has posted No Photography signs as a security risk that may result in questioning and destruction of photography equipment (is that statement even legal? I guess there not photo-rights lawyers in Bridgeport to question it).
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I follow the signs to downtown Bridgeport, cross under I-95 and reach the train station that I believe isn’t Bridgeport Port Authority Property. I’m not on the platform when an ACS-64 leading an Amtrak train (the only photos I have of the new locomotives are a few I took when one pulled my Carolinian down to D.C.) arrives.
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I get on the 4:45 train to get Greens Farms on a layover of less than a full hour. As always on the New Haven Line I’m impressed by the number of short-trip intermediate riders. Thew almost base half-hourly service only helps increase this intermediate ridership.

We stop at Fairfield Metro at 4:51.

At 4:54-It’s Fairfield Metro, the usual crowded reverse-peak New Haven Line train.

I stop keeping track and arrive in Greens Farms at 4:55. The station has an older station house and signs on the windscreens that the city of Westport parking taxes paid for the windscreens on the platforms. An hour at the stop would be overkill, its extremely simple.
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At least I’m not dealing with this awful schedule (I think the sign is from the 1980s or early 1990s):

I get an Acela Express and a Shore Line East Stamford train, passing through:
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Then its decision time, do I go straight home? (on the next train, a Fordham Express) or try and do a couple more East of Stamford Stations, and take next-hour’s train that also stops at Fordham? I decide to buy another $2.50 (the minimum fare) ticket to Stamford (the farthest I can go for this amount, the next stop old Greenwich is $4.00) and get on the next train at 5:23.

The conductors are lazy and I don’t get my ticket collected so I ride one stop to Westport.
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I’ve been to Westport before, but only changing from the train to a bus during the derailment trip to New Haven in 2013. I stopped there for half-an-hour coming back from New Haven once basically after dark. This train is a semi-express so no Noroton Heights or Rowayton (other stops on the visit list). I get my photo essay and realize the next train is in 40 minutes with mine 20 minutes after. I could take the next train to Stamford and switch to a local but would arrive in Fordham just 3 minutes before the next Express train that’s stopping there. I end up discovering the station is open and stop to enjoy wifi and get some e-mails sent.
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The next train is 6 minute late so I finish up a few more e-mails before running outside to board. The conductors on this semi-express aren’t being there either so I get off in the evening light at Darien for a few evening photos, I arrive there at 6:30 only stopping at South Norwalk, skipping East Norwalk and Rowayton.
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I get on my final Metro-North train of the day. The 6:48 Local to Stamford than non-stop to Fordham! Train. The conductor is right there. I ask to double-check that the train is in-fact stopping at Fordham she responds, “Yes, you got lucky!” They seem more on top of things on this train compared to my previous ones. It’s late enough (and now dark) that the train isn’t packed like some of the earlier reverse-peak, stops at Fordham trains I’ve taken on previous trips.

We get to Stamford at 6:57 and I’m happy I’m not switching to the 7:04 local train for the usual slower ride.

7:09 – Look-up at Port Chester from my computer, I do love the outlets on the M8s!

I get off at Fordham at 7:27 and have bus timed the Bx-12SBS, there a few approaching. I run upstairs and miss the next one because although the construction feels like its finished on street-level buses are still stopping 50 feet east of the station in front of Fordham University. Luckily it’s only a few minute wait for the next one as I dip my Unlimited in the machine for my SBS Fare receipt. It’s then onto the A train where I get home a little after 8:00. Walking really isn’t that much slower. The fastest way would be by cycling (like CityTech to Atlantic Terminal). Who knows though when the Bronx will get CitiBikes.