Metro-North New Jersey Transit Adventures

To Spring Valley via the Hudson Line to the TZx up and the Pascack Valley Line Back

This trip was taken on September 4, 2015. It took a few days to write!


Hunter gives us all the Jewish Holidays off so this semester is starting on a big whimper and giving me time to tie up some loose ends for the website, ideally with long train rides to read on (it’s the beginning of the semester, most of my work is reading). Since I’m going away in a couple weeks over one of them, I’m between unlimited ride MetroCards at the moment with a commitment in midtown this evening so the goal became to plan a trip that would get me to be Midtown anyway without a MetroCard swipe. I’ve been wanting to get/finish Spring Valley and the choice to get to Spring Valley is clear, walking to The Hudson Line and going over the TappanZee Bridge using the Palisades Mall One-Day getaway package that for only $9.25 gives me a round-trip ticket to Tarrytown (valued at $10.50) round-trip tickets on the TappanZee Express (valued at $6.00), and a ticket for a free shopping bag. The price difference is a bit for of a wash than it might be on this trip compared to going on a simple round-trip from Penn Station because of the off-peak round-trip tickets still sold on the Metro-North Wet of Hudson Lines ($10.50 one-way versus $16.25 round-trip).

The midday TappanZee Express Connections at Tarrytown are terrible, the bus that originates in White Plains stops on the :40 just missing connecting with trains in both directions stopping on the :43. I plan to live dangerously and aim to get a train arriving on the :43 (and see if perhaps the bus waits a few minutes for an “unsactioned” connection. I’ve seen it happen before. To get a getaway package I need to walk to Marble Hill or Spuyten Duyvil since University Heights or Morris Heights, stations slightly closer to my home on have single red Daily Ticket TVMs, and not the slightly larger grey Full Service TVMs.

The Trip:
I yet again leave later than I mean to as I walk through Fort Tryon Park and up towards Marble Hill, as I approach the Broadway Bridge I notice huge throngs of onlookers behind police lines and about five police boats in the Harlem River. At this point I’m walking slower having given up on making the 11:17 train. As I get towards the onlookers towards the Marble Hill Station I notice the train is just arriving a few minutes late. This doesn’t really help me since I know it will also be late into Tarrytown. There is a police officer standing in the mezzanine (to keep onlookers from crowding the Metro-North platform) he actually says hurry and I jump on the train without buying a ticket today (I have a Tremont to Crestwood ticket that’s uncollected from a previous trip that I can in theory use up to Yonkers). Normally I wouldn’t have done this but with all the commotion I don’t want to spend 20 minutes watching the scene on the platform in Marble Hill. I later learn that all the commotion is a man who climbed over and walked out beyond the suicide fence on the Broadway Bridge where some NYPD officers talked him out of committing suicide (Daily News Coverage|Picked up by a UK News Site).
I sit on the train, thinking I will get off at Riverdale (where I’m feeling the need for more photos). We stop in Spuyten Duyvil, and then the conductor comes out of her cab. This train is an electric semi-express train (making half the number of stops as the locals) and I hear someone trying to figure out if the train will stop at Ludlow. The conductor comes by and I tell her I’m trying to get to Greystone, and that I just realized I got on the semi-express by mistake. She tells me to get off at Riverdale or Yonkers to wait, and doesn’t ask for a ticket.
I get off at Riverdale(9 Photos and 2 of artwork) go upstairs and buy my One Day Getaway Package for $9.25 (the package for the Palisades Mall is also available from White Plains, since that’s where most TZx Express buses leave from). 4 tickets are issued, (this scan is from after my trip, so these are three of them):
The 4th ticket said TZx to PC and was taken by the bus driver.
I don’t end up going to the riverside, New York-bound platform because there is a crew on the platform with a latter I think just doing routine maintenance like replacing lightbulbs. I do get a few trains passing through the station and a decent photo (finally) of a Hudson RailLink Shuttle.
The voice announces that my train is running 5 to 10 minutes late. It finally arrives at 11:53. I have an uneventful local ride doing my reading up to Tarrytown with ticket punching around Yonkers. I get to Tarrytown–(17 Photos, plus 11 of the artwork) at 12:15 about 4 minutes late. I spend my layover getting a few photos of the waiting room still staffed by a ticket agent on the one morning shift, the island platform that I neglected on my first photo essay, plus the stained glass on the pedestrian bridges.
A coach USA bus (used on some TappanZee Express trips. I am disappointed not to ride a regular one) arrives at 12:35, 5 minutes early. I board, handing the driver my TZx bus to PC ticket. The bus leaves one minute early at 12:39, don’t try and hope the bus will be 3 minutes late and you’ll make it from the trains that stop at :43 past the hour. This is really bad connectivity in my opinion (a 20 minute layover for the bus from New York and even worse from points north, the opposite direction it’s only 10). We stop at a corner to turn at an intersection in Tarrytown to man banging on the bus saying the bus stops here! The driver says “No I don’t” and let’s the man board who has a cane. Another man boards without a dollar and he’s going begging.
We’re on the TappanZee by 12:48. Going over the bridge as I observe the various pylons already in the water. The buses tinted windows mean no photos. I’ll have to make a point of being a passenger in a car to try and get some (although the high floor motorcoach makes seeing over what resembles a suicide fence easy).
There’s no traffic as I notice the Zipper lane barrier with 4 lanes westbound and 2 eastbound. It takes longer on local streets in Nyack until I finally get off at 1:00 to make a little cultural visit to the Edward Hopper Art Center. I only learned about the Edward Hopper due to the Metro-North Package (including its $7 Adult admission for about $17 total) that I might have purchased expect for the fact I had checked the museums website and found that admission is free on the first Friday of every month (otherwise students are only $2 in turns out). The museum I found a little small, with just Hoppers childhood bedroom and another room with more historical stuff open, plus a galley of modern art.
I breeze through (because I don’t find the museum all that interesting) and return to the transit stop for the 1:34 local bus to Spring Valley. It’s late (when I walked by the stop a half-hour before I noticed the 1:00 bus was late). The non-clock face service is because the 1:00 bus makes a deviation to the Nyack Hospital that the 1:34 bus doesn’t make. I jog up to the bus stop as route 91, going to Spring Valley via a much longer loop is sitting, waiting to leave at 1:40 (6 minutes early). The 91 leaves at 1:40, as my bus arrives. There is a driver change and I wait to board an old High Floor Giling (the 91 was a newer low-floor Giling BRT).
I pay my $2 (in quarters, although the bus accepts bills) I have no singles on my wallet as I left the house and stocked up on quarters from the jar of change that lives by my bed. The 51 bus finally leaves 10 minutes late at 1:44. The bus driver uses his horn liberally (honking at passengers waiting at stops and cars) and clearly trying to make up time as we take a long deviation to serve the Palisades Center Mall (Where I have a ticket for a free shopping bag! Not worth paying to get back on the bus again) this is where the bus fills up.
We go through Nanuet following the NYS-59 Corridor (the bus number makes sense) but taking quite a few deviations. In the Shops at Nanuet I notice a Fairway Market where I often shop in the city but who’s quality has gone down hill because of over expansion
  • 2:13 – Under the Pascack Valley Line.
  • 2:16 – The Exit 14 Nanuet Commuter Parking lot, quite full.
The bus pulls into Spring Valley at 2:23. I do my photo essay of one of the most bizzare transit centers I’ve been in, there 3 bus loops, a parking lot that is split between paid Metro-North spaces and a number of free Bus Passenger only spaces at the end of the parking lot opposite Metro-North (it’s bizarre). For some reason I remember on my one other visit to Spring Valley (before the Pascack Valley Line had passing sidings and was a rush-hour peak direction only line, did today’s trip in reverse) back in 2006 that the restaurant inside the station was a Poppa John’s, today its a Golden Crust.
to_spring_valley3 to_spring_valley4 to_spring_valley5 to_spring_valley6
I board what will become the rearmost car, a former cab car not in use as a cab. I notice all the seats are facing backwards, and wonder if the car is supposed to be closed. No bar is up
I hear the ding of the automatic doors at 2:45 as my train leaves on time. We slowly cross another grade-crossing (that the platform sort of ends) although a path continues to the grade-crossing and then to follow a creek, before rising up onto an embankment and passing a mini-storage, a grade-crossing and then strip mall.
2:48 – over the throughway and then Route 59 as we come into Nanuet.
The conductor comes to yell at me for sitting in the rear car that it’s closed. I argue slightly saying the bar wasn’t up, she apologizes that her fellow conductor didn’t put it up. At least I move to a Comet V with bigger windows, and head towards the less-crowded front of the train.
We stop in Nanuet at 2:50 where I notice the platform signs have been replaced with maroon ones instead of a blue ones.
South of Nanuet at 2:53 we slow down at a new passing siding, waiting for a northbound train. It zooms by at 2:58 and we slowly leave the siding, I feel us clearly switching at East Pond, a new switch-box installed with the project that installed passing sidings for all day and weekend service that began in October 2007.
to_spring_valley8 to_spring_valley9
3:00 – Back to civilization of houses.
We stop in Pearl River at 3:02 (3 minutes late), the signs are the normal blue color. I notice a crowded commuter parking lot across the tracks and south of the station.
  • We cross the border into New Jersey (it isn’t obvious, no visible sign like one visible when riding the Port Jervis Line) and stop in Montvale at 3:04.
  • 3:07 – Park Ridge, the community center station house hasn’t changed. The stop hugs a grade crossing with a shelter and two benches north of it that looks a little strange.
  • 3:09 – Woodcliff Lake where the station waiting room is under renovation. We then pass the lake, before trees return.
  • 3:11 – Hillsdale (H’lsdle on tickets as I notice from a couple sitting in front of me), the line now feels officially suburban, through town centres.
  • 3:14 – Historic Westwood Station with a mini high platform
  • 3:17 – Emerson as the train blocks two grade-crossings at the tiny platform.
  • 3:19 – Gain a bit of speed passing a golf course and suburban office parks. Then the Oradell Resivor on the dammed Hackensack River.
  • 3:20 – Oradell Station with its historic station house. Trees return as we follow the river, sort of with some industry breaking it up.
  • 3:23 – River Edge–(1 Photo), blocking a grade-crossing.
  • 3:25 – See the umbrellas of a pool club in the distance and mostly trees and backyards. The Hackensack River returns as I spot a Private grade-crossing.
  • 3:27 – New Bridge Landing at River Edge.
  • 3:28 – Going under Route 17 and I see the sign for Hackensack-Bergen County. There is another siding but our timing is perfect as its a rolling meet, we at least don’t come to a stop, I don’t think the northbound train were meeting to pass does either.
  • 3:30 – Just south of the siding, we pass a wooden building that looks like it was once a train station.
  • 3:31 – Stop at Anderson Street and I notice a new modern shelter like building for waiting passengers. Anderson Street is an easy bus ride from home (if I was just going home I might have gotten off). The original building that I have photos of from 10 years ago burned down. We then go down the middle of Railroad Avenue loudly, the horn blasting.
  • 3:34 – Under a former rail ROW, still in the middle of Railroad Avenue, past what is clearly public housing (3 stories)
  • 3:35 – Reach Essex Street.
  • 3:37 – We leave following a stagnet stream and wetlands the two NS freight lock movies.
We stop in Teterboro at 3:38 and I notice all the fencing that was controversially installed a couple years ago to prevent trespassers from reaching their neighborhood station.
  • 3:40 – Were on a rare stretch of the line without grade-crossings, so no horn for a brief while.
  • We stop in Wood-Ridge at 3:41, waiting to leave at 3:42.
  • 3:44 – Its time to zoom as we pass the wye that leads out to the Meadowlands extension.
  • 3:45 – At Pascack Junction we meet the Bergen County Line
  • 3:48 – A swing bridge with giant counterweights, and I see the master planned Harriman Cove Development.
  • 3:49 – Curve off the tracks formerly used until Secaucus was built. We follow the marshland and see the bridge for the Main Line, a single track with a single track and join.
The train arrives in Secaucus Junction(23 Photos) at 3:50. I immediately notice a construction project across from the front of the platform, Secacus Junction is finally getting the large bus loop is desperately needs, since the station has such easy Turnpike Access. I then leisurely take my time getting some photos and leaving the station briefly to try and get a shot behind the New Jersey Turnpike. I can’t believe the sea of cars waiting at the Kiss’n’Ride to pick passengers up.
Eventually I go through the faregates that I notice have been modified to only accept barcodes to open, No more magnetic strips. I don’t know what happens if you have a really old ticket since NJT tickets are valid until used and don’t expire (although all sales are final). I walk up towards the empty (within fare control) mezzanine before going down at the front of the platforms.
I get on the 4:14 train (a single level, push-pull) into Penn Station where we arrive on track 1, as I’m in the first car I get some neat photos of the stop sign buffers at the very end of the southernmost 4 tracks (1 to 4) in Penn Station.
to_spring_valley13 to_spring_valley12 to_spring_valley11
I walk through Penn Station, wanting to visit the ClubAcela to freshen up. I notice United has moved to a storefront space, no longer having just a window within the Amtrak ticket office. There promoting the new wireless streaming on flights and getting folks to sign up to enter a Sweepstakes to go to the Oscars (leaving from Newark, not JFK, since United is pulling out of JFK for good in October). I sign up for a free pair of headphones. The couple of bouncers trying to get people in the store tell me there is still an agent behind two modern computer screens (that look like the ones United is installing in some airports).
It’s then off to on a CitiBike to Hunter for my evening event.