Taking the Train into the City

by Sandra Foyt on February 28, 2011

in Travel Tips

amtrak_empire_lineBack when we were thinking of moving to Albany, I had this romantic notion that we would be taking the train into New York City all the time.

Reality set in when I discovered that Amtrak charges nearly $100 per person round trip between Albany and Penn Station. For a family of four, it’s cheaper to drive to the city instead. That’s why, in twelve years of living in the Capital Region, I have only taken the train once.

On Friday, I found out what I had been missing.

I left my family still warm in their beds at 5:30 a.m., to drive through a blizzard to the Rensselaer-Albany Train Station (ALB.) It was the longest drive of my life, even though I live nearby. With pelting snow in the early morning dark, and a paralyzed windshield wiper, it was a frightening experience, made worse by the certain fear that I would miss the train as I had just minutes to get there for a 6:10 a.m. departure.

When I arrived at the train station, with fifteen minutes to spare, I breathed a sigh of relief only to discover that the ample parking in front of the station was only for stays of less than two hours. I couldn’t see squat through the snow-and-ice encrusted windshield, and so I scrambled to find a spot on the street.

Luckily, there is a little parking lot right off the street, just as you exit the main entrance with a small sign offering $5.00 parking. I don’t know if that was meant to be taken seriously, but there was no one in attendance, and I didn’t have time to search. I dumped the car, and headed in, hoping against all hope to find it upon my return.

Inside, I ran to the self-service kiosk where a kind stranger took pity on me and explained how to find the cleverly hidden bar scan reader. Within minutes, I was headed down to the track to catch the Empire Line train into the city.

snow_on_train

That was the end of the drama, more or less.

I had booked a train returning at 9PM, but I finished early and took a chance on switching to an earlier train. Other than having to pay an additional $16 to take the 7PM train, it was easy to make the transfer.

penn_station

When I was on my way home, I started to worry that I wouldn’t find the car upon arrival. I called my husband, and casually suggested that he could meet me at the station. He thought it was because I was worried that the foot of snow might prevent me from pulling out the car. I didn’t tell him that I was concerned that the car wouldn’t be there at all.

The car was there where I left it, without a ticket, but with an armor of snow. I’m pretty sure that it was a good idea not to drive into the city, in a blizzard, for just one day.

But I could’ve done with less drama.

Do It!

Rensselaer, NY – Albany (ALB)

Station Building (with waiting room)
525 East Street
Rensselaer, NY 12144

Rates: Cheapest rate on Friday 2/25/11 was $38 each way, but was only available on off-peak hours. Note that there are discounts available with earlier purchase.

Rensselaer Rail Station Parking Daily parking rate is $10 (as of 2/2/11.)

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| Sandra Foyt is a storyteller, photographer, and road trip junkie. A veteran of six cross-country road trips, she drove Route 66, the Lincoln Highway, the fossil freeway, the extraterrestrial highway, and even “the loneliest road in America.” Find her on GetawayMavens.com, an award-winning destination guide to extraordinary travel in and from Northeast USA, on her portfolio site at SandraFoyt.com, and in freelance gigs on Family Travel 411, Minitime, Huffington Post, and Matador Network. Email: sandrafoyt@albanykid.com, Twitter @SandraFoyt.

Obi-Mom Kenobi February 28, 2011 at 4:01 pm

If you keep your eyes open, you can snag some good deals on the weekly specials. PL and I got to Grand Rapids, MI and Chicago (a 3 hr trip) and back again for $16 each once.

Sandra Foyt February 28, 2011 at 4:10 pm

Wowsa! Where were you looking? That’s worth investigating!

brooke campbell February 28, 2011 at 10:31 pm

I think you illustrated perfectly why Amtrak is running into bankruptcy. They make it so hard to use. After battling the parking, departure time and the cost, it’s too much. You can find cheap bargains on occasion, but man what a hassle.

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