COMMENTARY: Summer getaways without the traffic

Watching the Friday afternoon traffic crawling up Interstate 95, I was struck with a thought: There has got to be a better way to get to the Cape and Islands than playing Mad Max on the bumper-to-bumper interstate for endless hours.

Talking-Transportation-Jim-CameronSix million people visit Cape Cod each year, four million of them in the summer and fall.

And on most summer weekends they all seem to be directly in front of you on the roads, right? There’s got to be a better way.

There used to be a direct Amtrak train from Washington, D.C. to Hyannis, stopping at major stations in Connecticut.

The Cape Codder train ran from 1985 to 1996 but carried only 1,200 passengers in its final season due to its more than five-hour running time from Stamford. And once you detrained in downtown Hyannis, you were still miles from the beach.

There’s still express bus service running from New Haven to Hyannis, but it’s no faster — although a lot cheaper at $42 one way. (All fares quoted are based on a June Friday departure.)

 

High-speed ferry and flying options

The newest option is high-speed ferry. The Seastreak runs from East 35th St. in Manhattan to Martha’s Vineyard ($165 one way) and Nantucket ($175 one way) in five and six hours, respectively. Nice boat, but still a long ride, even with the flat-screen TVs, full bar and comfy seats.

Seastreak also operates high speed from New York to Port Jefferson, Long Island, where you can connect with the Hampton Jitney (bus) to that tony beach community in three-and-a-half hours. Or you can chug across to Port Jefferson from Bridgeport on the traditional ferry, and then hop the bus.

If money is no object, you could always fly. JetBlue flies nonstop in an hour from JFK to Hyannis or the Vineyard for as little as $179 one way.

Or there’s Cape Air, whose Cessnas will whisk you from White Plains, N.Y., to the islands in just over an hour for $565 one way. Faster and more exclusive are charters from firms like Trade Winds, whose fleet includes private jets.

 

Other places to visit

Really? Are we this desperate to decamp to the sun and surf when we have perfectly lovely beaches right here in Connecticut?

State-run Sherwood Island is right off I-95 in Westport and bikeable from the Greens Farms stop in Westport on Metro-North Railroad. And Bridgeport’s city-owned Pleasure Beach reopens in June after a two-decade absence. The free water taxi will run seven days a week.

Another alternative is the Jersey shore. Catch Amtrak to Newark (or Metro-North to Grand Central and switch to Penn Station) and NJ Transit’s Coast Line will easily get you to all the shore communities from Long Branch to Bay Head.

So wherever you’re heading for fun and sun this summer, don’t be a slave to bumper-to-bumper traffic. Try using mass transit.

 

Jim Cameron is founder of the Commuter Action Group. The opinions expressed in this column are only his own. Reach him at [email protected] For a full collection of “Talking Transportation” columns, go to www.talkingtransportation.blogspot.com.

 

 

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