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    Next Stop: PATH Train From Hoboken to 33rd Street and Journal Square to 33rd Street

By BILLIE COHEN Published: January 23, 2008 8:02 a.m., Jan. 23 Wednesday.
I had expected, perhaps swayed by optimistic real estate trend reports of the past few years, to see the Manhattan-bound PATH trains from Hoboken and Jersey City packed with young transplants who'd moved to the state's urban enclaves for their affordability and up-and-coming status.

Conceivably my timing was off, or I wasn't on the train that was shuttling those young Jersey urbanites, because most of the commuters I encountered actually lived farther out in New Jersey, and yes - despite all jokes to the contrary - they were happy to be living there. Even if it meant commuting in such crowded cattle cars.

Tiffany Harrington, a TV producer who lives in Plainfield, N.J., moved there 10 months ago from Piscataway, N.J., where she had been living at home. Now, instead of taking New Jersey Transit's crowded Northeast Corridor train from Edison and then transferring to the subway, Ms. Harrington takes a different New Jersey Transit train to the PATH station at Journal Square in Jersey City, where she catches a train to Christopher Street in Manhattan. "My commute is actually a little bit cheaper now," she said. "The change doesn't bother me. The cost is less and I'm living on my own, so it all works out."

Another commuter, Jodie Zales, was also new to the PATH train because of a recent move. Though she relocated to Hoboken from Union, N.J. I asked here why she didn't move all of the way into the boroughs. "It's cheaper than the city, a tad cheaper," she said, adding, "I grew up in Jersey, so I'm a Jersey girl."

Since she works long hours as a production manager, Ms. Zales is a satisfied convert to the PATH, which is just one straight shot to her stop at 23rd Street. "As far as commuting, it's a relief. I don't have to worry about catching the last bus," she said. "I also like Hoboken. I like having stores right at the corner. Of course, parking sucks."

Other commuters I interrupted from their quick morning naps had ditched city life for greener backyards and bigger houses. Andrew Chan and his wife moved to West Orange, N.J., seven years ago from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. "The main thing was housing. It was pretty inexpensive at that time and we wanted more room," he said. The commute, he added, was an afterthought. "At the time, I didn't think too much about it, but after we found a place, I looked at a few maps and talked to neighbors. We could take an express bus to the city, but it's over $200 a month for one person."

Instead, he opted for the PATH, which keeps costs down. He still has to drive to the Harrison station, and parking there has gone up in price. "Harrison used to have more affordable parking," Mr. Chan said. "Now with development going on there, it's about 50 percent more expensive than a year ago." To save money, his wife drives him to the station.

Overall, it seemed like people living near PATH stations in New Jersey were most similar to commuters who take Metro-North trains. Those who resided closer to the city wanted to be near their jobs, and those who'd moved farther out wanted more space for their family.

Some observations: On both trains I took this morning there were more men than women. Do the wives all stay home in New Jersey, or work closer to their homes? Also, PATH trains have much more standing room than the subway, but there were fewer seats.

Commute Time and Cost Hoboken to 33rd Street: 20 minutes

Journal Square to 33rd Street: 24 minutes Cost of a ticket: $1.50

At a Glance Linking New Jersey's urban centers to Manhattan, PATH trains move 227,000 people a day. The fare is currently $1.50 but will increase by 25 cents starting March 2 to help cover a number of capital improvements, including new trains that, according to the Port Authority Web site, are supposed to start running this year.

Where It Goes The PATH runs five lines that connect Manhattan to close-in New Jersey neighborhoods. In Manhattan, you can catch a train at the World Trade Center or roughly along Sixth Avenue between 33rd Street and Christopher Street. In New Jersey, the terminals are Hoboken, Journal Square and Newark-Penn Station.

Strategies Between 8 and 9 a.m., the trains are packed shoulder to shoulder, but regulars say not to be shy about fighting your way on - it's expected. By 9:30 a.m., you'll find more space but the schedule also starts to drop off so you might have to wait longer for your train.

Trivia PATH fares were last increased in 2001; before that, they had not been raised since 1987.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/23/realestate/23comm.html

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