Car Free Adventure to Staten Island

It is definitely summer in New York City. I decided to cool off a bit from the urban heat island that is known as Manhattan and headed to Staten Island, the oft-forgotten borough of New York City. I took the subway to the new South Ferry Station, which is totally fabulous. I would have gotten photos except the MTA police did not look too happy at the sight of my camera, and I saw no need to get arrested or detained for taking photos in the subway.

A quick walk over to the ferry terminal, and we’re off! I forgot that I lack sea legs, so I was a little shaky on the trip over because of the rocking of the ferry. I got a few great photos of the Statue of Liberty; saw the bridges – the Brooklyn, Verrazano-Narrows,  Manhattan and Goethals; and even caught a few pigeons hitching a ride to Staten Island with us.

The Staten Island Railway is one of the oldest continuously used rail corridors in the United States, so it was a treat to finally ride it. I rode the entire length of the Railway, through neighborhoods of all types – industrial, residential and commercial. Staten Island, at least from the windows of the subway car, looks remarkably like New Jersey. Very suburban and low density. I wasn’t expecting high rise towers like Manhattan, but I was thinking there’d be more dense development around the railway stations than I actually saw. Despite its name, the SIR does not use commuter rail cars – instead, they use modified R44 subway cars. The trains are shorter and some stops are flag stops only.

After riding for over 40 minutes, arriving in Tottenville was a treat. There wasn’t much to see the further south we traveled, but I wanted to switch sides on the train and see another view of the island. One fascinating thing about the Staten Island Railway is that there are no fares between most stations on Staten Island, so there are no ticket booths or Metrocard machines. People can just walk up, hop on and ride to their destination. It reminded me of “Choose your own fares!” – how much do people value the Railway but would pay if it were optional to pay, and how many would simply continue using the system without paying? To transfer from the ferry (which is free) to the Railway at St. George Station, you must pay the regular subway fare of $2.25 or swipe your unlimited MetroCard (and vice versa).

I did wonder about parking, since I know many people use the Railway to connect to the ferry service to lower Manhattan. Where in the world to they park? I didn’t see a lot of huge parking lots or decks. Perhaps people take buses to the Railway or those who commute by Railway live within walking distance of the stations.

In the end, my adventure was 3 hours long but worth the views of the city from the ferry, and didn’t cost me a dime since I already paid for the unlimited Metrocard.

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