Think you will save money living in NJ? Consider the “life cost”
Lately this has been on my mind everyday, probably because barely a day goes by when I’m not dragging my ass into or out of bed. My schedule is insane, and it is because of where I live. Many people move to New Jersey to save money, but for a young professional person with an active social and personal life, think very carefully about the few hundred dollars you may save on rent: you will pay for it with your life, very literally.
By that I mean you will pay for it with the hours that make up your life, which in essence is your life. For instance, when I moved to NJ from Fort Greene, Brooklyn, I added 40 hours per month to my commuting schedule. I went from 30 minutes door-to-door (not 30 minutes on the subway, 30 minutes from my door to my desk) to 90 minutes or longer (yes, that’s each way) unless my BF drives me to the PATH station, and then my commute is about 50 minutes.
On the way home, if I do not meet my BF (who has a car and works in NJ) in Hoboken, where we both train martial arts, it takes me either 90+ minutes and a gross ghetto bus ride AT NIGHT or 20-30 minutes less if I pay $10 to take a cab from Journal Square. Which by the way, is almost always shared with some stranger who is going to some other location in Jersey City. So sometimes the time savings is even less than that, but it beats waiting for a gross #10 bus at night, in the cold, on the yucky, dirty platform in Journal Square.
It was moving to NJ that showed me how good NYC dwellers have it with public transportation. Take for instance, the bus stop. There are no bus stops in Jersey City, there are corners. Rain, snow, cutting wind, or other difficult weather condition? Better bring an umbrella and wear extra layers, because there is nowhere to shelter. This one small fact takes my quality of life down a LOT. How can there be no bus stops? The fact that there are not is just another piece of evidence to show that Jersey City is not really ready to be a “sixth borough” because if it were, the amenities would be on par with what New York City’s boroughs offer.
So if I choose not to meet my BF in Hoboken after a night of training martial arts and riding home with him, I still get home usually around 9pm after finishing work at 7. Maybe 8:30pm if I’ve made all my connections. But then, what am I coming home to? A neighborhood with no supermarket or any place to buy anything remotely resembling fresh produce (nay, even canned produce); no nice park to walk in (it’s not really safe to be out on the street after 9pm in my opinion), and forget about public transportation to take me to someplace that does have produce: the Light Rail to Hoboken is a 15-minute walk through some very ugly blocks and from there, about an hour ride to Hoboken. But hey, at least the Light Rail station has a sheltered area.
In short, unless you have a very basic life, your friends don’t live in NYC, and you are content to go to work and come home afterwards, do not move to Jersey City, or if you do, make sure you are within WALKING DISTANCE to a PATH train because the buses are unreliable, crowded, smelly, break down a lot, and so below the standards of New York City buses I can’t even compare the two. NYC buses are a real bus system, with card readers, clean and comfortable seats, and a (reasonably) ontime schedule. Jersey buses unfortunately have none of the above. I’ve waited 30 minutes for the next bus to come after just missing one, and that’s at rush hour. This is part of the reason I’ll spend $10 on a cab from Journal Square: if I know I’ve missed the #10 bus, there may not be another one for 20 minutes at 9pm at night. It’ll take at least 20 minutes to get home, netting me now maybe one hour extra of life for choosing to just “take it easy” and go home after work.
It’s a bit of a Catch-22 for me at this point in my life. It’s very hard to justify staying in the city after work to meet friends when the return trip home is such an odyssey. And when I know I have 90 minutes of BAD public transportation facing me in the morning (at least 90 minutes on NYC’s MTA is usually a straight shot, or a transfer across a platform, or at the least within a station complex; in New Jersey, you have to take a bus to a walk to a PATH to another walk to a….well, you get the picture), mornings can sometimes be hard to look forward to. But if I don’t occasionally go off my hyper-scheduled existence to meet a friend or do some shopping for a nice meal mid-week, my life become drudgery, and I begin to get depressed.
It’s a tough balance, but it’s not forever.