A typical one-way, one hour commute translates to approximately 21 days each year spent going to and from a job. Yet, because homeownership remains part of the quintessential American dream, families are still flocking to the suburbs in spite of the toll that commuting can take on a person’s well-being.

My real estate team continues to see strong demand for homes in our northern New Jersey communities as people flee the high rents of New York City, Brooklyn, Jersey City, and Hoboken–buying demand that is underpinned by the family-friendly neighborhoods and highly-rated schools characteristic of the towns along New Jersey’s Midtown Direct train line.

Over a decade ago, NJ Transit launched the Midtown Direct Morris & Essex Line, a rail service that allows travelers to get to New York Penn Station in under one hour from towns like Summit, Maplewood, South Orange, and Millburn. It’s been a commuting game changer for many, so if you are thinking about living and commuting from northern New Jersey into New York City, here are 5 facts to know about the NJ Midtown Direct train line.

1. Proximity to the Midtown Direct Line buoys home values

A 2010 report by the Regional Plan Association, “The ARC Effect,” noted, “Homes near train stations significantly gained in value after Midtown Direct, Montclair Connection, and Secaucus Junction…” Homes within walking distance of the train stations gained the most value, an average of $23,000 per home. Many communities accommodate biking and walking too, so residents can avoid the hassle of finding and paying for all-day parking. Summit has even partnered with Lyft in a unique ridesharing program that helps residents get to and from the train station.

2. The Midtown Direct provides easy access to the PATH trains

The Morris & Essex Line (M&E) offers direct trains to New York Penn Station and trains that stop in Hoboken or Secaucus Junction. Hoboken and Secaucus Junction are convenient hubs used by commuters looking to transfer to the Port Authority of NY & NJ (PATH) trains. PATH trains give New Jersey commuters easy access to Jersey City, Hoboken, Harrison, and lower Manhattan destinations such as the West Village or the Financial District.

3. Local municipalities offer jitney bus services to the train station

With so many residents commuting each day on the Midtown Direct, parking is a problem. Commuter parking lots cannot accommodate the number of cars. Some towns have turned to valet parking while others offer jitney bus services, or shuttles, that travel between a fixed destination–the town pool or a residential street–and the train station during peak commuting hours. Here is one example of a jitney bus schedule for Maplewood, NJ. The jitney routes are a major consideration for potential homebuyers who want to walk to the jitney and avoid daily parking fees altogether. Maplewood, South Orange, and Livingston run jitney services to Midtown Direct train stations.

4. The Midtown Direct is a major commuter railway

By some estimates, the Midtown Direct train line carries 165,000 commuters daily. In 2009, the number was estimated to be 138,000, so a 20% increase in ridership in the past decade. In addition, it’s the nation’s third largest transit system with 165 stations. To accommodate travelers during rush hour, NJ Transit operates multiple trains per hour during the morning and evening peak periods (about 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.). Travelers can monitor delays with My Transit, a free alert system that notifies riders of schedule changes, train delays 15 minutes or longer, and elevator and escalator outages.

5. A plan for an additional NJ/NY tunnel is on the table

A proposal for an additional two-track tunnel, the Hudson Tunnel Project, to help mitigate the high commuter traffic from New Jersey to New York and the aging infrastructure of the North River Tunnel is on the table. According to a newjersey.com article, “These new Gateway tunnels have been described by some transit officials as the most pressing infrastructure project in the United States right now.” If successful, the Hudson Tunnel Project would allow the rehabilitation of the North River Tunnel by providing an alternative tunnel to New York during the work period and ultimately another tunnel into New York City.

For most of us, commuting remains a fact of life, and for families that need easy access to New York City and want to live in northern New Jersey, NJ Transit Midtown Direct is a vital consideration.  If you’re interested in learning more about the homes along northern New Jersey’s Midtown Direct Line or commuting from northern New Jersey, I would love to assist you. Contact Victoria Carter at (973) 220-3050 or email victoria@victoriacarter.com.

[in the photo] A Mural at Metropark Station, Iselin, NJ

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