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The River Line has become popular because it’s the best way to commute via public transit from Trenton to Philly, and it’s a fabulous way to go on fun weekend excursions with the kids, including the Camden Waterfront.
Yes, I know that SEPTA runs a schedule out of the Trenton train station that is nominally a little faster. To get to Philly on the River Line, you have to transfer to the PATCO High Speed Line at the Walter Rand Transportation Center in Camden. The journey to Camden takes about 1:05, and the PATCO adds another 15 minutes or so, including the transfer time.
SEPTA’s schedule claims that the train from Trenton to Market East is an hour. But don’t believe it. There are frequent signalling delays as multiple commuter lines converge on the main line. The River Line trains have the line to themselves.
But most critically, the River Line runs more frequently. SEPTA is generally half an hour to an hour between trains (with a couple of exceptions).
Not to mention that the trip costs you only $2.90 ($1.50 for the River Line, and $1.40 for PATCO).
With the kids, you can take some fun excursions. First, for many kids, it’s just a great experience to go somewhere that isn’t in a car. You can take the train to the end of the line on the Camden waterfront, next to the Tweeter Center, Battleship NJ, and the NJ State Acquarium. From there, during the warm weather months, you can take a shuttle ferry over to the Philly waterfront.
Many of the towns along the way are also fun stops. Particularly Bordentown, which is the first stop south of Trenton. You can walk into town, browse the antique stores, get lunch, and return. You’re also allowed to bring your bicycle on the River Line – there are special places on each car to rack your bicycle so it’s out of the way and won’t fall over.
The River Line uses a ticket validation system which is common on trolley’s in Europe, but uncommon here. Basically, when you buy a ticket (from vending machines on the platform), you need to “validate” it before you use it. In general, no one will collect your ticket: you need to stamp it before boarding using a little machine on the platform. This stamps the time and date on your ticket. Your ticket then remains valid for a couple of hours.
From time to time ticket inspectors will board the train and ask to see your validated ticket. If you have a blank ticket, you’ll be fined (unless you can convince the inspector that you’re sufficiently clueless that you didn’t intend to defraud NJ Transit).