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Get to Manhattan in a New York Minute – Best Mass Transit Commuter Towns in New Jersey

Key Takeaways:

  • Hackensack ranked the #1 New Jersey commuter town, with a 65-minute travel time and low housing costs
  • Hudson County has 4 of top 10 best towns for those commuting to Manhattan
  • Shortest commute time is from Hoboken at 29 minutes
  • Ridgewood boasts best schools, but with the highest home prices
 

Manhattan is an employment hub overflowing with opportunity. However, commuters from all over the surrounding areas – who are unable to afford the borough’s prohibitive housing costs – crowd the highways at rush hour.

For housing and commuting alternatives, we looked over the Hudson to see which New Jersey towns were best for those working in downtown Manhattan. Hence, we compiled a list of New Jersey commuter towns located within a 30-mile radius of downtown Manhattan (using Google Maps) and calculated the average commute time via mass transit. We set the travel time for 9 a.m. on Monday.

Furthermore, because commute time is not the only concern when it comes to location, we also broadened the scope and looked at the following attributes for each town: median home price, school rating according to GreatSchools.com and crime rate according to the FBI database. We weighted the metrics of each attribute as follows: 40% for commute time, 30% for home affordability, 15% for crime rate and 15% for school score. Check out the top cities below.

Hackensack Has the Full Package

Hackensack tops the list with sound metrics in both the commuting and home price categories. Located only 12 miles from NYC, the town has a 65-minute average commute time.

In terms of mass transportation, there is a direct bus service to the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan. Further sweetening the deal is the town’s $237,500 median home sale price.

Plus, the city has good safety and school ranking, and boasts a university campus and the nation’s fourth-largest teaching hospital, Hackensack University Medical Center. However, it was the excellent commute and home pricing that propelled it to # 1 on our list.

Hudson County and Bergen County Offer the Most Alternatives

Hudson County boasted the most cities, a total of four out of our top 10, followed closely by Bergen County which offered 3 cities, including our front-runner, Hackensack. Essex County had only two cities present in the top and Union County was represented by Rahway, NJ.

West New York and Union City – ranking second and third on our list, respectively – are both only five miles from Manhattan and have direct bus service to the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Union City has a low, 39-minute commute time, while West New York lags by only 2 minutes with a 41-minute commute. Home prices are similar; Union City is a bit more expensive with a $392,000 median compared to West New York’s $357,000.

For those on a budget, Rahway’s $280,450 median home sale price is well below the $300,000 threshold. Located 16 miles from Manhattan, it has an excellent safety score. Its average commute time is 64 minutes, and it has direct rail service to New York’s Penn Station.

 

Ranking fifth on our list is Teaneck, also with a high safety score. It is located 13 miles from Manhattan and has a 55-minute average commute time with direct bus service to the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan. Teaneck is the city with the highest median home sale price in our top 10: $402,328.

Boasting the best schools in our top 10 (alongside Bergenfield), Nutley is also noteworthy; it has an exceptional safety rating and is only 11 miles from Manhattan via a 66-minute commute. However, the city also recorded the second-highest median home price in the top 10 at $399,950.

Looking at individual metrics, other New Jersey commuter towns had the highest score on our list in one of the following specific attributes: best commute time, best school ranking and highest safety level.

Hoboken – A Dream Commute Time

Hoboken surpasses the other towns on our list in one key metric; at just two miles from New York City, it is geographically the closest town to Manhattan and, therefore, has the shortest commute time at 29 minutes. Home to the Hoboken Terminal, a major transportation hub for the tri-state area, it has direct train and bus service, as well as a ferry to Midtown, allowing commuters to take a ride on the river into the city.

Abundant in public transportation options and close to the city, Hoboken is the epitome of a desirable location, which Forbes says offers “perhaps the world’s best view of the Big Apple skyline.” The city also has an outstanding safety score and ranked 13th in America’s 50 best cities to live. Despite these exceptional attributes, Hoboken did not make our top 10 due to its $789,500 price tag, the second-most expensive on our list.

 [Graphic: Best in Category – Best Commute Time, Best School and Safest Towns]

Ridgewood – A Top-Grade School Ranking

With 25,554 residents, Ridgewood ranks highly on two main fronts: its school rating is the highest on our list and it has a remarkable safety score. According to GreatSchools.org, each of the town’s elementary schools rank above average. However, the city ranks at the bottom of our list because its location – 19 miles from downtown Manhattan – means that commuting via mass transit to downtown takes 82 minutes. Also, Ridgewood’s premium $790,000 median home sale price is the highest on our list.

Bergenfield – Playing it Safe

When choosing a location, safety and proximity to downtown is sometimes an elusive, yet highly sought-after combination. Bergenfield earned the title as the safest city on our list and, situated 15 miles from New York City, it represents a possible compromise between safety and proximity to the big city. In fact, Bergenfield was named the 4th safest city in the U.S.  

The commute time to Manhattan is 74 minutes on average and there is direct bus service to the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Ranking in the 8th place of our top 10 list, Bergenfield has a sound school ranking and its median home price is $384,500.

Methodology

We looked at towns located within a 30-mile radius of downtown Manhattan. Cities with less than 25,000 residents, based on 2017 Census estimates, were excluded from the list.

Each town was allocated points based on the following metrics: commuting time, housing value, crime rate and school rating. Points for commute time, housing cost and crime rate were awarded inversely proportional to their value. Points for school ratings were awarded directly proportional to their value. Entries could gather a maximum of 100 points spread across the four metrics as follows: 40 points for commute time, 30 points for housing value, and 15 points each for crime rate and school rating.

The average commute time via mass transit was calculated with Google Maps. We considered the shortest typical trip time for arriving in downtown Manhattan by 9 a.m. on a Monday.

Housing values are based on the PropertyShark 2019 median sale price for residential units.

Crime rates indicate the number of violent crimes committed per 100,000 residents, and are based on 2018 reports from the FBI database.

School ratings were calculated based on the average score by town for schools that had a review on GreatSchools.com by August 2019.

Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated in both the text and the table that Union City was in Union County and North Bergen was in Bergen County. However, the article and table was updated on March 9, 2020 to reflect that both Union County and North Bergen are in Hudson County.

RankTownCountyCommute Time (Min)
2019 Home Sale Price School RankingCrime / 100,000 ppl Total Score
1Hackensack, NJBergen County65 $237,500 6.426069.4
2West New York, NJHudson County41 $357,000 4.425969.0
3Union City, NJHudson County39 $392,000 4.433466.7
4Rahway, NJUnion County64 $280,450 4.511565.5
5Teaneck, NJBergen County55 $402,328 4.911164.9
6Newark, NJEssex County40 $205,000 3.673264.9
7Nutley, NJEssex County66 $399,950 6.69964.9
8Bergenfield, NJBergen County74 $384,500 6.6463.9
9North Bergen, NJHudson County54 $392,500 4.516163.8
10Kearny, NJHudson County58 $385,000 4.38963.2
11Englewood, NJBergen County53 $382,250 4.829862.8
12Clifton, NJPassaic County64 $365,000 4.911362.6
13Linden, NJUnion County60 $297,750 4.328962.3
14Fort Lee, NJBergen County56 $630,000 7.55961.7
15West Orange, NJEssex County67 $401,500 5.719160.0
16Garfield, NJBergen County65 $340,250 4.724859.9
17Jersey City, NJHudson County36 $532,500 4.446458.8
18Bayonne, NJHudson County65 $429,000 4.917157.9
19East Orange, NJEssex County70 $164,283 3.651157.7
20Hoboken, NJHudson County29 $789,500 5.322057.0
21Wayne, NJPassaic County79 $450,500 6.911956.9
22Elizabeth, NJUnion County54 $305,500 3.969355.4
23Sayreville, NJMiddlesex County87 $281,500 4.09854.0
24Parsippany, NJMorris County86 $478,500 6.95553.8
25Perth Amboy, NJMiddlesex County77 $237,500 2.931453.3
26Paramus, NJBergen County64 $632,500 6.08953.3
27Passaic, NJPassaic County61 $305,000 3.357153.0
28Fair Lawn, NJBergen County95 $455,000 7.45752.3
29Plainfield, NJUnion County86 $241,500 3.838250.0
30Maplewood, NJEssex County64 $624,950 4.58749.6
31New Brunswick, NJMiddlesex County79 $249,000 3.854449.5
32Paterson, NJPassaic County70 $222,000 3.072849.0
33Middletown, NJMonmouth County101 $429,000 6.45048.2
34Mahwah, NJBergen County101 $488,750 7.01147.7
35Westfield, NJUnion County78 $739,000 7.31347.0
36Ridgewood, NJBergen County82 $790,000 8.42045.6
37Montclair, NJEssex County70 $715,000 5.29844.2
38Piscataway, NJMiddlesex County109 $315,000 4.69544.1
39Livingston, NJEssex County102 $645,000 8.17741.4
40Long Branch, NJMonmouth County117 $413,000 4.740329.7
Andreea Popescu

Andreea Popescu

Andreea Popescu is a copywriter with ten years of legal experience, including real estate and marketing. She is an ABA-certified paralegal and has an MBA with a concentration in Marketing from California State University, Northridge. She worked as a legal manager at a marketing firm and as a legal writer. Currently, Andreea brings her combined knowledge of the fields to report on real estate developments for CommercialEdge and PropertyShark. Reach her at [email protected]