“So we put a pencil on a map and drew 150 miles out,” he said. Looking west, they checked out Bethlehem, Pa., a city of 75,000 wedged between Allentown and Easton, which was founded by Moravians in the mid-18th century, and pitched their tent.
Jennifer Lehman may not have the longest commute in this determined fraternity — roughly two hours — but she is a clear winner when it comes to scenery and sociability. A recruiter in the professional services field, she lives in Newburgh, N.Y., about 60 miles north of New York City on the Hudson River. Ms. Lehman, 43, travels by car, boat and train to reach her office, which is blessedly only steps from Grand Central.
For eight years, she lived in a 300-square-foot Manhattan apartment, working at home several days a week. Seeking more breathing room, she moved to Newburgh, enjoying the same schedule. This ended three years later when she accepted a new job at a less-relaxed firm.
In the morning, a short drive takes Ms. Lehman to the 7:05 Newburgh-Beacon ferry. “It’s only 10 minutes, but it’s my favorite part of the commute,” she said, regarding the ferry ride.
She described her fellow mariners as a caring family. “We know each other’s names and phone numbers,” she said, “and if someone isn’t on the ferry for a day or two we get worried.”
As Metro North trains do not offer Wi-Fi, she passes the morning commute reading and dozing. On the way home, dozing is perilous. “If I miss my stop I may wake up in Poughkeepsie.”
Lengthy commuting is not cheap. For Mr. Ubert, Trans-Bridge Lines, based in Bethlehem, has dozens of runs from eastern Pennsylvania to the city and surrounding area that cost $432.75 monthly to the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Another is Bieber Transportation Group, in Kutztown ($439 from Allentown). Rail passes can be higher.
New Jersey’s Sussex and Warren counties, a bucolic region of farms and broad vistas, are significantly cheaper than other exurbs in the region. But bus service is spotty and commuter rail lines began to disappear in the late 1950s with the rise of the interstate highway system. The closest trains are out of Netcong, in adjacent Morris County. Regular bus service departs from nearby Dover. Most commuters drive, which can easily take two hours or more depending on traffic.
“There is a growing influx of young families attracted by the many lakes and sprawling countryside in Sussex County,” said Scott Turner of Coldwell Banker, in Sparta. Housing inventory is high and prices are somewhat sluggish owing to, among other things, stagnant population growth. The same applies to Warren County, which is bordered by the Delaware River and in the shadow of the Poconos.
“When the kids graduate from school around here, they leave,” Mr. Turner said.
A 3,000-square foot four-bedroom, four-bath home, some with swimming pools, goes for about $400,000, with annual taxes in the $10,000 range.
Mr. Ferrell, in Connecticut, an electrical engineer, has had an extreme commute for eight years. He considers the train an adjunct to his office, with a “hot spot” internet connection and adequate space to spread out papers.
His children are grown and out of the house. This, he said, frees up weekends so he and his wife can … take the train to Manhattan.
“I love the city,” he said. “We do it all the time.”