Should you take the bar exam in Albany or in Buffalo? The answer to this question depends on a number of factors. Because costs for ride-share companies and meals do not differ substantially from one location to another, we will focus here on the differences in travel, housing, and testing rooms each in turn below.
Examinees taking the bar exam in New York initially have a number of testing locations from which to choose. This includes the Javits Center in New York City, Albany, Buffalo, Saratoga, and White Plains. The Javits Center is generally reserved for individuals who attended law school in the state of New York. The majority of individuals who attend law school outside of the state of New York generally choose between Albany or Buffalo, with Saratoga and White Plains serving as additional options if those seats are already filled.
Train or Plane?
In traveling to a testing location, the majority of examinees have the option between taking a train or taking a flight. Some examinees choose to drive to their location; however, that is only a small percentage who have this option even available to them.
If departing from one of the five boroughs of New York (or eastern parts of New Jersey) to get to Albany, the better method of transportation is an Amtrak train. The average cost of a round-trip ticket (coach or business class) is less than $100. Trains depart from Penn Station, so public transportation allows you to cut out the extra travel time needed when traveling to an airport. An added bonus is that you don’t have to deal with security checkpoints nor gate changes. Amtrak departures are exceptionally punctual, so when the respective train is called, passengers simply line up, select a comfortable seat, and get on their way. Because you’ll be traveling in the opposite direction from those heading into Manhattan for work, trains are less full, allowing passengers to travel with much less stress and likely without a noisy seat neighbor. As there are fewer than 7 stops along the journey filled with nature views, you’ll arrive to your destination in Albany-Rensselaer after approximately 2 hours of travel.
To get to Buffalo, on the other hand, is another story. Your most likely option is hopping on a flight unless you’d rather opt for an 8-hour train ride. The average cost of a round-trip ticket is more than $300. Let’s keep it real here. No one truly enjoys the idea or even the reality of hurrying to an airport in an overpriced uber or taxi just to arrive 2+ hours before takeoff to then go through irritating security checkpoints, lengthy wait lines, and unnecessary gate changes. And who could forget to mention the prolonged boarding times, inadequate overhead bin spaces, uncomfortable seats, middle seats, shared armrests, polluted air on a germ-infested capsule, popping ears, clouded views, coughing passengers, crying babies, and worst of them all - misbehaving children. And after your 2-hour flight, you have to go through a drawn-out deboarding process. In deciding between taking a train or a plane, just preserve what little is left of your sanity and choose the less stressful mode of transportation.