by David Porter, Associated Press | October 30, 2019

The first official day of the long-awaited American Dream megamall Friday didn't produce the traffic nightmares many predicted for the massive complex outside New York City, mostly due to a "soft" opening that featured only two attractions that served a few thousand people, including several school groups.

The success of the mall and entertainment complex is tied directly to an existential question residents here face daily: How do you get there from here in one of the country's most congested regions with the least strain on your wallet and blood pressure?

Friday's opening featured the Nickelodeon Universe theme park and skating rink. The mall's indoor ski slope, water park and other entertainment attractions will open in phases by the end of this year, and the remaining retail and dining options will be open by spring.

American Dream's owners estimate it will draw 40 million visitors in its first year, an average of well over 100,000 per day.

Those who visit in the fall will vie on some days with football fans heading to adjacent MetLife Stadium, home of the NFL's New York Jets and New York Giants. The teams sued several years ago to try and force the mall to be closed on game days to alleviate traffic, but eventually settled in exchange for transit and road improvements.

The mall's first two weekends coincide with an anomaly on the NFL schedule in which neither the Jets nor Giants will have a home game on either Sunday. The Giants are on the road this weekend and play at home Monday night, Nov. 4, and the Jets are on the road both weekends.

The two teams face each other at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Nov. 10.

Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy and other officials reiterated Friday that mass transit will be the key to the success of American Dream.

Don Ghermezian, president of mall owner Triple Five, sounded confident that direct train service to the mall on non-game days, which doesn't currently exist, will become a reality.

"That will become a full operation when the project is fully operating, so getting from the city to the project will be very, very easy to do," he said.

How to get to American Dream

BY CAR

Improvements have been made to the roads around the complex, which sits at the intersection of Interstate 95 and Route 3, a heavily traveled east-west highway.

Mall officials have said there are roughly 30,000 total parking spaces available at the complex's garage and at MetLife Stadium's parking lot, though two-thirds of those are in the stadium lot and won't be available on days where there is a game or concert.

PARKING

Parking on the opening weekend will be free but will cost after that. The prices range from $3 for up to three hours to $6 for up to eight hours. Over eight hours will cost $24.

A huge caveat: Parking will be $30 on days when there are events at MetLife Stadium, though parking tickets can be validated on those days with a purchase of a Nickelodeon Universe ticket (prices are $39.99 and $49.99).

BY BUS

New Jersey Transit has added express bus service every 30 minutes from New York's Port Authority Bus Terminal to the mall, for $9 each way. That's $2 more per one-way trip than buses to Giants and Jets games at MetLife Stadium. There's also a new express bus from the Secaucus rail station, and service also has been added on existing bus routes from Secaucus.

BY FERRY

American Dream has partnered with NY Waterway to provide ferry service across the Hudson River with connections to bus service to the mall. A one-way ferry ticket costs $9 and the bus will cost $7 each way.

BY TRAIN

There is no dedicated direct train service to American Dream; NJ Transit operates trains from New York through Secaucus on Jets and Giants game days and for large events such as international soccer games and concerts. The train station is accessible to the mall via a pedestrian walkway over a highway.

NJ Transit has said it is considering options for possible rail service in the future but hasn't provided details.

BY APP-BASED SERVICE

American Dream recently announced a partnership with Lyft to provide pickups and drop-offs for riders at a dedicated location. Under the agreement, each month a local nonprofit organization will be selected to receive transportation and up to $10,000 in free tickets to one of the site's entertainment venues.