Home Metro-North Moynihan Station building steam

Moynihan Station building steam

by Benjamin Kabak


Amtrak may one day be operating out of the Farley Post Office. (Photo courtesy of Friends of Moynihan Station)

Every few months, Senator Chuck Schumer’s desires to get Moynihan Station off the drawing board and onto 8th Ave. rear its head. Over the last week, twin news stories have pushed this new depot — a much-needed replacement for Penn Station — onto the news pages and into the minds of transit advocates.

The more recent story focuses on Amtrak. For years, Moynihan Station had been held up and generally left for dead because the rail giant had not signed onto the project. This week, though, Amtrak agreed to move its operations to Moynihan Station. According to Schumer’s office, Amtrak agreed to the deal after being promised more revenue from retail shops and a few design changes.

With Amtrak on board, the biggest hurdle to the project now seemingly becomes money. The project is estimated to cost up to $1.5 billion, and while the Feds have guaranteed at least $200 million, that still leaves a sizable gap. According to the Daily News, Mayor Bloomberg was “noncommittal” about the city’s involvement in the project. He would rather pay to extend the 7 nowhere than help build a much-needed railhub in Midtown.

In other Moynihan-related news, Metro-North announced a new study of Metro-North access to Penn Station. The agency became an environmental review nearly ten years ago and had reduced its initial proposal to four alternatives: two for the Hudson Line and two for the New Haven line. No matter the final choice, these routes were projected to provide service at all times and include stations on the far west side of Manhattan that aren’t served by regional rail.

Now, after consulting with the FTA, Metro-North will proceed with a study of full service for both the Hudson and New Haven lines. Hudson Line service would run into Penn Station via the current Amtrak Empire Connection with two new stations — one near W. 125th St. and one on the Upper West Side. In March, I noted that the W. 60th area seemed a likely spot for a Metro-North stop. The New Haven line will run to Penn Station via the Hell Gate Line, and it will stop at three stations in the east Bronx — one at Co-Op City, one at Parkchester and one near Hunts Point.

The final environmental assessment will be completed in 2011, and it will incorporate information about the long-range plans for Penn Station. That is, of course, where Moynihan Station comes in. It will behoove Amtrak, the city and state to finalize Moynihan Plans so that Metro-North can proceed with their expansion plans. One day, we may yet have more Metro-North options on the west side and a fancy train station in midtown. Slowly, New York will earn a station better equipped for rail travel than the current Penn Station.

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anonymouse September 17, 2009 - 2:04 am

I’d love to see the Metro North proposals for new stations and new service. I hear that the plan for M-8 cars is to have dual-mode third rail shoes that can use the LIRR third rail, and to extend said third rail to the end of the 60 Hz electrification on the Hell Gate Line (about a mile past the existing end of the third rail). But what would they do on the Hudson Line? Maybe some kind of long gap between the two types of third rail that trains can coast across? Perhaps a section of 60 Hz AC to bridge the gap? Or would they just restrict NYP service to diesel trains with the appropriate third rail shoes? Or have switchable shoes on the diesels perhaps for more flexibility. Of course in the long term, it would make sense to electrify to Poughkeepsie with AC, so it wouldn’t be too absurd to have another 60 Hz AC section between Spuyten Duyvil and NYP.

Scott E September 17, 2009 - 9:14 am

Isn’t NJ Transit now designing a station (and tracks to feed it) east of Penn Station, under 34th St. between 7th and 6th Ave? — with underground connections to PATH and (likely not free) transfers from the 7th Ave and 6th Ave Subways? I would hope that the Moynihan Revival doesn’t scrap all the work that NJT has been doing in designing the “THE” tunnel.

At some point, everyone has to come to a mutual decision and go with it. All these changes cost money and time, and eventually nothing will get done.

Marc Shepherd September 17, 2009 - 9:24 am

Isn’t it an exaggeration to call this a “replacement for Penn Station”? The existing station has three major tenants (NJT, LIRR, Amtrak), and only the smallest of the three (Amtrak) would be moving to the Farley building.

Peter September 17, 2009 - 9:31 am

Increased service to and from the New Haven & Hudson Divs is good, but could commence tomorrow if there was genuine political will to do it, and it is politics pure and simple that determines Transportation Policy in the region.

Moynihan Station, a misplaced attempt to assuage collective guilt over a 50-year-old act of architectural vandalism is really nothing but another speculative boondoggle, converting publicly-owned assets into privately-owned real estate, with a few minor assets thrown at the transportaation providers. The project provides no real service improvements, no new track, platforms, signals, switches, communications or any infrastructure that would actually expand or improve transportation service or amenities – other than another Shopping Mall and a longer walk to get to your train.

Boris September 17, 2009 - 9:36 am

Would this expansion provide for an opportunity to dig more tunnels to Queens and/or to connect Penn with Grand Central? I think the very fact of removing some trains from Penn is a benefit.

Scott E September 17, 2009 - 10:50 am

Unlikely. This is the kind of “project bloat” that causes them to run out of money, and Amtrak really has no reason to go to the east side versus the west side of Manhattan. NJT had the opportunity to extend to GCT as part of ARC, or at least the opportunity to build provisions for a future extension, and passed on both.

Alon Levy September 18, 2009 - 3:39 am

No. There is already opportunity to dig more tunnels and/or connecting Penn with GCT. It’s called through-routing, and would let Penn work with just 6 tracks, down from its current 21, without reducing train traffic.

Boris September 17, 2009 - 9:32 am

Ideally, we’ll end up with three stations: Moynihan for Amtrak, new Penn for NJ Transit (ARC/THE Tunnel), and old Penn for MetroNorth/LIRR. NJ Transit can continue to run some trains into old Penn for additional capacity as well as for through-running trains, if it ever agrees to that much-needed, capacity-boosting idea.

That still leaves zero stations or commuter lines for the 2+ million people south of Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, but I digress…

Alon Levy September 18, 2009 - 3:42 am

Ideally, we’ll end up with one station, with reasonable transfer opportunities. Berlin Hauptbahnof serves both ICE trains and S-Bahn trains. Tokyo Station is used for both the Shinkansen and commuter lines. Gare de Lyon serves the TGV, RER, and Transilien all at the same time. Separating such stations into multiple areas is only useful if you want high costs and nasty connections.

Jaystreet September 17, 2009 - 10:43 am

The bigger issue these articles fail to acknowledge is the operational limitations of Penn Station. The new building will be beautiful, finally providing a worthy entrance into NY for those traveling on Amtrak. But it’s a new building over the same choked tracks and platforms. NJT’s new tunnel and tracks will help a little, but they’ll serve expanded NJT service from the other Jersey lines. And the old confusing corridors at Penn will remain, continuing to confuse customers. Really, MSG needs to be torn down and moved and the whole station gutted and redesigned. Which was a proposal that sadly has died.

Woody September 17, 2009 - 11:37 am

Spend $1.5 billion for a new facade for the existing tracks and platforms underground west of Penn Station? Pray not.

I could think of a dozen better ways to spend $1.5 billion on trains and transit in New York State.

Maybe after we have service every half hour from Albany, trains every hour from Buffalo/Toronto, four or more trains a day to Montreal, finish Phase 2 of the Second Avenue Subway, build the Triboro RX line, put a streetcar line on 42nd and 34th and in every one of the outer boros, connect Bloomberg’s #7 extension tunnel that will end at 25th St and 11th Ave to the stub of the L line tunnel on 14th St west of 9th Ave, well, then before we get half hourly departures to D.C. on the current Acela route we might look at any need for a new portal. Until then, for $1.5 billion, I can live with Penn Station just the way it is.

Adam G September 17, 2009 - 12:24 pm

Woody, I admire your vision, but one small nitpick: the L is BMT, the #7 is IRT and so is its extension. Connecting the two wouldn’t work very well.

AlexB September 17, 2009 - 12:57 pm

I think Woody just meant to extend the 7 and L such that there is a transfer available between them at both of their termini. At least, that’s what I read.

Alon Levy September 18, 2009 - 3:43 am

If cross-platform transfers are good enough for Queensboro Plaza, they’re good enough for 23rd/11th.

He Snoozes, He Loses - City Room Blog - NYTimes.com September 17, 2009 - 12:32 pm

[…] on a proposed replacement for Pennsylvania Station. [Second Avenue […]

He Snoozes, He Loses - City Room Blog - NYTimes.com September 17, 2009 - 12:32 pm

[…] on a proposed replacement for Pennsylvania Station. [Second Avenue […]

AlexB September 17, 2009 - 1:06 pm

I don’t really understand the appeal of the Moynihan Station unless it also involves a tear down of the current Penn Station and Madison Square Garden.

My ideal Penn/Moynihan renovation:
-Moynihan Station, the official above ground entrance to EVERY train service in NY
-Platforms that stretch from 7th Ave to just west of 8th Ave
-Convenient connection to the ARC station under 34th, between 6th and 7th Aves.
– A plaza where the current Madison Sq Garden sits, providing a Bryant Part-esque front lawn for the Moynihan Station and skylights for the platforms below.
-A much nicer, newer, stadium at 7th Ave between 31st and 33rd.

SEAN September 17, 2009 - 2:46 pm

I like your idea. MSG is creepy & doesn’t belong on top of the busyest train station in the country.

petey September 18, 2009 - 12:57 pm

“MSG is creepy”
so are the rangers fans in it

Marc Shepherd September 17, 2009 - 2:53 pm

Yes, it’s true: Moynihan Station is totally cosmetic. It does not permit one iota of additional rail service. There are no new tracks, tunnels, platforms, or switches. That doesn’t make it a bad idea, though. No one but a complete philistine would say that the restoration of GCT was a bad idea, but it too did not provide for any new service.

Nathanael September 17, 2009 - 8:38 pm

“Yes, it’s true: Moynihan Station is totally cosmetic. It does not permit one iota of additional rail service. ”

Well, actually I believe it provides direct platform access from Moynihan Station. Given the incredibly overcrowded nature of the existing maze of tunnels, it provides a lot of additional *passenger circulation* service.

It’s essentially a pedestrian movement project, functionally, and that is *not* a bad thing.

Scott E September 18, 2009 - 8:23 am

Yes, it will give more room for pedestrian movement, but who will move there? The subways come to the area along 6th, 7th, and 8th Avenues (6th and 7th bound ARC, 7th and 8th bound Penn). Except for the few people that walk two blocks from the new 7 train terminal at 34th and 11th, I don’t see the area between 8th and 9th getting much use.

Alon Levy September 19, 2009 - 6:04 pm

Yes, by moving the station one block further away from the CBD, New York can dump the pedestrian circulation issues away from the station and onto the streets, where people won’t complain.

Major train stations generate large pedestrian traffic. Deal with it.

Alon Levy September 18, 2009 - 3:43 am

I don’t think spending $1.5 billion on public art is a good investment. Does that make me a philistine?

Marc Shepherd September 18, 2009 - 9:09 am

Frankly, yes.

Woody September 18, 2009 - 5:42 pm

Sorry, I’m with Alon. Good public transit is a beautiful thing itself.

Mike G September 17, 2009 - 4:22 pm

There will be no connections from Penn Station to GCT until Water Tunnel No. 3 is complete. Any tunnel from Penn to GCT needs to cross over or under Water Tunnel No. 1 and no one wants to risk damage to the water tunnel and drying up 1/2 of NYC

Marc Shepherd September 17, 2009 - 5:09 pm

Beyond that, any such project would require years of environmental impact studies, and no such study has been started or even proposed.

Alon Levy September 18, 2009 - 3:44 am

Alternative G of ARC?

Marc Shepherd September 18, 2009 - 9:09 am

Yes, but abandoned as infeasible. To re-open the issue would require a fresh start.

Alon Levy September 19, 2009 - 6:06 pm

Politically infeasible. The environmental impacts were studied – Metro-North just decided that if it can’t run trains 3/1 then Baby Jesus will cry, and the city decided that new construction one block east of and hundreds of feet above Water Tunnel 1 will threaten the integrity of the water supply.

Nathanael September 17, 2009 - 8:36 pm

“I hear that the plan for M-8 cars is to have dual-mode third rail shoes that can use the LIRR third rail, and to extend said third rail to the end of the 60 Hz electrification on the Hell Gate Line (about a mile past the existing end of the third rail).”

Geez, but why? Short-term cheaping out, again, instead of saving money long term?

Doesn’t it make more sense to just move the 25Hz/60Hz electrification switchover point to the other side of Penn Station, in New Jersey, in correspondence with a long-term plan which has been around for, like, 30 years? *Every* Amtrak and NJT vehicle can handle both 25Hz and 60Hz. 60Hz is the emerging standard (for obvious reasons); a recent substation replacement moved the frequency conversion point to somewhere fairly far down the Hell Gate Line, not too far from Sunnyside. The Philly area needs 25Hz for its vehicles and has dedicated 25Hz hydropower, but there’s no reason to retain it in NY.

At that point extending 60Hz from Sputen Duyvil to Penn would make even more sense. And the M-8s can run off more-efficient *AC* power on the whole of their new route.

anonymouse September 17, 2009 - 11:52 pm

By “recent” you mean the early 1980s, when MN shut down the Cos Cob power plant and built 60 Hz substations? I believe that’s when the Hell Gate line was cut off from its source of 25Hz power, and had to switch over to 60 Hz. The changeover point is right around GATE interlocking, which is the set of crossovers shortly after the Hell Gate line branches off from the LIRR. And yes, it would make sense to change Penn over to 60 Hz, and quite possibly just re-do all the wiring entirely. There are definitely problems with the existing 25Hz supply since Penn (and Sunnyside) are on the far end of a long feeder line from the nearest frequency conversion plant at, I believe, Metuchen. But this would be a huge amount of work since they’d probably have to replace all the transformers and such. And I doubt they’d have enough overhead clearance in the tunnels to use 25kV. In the long term, by the way, I think SEPTA is also looking to switch to 60 Hz on the Reading side at least.

Ed September 18, 2009 - 9:08 am

I used the current Penn Station last month to take an Amtrak train north. I lived on the East Side. I took the R to Times Square and transferred to the 2 or 3, then scurried like a rat through the maze of tunnels to the opposite side of Penn Station to catch my train. At other times I’ve just taken the N, R, or W to Herald Square then walked two crosstown blocks.

So Amtrak is basically moving further west, across the street. Remember, the current entrance to the Amtrak trains at Penn is at 8th Avenue, not 7th Avenue. Its most convenient to get to Amtrak to go to 8th Avenue and 34th and enter Penn Station from the west. In the future, you will have to go to the other side of 8th Avenue.

Having to cross the street is completely worth it to have an aesthetically fitting entrance and exit to New York for out of town travelers. People who oppose this are philistines, pure and simple. If we look down on “only” Amtrak moving, it because it barely functions as a national passenger rail line, but that can change in the future.

Jaystreet September 18, 2009 - 11:17 am

At 32nd and 7th is also a major entrance to Penn Station. More people enter there at rush hour than the 8th Avenue entrances. Hence why NJT recently opened it’s new entrance at 31 and 7th.

petey September 18, 2009 - 12:59 pm

you can take the lex to 51st street, make the long transfer to the E, and wind up on 8th avenue.

Alon Levy September 19, 2009 - 6:07 pm

Yes, people who think train stations are transport infrastructure instead of public works for architects are philistines. Without more public money spent on unemployed architects, Western civilization would collapse.

Relying on the Feds for Moynihan Station :: Second Ave. Sagas | A New York City Subway Blog September 18, 2009 - 12:55 pm

[…] I examined how the ball is rolling again for Moynihan Station, and late in the day, Eliot Brown from The Observer emailed me a link to a […]

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