Mar
21

Once more unto the Penn Station breach

By · Published in 2013

According to some critics, this is the ugliest rail station in history. Photo: Metropolitan Transportation Authority / Aaron Donovan

Earlier this week, I railed against the New York’s attempts at using the WTC PATH Hub as some great symbol of New York. It may one day be a distinctive building, but $4 billion can buy around half a new Hudson River train tunnel. As the pot for transit infrastructure is seemingly limited and dollars for buildings compete with dollars for actual rail expansion, we shouldn’t be spending money frivolously on fancy building when the area’s economy truly needs transit capacity improvements.

At this point, though, Calatrava’s hub is a foregone conclusion. Too much of it exists for the city to reallocate the money to somewhere more deserving, and it will open in a few years, replacing a temporary PATH terminal no one has ever called inadequate. A few miles uptown, though, a similar battle over Penn Station, Madison Square Garden and the future of West Side rail access is brewing.

I last tackled this topic not too long ago. In mid-February, the controversy over Madison Square Garden’s occupancy permit first reared its head, and I opined on the meaning of Penn Station. A subset of New York’s architectural community cannot seem to move beyond the reality that the current Penn Station is no great shakes. They bemoan decisions made 50 years ago and call upon leaders to reimagine a rail hub as a great public space worthy of the architectural musings of The Times.

Now, as then, Michael Kimmelman has taken charge, and from the headline on down, his latest piece prioritizes Penn Station’s future potential appearance over rail access and capacity. “Seizing a chance to right a wrong” is his angle, and from that alone, we see he’s talking not about improving transit but rather about improving the outward appearance of Penn Station.

“New York is at a crossroads,” he writes in the lede. “After half a century a fleeting opportunity has finally arrived to address the disaster of Penn Station, the nation’s busiest and most appalling transit hub, and to reimagine a new West Side for Midtown Manhattan that could be a center for development and innovation.”

Hello, hyperbole.

How goes the rest?

Because public officials haven’t wanted to derail Moynihan, they have soft-pedaled the figures, leaving many New Yorkers with the illusion that Moynihan will replace Penn Station and solve its problems. But just Amtrak will move there, not the Long Island Rail Road and New Jersey Transit. At the same time demands on Penn Station are about to explode, with the development of the Hudson Yards and the third phase of the High Line; the prospect of Metro North’s trains and its commuters coming into Penn Station after the completion of East Side Access; and Amtrak’s proposed Gateway Project, a first step toward high-speed rail, which could double the number of Amtrak and New Jersey Transit trains coming into Manhattan.

It’s not only that Penn Station, designed a half-century ago in a declining city for what seemed then an unlikely capacity of 200,000 passengers a day, is now handling more than twice that number. It is also a shabby, hopelessly confusing entry point to New York, a daily public shame on the city. The station fails to conform to certain fire codes and safety regulations, local officials concede. Possible fixes being explored by Amtrak, New Jersey Transit and the Long Island Rail Road, which have hired the consulting firm Aecom, don’t address the big, systemic problems, because they can’t. Not with the Garden there.

But here’s the bright side. Madison Square Garden has moved twice since its inception in 1879, and its present building is its fourth. Yes, the Dolans and their customers benefit from the perch above Penn Station. But there are options aside from the Morgan building to which the Garden might move again, options linked to mass transit, that should be attractive to its owners and fans.

At a certain point, I’ve almost begun to feel bad for Penn Station. It’s certainly not the most scenic of train stations, and as an entry point in the city, it sure pales in comparison with Grand Central. But the scorn heaped upon it stems more from the mistakes of city politicians who didn’t stop private railroad companies from bulldozing McKim, Mead & White’s original than from anything else. True concerns over capacity and cramped quarters could be addressed by removing Amtrak’s office space and opening up the corridors. Worries over crowd conditions and the ability of the hub to handle demand could be allayed with investment in a new trans-Hudson tunnel. A fancy building should always come last.

But here we are in 2013 and fancy buildings come first. We put the transit design cart before the capacity horse, and all we have to show for it is a $4 billion porcupine in Lower Manhattan and prominent voices agitating for a takeover of the Farley Post Office. Let’s take those billions of dollars we spend on architecture and invest in rail. Future generations of New Yorkers will be far more thankful for the added rail lines than for a nice building.



Categories : Penn Station

167 Responses to “Once more unto the Penn Station breach”

  1. marv says:

    Given that Penn Station is choking under use, why bring more trains in?
    Extend the #7 into NJ.

    *We save a fortune
    *Provide east side access for NJ
    *Remove instead of adding passengers to Penn Station.
    *We add desirability to Hudson Yards development

    As written in prior postings, I would have the #7 come into (under) the Hoboken rail and Path Station allowing it to become an even bigger transfer point and then extend the line south serving Bayonne and Staten Island.

    This better serve the regions needs.

    • PennGrad13 says:

      I agree that extending the 7 would be nice, but that doesn’t account for massive recent growth and massive future growth projections on the existing NJT and Amtrak lines under the Hudson. Either way, Penn Station is at capacity in terms of train movements and pedestrian flow, and the existing tunnels are nearing the end of their useful life. If Amtrak and NJT hope to grow the services to meet demand, more tunnels are needed. Manhattan is growing, and plenty of people won’t want to transfer to the 7 for an additional fare each day.

      • Bolwerk says:

        7toSec is perhaps as useful as anything else, as far as commuters go. Nothing about Gateway gets people to the east side, which is where many commuters are heading.

        • Someone says:

          It would be very nice, but it would cost over $3B and is unrealistic.

          • Nyland8 says:

            ??? Huh ? The cost of the ARC Project it would have replaced would have wound up somewhere around 15 billion –

            – so spending a fifth of that to do a better job is “unrealistic”???

            What am I missing?

            • Someone says:

              That $3B is for the tunnel from Manhattan to Hoboken only; it doesn’t include in-fill stations, track, signals, rolling stock, land acquisition, or other factors. After all that, it’s probably going to be over $6 billion, and wouldn’t help the least in the long term.

              • Bolwerk says:

                Stop making up numbers. It’s possibly three miles under the river and through some marshland, with at least the possibility that little or no land needs to be taken.

                Even if boring is a billion/mile and structural work (probably a stupidly absurd price outside of Manhattan), most of the rest is a rounding error.

                • Someone says:

                  What numbers am I making up? Each extra R188 five-car set costs at least $7 million. CBTC costs at least $200 million. Land acquisition, even on marshland that is largely unbuilt on, can cost billions. The bottom line is, no one can afford it.

                  • Henry says:

                    There’s a marked difference between building new CBTC on new tracks, and outfitting them on active tracks over a long period of time. It’s probably cheaper to install it brand-new. There’s also no infill stations to build in a greenfield subway line…

                    Not to mention, most of the costs of ARC were due to the blasting of a giant hole several stories into the Manhattan bedrock.

                    7 to Secaucus was a bad idea for other reasons (the transfer stations in Manhattan wouldn’t be able to handle the ridership, and a lot of people would still take NJT to Penn to have faster, more direct access to the Eighth and Seventh Av lines), but let’s not act like it would’ve been ridiculously costly as far as New York-area projects go.

                    • Someone says:

                      By default, stations that are built on a greenfield subway line can’t be in-fill stations because there aren’t any stations open yet.

                      But stations could be added later as is the case with Tenth Avenue.

                  • Bolwerk says:

                    They priced a tunnel to GCT at $3B back in the early 2000s. The alternative was rejected in favor of the “batcave” ARC, mentioned by Henry.

                    …at least $7 million…

                    And $10 million is 1% of a billion. It’s a rounding error.

                    Land acquisition, even on marshland that is largely unbuilt on, can cost billions.

                    Doubtful, but how much land do you think needs to be acquired? There are already publicly owned highway and rail ROWs out that way.

                    • Someone says:

                      And $10 million is 1% of a billion. It’s a rounding error.

                      That’s only for a single, 5-car set. Not even a full-length 11-car train. You’d need a lot more cars than that to alleviate the extra crowding.

                      Besides, even if it were built, the 7 to Secaucus would be a stub, with no storage yards or extra derivative branches. That, in itself, would cost lots of money, and I’m sure that the New Jerseyans would be wanting these.

                      At least ARC and Gateway do things for the general US railroad network, and are not as “NYC-centered”.

      • Nyland8 says:

        PennGrad: “I agree that extending the 7 would be nice, but that doesn’t account for massive recent growth and massive future growth projections on the existing NJT and Amtrak lines under the Hudson.”

        No. That’s exactly what it does. Most of the people who commute into NYPenn every day from New Jersey don’t work walking distance from it. They come into town and head for a subway …

        “Manhattan is growing, and plenty of people won’t want to transfer to the 7 for an additional fare each day.”

        … which means that they’re already paying that fair. The only difference is that the 7 to Secaucus Transfer does the job of distributing those same commuters BETTER than building another skyscraper under Manhattan – and at a fraction of the cost.

    • Nathanael says:

      “Given that Penn Station is choking under use, why bring more trains in?
      Extend the #7 into NJ. ”

      Nice idea, but it isn’t a substitute. What will the #7 to New Jersey pick up? Some commuters from points east of Newark, perhaps.

      Anyone coming from west or south of Newark will prefer to continue riding their trains — the ones which they boarded as far away as, perhaps, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, or Miami — all the way to Penn Station NY.

      And yes, intercity train service into NY has been increasing continuously. Amtrak wants those extra tunnel slots for itself, not just for NJT.

  2. John-2 says:

    The Garden’s just gone through its high-cost makeover, so the city’s stuck with the status quo for a while. But since the ‘state of the art’ period for modern sports arenas tend to have the lifespan of a fruit fly before they’re declared inadequate, so you can expect the status of the Garden to be back in the news no later than the middle of the next decade.

    You’re not going to get the Dolans to move the Garden, since it sits on one of the most ideal arena locations in the country, with bus, subway and commuter rail access (which will be even better if Metro-North does get access to Penn after 2019). What they should be imagining right now is how to possibly integrate a new Madison Square Garden with both a new Penn Station while also maintaining the office space at 2 Penn Plaza that Vornado won’t want to lose.

    You can’t rebuild the original Penn Station, but you can rethink how the current residents of the site work together and create a commuter and Amtrak rail space that isn’t locked in the basement, while at the same time maintaining the Garden and the office space on part of the site.

  3. scott says:

    Extending the 7 could also open the possibility of replacing the port authority bus terminal. That would:

    1. Shorten bus trips.
    2. Open up capacity in the Lincoln tunnel.
    3. Redevelopment of prime real estate in midtown.

  4. Nyland8 says:

    Let me add my voice to the chorus. Revisiting the 7 extension to Lautenberg Station in Secaucus is rapidly becoming the greatest idea that was never built. It was a brilliantly simple solution to so many problems, the greatest of which was having to build the equivalent of another skyscraper underground in Manhattan.

    The idea of having a single grand station into which everyone gets pumped before redistribution into the rest of the subway system might have been perfectly fine 100 years ago, but the transportation needs of the region are better served by decentralization.

    For a fraction of the cost of the ARC project, the 7 extension into New Jersey would have provided essentially the same result – plus greater access to points East. Much, much more for much, much less.

    In a sane world, that option would be explored more seriously, highlighted by the media, and a groundswell of political pressure brought to bear on both sides of the Hudson.

    • AG says:

      I agree totally. even though I think Farley would be better than a #7 extension (mainly because running NYC Transit out of state would cause too many political headaches).

      Funny thing is that 80 years ago there were actually more rail options than there are now.

      • Nyland8 says:

        ” … because running NYC Transit out of state would cause too many political headaches”

        Really? Too many? In a world where I can buy a single unlimited Eurail Pass that will take me through more than 20 countries – with different languages, different currencies, different political systems, different policing jurisdictions, etc, I have to suspect working out equitable interstate transportation details between two neighboring states would not, on a scale of human achievement, constitute “too many political headaches”. All that’s required is the public will to do it.

        And yeah, it boggles the mind how much of our rail infrastructure we’ve let wither on the vine. It just goes to show the seduction of driving one’s own car, and how successfully Detroit engineered and exploited that mass hypnosis.

        • AG says:

          “all that’s required is the public will to do it”….
          yeah – that’s exactly the problem. you might not realize it – but many in NJ resent NY. As generations change – that may… but I personally don’t see it any time soon. I’d be pleasantly surprised – but I’m not expecting it.

          • Bolwerk says:

            We shouldn’t worry about NJ, except insofar as it steals from us. They had their chance to build ARC, and squandered it.

            For that matter, Farley is a ripoff. Let Amtrak build Gateway, throw some state money toward it if possible, but not for the sake of NJ. Do it because having more Amtrak access brings us vistors and commerce from further afield. We just don’t gain much building for New Jersey.

            • Nyland8 says:

              Really? It seems to me that every bit of mass-transit infrastructure we build for New Jersey has the potential to reduce the number of cars; the traffic jams and delays; the pollution associated with not using mass-transit.

              That is reason enough to include New Jersey in any regional rail planning.

              • Bolwerk says:

                Sure, but the same can be said for the east side or Staten Island. We certainly don’t have to pay for New Jersey to reduce car use.

                I didn’t say we shouldn’t include them in planning, though it is probably pointless until Christie is gone to bother. We should probably just work around them.

                • Someone says:

                  Yeah, but it’s the New Jersey folks that’s causing some of the congestion in NYC’s metropolitan area, seeing as how they’re so close to New York.

              • Boris says:

                NJ-NYC traffic is controlled by the Port Authority, since they own the bridges and tunnels. Logically then it is the PATH system that should be expanded, using toll income.

                • Nyland8 says:

                  Yes … PATH SHOULD be expanded! But NO … NJ-NYC traffic isn’t “controlled by the Port Authority”.
                  The PA has no say whatsoever in the coming and going of Amtrak.
                  It has no say whatsoever in the coming and going of NJTransit/MetroNorth.
                  The fact that the PA administers the bridges and tunnels is nothing more than a political agreement between Trenton and Albany – and one that can disappear with the wave of a pen.

            • AG says:

              but if you build a subway to NJ – you have no choice but to deal with the citizens and governments of NJ. NYC Transit can’t do it unilaterally..

            • Adirondacker12800 says:

              I’ve seen estimates that New Jerseyans, who work in New York, send 5 billion dollars a year to Albany. Little of that gets back to them.

              • AG says:

                It most certainly goes back to them. They have those jobs in NY… not in NJ for a reason. The NY economy created the opportunity for them to have that job… and NJ itself has benefited for decades of being right across the harbor from NY. There would have been no pharmaceutical or telecom industry in NJ if prices didn’t go up in NY – causing them to spill over the river – starting with Bell Labs decades ago. In the past 20 years the same can be said of the financial industry.

            • Nathanael says:

              Bolwerk, Farley is not for people from New Jersey.

              Farley is for people taking Amtrak from/to Norfolk VA, Lynchburg, Pittsburgh, Raleigh, Charlotte, New Orleans, Florida, Chicago, etc.

              NY Penn is tolerable as a commuter station but absolutely miserable as a long-distance station. Most unpleasant major-city station in the country, and that’s including nearly-demolished locations like Houston and 1970s prefab junk like Minneapolis-St. Paul. Chicago Union Station is having waiting room crowding problems which are a fraction of those in NY Penn, and Amtrak is spending its own money to rearrange the station (expanding it back into more of its original footprint) to deal with it.

              • Bolwerk says:

                I didn’t say Farley is for NJ; I just said it’s a rip-off. Gateway is sorta for New Jersey though.

                The best way to solve crowding issues is to get people on their train ASAP. Even long-distance riders shouldn’t be milling around the station for hours.

  5. Nyland8 says:

    BTW … why is there no reasonable underground pedestrian passage from NYPenn to the Herald Square hub?

    Anybody?

    • Someone says:

      The passage is there… it’s just closed.

      • Nyland8 says:

        It it’s reasonable, then why is it closed?

        • John-2 says:

          Holdover from the high-crime periods of the 80s and early 90s and the fact that the passageway is not owned by the city, but by Vornado. Now that they’ve scrapped their plan for that mega tower and plan to turn the Hotel Pennsylvania into a luxury hotel, we’ll see what their plans are, if any, for the corridor, which connects with the Herald Square complex just north of the PATH station.

          • Nyland8 says:

            I have to suspect that the corridor was not a gift – but rather something leased by the MTA. If it is not demolished, it should be rehabbed and reopened – even if it is only for a M-F 4 hour morning, and 4 hour evening rush.

            We’re building billion+ dollar underground passageways just to link people from one mass-transit line to another. (Fulton)

            Does it make any sense that we already have one that we don’t even bother to use?

            • John-2 says:

              It’s unofficially the “Gimble’s Passageway” because the Gimble Brothers and the original owners of the Hotel Pennsylvania were the ones who put it in. Unlike Macy’s, Gimble’s only covered half the full city block between 32nd and 33rd from Sixth to Seventh avenues; the passageway was a way to get people to and from the store and Penn Station without having to get out in the weather (the passageway had entrances to both Gimble’s basement shopping area and the Hotel Pennsylvania when it was opened).

              When Vornado acquired the block, they got the passageway. The problem is that the Manhattan Mall and the hotel have been allowed to go to seed because Vornado wanted to build that 110-story eyesore on the site. So there was nothing in it for them to get the passageway open again, other than to use it as a bargaining chip for the tower before that project was scrubbed. We know they now want to try and make money off a big high-priced hotel; but we still have to see what their plans are for the Sixth Avenue side of the site.

              • Nyland8 says:

                Thanks for the insights.

                All I know is, every morning I emerge from NYPenn at the 34th and 7th geyser – and I’ll watch a tsunami of humanity cross 7th Ave every time the light changes. The preponderance of them must be headed for Herald Square to pick up … B,D,F,M,N,Q,R … and,less likely, PATH. That’s a lot of people – and that’s just one exit from Penn.

                And every night, the tide is reversed.

                It’s hard to imagine the volume of people doesn’t justify opening that tunnel again – and if there were an entrance from it right into the Manhattan Mall, I’d have to suspect they’d get some traffic through there, especially in the evening.

                • Adirondacker12800 says:

                  Amazing isn’t it. Especially considering that the subway entrances on the east side of 7th Avenue also connect to Penn Station. Or did. The stairs on the one on the south side of 33rd were at the end of the passageway to Herald Square.

    • TP says:

      I don’t know the current status of the idea, but reopening the “Gimbel’s passageway” has been included as part of a number of proposed real estate projects. It was to be done when they demolished the Pennsylvania Hotel and built whatever massive tower was planned before the recession. Now that they’re planning to rehab the hotel instead, it may be off the table for a bit. It’s annoying because the passageway’s outside of fare control and not owned/controlled by the MTA, so it’s up to the whims of private developers to reopen it. If whoever owns the Manhattan Mall were smart they’d have already done it. That mall is so underutilized I wonder why they (mis)manage it that way.

      • John-2 says:

        Vornado owns the whole block, as well as 2 Penn Plaza. Any major Penn Station future rehab has to deal with them, as well as with the Dolans and MSG.

      • Matthias says:

        Glad to hear that they plan to rehab the old hotel. It really adds character to the area.

        • Nathanael says:

          I’m also pleased by that. I find those old railway hotels very attractive when they’re well-maintained.

          Reopening the hotel WOULD provide a strong incentive to reopen the passageway.

      • Someone says:

        If they rehab the hotel and reopen it, it would be a good reason for the passageway to be reopened.

      • AG says:

        i think part of the reason the Manhattan Mall is underutilized is because ppl go shopping in Manhattan for “street shopping”. tourists come here just for that… they don’t wan to be in an enclosed space that they can go to at home.

        yeah – thankfully Vornado decided not to demolish that hotel but to rehab it… but it’s going to be upscale so I won’t be able to afford it – lol.

    • Bolwerk says:

      I think one rape too many back in the 1980s got it closed. You can Google about that.

  6. Marc Shepherd says:

    The role of Times architecture critic has been an embarrassment for years, dating back to the current critic’s predecessor. The problem is that he sees himself as an art critic, and as a work of art, Penn Station is poor. No wonder he hates it so much. But that is not the point.

    As a train station, it is not beautiful or easy to navigate, but most people who use it know where they are going. They don’t need an architectural marvel; they need frequent trains that run on time.

    The old Penn Station should never have been torn down, but we can’t have it back again. I agree that improvements within the existing footprint should be the goal.

    • AG says:

      judging by the comments sections on those times articles – many ppl seem to obsessed with the same thing as he is… it’s puzzling to me.

    • Nathanael says:

      Improvements within the existing footprint are pretty much impossible; the passenger (pedestrian) circulation area is too small for the number of passengers. Penn is now circulating more people than the old station did at its peak!

      Expanding the footprint to the Farley Building should give enough breathing room. It gets the longer-distance passengers, who are going to be waiting the longest, out of the way. This includes Amtrak passengers connecting between trains, who may be waiting for 5 hours or more. The longer-distance Amtrak passengers are carrying the most stuff.

      It gets the baggage handling, which takes up a lot of space, out of the way. It could get Amtrak’s crew facilities, etc., for the long-distance trains out of the way, too.

      The remaining warren of passages can be reconfigured to form a pretty efficient commuter station, for people who *aren’t* going to be waiting for hours with a pile of baggage, and are therefore going to be in and out of the station pretty fast. But the warren of passages simply cannot accomodate the long-distance Amtrak facilities *and* the commuter facilities — and the long-distance Amtrak facilities are the part which the current station accomodates worst.

  7. Jonathan says:

    If Mr. Kimmelman truly believes that innovative transportation architecture can spur development and innovation, I suggest a total redesign of the Jamaica station of the LIRR. I was there yesterday and the surrounding neighborhood clearly is waiting for a wave of web 2.0 startups and boutique advertising firms to crest on top of it. Building a new fantastic Penn Station is rather like gilding the lily.

    • AG says:

      funny you mention that… i was just reading an article that mentioned how the AirTrain at Jamaica has helped revitalize the area. the west side has seen billions of planning and construction since the 7 train extension began. Penn for ppl like him is more about a design exercise.

      http://www.dnainfo.com/new-yor.....amsburgish

      • David Brown says:

        Since I take the LIRR everyday, I can tell you that part of Jamaica is NOT upgraded in the way people claim. By comparison, the Fulton St market used to consist of low end shops and a bad Macy’s. Now it has more upscale shopping areas and residential condos and apartments on the way (Including City Point and Century 21), all within walking distance of Jay St Metro Tech. While York College looks better, I do not see the 24/7 community improved quality of life along Sutphin Blvd that you find in that part of Northern Brooklyn. In fact, the Air Train/LIRR area will likely remain just as it is: A way station stopping point on the road to somewhere else (Particularly if the Sunnyside and Elmhurst LIRR Stations get built).

        • AG says:

          umm – i don’t think they claimed it was like northern brooklyn…. they only said it was improving. and i don’t use the LIRR – but I know the area… like most neighborhoods… it is improved. making it as flourishing as it was decades ago will take plenty of time.

      • Henry says:

        As a person who uses the station daily, Jamaica Station seems like it was designed to discourage people from Jamaica from boarding the trains. The only access from street level to the platforms are through really long flights of stairs that are poorly lit and open up into the back of the escalators from concourse level. There are no stairs from the concourse to the street level, and the only access to the concourse level from the subway and the street is through a bank of three elevators, which is almost always overcrowded. (You could walk to the AirTrain terminal and back, but that would be extremely circuitous.)

        The station has abandoned retail areas, and the LIRR bathrooms have been closed to the public, probably due to the homeless population in the area. (Riders have been directed to AirTrain bathrooms for about a year now because the bathrooms are “out of order”.) In addition, the design is overly bulky and somewhat awkward – the canopy doesn’t actually let light go through it because it’s covered in sheet metal, and there are two awkwardly placed moving sidewalks that are too far from the elevators and AirTrain entrance to be of any use.

        Sure, it’s big, new, and (at least used to be) shiny, but let’s not pretend like the station was actually designed for neighborhood use.

        • AG says:

          Oh ok… I don’t use the station so I can’t dispute your words (though I have used AirTrain to Howard Beach).

          The article was specifically talking about visitors who use the AirTrain bringing no activity for business – including hotels. It was talking about AirTrain itself. Not specifically Jamaica Station as it seems you are talking about.

  8. BoerumHillScott says:

    “a temporary PATH terminal no one has ever called inadequate.”

    I don’t understand why people who never use the current PATH station keep saying it has no problems.

    I use it every day, and I feel qualified to call it inadequate.
    Overcrowded stairs with lines to exit the platform during rush hour while people are trying to pile onto trains make it close to dangerous.
    Outside of a service disruption, I have never seen a subway platform as bad as an average afternoon at WTC, and this is before millions of square feet of office space get filled in the upcoming decade.

    At the mezzanine level, there are wooden floor areas and ceilings that leak every time it rains.
    Once you get out, you then have to fight the crowds to get to subway stations that were once connected underground.

    Does the station being built contain way too much expensive ego above ground? Of course it does. However, that does not mean that the current station is adequate.

    It is also worth noting that a chunk of the money attributed to the WTC transit center is also for the concourse levels that will connect the WTC complex and generate revenue for the PA. I do wish the various components were broken out better.

    • I don’t understand why people who never use the current PATH station keep saying it has no problems.

      First, I use the WTC PATH station semi-regularly. A few of my firm’s clients are out in Jersey City, and I’m there a few times per month. Second, I’m not saying it has no problems, but of the problems you list, few, if any, will be addressed by the Calatrava building. Platform access is a problem that can easily be addressed by widening some staircases and dropping a few more. The platforms will not be wider and train capacity will not increase when the new hub opens.

      It’s leaky and crappy because it’s a temporary structure, but there’s a happy middle between $4 billion on something visual and splitting that money between station upgrades and a nicer headhouse.

      • Jeff says:

        I’m not saying it has no problems, but of the problems you list, few, if any, will be addressed by the Calatrava building.

        That’s just plain wrong. The new station will have capacity for 250,000 riders, which is significantly more than the actual ridership at the station (closer to 30,000 – 40,000 I believe). If anything you should be targeting your whines at how the station is over-designed.

        Plus you conveniently ignored his points on how the new station would connect to the subway lines (instead of everyone walking outside the station then towards the nearest subway exit), or the fact that most of the public space being built in the hub will go towards a 500,000 SQ underground mall which would be the biggest in Manhattan and generate a ton of money for the PA.

        • Someone says:

          That’s just plain wrong. The new station will have capacity for 250,000 riders, which is significantly more than the actual ridership at the station (closer to 30,000 – 40,000 I believe). If anything you should be targeting your whines at how the station is over-designed.

          Hold on a minute. So, are you are saying that 250,000 riders will use the new PATH station per day? The temporary structure can handle the daily ridership of the station just fine as it is. We don’t need to spend billions on a station that will, at its peak, carry only half of the capacity that it was built for.

          The temporary structure can be rehabbed so that the stairs are wider, and the ceilings don’t leak when it rains. Should cost less than $3 billion.

          • JMB says:

            I used this nightmare of a station for 6months straight/daily and I found the biggest problem to be the entrance. It is an exercise in madness trying to get through the crowd of commuters, tourists, jack-boot cops, and contractors (not to mention all of the bollards that impede traffic).Couple that with all of the above criticisms about the “mezzanine” and platforms and well I have to side with supporting.

            $4B is a shit-ton of money, but this station blows.

        • Plus you conveniently ignored his points on how the new station would connect to the subway lines (instead of everyone walking outside the station then towards the nearest subway exit), or the fact that most of the public space being built in the hub will go towards a 500,000 SQ underground mall which would be the biggest in Manhattan and generate a ton of money for the PA.

          I didn’t conveniently ignore his points. I didn’t have time to write a point-by-point rebuttal, and I’m sure if you search the archives here you’ll find one. It all boils down to the same question: Is an underground subway connection and an underground mall really worth $4 billion when not one part of this project does anything to increase trans-Hudson capacity? Should we really be patting this thing on its back for providing an underground subway connection?

          • lawhawk says:

            I regularly take the PATH between HOB and WTC, and there’s a few additional points to bear in mind. Right now, the WTC is operating with 3 tracks and 2 platforms. It’s doing so more than adequately. When the temporary station was first opened, it had 5 tracks and 3 platforms. That’s what the ultimate configuration will be. The platforms will supposed to handle 10-car trains, allowing for more commuters to get through from Newark (platforms extended along the NWK to WTC route).

            That’s all for capacity. The access to the platforms from street level were easier when the station headhouse was located on Church and the relocation to Vesey and Greenwich has made access more difficult (and crowd movement funnels in one direction). That was due to having to build out the 2/3WTC building footprints plus the transit hub.

            It’s a foregone conclusion that the transit hub will be finished, and the cost overruns on the hub have crowded out consideration of other, more valuable projects from consideration, including expanding PATH to EWR or using PANYNJ funds to build other transit projects in the region.

            The $4b isn’t just for the transit hub, but building out the shopping mall that will line the hub’s interior spaces.

            The fact that the project’s scope wasn’t narrowed and focused on cost effectiveness rests in the laps of the NY and NJ governors whose minions head up the PANYNJ. Instead, they went for the “grand” edifice and legacy making, rather than doing the right thing for commuters and taxpayers.

            • What is the timetable for the PANYNJ extending the platforms at Grove St. that will allow them to run 10 cars NWK-WTC? Do they have any funding lined up? Planning/EIS done? Can they run that service with available rolling stock? I know it’s been a stated goal for decades now, but there’s no mention remaining anywhere on the PANYNJ wesbsite. For such a key bottleneck, and one that’s relatively cheap compared to the capacity benefit it unlocks, it’s got a suspiciously low profile.

          • BoerumHillScot says:

            I disagree that the project does not add capacity. The current station cannot handle full trains running at maximum tunnel capacity.
            I recommend anyone who makes comments regarding capacity to visit during rush hour.

            I really wish there was a breakdown of the $4 Billion cost.
            From what I can tell, the costs include Platform/mezzanine circulation, fare control areas, connection to WFC, connection to Fulton transit center, retail areas, connections to street level, concourse areas between office buildings, and the overbuilt hall with overdone architecture. I am not sure how the underground loading dock road network fits into the costs.
            It is hard to have a good conversation regarding the costs without knowing where the money is going.

            If I had to guess, I would say that $1 billion is for the core station itself, $1.5 is for the retail areas (which will be made up by leases), $1 is for the connections and concourses, and $0.5 is for the hall and above ground architecture.
            All of the numbers are huge, but not off base by NYC public sector construction cost standards.

            • The Port Authority is not at all forthcoming with costs, and I have a FOIA request winding its way through channels there. That said, from what I’ve heard from outside sources, there is absolutely not way that the hall and aboveground portion accounts for only $500 million. From what I understand, the Calatrava structure is the driver of the high costs and the driver of the delays and increasing costs. Hopefully, I can get an answer on that soon enough.

              Anyway, as I said, I’m there during rush hour regularly. It’s crowded when trains arrive in the morning and as they leave at night. I’d hardly say it’s dangerously crowded, and it’s not a crowd that warranted an overbuilt $4 billion thing at a time when money for actual transit expansion is so hard to come by.

              • BoerumHillScott says:

                We will never know for sure without the PA giving up more costs.
                From what I can tell, everything between the office buildings is being thrown in the “WTC Transit Center” bucket. No matter what was built, filling up such a large space with anything but fill dirt would cost a couple billion.
                The only way to avoid a good bit of the costs would have been to not rebuild the at WTC all.

                I am in full agreement that what is being built is a huge ego fueled money pit, but it seems like many people dismiss the usefulness of the entire project, or act like the entire price tag could have been easily eliminated. This is probably fed by the PA focusing so much on the above ground structure.

                I look forward to eventually getting more clarity.

            • Let me make one further point in my own defense: I’m not saying nothing should be done with the PATH hub. I’m just questioning the extreme price tag and overall need because ultimately, the PA is spending nearly $4 billion on a subway terminal with some retail.

            • Jeff says:

              The cost also includes the complete rebuilding of the 1-train that runs through the site, since the Hub basically goes underneath the subway box (which was previously built on grade). And most of the mechanical/electrical systems that power the entire site is part of the Hub costs.

              • Eric F says:

                The $4 billion is nuts, but note that the temporary station is open air. It gets freezing in there in the winter. The temp. station, is also the SECOND temporary station. There was another temp. station from 2003 to maybe 2008 or so. The multiple temporary sttaions must have cost a boatload of money in and of themselves.

                • lawhawk says:

                  I’m a regular PATH commuter from HOB, so I’m in there at rush hour every weekday.

                  Third temporary head house. The station and platforms have been in place since November 2003. The head house has been in two locations on Church and was moved to its current location to allow for construction of the Calatrava hub.

                  IIRC the initial cost for the temporary station was ~$325m in November 2003. Additional costs to remodel the headhouse on Church and then relocating to Vesey. The costs were picked up by FEMA and the original pool of rebuilding aid.

                  To address the congestion issue at WTC, consider that the original temporary headhouse allowed people from both ends of the train to funnel towards the center and could balance numbers from the front and back of cars entering the station. In its current configuration, people strive to be at the front of the trains since it’s the quickest way out of the station but it creates bottlenecks going up the limited number of stairs (which are reduced due to the permanent station components rising in the same areas). If you look around the station mezzanine, you can see remnants of the original temporary platform configuration.

                  When the hub is finally reopened, the traffic flow will improve.

                  • Eric F says:

                    Thanks, very detailed response! The second incarnation was pretty good. The crowding wasn’t too bad and the crowds dispersed right onto Church St. The current configuration has crowding at the palforms and on the narrow walkway leading to the entrance. It’s really quite miserable. It’s one thing if the configuration was in effect for a year or two, but this is just dragging on forever. I understand that the whole positioning situation is driven by construction practicalities.

            • Bolwerk says:

              That it’s so busy during rush hour tells me more that it needs to be extended closer to where its users are going, rather than expanded. That would be a much better use for $4B.

          • Douglas John Bowen says:

            Mr. Kabak does (or did) deserve some leeway in his original statement as the PATH downtown station was secondary to the needs of Midtown/Penn Station. But in subsequent comments refusing to refine the point, he invites my dissent. “Not one part” helps increase capacity? As (also) a daily user of the station, I’d argue that crowd flows to and from the station almost certainly will be better, with more and better options, than pre 9/11 conditions.

            Cost concerns are legitimate and I largely agree with Mr. Kabak’s overall take. But airbrushing underground subway connections as irrelevant is, in my user opinion, simply in error.

            I’d also ask if I’m inferring correctly when I note Mr. Kabak’s use of the station is, generally, counterflow to the primary rush. Assuming he heads for Jersey City points in the morning (I welcome being corrected on this score), he undergoes a significant difference in crowd flow.

            • You’re right. My use is counterflow. So I just watch the crowds and wait for them to get out of the way. I don’t experience the rush process at either end.

              When I talk about capacity, I’m talking about the ability to run more trains between New York and New Jersey. What aspect of the PATH Hub allows for that?

              • Someone says:

                Agreed, the PATH terminal is just a way to turn trains from New Jersey back to New Jersey. It serves little to no use in increasing capacity, because there aren’t any tail tracks in New York, only a bunch of balloon loops.

                • Adirondacker12800 says:

                  You can move more trains through a loop station than you can through a terminal. The trains coming in aren’t blocked by trains going out. The tunnels are at or near capacity. Every 6 minutes from Hoboken is ten an hour. Every 3 to 5 from Newark is at least 12 an hour.

  9. AG says:

    I personally think this is another project that is all about the hubris of those who want to have their design signature on a significant building.

  10. Someone says:

    If the old building wasn’t demolished in 1963 for the construction of MSG, then the place would have been much more attractive.

    Also, New Jersey should reconsider ARC, to alleviate crowding in the North River tubes.

    • AG says:

      it wasn’t demolished specifically to build Penn Plaza (MSG and the office buildings)… but because the rail road was broke and needed to make money. I think that gets lost in the narrative.

      • Nathanael says:

        The NY Central Railroad had already demolished or sold its stations in Albany, Schenectady, Syracuse, and Rochester. When they merged with the Pennsylvania Railroad, the “sell off the stations” mentality continued. Penn Station NY was the most profitable target.

    • lawhawk says:

      Amtrak has taken the lead on an ARC replacement – the Gateway tunnel project. It’s geared towards HSR on the NEC and doubles the capacity of the cross-Hudson tubes. NJT will get more slots into Manhattan, but Amtrak will be the lead agency in terms of procurement. The Gateway project includes a new Portal Bridge and upgrades between Newark and NY Penn to hasten the trip in the segment.

      Having just taken Acela to DC, that’s just one of several bottlenecks on the NEC, which includes several choke points around Baltimore and Philly. Eliminating them will be costly, but doing them is essential to expanding rail service and improving reliability.

      • Bolwerk says:

        I frankly think enough money has been dumped into the NEC for higher-speed rail. It’s time to look at other corridors that feed into the NEC.

        Gateway is good for New York, but it’s not the best use of Amtrak funds either. 🙁

        • lawhawk says:

          That seems to be part of the position taken by the new head of Amtrak, Anthony Coscia, who happens to be the former head of the PANYNJ.

          Gateway is good for anyone who uses the NEC and connecting lines by freeing up a major bottleneck on the one Amtrak only 4 lines that shows operating profits (and all are East Coast lines). It would significantly improve reliability on the most heavily used line in the country.

          • John-2 says:

            The other advantage is, because of its through-running capabilities (depending on final track layouts), Gateway has utility for states both north and south of NYC, whereas ARC was pretty much a New Jersey-only project. Speeding up the entire Boston-Washington corridor means a better chance of wider political support in Washington than ARC received.

          • Bolwerk says:

            If I remember correctly, Acela even covers what it contributes to the NEC’s capital costs. Most of my tepid preference for Gateway is local favoritism, not because it’s best for Amtrak.

            That said, building up more of a network makes it harder to say no to something like Gateway in the future.

          • Bolwerk says:

            I should add, the growth in ridership demand probably necessitates Gateway, regardless of HSR. Of course, there is no sense in not accommodating HSR.

            But I am still pretty partial to the idea of feeding the NEC with HSR from elsewhere, too.

    • Douglas John Bowen says:

      We are, and are going for something a bit better: Gateway Tunnel.

      ARC de-evolved over a decade: Less utility at ever-higher cost.

      Folks including NJ-ARP stopped the crippled ARC, and we’re not sorry at all.

      • Adirondacker12800 says:

        I’ve seen estimates as low as an extra 8 trains an hour out of Gateway. It’ll probably be higher but ARC was going to double capacity, Gateway won’t. ( once the trains get through the tunnel they have to go someplace. ARC would have segregated them from each other out in the Meadows where there’s plenty of cheap land for flyovers and duckunders etc. )

        • Henry says:

          ARC was going to double capacity for NJT. I’m not sure if it would’ve done much, if anything, for Amtrak.

          At the very least, a new pair of tunnels paired with the Portal Bridge work is probably going to add 20TPH (don’t quote me on this), but Amtrak may hog most of whatever capacity is gained due to the high demand for Acela services.

          • Bolwerk says:

            It might have cleared some slots in the current tubes for Amtrak, though it offered rather inefficient redundancy. Gateway is certainly a better project.

          • Nathanael says:

            Amtrak will certainly take most of the added capacity. Apart from expanding Acela demand, the services branching off the NEC keep expanding, whether it’s in Pennsylvania or Virginia or North Carolina.

            That’s OK.

  11. alen says:

    boondogle

    i use the LIRR a few times a week. i get out of my train and run for the exit. on the way home i leave work with just enough time to get to Penn, my track and hop on the train with a few minutes to spare. they dont announce the track numbers until 10 minutes before a train departs so there is no point in arriving early.

    Once in a while I will go to one of the starbucks there but most of the time i go to the one on 7th and 35th. they now have a clover machine in there as well.

    what is the point of making penn station all nice and pretty if most people who use it won’t care?

  12. TP says:

    I still love the Scocca and Sicha piece from the Times on how Penn Station in its current form is the “real” New York: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11.....wanted=all

  13. jim says:

    Grand Central is a commuter rail station. It has no seating, too many stairs, few escalators and if there are elevators I have been unable to locate them. It works fine for able-bodied commuters, dashing to make the 5:14 to Stamford, carrying a briefcase and perhaps a shopping bag. It would be less useful for an aging intercity traveler, burdened with luggage and whose legs are past their best. Clutter the place up with benches and a redcap station, add escalators and elevators to those marble staircases and architectural critics would like it much less.

    On the other hand Penn Station could do with some of Grand Central’s minimalism. Clear out the lower level, provide adequate wayfinding, add many more platform accesses, have Amtrak eliminate the single file ticket check (it may have worked in some fashion when travelers carried a paper ticket in their shirt pockets, but now an e-ticket on an iPad holds up the entire line) and many of the problems associated with the station disappear. No, it’ll never have the Grand Central ceiling. We can live without that.

    • AG says:

      your words make a lot of sense… unlike the comments I see when I clicked the link to the Times article Ben referenced.

    • SEAN says:

      Jim,

      GCT has numerous elevators & ramps. I can tell you first hand since I use them regularly.

      4 – ajacent to track 112 that bring you close to the shuttle.
      3 – are hidden near track 106 & bring you near track 25, but you need to find the opening that doesn’t leed to a platform to reach them.

      If you want to sit down there are benches in the station masters office, but why would you since there’s so much to see & do while you wait.

      Does PSNY have issues? Without a doubt, but until the public demand improvements, nothing will change.

      • Tim says:

        For what it’s worth, GCT was designed to circulate people via ramps, and to use the stairways as little as possible. The elevators face the wrong direction on the north side, because they were intended to take in baggage from/to the trains. Escalators didn’t yet exist, and passenger elevators were still relatively new.

        If we really wanted to do PSNY properly, I’d cut out a bunch of tracks downstairs to widen platforms, implement comprehensive through running for complimentary high volume NJT/LIRR lines (reducing dwell times), and improve vertical circulation to the streets. The split level thing between NJT and LIRR makes no sense, and funnels everyone into three medium-sized escalators.

        Literalyl eveyrthing that needs to be done there can happen W/ MSG never moving. Signage, some track layout changes, and two new tubes to Jersey, and you’re all set. I don’t care what it looks like inside if I can get right out to the street from my train.

        • Nathanael says:

          FWIW, getting rid of MSG would allow for rearrangement of the columns downstairs. That creates a lot more opportunities for an optimized track & platform layout.

          You *can* improve the current track and platform layout without removing those columns (provided you do as much through-running as possible). It’s just harder because of those pesky columns. I spent a while working it out; in order to get properly wide platforms, you have to eliminate just a tad under half the tracks.

          With the columns relocated, you could have a station with sufficiently wide platforms and more tracks.

          • AG says:

            I think everyone agrees that its “easier” by removing MSG and the skyscraper at Penn Plaza. The problem is that giving FMV through eminent domain for MSG is over $1 billion dollars before the proverbial shovel is dug. That’s not to mention the office building. So the price is in the billions before even demolition. That doesn’t make sense cost wise. They need to get creative.

    • Bolwerk says:

      I’m not so sure about the lower level, but GCT’s upper level seems pretty convenient. There is of course a ramp to the lower level, though it seems too steep for wheelchair users.

    • Walter says:

      Grand Central’s design was miles ahead of Penn Station. It was designed for both intercity and commuter rail, and all intercity trains left from the upper level where it is possible to never touch a stair on your way to the platform. The only staircase is from the Vanderbilt Ave entrance, which is not supposed to be a main entrance.

      There are elevators at all four corners of the building, but they aren’t needed unless you are trying to reach the suburban level downstairs, for which there is also a very wide ramp (that may be too steep for wheelchairs), two large staircases, two escalators, and 4 banks of elevators. I will agree that reaching the lower-level platform level is a pain for those in wheelchairs, but it’s not impossible.

      There are no benches in GCT because of the homeless colonies that lived on them 20 years ago.

      Grand Central’s genius has first and foremost been its functional design, not its beauty. Penn Station, even the 1910 masterpiece, was simply never the well-engineered people-mover Grand Central is.

      • Nathanael says:

        Penn Station’s design limitations are evident in the platforms. They’re too narrow, and the staircases and elevators make for extremely narrow platforms in the spaces immediately next to them.

        It wasn’t well designed. The platform level needs to be rearranged with wider platforms. This requires removing tracks. This requires through-running, and we’re back at the “LIRR and NJT won’t play ball” problem.

    • Someone says:

      I agree with Bolwerk and Walter, Grand Central’s upper level is wheelchair-accessible. I think that, with all the grandness in GCT, that things have become complicated there, and traditionally it’s been really hard to find your train at GCT. (Not that the same thing doesn’t happen at Penn, but still…)

    • Nathanael says:

      Grand Central’s seating was removed due to hostility to the homeless. The seating should be restored. Look at the old pictures; the main hall was full of seating, just like every other large train hall. If Grand Central started having intercity trains again regularly it would definitely have the seating restored. Since it only has commuter trains they can get away without the seating.

  14. tb0010 says:

    As someone who regularly commutes through Penn Sta, it is a true nightmare. The concept of central railroad stations is not obsolete, the Calatrava boondoggle notwithstanding. A more rational design with a commercial revenue stream and moving the Garden a block or two would be a rational solution.

    Sadly, in this town that might be asking too much.

  15. Chris A says:

    A thought experiment:

    Somewhere, I read that the right to have MSG over the Penn Station rail complex was something up for renewal – as if the permits were not for a permanent building. If the Dolans were forced in some reasonable period of time to move from the present MSG site (allowing them to make money from their current investments) and move somewhere, would it be that unreasonable to expect?

    Now, getting MSG to move again requires several things to exist in a new site:

    1. Excellent Mass Transit connections
    2. Excellent Mass Transit connections
    and
    3. Excellent Mass Transit connections.
    (location, location, location…..)

    This poses the question – What was the previous MSG like with its mass transit? I’ve been in the IND station that serviced the old Garden, and I’m not sure if proximity to one subway line would be enough. In the article I read, the author proposed moving MSG to a different post office facility nearby – this probably isn’t feasible. But let’s say it’s so.

    What would we want in a new Penn Station for commuters, assuming Amtrak gets the post office across the street? We don’t need much, save a light and airy space – simple architecture would suffice, such as an airy glass framed dome over the complex that will let in lots of light and be a functional, but radically different way of housing a train station.

    Please note that I don’t see anything happening. MSG is too perfectly located (even if it is very ugly) to move for the next generation or two. So I’ll leave more knowledgeable writers with a thought – what if MSG moved to Harlem, by the 125th street Metro North station????

    • JMB says:

      While the move to Harlem would be an excellent economic boost for uptown, I hardly think the suburbanites from LI and NJ would want to go there (latent racism not withstanding) because they lose their direct 1-seat ride. Plus the Lex is in no shape to absorb the additional usage. Jamaica has a lot more transit and the move would really speed up the renewal of the area, but is so far out there too.

    • tower18 says:

      MSG moving to Harlem? It’ll never happen. Sad to say, but judging by some of the stuff I hear from folks ascending from the bowels of Penn on their way to MSG, there are probably lots of Knicks fans who wouldn’t be caught dead in Harlem.

    • Someone says:

      MSG, moving to Harlem?

      While theoretically that may be a good idea; in practice, there are people who would never set foot in Harlem even if it meant death to them. Tower18 and JMB are right, Harlem is a pretty bad place, riddled with crime and, of course, racism.

      • tower18 says:

        Actually I was saying the opposite. Parts of Harlem are still bad, sure, but my point was more the inverse. Harlem is fine, but lots of fans wouldn’t go, so it’s a nonstarter.

      • AG says:

        you sound as ignorant as the ppl who wouldn’t go to Harlem. it’s funny because I see many of out of town tourists on buses going through the neighborhood. there are literally several thousands of whites (and to a lesser extent Asians) who moved to the neighborhood in the past 20 years (and upper class blacks as well). I had family visiting from California who wanted to see Harlem and were surprised at all the white faces eating on sidewalk restaurants like they were in midtown. Your comments are very ignorant.
        Newsflash – the concerts that Live Nation has put on at the Apollo in recent years with famous white artists… had white fans lined up there… guess what – nobody was robbed.
        it’s also ridiculous because most of the patrons at Yankee Stadium in the “big bad South Bronx” are white and many of them are suburbanites on top of it.

        The REAL reason why MSG will not leave midtown is because it’s MSG… they won’t move anywhere else in NYC… even IF they did leave the current site. It’s the same reason – in spite of their flirtations – the Yankees stayed in the South Bronx… it’s the symbolism and history involved.

        • Someone says:

          That’s funny, because I wasn’t saying that only a certain race lives in Harlem.

          My point was more the opposite, that some people are too scared to go to Harlem because they fear racism.

          • AG says:

            And I’m saying this is not 1970 or 1990… if you go to Harlem you see there are visitors of every stripe and color going through the neighborhood. If ppl would go to Yankee Stadium in the South Bronx by the millions every year you seriously think they would be afraid of Harlem????? Those same ppl who wouldn’t go to Yankee Stadium wouldn’t go to MSG either… but my point is the Yankees do quite well without them.

            Putting a new MSG (which wouldn’t happen anyway bc MSG has been rooted to midtown for 100 years) in Harlem makes no sense simply because of transit connections and putting congestion in a neighborhood that is not used to it. The Apollo is nowhere near as busy as MSG would be… so it can get by without having that many direct transit connections.

    • John-2 says:

      That gets you Metro North traffic, but the Dolans (or anyone else running the Garden since Irving Mitchell Felt thought up the idea) want access to New Jersey and Long Island commuter rail traffic, along with proximity to the Lincoln and Queens Midtown tunnels.

      They can’t get the east-west flexibility at 125th Street, other than Long Island access via the Triborough/RFK Bridge, but Queens subway passengers or those coming from NJ via PATH now have at least a two-seat ride, where they could take the E/F/M/N/R/7 or the 33rd JSQ/Hoboken lines now to get into the MSG neighborhood.

    • Jeff says:

      With Barclays Center taking away MSG’s monopoly in the city and competing for many of the same events, MSG ain’t going anyway where it can lose its advantage over Barclays, which is not just the mass transit but the fact that its smack in the middle of Manhattan which is the most centralized location in the city.

    • AG says:

      Chris – MSG’s mystique partly is because it’s been a midtown institution for many decades. being close to broadway is part of the mystique of it being “the world’s most famous arena” as a “stage”. it’s linked to midtown/broadway corridor (regardless of the site) and won’t move too far from that. Branding is a very very powerful economic incentive.

      As to 125th street… aside from not being in midtown… it’s not an ideal location to put an arena that has over 300 bookings a year with less rail connectivity.

    • Henry says:

      Honestly, the best opportunity for a new MSG would’ve been a location at Hudson Yards. A giant terminal station designed to handle hundreds of thousands of commuters a day, and the line it connects to has easy access to every subway line in the city save for the (J)(Z).

      This should’ve been a part of the plan after the stadium was shot down, but it’s too late now. Maybe in the future, when Javits has to be replaced, can we move MSG.

      • AG says:

        The state owns the Javits… and the Javits was just renovated. The owners of MSG actually did want to move… They were actually a catalyst for the whole deal.
        but of course there were too many government hurdles for the deal to go through – so since they are private – they didn’t have time to waste and decided to renovate.

  16. Michael K says:

    7 to Seacaucus is a fantastic idea.

    the station was designed for the explicit purpose of excellent transfers.

    the three train lines that service Bergen County are currently tremendously underutilized compared to the density of the towns that they serve.

    In addition, the many thousands of bus customers from Bergen County not headed to the immediate PABT area, would benefit tremendously from a bus service that went directly from their homes to sec.

    For example, the 167 Bus line from Teaneck, New Jersey to New York can take up to 90 minutes to get to PABT at peak times.

    It can make the trip to Secaucus in about 15 minutes. Consistency and reliability is key.

    A massive intermodal station, with a cross-platform bus to subway transfer, commuter rail, a kiss & ride and a large parking garage would do wonders for Northern NJ commuters stuck on trains to Hoboken or delayed buses.

    • Henry says:

      7 to Secaucus would be a great idea, until you consider the fact that the 7 line platforms in Manhattan, especially 5th Av and GCT, are already overcrowded, and will struggle to handle the loads of commuters coming in from New Jersey as well.

      Not to mention, but in terms of total trip time NJT will probably be faster into Manhattan than the 7 will b.\e.

      • Michael k says:

        Henry,

        I am struggling to understand your travel time estimates.

        I figured that most residents of Bergen and Passaic Counties can get to Sec in about 15-20 minutes or less.

        From Sec, the NEC takes about 5 minutes to get to NY – West Side Yard, and about 5 minutes to platform and open the doors.

        I imagine that a side platform will have to be created for one of the tracks at each station other than 34th. (mining, digging, what have you.)

        In any case, NJT rail and bus would be able to increase capacity substantially by terminating trains & buses at SEC.

        Perhaps, they could even double service, with all new service to SEC, and maintaining existing service to NY.

        • Henry says:

          Secaucus was never particularly well-integrated into the surrounding area’s transit network, and such remains the case today. In addition, it is highly unlikely that New Jersey politicians would be willing to buy into a subway extension into NJ with a single stop at Secaucus – at the very least, a station would be created along the dense waterfront, probably linking to the HBLR. A 7 train extension to Secaucus will definitely not be as fast as the NEC, given these simple geometric facts and the fact that the subway has a top systemwide speed of 55MPH.

          In addition, for travelers using NJT east of Secaucus, it is, in almost all cases, faster for them to stay on the train to Penn than to use the 7. Penn already has good, frequent connections to the major business districts – the E cuts crosstown across the middle of Midtown, and the Eighth and Seventh Avenue lines at Penn serve Lower Manhattan. The 7, on the other hand, has suboptimal connections with the Manhattan trunk lines – with the Eighth and Sixth Avenue lines, passengers must travel a block to transfer. With the Seventh Avenue and Broadway Lines, passengers at Times Square have to ascend at least 40 or 50 feet to get to concourse level. With the Lexington Avenue line, the stairwells and passageways are so inadequate that the MTA may have to make the station exit-only after the impacts of the Midtown East rezoning are fully realized, and this is without the Secaucus extension. Besides, why woud anyone want a three-seat ride when a two-seat ride already exists?

          Finally, you say that you would expand the platforms at stations to a Spanish solution layout. I don’t think any metro system has ever attempted to expand immediately next to active subway tracks, and the MTA would be foolish to be the first to try it. The 7 cannot be shut down for extended periods of time, so there are very limited windows of opportunity to work. In addition, the geology of the surrounding area is solid Manhattan bedrock – great for skyscrapers, not so great for tunneling. Some sort of explosives would be needed to clear rock, and doing that next to active subway tracks would be a recipe for disaster. While clearing the rock away, you’d also need to keep the water from the surrounding rock out (Manhattan has a high water table), and you’d have to underpin the structures around the explosion. The staggering difficulty of building so close to the surface in such a dense area is the reason why ESA and ARC were planned as caverns – it wasn’t going to be very cheap, but it was less of a technical headache. This would go very wrong, very fast.

          • Nyland8 says:

            Henry … your time rationalizations make no sense. And as for connectivity to Lexington Ave, however convoluted the connection, is walking from NYP to the East side supposed to be FASTER?

            If a New Jersey commuter wants to connect to MOST Manhattan trunk lines, the 7 out of Lautenberg Station would be a viable option and a faster trip than going into NYPenn – IF they are already changing trains at Lautenberg – and it has very little to do with train speed. And if they’re headed for the East side of Manhattan, the 4,5,6 and the soon-to-be 2nd Ave Line, or anywhere near GCT, then it is even more true.

            Since they’re already headed for the subway system (and we know most of them are because most NJ commuters do not work walking distance from NYP) then hopping the 7 in Secaucus would be a VAST improvement.

            As far as distributing NJ commuters across the NY subway system, the 7 to Secaucus would have effectively done almost everything the ARC project would have done, the only difference being that it would have done it without building the equivalent of a skyscraper under bedrock. And it would have given Eastside access to those commuters in a way that ARC never dreamed of.

            The issue isn’t whether or not the 7 would have beaten staying on the NEC into NYPenn. The issue is what is the most efficient way to get thousands of commuters, many of whom are already forced to change trains in Secaucus, to their final destination in NYC. In this respect, extending the subway to Lautenberg was a much better idea than building the ARC.

            • Henry says:

              Who said anything about walking to Lexington? A large amount of riders who currently leave Penn take the E to the stations on 53rd St, which is more centrally located in Midtown, and is only a five or ten minute walk from 42nd. The vast majority of NJT riders are headed for Lower Manhattan, accessible by every service on the Eighth and Seventh Avenue Lines, or Midtown, which is neatly bisected by the E.

              A 7 train ride would be slower due to the increased amount of intermediate stops and the lower speed limit on the subway. Not to mention, the existing platforms cannot handle any more inbound riders during the morning peak – cattle packing Secaucus riders onto a 7 train and then dumping them onto saturated platforms is hardly what I’d call “efficient.”

              I also think you greatly overestimate the amount of people willing to herd onto the 7 instead of boarding another NJT train at Secaucus. Most of 7-Secaucus’s ridership would probably come from a station along the dense waterfront with HBLR/PATH connections, not the commuter rail transfer. Commuter rail passengers aren’t exactly easy to please.

              • Nylan8 says:

                Henry: “A large amount of riders who currently leave Penn take the E to the stations on 53rd St, which is more centrally located in Midtown, and is only a five or ten minute walk from 42nd.”

                How is waiting for ANOTHER commuter rail from Secaucus to NYPenn – and THEN taking the E over to Lexington – faster than grabbing a 7 over to Lexington from Secaucus ?? !! ?? Do you even read your own posts?

                I don’t care if the 7 Line ran at 40mph and you added 10 more stops, if I was coming from Bergen County and I was headed for the East side, or anywhere around GCT, or near Times Square, or had to get to the 4,6 LIne (and someday the “T” Line) then the 7 from Secaucus would STILL be faster. A LOT FASTER!! In fact, the E Line doesn’t even connect to the Lexington Ave. express.

                OK. I get it. For whatever reason, you don’t like the idea of a 7 Line to Secaucus. But you don’t have to bend yourself into a pretzel making up rationalizations for disliking it that simply don’t exist. The fact is, when it comes to distributing folks from Lautenberg Station among the various NYC subway lines, the 7 Line to Secaucus would have beaten the ARC project, or anything like it, hands down. And because no cavernous terminal had to be gouged out of Manhattan shist, it would have done a better job for a fraction of the price! Period.

                • Henry says:

                  To quote an earlier comment: “If a New Jersey commuter wants to connect to MOST Manhattan trunk lines” – this is what I was responded to, plus the bit about walking all the way from Penn. I’ll admit that the 7 would probably be faster from Secaucus. However, how many people would this benefit? According to the NJT map, there are only three services that run to Hoboken going to Hoboken through Secaucus – four, if you count the Port Jervis line. Using NJT’s trip planner, at 7AM on a weekday, trains arrive at Secaucus that are Penn-bound every five minutes. The 7 train isn’t that much more frequent.

                  My personal opinion on the 7 extension is that it’d be spending at least $1B to put more stress on an overloaded line, when not all the options regarding NJT have been exhausted (expanding car lengths, reconfiguring cars to have more capacity, etc.) It also doesn’t do anything for the NEC, which still has the Hudson River tunnels as a giant bottleneck (which was the main reason ARC and later Gateway got developed).

                  • Nyland8 says:

                    And now, after demobilization of the TBMs, it will cost a lot more. But when it comes to distributing NJ riders across the Manhattan trunk lines, the advantages of taking a cross-town subway and running it to Secaucus Transfer cannot be denied. It beats any Penn Station expansion project to hell, including Gateway.

                    But the limitations of the 7 Line stations deserve due consideration. Maybe the best solution, just from a people distribution perspective, is to extend the L Line. It has no tail tracks, and its orientation to the A,C,E connection sucks. I’ve been on it almost every day for the last three weeks, and every single time there was an inbound delay between 6th and 8th, citing “train traffic ahead” … and then it crawls into the station.

                    Running that over to Lautenberg would have much the same effect. A little faster for the financial district-bound. A little slower for the UES bound – but still a lot faster than any Penn Station-centric option.

                    And the most important point in an economic downturn – it does all that without paying to build the equivalent of Trump Tower underground. It’s an elegant solution to a regional mass-transit dilemma, and at a fraction of the price. It really should be taken seriously.

                    • Henry says:

                      I think we’re talking about solutions to different problem here. You’re talking about it in the context of the region’s mass transit system, which indeed, has crappy connections between systems. I’m talking about the fact that the NEC has no slots for additional trains, be it Amtrak or NJT, and that passenger ridership (and Amtrak’s revenue) is projected to rise in future years.

                      Amtrak is probably going to get Gateway done because it’s required for its future NEC plans, so I don’t know if Gateway AND a subway extension would be the best use of money. (The one problem I had with ARC is that it would’ve effectively made Hoboken Terminal useless, and might throttle the growth the area is experiencing due to its status as a transit hub.)

                    • Henry says:

                      Also – delays into 8th Avenue are not because the idea of it terminating there is bad, but because of the lack of tail tracks extending past the station, which means that operators can’t go in at full speed lest they smash into the walls and jackknife.

                    • Nyland8 says:

                      Obviously. I know that. Probably everyone who reads this website knows that. And extending it westward, effectively reconfiguring the station alignment, does away with those delays, speeds turnaround time, improves people movement … etc …

                      It does nothing whatsoever for Amtrak … but then neither did ARC.

                      If less people are taking NJTransit into Penn because they’re getting on the L at Lautenberg, doesn’t that ease traffic and free-up slots at Penn Station? Of course it does.

                      What Amtrak ultimately does is another issue. But if NJTransit has to run less trains into NYPenn to handle the anticipated growth … well … then the L or the 7 to Lautenberg might be enough.

                      It’s not a solution to a different problem. It’s a different solution to the same problem.

          • Nathanael says:

            “I don’t think any metro system has ever attempted to expand immediately next to active subway tracks,”

            Toronto Union Station Subway Station, right now. They’re building a second platform. Spectacular pain in the neck project.

      • g says:

        With CBTC going in it wouldn’t be that hard to really ramp up the frequency to increase capacity.

        • Henry says:

          The issue isn’t train capacity, because reverse-peak trains on the 7 aren’t overcrowded. The issue is that especially at 5th Av and GCT, platforms and passageways are ill-equipped to handle the current amount of passengers, never mind the expected amounts from Hudson Yards and the Midtown East rezoning. Adding Secaucus riders would be disastrous (and it also wouldn’t be very attractive – most rides on the 7 would be a three-seat ride, as opposed to the two-seat rides to most of Midtown and Downtown that exist with the current setup.

          • Nyland8 says:

            A full train is a full train – and a full platform is a full platform. If there’s no more room for people, then they won’t go there – or they’ll only go there when there is room.

            • Henry says:

              Indeed – a large amount of passengers on the 7 change trains at Queensboro to take advantage of the more spacious Lexington transfer at 59th St.

              My question is why people are taking this proposal, which dumps more people into a congested corridor without expanding capacity on said corridor, so seriously when it has severe issues.

              • Nylan8 says:

                Offhand I’d say because the rush’s come from, and go to, opposite directions, so access and platform capacity is less of an impact. In that respect, it’s no different than any given train line that runs from … say Brooklyn to the Bronx. In the morning, the inbound trains are packed from either direction.

                If Secaucus were located East of Main Street in Flushing, it would be devastating.

                But you make a good point. In those places where the inbound and outbound trains share a single center platform in Manhattan, expanding capacity might be called for.

                Is the 7 Line station at Grand Central a narrow center island? Or is it two platforms on either side? If it’s the former, then widening it should be in order concurrent with any westward expansion.

          • g says:

            Train capacity would alleviate crowding on the platforms during the evening rush. The remaining problem is the morning rush with the inbound riders. The MTA is already aware of the sub-optimal access condition at these 7 train stations. The SAS, ESA, and rezoning will require them to rework platform/mezz/street access by blowing out flow obstacles/enlarging the mezz and adding more street stairs wherever possible. If you want to get really crazy they could build a new passageway in the space that was reserved for the H&M RR extension that never came to fruition and funnel 7 train passengers up on platform width stairs on the platform ends to new dedicated street exits and fare controls so they won’t mix with the complex above if they don’t need to.

            The xfer at Secaucus would be attractive to riders who would already be switching trains there anyway, bringing them to a two seat ride instead of three. It would reduce the need for NJT to get more Penn capacity and better serve many commuters.

            • Someone says:

              The platforms are already dangerously narrow in some places- they aren’t wide like the (quite empty) islands at Broadway Junction. Same thing with the mezzanines. And forget about the utilities and closets in or near the passageways. It’s not going to work.

            • Henry says:

              5th Avenue’s platforms are only six feet wide. GCT is probably eight or ten feet wide, which is better, but the staircases are narrow and probably can’t be easily expanded.

              Unless they seriously expand platforms and platform access points, street access points and expanded mezzanines aren’t going to help.

              • g says:

                The main issue is clearing the platform when trains arrive and filtering those people up through the GCS complex to the street, which presently takes far too long. A new intermediate mezz (in the unused H&M slice of dirt above the IRT) and with access to Lexington, Madison, and Vanderbilt would relieve great deal of the pressure esp if the platform stairs are reconfigured and augmented.

                The existing mezz at 5th ave is relatively large and could accommodate more platform access pretty easily.

                • Henry says:

                  The issue I have isn’t with mezz size, it’s with platform width. The station was only designed to handle peak loads coming from one direction, and with the current setup the stairs pretty much blocks the passenger circulation around it.

                  http://upload.wikimedia.org/wi.....-7line.jpg (Yes, it’s not as narrow as Clapham Junction, but this platform already fills up in the morning.)

                  • g says:

                    I’ll concede that 5th ave may be more difficult to upgrade than GCS but on the scale of the budget this project would have in the first place the problems are ultimately solvable. A platform widening or the addition of a side platform (so trains in each direction will only load/unload on their dedicated platform) at 5th might well be required.

                    This wouldn’t be a show stopper however in the context of the project.

                  • Nathanael says:

                    Henry: you are correct. Penn Station *requires* wider platforms.

                    There’s room to make wider platforms without knocking down the columns supporting MSG, but it requires removing tracks.

                    There’s enough trackways that removing tracks is actually OK, but only if NJT and LIRR start doing through-running!

                    So we’re back to “THROUGH RUNNING PLEASE”

  17. g says:

    I think the short term choices are fairly obvious.

    1) Issue a 10 year permit to the Dolans to operate MSG. Stipulate that subsequent permit extensions will be for shorter terms, not to exceed 5 years and two extensions regardless of future capital improvements made to the facility. Strongly encourage them to work with the city and state to identify a successor site nearby during this time.

    2) Build out Moynihan Station and the related improvements to Penn, removing all Amtrak ops to the new headhouse/concourse ASAP. Turn 33rd street between 7th and 8th into a pedestrian plaza and make substantial interim upgrades to circulation and light for the concourse.

    3) Compel the MTA/PA/State of NJ to come up with a plan to extend the 7 to Secaucus with possible intermediate stop in Hoboken. The respective govs of each state have indicated they are amenable to this in the past. Lacking any firm commitment to build out Gateway and probable need of Amtrak to get more Penn slots in the future for NEC services this seems like the most viable option to shuttle NJ commuters into the city.

  18. Henry says:

    I don’t understand why the focus has been on moving MSG to another site. The Dolans have prime real estate in the middle of Manhattan, and it’s not like a transit hub and an arena cannot coexist – look at Barclays Center. The long-term plan should be to design a facility that can integrate them together as well as possible, instead of the current segregated eyesore of a basement station, a soon-to-be outdated arena, and an office tower.

    At the very least, Penn could be improved with a bit of spring cleaning, and the LIRR Concourse should look more like the Amtrak concourse (the LIRR concourse is dim compared to Amtrak’s area), and the retail spaces could be upgraded. Platforms could be widened so that more stairs could be added.

    A personal peeve of mine is the escalators – yes, escalators are very nice to look at, but they move people more slowly than stairs do, they take up space due to their mechanical equipment, and the vertical distance between the platforms and concourse isn’t that big. The escalators should be ripped out and replaced with wider stairs.

    • AG says:

      I think the hatred for MSG among the architecture fanatics is because of some false assertion that the builders of MSG conspired to spite them by tearing down the station. they seem to forget the railroad was broke and needed to sell the land.

      in any event – I tend to agree. except the office tower – am not sure what can/will be done. And MSG is in the middle of a $1 billion renovation. That means they will probably want to amortize that cost over 3 decades.

  19. paulb says:

    I worked at 1 Penn Plaza during the last reconstruction of Penn Station during the early 90s and I think the MTA did a good job on it. It seems like access to the platforms and their physical condition could be improved a lot, though. Anybody who wants to get a good look at the old Penn Station, rent the crime movie Blast of Silence. A lot of good b&w location shooting.

    One way to get more out of that downtown transit hub and the PATH station would be to extend the LIRR from Atlantic terminal to lower Manhattan. Then Wall Street would have a quick link to Jamaica and to JFK. It doesn’t seem like this is a part of any program, though. It’s a shame the Fulton St. line (IND) doesn’t stop at Atlantic Ave. Then building a new subway tube to the old Court Street station would accomplish the same thing, and also get the lower part of the SAS underway, too.

    • AG says:

      yeah – that was the plan with the post 9/11 reconstruction funds… to run a direct airport and commuter line link to lower Manhattan. I know the initial money was there… but not sure what happened. it would help downtown and alleviate congestion in midtown.

  20. Benjamin Hemric says:

    I vigorously agree with your points regarding the Calatrava PATH hub and the proposal to replace MSG with a new Penn Station.

    Would also like to mention that it’s kind of eerie how the drumbeat of PR for a new Penn Station so closely resembles the one for the Calatrava PATH hub and the Fulton Transit Center (I’m speaking of the showcase building, not the improved passageways, etc.). I attended many public meetings, community board hearings on the redevelopment of Lower Manhattan and it was “amazing” / disheartening how so many intelligent people just wouldn’t hear anything negative about either of these projects — these people were just so enamored / bedazzled by the design “glamour” of them (and maybe “drunk” with the power of “enlightened” consensus). “Everybody,” so it seemed, was just wildly in favor of these projects from the very beginning — except for the relatively few “transit advocates” in the audience.

    While I didn’t necessarily agree with some of the proposals the transit advocates were making either, it was nevertheless heartening to see that at least some people were seeing through the PR for the Calatrava hub and the Fulton Transit Center and were asking some hard questions. However, I don’t think the internet was strong enough in those days, for the Calatrava / Fulton Transit skeptics to truly make themselves heard. So it’s great to see your columns, having so many readers and being so accessible, injecting some well thought out and well written alternative viewpoints into the conversation this time around.

    Benjamin Hemric
    Fri., 3/22/2013, 7:20 pm

  21. Michael k says:

    I have a feeling that Henry doesn’t commute from Hackensack, as I do.

    Am headed to Lower Lower Manhattan, as he says – and hate the constantly delayed NEC trains, the missed connections, the five minute walk just to walk up one level and never getting a seat on a 12 car train from Princeton.

    Continue to Hoboken and take the PATH to wtc.

    Then I walk 15 minutes across lower Manhattan. The 4/5/6 stops in front of our building.

    My express train in the morning takes 27 minutes to get from Hackensack to Hoboken. If I were to change at sec, the trip from Hackensack to NYP would be over 55 minutes.

  22. Nathanael says:

    “True concerns over capacity and cramped quarters could be addressed by removing Amtrak’s office space and opening up the corridors. ”

    Where are you gonna move Amtrak’s office space?
    (1) Dispatching needs to be as close as possible to Penn Station.
    (2) Break rooms and rest rooms and lockers for train crews need to be within Penn Station.
    (3) Baggage handling needs to be within Penn Station.
    (4) Ticket handling needs to be within Penn Station.
    (5) Building management needs to be, you guessed it, within Penn Station.

    Amtrak just moved office space in Chicago back INTO Chicago Union Station. There is no way in hell they will move their office space OUT OF the Penn Station complex.

    There is one place which is well-located close enough that Amtrak might consider moving its office space. It’s called the Farley Post Office Building.

    In other words, in order to carry out your proposal, you’d have to build Moynihan. Get a clue, Ben.

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