Big changes are coming to Penn Station

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Big changes are planned for one of Manhattan’s most critical pieces of public transport infrastructure, as New York Governor, Andre w Cuomo, has requested proposals for development companies to oversee and execute the upgrade of New York’s Penn Station.

Pennsylvania (Penn) Station, located in Midtown Manhattan adjacent to the iconic Madison Square Garden, is the New York hub for the Long Island Rail Road, Amtrak, New Jersey (NJ) Transit and MTA Subway and is well overdue for a make-over, as it currently handles in excess of over 600,000 passengers every day.

New York’s Penn Station handles passengers for the MTA Subway, Long Island Rail Road and NJ Transit every day

Entry to Pennsylvania Station

Penn Station in its current form has some embarrassingly obvious faults that no amount of superficial fixes can improve. These include the woefully poor signage, on a recent trip through the station whilst making my way out to Newark Airport, trying to locate the NJ Transit tracks was extremely difficult to do so (and I had a good idea of where I was going), and once I found the location of the tracks, the 1980s style TV monitors displaying the allocated tracks for the outbound service was just plain ugly (and difficult to read).

Old departure board in Penn Station

Another major pain point was trying to find the location of ticket machines to purchase the required ticket to Newark Airport. There was no obvious signage indicating their location, and it was discreetly tucked behind a series of the 1980s style monitors. In addition to making the daily commute difficult for seasoned New Yorkers it is visually depressing seeing the state of disrepair the majority of retail concessions are in, with no money invested at all to ensure the upkeep of the store fronts. These factors coupled with the fact that in Summer the station can become unbearable with the heat from New York’s notoriously scorching Summer’s and being a working locomotive hub makes the commute even more difficult.

Australian travellers in general tend to travel through Penn Station when arriving from or heading out to either John F. Kennedy or Newark International airports via the Long Island Rail Road or New Jersey Transit trains. The upgrades will inevitably make it easier for passengers travelling with luggage as they aim to improve the overall passenger experience.

As the project also includes the rights to manage all of the retail outlets of the improved station, the overall experience from a passenger perspective will improve dramatically. It is unknown as yet whether or not the designs will include dedicated passenger waiting areas which has been of major concern, particularly for those travelling with luggage to or from two of New York’s busiest airports.

Timing of the entire project is still very much up in the air, and considering the announcement had no firm dates it could still be a while before Australian travellers, and New Yorkers alike, get to experience a new and improved Penn Station.

Artist Impressions of what the redesign may look like 
(images: New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo)

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