ReThinkNYC: Moynihan Train Hall Opening

Statement on Moynihan Train Hall Opening
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Amtrak’s Moynihan Train Hall, which opened Friday, is an important first step toward making Penn Station a world-class regional rail hub. Nevertheless, it falls well short of addressing the root of the station’s problems at track level. It also is only a partial solution as most of Penn Station, which remains across 8th Avenue and is needed to handle the full extent of Penn passenger traffic, remains pinned beneath Madison Square Garden. Samuel Turvey, Chairperson of ReThinkNYC, released the following statement:

“The new Moynihan Train Hall will undoubtedly improve the present wholly unacceptable commuting experience for thousands of train riders. For decades, Penn Station suffered from chronic overcrowding, narrow corridors and platforms, and a less-than-inspiring design. The former James A. Farley Post Office, designed by the same architects as the original Penn Station, is a beautiful historic building that is well suited to serve as part of a new gateway to New York City, but much more remains to be done at the track level and east of 8th Avenue. Credit is nonetheless due for this ambitious start.

Rendering Penn Station

A rebuilt Original Penn Station east of 8th Avenue showing widened platforms and natural light, based on ReThinkNYC track and station plan 

“Moynihan will make waiting for a train more pleasant, but it won’t make the trip more reliable. The root of Penn’s problems lies at the track level--two century-old Hudson River tunnels, inefficient train movements, and narrow platforms limit capacity and are the source of frequent service disruptions. Solving these core issues will require a radical transformation of how Penn Station functions--not just how it looks.

“Modifying Penn Station to accommodate through-running train service (where trains no longer return to their point of origin empty and clog tunnels or inefficiently sit in train yards during off-peak hours) and adding transit hubs in places like Sunnyside Queens, would, for example, serve to expand the region’s core and stimulate economic development in Long Island and New Jersey. Operating commuter rail service through Manhattan--instead of terminating it there--is the straightforward solution for adding capacity, reducing congestion, and improving regional connectivity and our quality of life".

“Through-running would allow Penn to handle more trains on fewer tracks. Extraneous tracks can then be removed so that platforms can be widened, greatly improving circulation throughout the station. If this were to be topped by a modernized high-ceiling recreation of the original Penn Station, as we have proposed(see image below), it would be a perfect and historic complement to the Moynihan Train Hall. The City and region would then truly be moving towards a genuine solution to the problems of Penn Station. It is hoped momentum from completion of the Farley Post Office conversion to the Moynihan Train Hall can continue in this direction."

“Our antiquated rail network has not kept pace with growth in the greater New York City area. A recreated Penn Station-- modernized above and below ground-- to handle an economy and population that is increasingly decentralized, is desperately needed. Ignoring this reality will only squander the region’s full potential. The quality of life in Manhattan, the rest of the city, and the region is at stake in just a few square blocks in Midtown. We need to be ever vigilant to get this right. The Moynihan Train Hall should be seen as the beginning, not the end."

“For details of the ReThinkNYC plan, see our submission to New York State in response to the proposed Empire Station Complex proposed for the present Penn Station site and a number of blocks East of 8th Avenue.”

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