Now that NJT’s new trans-Hudson tunnel is dead, the Long Island Rail Road is planning to upgrade and modernize its passenger facilities in Penn Station. The LIRR had put plans on hold, expecting disruptions from NJT’s tunnel construction. According to Andrew Grossman, writing in the Wall Street Journal (Dec. 22), “Penn Station’s warren of underground passageways and tracks connecting three railroads and the New York City subway system are difficult even for frequent users to navigate.” LIRR President Helena Williams said, “It’s a facility that’s showing its age. . . it’s cluttered visually, functionally.” However, progress will be hampered by the division of responsibilities among the station’s owner, Amtrak, and its tenants, LIRR and NJ Transit. Because of this, Grossman wrote, “the pace of change is often slow . . . all three systems maintain separate concourses, ticket offices, and signs. And getting from one railroad to the other can be tricky, especially for newcomers to the station.” Consultant David Gibson, who specializes in designing signage systems, added, “At the end of every corridor or somewhere along it is a secondary or tertiary way to get to some other place. The whole ensemble is so kind of pieced together.” Maureen Michaels, who heads the LIRR Commuters’ Council, an advocacy group, agrees on the need for modernization, but is not very optimistic. “These are shared spaces and they’re dysfunctional because it has been individual agencies doing their own thing,” she said.
The Lackawanna Coalition believes that regional transportation would be better served if all the rail operators worked closely together, not only in station facilities, but also in operations, equipment procurement, ticketing systems, and capital investment planning.