Less Is More?
A visit to the LIRR’s main concourse at NYP reveals that the LIRR’s only restrooms, and the dingy waiting room between them, have vanished behind a wall of plywood. (Not noticed: did we also lose that famous overhead structure said to be one of the last pieces of the old Penn Station?). A sign only says, “Rest rooms available on the upper level.” (Those would be those of NJT and NJT/Amtrak; there was no signage pointing the way.) What’s going to replace them? Dunno; perhaps they are building new facilities and a waiting room, possibly expanding into the space of the now-gone Tracks bar, which should be right behind the closed restrooms. Or maybe instead it will be something that makes money for the MTA, like a pot dispensary maybe?
I have to say that a lot of the vaunted “improvements” that MTA and NY State in general have been making to NYP have not produced much for the actual riders who are supposed to benefit. Within the last year, they opened what looks like a magnificent set of escalators to a new LIRR entrance at 7 Av and 33 St. It looks great in the politicians’ photo ops, but the foot of the new escalators is smack in the way of the great number of riders who arrive or depart the station via the 7th Ave. subway, and also those who rely on the corridor to the years-ago-added entrance on 34 St just west of 7th Ave. (For those who haven’t been to the city in a few decades, this was all directly in front of the old LIRR ticket windows, and roughly where the octagonal information booth once stood—all gone now.) All of these crowds collide with the folks using the new 33 St entrance. At peak hours, like when I was there yesterday at 5:10 p.m., it becomes downright dangerous, with lemmings headed for their trains colliding with arriving passengers and themselves. Many of these “dashing commuters” are running full-tilt to make their trains. It’s a real zoo.
Also noted was the crowding, under what seemed to be normal rush-hour conditions, of the area in front of the LIRR’s track gates. Getting through that area was not easy. I am starting to believe that what NYP needs most is expanded areas where people can just stand and wait for trains.
The best thing that’s ever happened to NJT customers is the one thing they can’t use: Moynihan. As I predicted for years, it has cleared out the 8th Ave. concourse of Amtrak and particularly Amtrak’s conga lines of waiting passengers—and it has secured for NJT riders the best waiting room anywhere, although it could use more power plugs, as the ones at the white tables are always in use for laptops and cellphone charging. Maybe the NJT IT department could reprogram the departure monitors—there are two of them in the waiting room, stacked—so the top one shows the first set of departing trains, and the bottom one shows the second set. As it is now, both monitors show the same display, alternating between the two sets—infuriating when you have to wait 10 seconds to find out the track of the train you hope to board in the next 2 minutes.
Side issue, uptown: Lincoln Center. The new Geffen Hall has opened to rave reviews, and its glass wall opening to the Lincoln Center Plaza is truly beautiful. Lost in all the hoopla is the underground passage under Geffen Hall that allows access to the Metropolitan Opera House from the subway without braving the weather. Closed for the Geffen rebuilt, it’s still closed. A peek around the barriers revealed it is, like the NJT passageway between upper levels at the 7th Ave end of NYP, still full of construction-type trash. So opera-goers still have to cross the Plaza to get to the subway, which is longer and no fun at all in foul weather. (A long underground detour all around the Plaza via the basement of the Koch Theater may still work—and fear not: users of the underground parking garage still can get into the Met without having to mix with the weather . . . or, of course, the lowlife that uses the subway.)
Side side note: On the 10:13 local to Dover last night, train ran on track 1 (center track) Newark to Millburn, necessitating delays and confusion at the 3 stops (Orange, Highland Av, Mountain Station) that lack track 1 platforms. Work equipment was sighted on track 3, the normal (westbound “local”) track. Dunno how long this persisted . . . and there are weekend travel alerts posted that track 2 at Newark Broad will be out of service, expect delays “in addition to the Amtrak track work delays.”