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Penn Station Repairs: A Guide to Your New Commute

If you thought the commute was bad now...

July 9, 2017 | by Nell Lanman
Reviewed by real estate expert Michael Colacino

Penn Station’s railway infrastructure, most would concede, has reached its breaking point. With three derailments since spring (the last coming just a few days ago) and endless delays already, the situation has come to a head.

The list of completed or in-progress repairs to the track system are extensive, and originally planned for multiple years. Now they’ve been expedited, with the first phase of upgrades starting…now.

For those taking NJ Transit, LIRR and other trains, the bane of your commuting existence for at least the next two months has a more formal name than the “Summer of Hell” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo coined.

Infrastructure Renewal at Penn Station.

Here’s a streamlined guide via Bloomberg to what’s happening and how it affects your commute.

When the repairs are happening

The first phase of work is scheduled to run from July 10-September 1, with more work completed up until June 2018.

The nature of the repairs

Amtrak is replacing equipment that helps usher trains into Penn Station, in particular a series of “A interlocking” components in the track system that have been under stress of late (1,300 trains run on 21 tracks per day).

You can see the track system pictured here:

diagram; Penn Station Track System

courtesy of Amtrak

NJ Transit commute

The tracks that will be out of commission are longer sections, which means some of the remaining tracks at Penn Station won’t be able to run NJ Transit’s longer trains.

And that means some trains will be made a car lighter to accommodate the shorter tracks. An already-tight squeeze on the train cars will be a little tighter.

Morris-Essex commute will be rough

Commuters who take the Morris-Essex line to get to Midtown will now be rerouted via Hoboken, where buses, ferries or Port Authority trains will have to take them the rest of the way.

According to estimates, that could mean any additional 90 minutes of commuting.

PATH train to the rescue?

The PATH is adding trains during rush hour. NJ Transit rail tickets will be honored for PATH use at 33rd Street and WTC (thought not at the Newark Penn Station stop).

Additionally, New York Waterway is sending ferries between Hoboken and W 39th Street every 15-20 minutes during rush hour.

Port Authority Buses

If you have a NJ Transit ticket, you can take an express bus from the Summit and Maplewood train stations to Midtown, from 7-9AM. You can also take the express bus from South Orange and Newark Broad Street stations between the hours of 6-10AM. Handy for some commuters on the Morris-Essex line.

The trip home? Less assured. If you’re taking the train, you have to get to Hoboken, and return bus service varies. Check here to stay up-to-date on transit schedules.

LIRR commute

Track changes will affect about 10,000 LIRR riders. To compensate, the rail service is discounting tickets 25 percent and adding additional train cars for the following lines during peak hours:

  • Babylon
  • Hempstead
  • Long Beach
  • Port Jefferson
  • Port Washington
  • Ronkonkoma

You can stay current on updated schedules here.

Free Buses

Park-and-ride commuters can get a free lift to and Midtown from the following locations:

  • North Hempstead
  • Beach Park
  • Belmont Racetrack,
  • Valley Stream
  • Roosevelt Field mall
  • Nassau Coliseum
  • Bethpage State Park
  • Seaford
  • Melville

MTA Trains

Penn Station-bound trains will divert to Hunters Point Avenue, Jamaica and Atlantic Terminal for free transfers to subways. The MTA is adding subway cars to the affected lines.

Free Ferry

You can take a free shuttle between LIRR’s Hunters Point Avenue rail station and Long Island City to catch the 34th Street ferry. You can also catch ferries running between Glen Cove and 34th Street, Pier 11 and Wall Street.

Amtrak commute

Amtrak rails are arguably the least affected by the Penn repairs. They are canceling three round-trip trains between New York and Washington, D.C. and shifting three Empire Service trips to Grand Central.

The Acela between Boston and Washington is unaffected.

Time Lapse Video: Ongoing Infrastructure Renewal at Penn Station

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