Commuters regularly suffer problems at Penn Station. There aren’t enough tracks at Penn Station, resulting in train delays. Train delays lead to the station becoming way too crowded and the problems just spiral downwards. And it’s likely to only get worse.
Amtrak, the train service that owns and runs Penn Station, has had three train delays in recent weeks, mostly due to trains derailing. Two weeks ago, Amtrak police triggered a stampede out of the station when they used a stun gun. Now, Amtrak is saying that, to fix the problems, they’ll need to shut down some of the tunnels under the Hudson River for weeks or months, promising untold future delays.
Why are there some many problems?
Amtrak blames insufficient funding. They say that they knew of the track problems that caused trains to go off the rails. Amtrak CEO Charles Moorman admitted that they planned to fix the tracks but hadn’t gotten around to it yet, part of the $28 billion backlog of repairs. President Trump’s budget would almost certainly make it worse, slashing funding for Amtrak, including the money to build a new tunnel under the Hudson River.
At the same time, more and more people are taking the train into New York. As Moorman explained to the Times, that’s straining Amtrak and Penn Station’s capacity:
“The number of trains and the number of people going through there are double what they were years ago. You’ve had this place where we weren’t putting enough money in while the demand was growing.”
What’s going on with the tunnels?
New rail tunnels connecting New York and New Jersey have been in the works for decades. In 2010, however, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie cancelled the two-tunnel project, dubbed Access to the Region’s Core (ARC), which would have built separate tunnels for New Jersey Transit. Those tunnels were due to be completed by 2018, meaning that they wouldn’t make a difference now but would have relieved crowding starting next year.
As an alternative to ARC, the Gateway Tunnel would instead be paid for by Amtrak, New Jersey, and New York. That’s now on the chopping block of Trump’s budget. Gov. Chris Christie also used the recent problems as an excuse, threatening to pull funding as well, though he’s since backed down.
Adding to the problems, however, Hurricane Sandy severely damaged the existing tunnels under the Hudson and they need major repairs.
What can commuters expect?
More problems are likely to be in the cards if you go through Penn Station. Repairs on the tracks mean that fewer trains will be able to go in and out of Penn Station, so even Long Island Railroad commuters will face delays. Some Amtrak and New Jersey Transit trains might now stop at Hoboken instead of Penn Station, though after a crash last year, it’s still undergoing repairs. New Jersey Transit has already said to expect delays for the foreseeable future.
That’s, unfortunately, probably the fate for everyone who uses Penn Station: expect more problems and budget time for more delays for a while to come.
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