Jason / Flickr

The second phase of Moynihan Station is nearly funded.

If there's anything the countless passengers moving through New York City's Penn Station this holiday weekend can agree on, it's the difficulty and general unpleasantness of moving through Penn Station. Despite being America's most heavily trafficked transit node, Penn Station remains a grim and crowded place. You don't even need to know it once looked like this:

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

to recognize the painful experience of enduring a place like this:

Eri-chan / Flickr

Some relief is expected to come in the form of Moynihan Station, a Penn Station annex located below the Farley Post Office next door. Phase One of that project, which should provide better platform access for Amtrak riders, is already underway and may be completed as early as next year. The problem has long been a lack of funding for Phase Two—a grand new train hall filled with retail stores and, if one can believe the renderings (below), quite a bit more breathing room.

Amtrak

Last week the New York Times reported that Phase Two funding might be closer than previously believed. The Times quotes Senator Charles Schumer, a Moynihan Station proponent, as saying that the city and two developers (Related Companies and Vornado Realty Trust) have pledged $500 million for the great hall, leaving only a $200 million gap. Schumer called on the federal government to make up the difference.

A $200 million funding gap isn't big at all in the grand scheme of U.S. infrastructure projects; it seems quite feasible (though it seems equally possible that the project cost will rise). But as Ben Kabak of 2nd Ave. Sagas reminds us, Moynihan Station would do nothing to address the biggest pressing need for Penn Station: more train capacity under the Hudson River. Unless that shortcoming is addressed, he writes, Moynihan Station will become a "nicer shell for an older problem":

But the largest problem with the project remains firmly in place: For $1 billion, the Moynihan Station Development Corporation is creating a nicer waiting room for Amtrak without contemplated or expanded train capacity through the station. There's no denying that Penn Station needs fixing. It's not a pleasant place to be, and that inevitably will lead some people to eschew train service. But as dollars for transit are scarce, the priority should be expanding trans-Hudson capacity.

Whether or not the Moynihan Station annex (or a completely new Penn Station) will provide better transportation, as opposed to just a better transportation home, is one of several key questions we posed for New York's next mayor before the last election. The Times reports that the De Blasio administration is addressing the issue with "fresh eyes." That's a good thing—provided those eyes look past the passenger crowds to the train capacity. Everyone likes a comfortable waiting area, so long as what they're waiting for eventually arrives.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Life

    The ‘Marie Kondo Effect’ Comes at a Weird Time for Thrift Stores

    Netflix’s hit show has everyone tidying up, but that's not the only reason second-hand stores are being flooded with donations.

  2. A photo of President Donald Trump showing off U.S.-Mexico border wall prototypes in March 2018.
    Perspective

    This Isn't a Border Wall: It's a Monument to White Supremacy

    Like Confederate monuments, President Trump’s vision of a massive wall along the Mexican border is about propaganda and racial oppression, not national security.

  3. Transportation

    Paris Will Make Public Transportation Free for Kids

    In a plan to help families and reduce car usage, anyone under 11 years old will be able to ride metro and buses for free, as will people with disabilities under 20.

  4. Equity

    Beijing's Migrant Workers Are Still Living in Storage Basements and Bomb Shelters

    Government promises haven’t changed much for the city’s underground-dwelling underclass.

  5. A photo of a DART light rail train in Dallas, Texas.
    Transportation

    What Cities Are Getting Wrong About Public Transportation

    Cities could get more people walking, biking, and riding transit, according to a new report, if they just know where to look for improvement.