New York's Penn Station continues to handle record customer loads; under normal conditions, the flow of people to and from trains can be intimidating.  But when something goes wrong, the situation can rapidly escalate into a crowd crush that can become paralyzing, and even dangerous. In recent incidents, problems have been caused by track closures, delayed trains, or cancellations, all of which cause people to pack the station's concourses as they wait for their train to be announced.  Such a situation developed on Wednesday, May 3, according to reporting by Larry Higgs for NJ Advance Media,in the evening rush hours, about 5:30 p.m. In this case, the culprit was a single escalator that became unavailable, in this case, the main escalator leading from the platform for tracks 9 and 10, descending from NJT's main 7th Avenue concourse departure level, a depressed area known colloquially as "the pit." The only alternative is a second stairway located in an obscure corner of the concourse, one used mainly by knowledgeable commuters when the main access escalator is jammed with riders headed for a just-announced train.  Now everybody had to use the corner stairway, which is narrow and has tight turns. And enroute they collided with crowds standing in the concourse staring at departure screens, waiting for their own trains.  The stairway is narrow enough to require a single file of users, and by the time some of them navigated the obstacle course, their train was already on the move.

On April 14, riders panicked when false rumors spread that shots had been fired (see story below). We're not sure what the answer is, but how long will it be before there is a crowd disaster at New York Penn?