Image of Penn Station entrance
Existing entrance to the Penn Station "rabbit warren"

In three years or so, if schedules are to be believed, a sparkling addition will open to the crowded subterranean rabbit warren that is today's Penn Station in Manhattan. It's the Moynihan Station (or "Train Hall"), created from the underutilized post office across 8th Avenue from today's Penn Station, which is actually the basement of Madison Square Garden, the original station having been razed in the 1960s to make way for the Garden. The Moynihan addition will boast wide open spaces, sunlight from above, sparlking train announcement boards, and an array of shops and businesses.  Artists' renderings of the new space include train announcement boards showing departures for Washington, Boston, Ronkonkoma, Chicago, Port Washington . . .

What's missing? Any indication that NJ Transit has any connection to Penn Station at all, despite the fact that nearly half the trains using the station are operated by NJT. Most of the platforms used by NJT are directly accessible from the new Moynihan annex, which will be convenient to the housing being built and many new jobs in the Hudson Yards area between Moynihan and the Hudson River, so many NJT riders could be expected to take advantage of the new facility.

Why is NJT conspicuously absent in the design of Moynihan? It turns out that there are two platforms in Penn Station, used almost exclusively by NJT, which are not long enough to allow stairways to reach the Moynihan facility: these platforms serve tracks 1 through 4.  At one time there was a plan to extend these platforms, which would allow NJT to use the platform for 10-car trains, which now are restricted to longer platforms; but the plan has fallen by the wayside. It's impossible to connect the existing, shorter platforms to Moynihan, as the 8th Avenue subway tracks cross overhead at the end of the platorms, so no stairs or escalators can be built there. Extending the platforms might be expensive, as reconstruction of the access tracks would be necessary.

Why won't NJT be mentioned in the Moynihan "train hall?" A facile explanation might be that Moynihan is a project of Amtrak and New York State, neither of which can be expected to protect the interest of New Jersey train riders. There is a technical explanation, too: if riders come to Moynihan expecting to depart on NJT trains, and if their trains are announced for tracks 1 through 4, they will have no easy way to get to those tracks. They would be faced with a long underground detour, eventually  through the Long Island Rail Road and Amtrak portions of Penn Station, possibly as much as 1000 feet of hoofing before reaching their train, if they can make the journey at all in time to catch it.  The bulk of NJT trains could be easily reached from Moynihan, but the inaccessibility of these two platforms give Moynihan designers an excuse to exclude NJT completely.

The Lackawanna Coalition believe that this situation is inexcusable, and resolved at its May 22, 2017 meeting to call on NJT and NJ state legislators to include the extension of the two platforms in the Fiscal Year 2018 capital budget; to complete the project by 2020; and to work with the developers of Moynihan to "make certain that all the  needs of NJ Transit customers are included in the Moynihan Train Hall."