Wednesday, February 08, 2012

A Misguided Plan For Penn Station and Madison Square Garden

The NY Times' Michael Kimmelmann has proposed that instead of building the Moynihan Station that would only accommodate Amtrak and leave nearly 500,000 people to deal with the horrible commute through the subterranean Penn Station beneath Madison Square Garden, that the City, MTA, and the Dolans (who own the Garden) should relocate Penn Station and the Garden to the far West Side's Hudson Yards.

A more ridiculous proposal I could not think of. We're talking about moving a major transit hub out of the Midtown hub because the station is ugly and outdated at a time when New Yorkers and New Jerseyeans are complaining about the out-of-control costs for the PATH transit hub at the World Trade Center that would service a fraction of the daily users claimed for Penn Station.

On a more practical level, the move makes no sense since there are no subways other than the soon to be completed 7 Line extension that would reach the site being proposed by Kimmelmann.

The whole point of the Penn Station hub at its current location is that it provides access to a whole host of subway lines, including the 1,2,3,A,C,E, which service more than 140,000 every day (2010 figures). The proposed location would have no connections and leave commuters no options to get to their ultimate destination.

I understand the lure of building a new station/terminal along with a new Garden at the Hudson Yards, but it's a development project that makes little sense on paper or on financial grounds.

A few further thoughts. The proposed project does nothing to increase the number of tracks or platforms to maximize commuter flow, nor does it do anything about the bottlenecks on either the Hudson River or East River - it doesn't address the need for new tunnels (Gateway on Hudson Side) and apparently 4 tracks are sufficient on the East River. Capacity would be roughly the same.

Meanwhile, the MTA budget on the Fulton Street project that doesn't add capacity is more than twice what was estimated, and the South Street Ferry was likewise overbudget.

Existing infrastructure needs to be overhauled to be sure, and increased capacity needs to be built - the 2d Avenue line for instance for its entire stretch (to Hanover Square), not merely the phase underway from 96th to 63rd Street. All that costs money, and right now, prettifying Penn Station is a low profile compared to what the MTA must do.

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