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With a new administration in D.C., it's time to think outside of the box because passenger rail's survival just may depend on it

Saturday, May 4, 2013

NYC, Get Penn Station Right This Time

The rundown:
  • Madison Square Garden's 50-year lease recently expired
  • MSG wants to remain atop of Penn Station in perpetuity and doesn't want to move
  • Amtrak wanted to move to the Farley Post Office building at the turn of the millennium, but had to back off when the effort almost helped to bankrupt the company
  • Former Amtrak president David Gunn reiterated his opposition to the move (his predecessor, George Warrington, orchestrated it) after current president Joseph Boardman looked at relocation in 2011

What actually needs to happen
Frankly, the kind of train station that a major city like New York ends up with reflects the kind of train service it deserves. A top notch train station for Amtrak's premier line is in order unless someone can build a downtown Manhattan rail facility that would relieve current Hudson Tunnel traffic.

Madison Square Garden is the one that needs to move because the cost of Amtrak relocating several blocks to the west will only add to its bills at the same time it is trying to overhaul D.C.'s Union Station and develop a brand new Northeast Corridor. Just in case anyone is confused by that previous sentence: If Amtrak tries to do all three of these tasks, the company will go bankrupt! If that happens, Mica would get his wish without firing a shot because the likes of Virgin Trains, SNCF, and others would be bidding for the 457-mile-route the very next day.

If the Farley Post Office building doesn't suit James Dolan, he should move to another part of Midtown Manhattan that has heavy rail-oriented traffic. Otherwise, he could move downtown and let mass transit come to him--or go the opposite route by building a new MSG near Metro North's E.125th Street station in Uptown Manhattan.

1 comment:

  1. You are a marvel of level-headed, succinct and thoughtful analysis.

    Regarding Madison Square Garden. I too have been struck by the need for New York to have a generous gateway station, not a half-hearted conversion of a Post-office or the continued use of a Madison Square Garden's cramped basement.

    After the devastation of WWII the great cities of Europe rebuilt many of its most beautiful buildings and town squares.

    I suggest a "sock-up" restoration of the original Pennsylvania Station. McKim, Mead and White's masterpiece not only was a proper gateway, but it managed to effectively unify united two structures of entirely different architecture. The first was the main waiting room built of marble to resemble the Baths of Caracalla in Rome, the second, a distinctly modern steel and glass series of barrel vaults over the tracks and loading areas.

    By "socks-up" I refer to an exact recreation of the terminal walls and ceilings, over a contemporary floor plan employing our 21st understanding of logistics and operations.