New York Penn Station -- Interviews

By Sadie Dempsey, Timothy Clark, Yicheng Xu

Amtrak

We identified Amtrak as an integral source of general information given their ownership New York Penn Station and placed an interview request for CEO Richard Anderson with their office of media relations. The organization, through spokesman Jason Abrams, replied that Mr. Anderson was not conducting any interview opportunities but offered to circulate our questions internally among their engineers and provide answers to our questions via email.

In reply to our questioning, Mr. Abrams provided statistical data in comparison and relation to other owned and operated Amtrak stations around the country, discussed logistical considerations involved in track closures, and referenced daily challenges and difficulties of maintenance, renewal and repair work at the unique location.

It’s interesting to note from the organization's response that Penn Station is the only Amtrak station in the country that has catenary and third-rail power on all its tracks. Additionally, he noted that switch machines and rod packages, while interchangeable at most Amtrak stations are not interchangeable at New York Penn Station. “The switches in New York Penn Station are specially-designed for this station, and they must be manufactured per Amtrak’s specifications.” He also underscored the a challenge of getting work done in Penn Station because of its “tight to zero clearance issues,” so any protection cone around an engineering group at work eats into active space.

Excerpt from the exchange:

5. In the realm of infrastructure short-term maintenance at Penn Station, what are the most time-consuming daily challenges Amtrak engineers are tackling? How about long term improvements in the track and infrastructure engineering realm?

A) One of the biggest issues is scheduling time to work on the tracks. The frequency of daily, overnight and weekend train volume makes it difficult. Amtrak is working with its commuter partners (NJ Transit and LIRR) to scale back some service into New York Penn Station and allow more time windows for track work. In the long term, we need train schedules that allow adequate time to conduct required maintenance.

In addition, the logistics of doing significant work is very difficult due to limitations of outages (track and space). When work is occurring (i.e. the current New York Penn Station Infrastructure Renewal), all materials must be staged outside of the station and be brought in throughout the work period.

Our team has initiated contact with a number experts in fields of engineering, management, planning, design and public policy. Currently, we interviews scheduled with Greg Lindsay of New Cities Foundation and Bryce Hejtmancik of AECOM. Interviews with Vishaan Chakrabarti of PAU Studio/Columbia GSAPP and a representative of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office are pending. Our line of questioning for each of the scheduled interviews is listed below.

Greg Lindsay, New Cities Foundation (interview scheduled for Feb. 27)

Questions:

As I know, you are an expert on the future of travel, technology and urbanism. Would you like to brief introduce your practice in the mobility of New York City?

How do you think of the future mobility of New York City?

Would you like to talk about the current issues you have identified in Penn Station?

In addition to old age, are there other factors contributing to infrastructure issues?

I have heard about your conversation with Roger Duffy, Senior Consulting Design Partner in SOM. What are your thoughts and reactions to SOM’s new proposal?

Do you think of the new proposal Penn-Moynihan station can make progress in the infrastructure, flooding resilience and overcrowding?

Bryce Hejtmancik, AECOM

Questions:

How was the site was you first encountered it and what were the conditions?

How did you, also AECOM become a part of the project?

What sort of planning went into the project, were their alignment studies, feasibilities studies and the like? If so what came from these studies and any sort of site analysis.

With the current project what is being done to address issues you find most relevant?

Are their plans which address overcrowding, safety, and maintenance issue?

What is you involvement thus far and what are your thoughts on the process?

Is there public involvement or any public program as far as AECOM goes or does that happen elsewhere?

Are there any important point you would like to mention or discuss that we did not touch on?

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