Reimagine Penn Station
Marilyn Jordan Taylor
For fifty years, New Yorkers moved through one of the world’s great urban gateways. Then, more than fifty years ago, victim to an age of decreased rail ridership, the station moved into the basement. Every day more than half a million people pour through the crowded, confusing corridors to platforms too narrow to handle passenger demand. It almost seems as if they—and we—have come to accept that it can never get better.
Pennsylvania Station must grow its capacity to serve 110 million passengers entering New York City annually—more than the three major metro airports combined. A new Penn Station will renew the competitiveness of the New York region in the global economy. Its high degree of connectivity—including high-speed rail links to cities in the megaregion—and its public realm will catalyze the redevelopment of its sad surroundings.
The new Penn Station includes three key pieces. First, a southward expansion of the sweeping but undersized track and platform plan, increasing capacity by 50% to meet the growing demands for service on Amtrak, NJ Transit, LIRR (even with the addition of East Side Access to Grand Central), and Metro-North. Second, the replacement of the miserable basements with a grand civic gateway, full of light and providing the quality of services New Yorkers should expect. Third, the provision of a public realm: sidewalks for people, neighborhood cafes and shops, and places of social interaction that are the ‘agora’ of the information-age city.
Do we need new tunnels from New Jersey to relieve the bottleneck and vulnerability of our 100+ year-old tunnels? Yes. Do we need to move Madison Square Garden to a nearby site where it too can set a new standard for the 21st century? Yes. Do we need to begin now? Yes.
Why hasn’t this happened? We have many conflicting plans and lots of independent authorities. What we need is one shared vision, one implementing authority, and one creative plan for funding and finance. We need to take advantage of this moment to move the Garden and create a new gateway that will move our city faster and forward.
Marilyn Jordan Taylor, FAIA, is the Dean and Paley Professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Design. She is recognized worldwide as a thought leader in urban design, infrastructure, architecture and city building. See the PennDesign website to learn more about the work of Penn students in advancing region-shaping infrastructure and high-speed rail.