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Layout and security among big challenges at Penn Station

Commuters at Penn Station in August 2018.

Commuters at Penn Station in August 2018. Credit: Jeff Bachner

Advocates at Penn Station on Wednesday who suggested the time is ripe to overhaul the busiest rail hub in North America aren’t wrong. The time was ripe very long ago.

Penn is dark, dingy and dangerous, with haphazard corridors, train halls, exits and entrances, and all of that compounded by a lack of comprehensive management, oversight and security.

The advocates join many others before them who have called for change. But now there’s renewed interest in Penn, and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo already has taken steps to build Moynihan Train Hall and plan a new Penn entrance on 33rd Street. So, it’s vital, but more difficult, for supporters to lay out a larger vision with specific proposals. And that’s what was missing from the new campaign, called Public for Penn Station, which includes the Regional Plan Association, Riders Alliance and other organizations. Previous ideas include moving Madison Square Garden, whose operating lease expires in 2023, rethinking Amtrak space and redeveloping the neighborhood around Penn.

Unfortunately, one of Penn’s most serious problems is not a focus of the advocates’ attention: the security problem caused by the station’s many silos of control. This is a problem that could cost lives one day. Amtrak and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority each handle their own tracks, platforms and train halls, with state and city police involvement. This security hodgepodge drew attention this week when reports emerged that suggestions were made for Moynihan to have the same bad operating plan. A coordinated security strategy, with a central command center, is necessary for Moynihan, just as it is for Penn.

Thinking big about Penn is welcome. But it’s even more important to get the details right. — The editorial board