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MTA & NJT Overlook Cost Effective Through-Running Plan for Penn, Choose Expensive Expansion Instead

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE July 31, 2023 CONTACT Liam Blank, Chair, Transportation & Infrastructure Committee | 401-829-5991 New York, NY - Penn Station, one of the busiest rail hubs worldwide, is a vital part of New York City's regional transportation network. Its capacity constraints have been a critical issue for daily commuters since the 1920s, making the recent decision by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and New Jersey Transit (NJT) all the more concerning. As reported by the New York Post, the MTA and NJT are set to ignore a more cost-effective “through-running” plan that could augment train capacity by 20-45% within just four years. Instead, they've selected a disruptive expansion project that offers riders no new destinations and could take more than twenty years to complete, all the while costing taxpayers substantially more. “Through-running” refers to the practice of allowing trains to pass through major stations without terminating. At Penn Station, this would involve commuter trains from New Jersey continuing onward to Long Island or vice versa, instead of ending their trips at Penn. Through-running improves efficiency by reducing the need for trains to sit idle as passengers transfer, and it maximizes station capacity. "The MTA and NJT's choice to reject through-running is an appalling dereliction of their duty to the public," said Liam Blank, Chair of The City Club's Transportation & Infrastructure Committee. "Their absurd justification that it fails to meet theoretical maximum capacity levels is mere pretense. The truth is that their preferred expansion plan also falls short of those goals. It is clear they prioritized maintaining fragmented fiefdoms over commuters’ need for an integrated, higher-capacity regional rail network." Andy Byford, former President of the New York City Transit Authority and former Commissioner of Transport for London, has publicly endorsed the concept, stating, “Through-running is a golden opportunity for the U.S. and for New York City to have something similar to [London’s] Elizabeth Line, to have something that has that economic regenerative impact in New York. [...] London has seen the benefit of [through-running] because you’ve got not only the economic benefits of the City, but the knock-on effect of north, south, east, and west of businesses popping up, of housing being developed, and of relief to the existing transport lines.” With an investment of $3 billion, the through-running proposal would restructure the existing infrastructure at Penn Station to allow more trains per hour. The improvements include practical changes such as widening platforms, enhancing coordination between railroads, and modernizing signal systems. This cost-efficient solution promises not only significant savings, but also a faster delivery of benefits to commuters, compared to the lengthy timeline of the proposed Penn Expansion. “It’s not just about building something that’s more aesthetically pleasing — important as though that is, Penn Station is kind of an embarrassment — but you can’t fix it by just putting in a few light boxes, by just heightening the ceilings, by just widening a few corridors,” said Byford. “If we’re going to do all of that, why not take the opportunity to fix the damn thing once and for all, which is, I’m going to say: get rid of the pillars, which means move [Madison Square Garden], but at the very least, do something with the track configuration to enable through-running.” The concept of through-running has garnered increasing support over the years, with key backers such as ReThinkNYC, the Institute of Rational Urban Mobility, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, and TransitCenter. “This bait-and-switch maneuver by the railroads will subject commuters to decades more delays, overcrowding, and dysfunction at our region’s transit epicenter. It is simply unacceptable that the MTA and NJT would knowingly pass up a viable near-term fix in favor of a far-off fantasy, just to avoid working together,” said Blank. The City Club demands the MTA and NJT immediately implement through-running at Penn Station as a common-sense solution that can deliver huge benefits to riders in just a few years. We cannot allow political turf wars and agency silos to derail progress on vital transportation infrastructure. The public deserves better.

### The City Club of New York, established in 1892, is committed to promoting thoughtful urban land use policies that cater to all New Yorkers' needs. With a successful history of advocating for responsible planning and development, the City Club continues its mission to inspire progress and change in the city’s landscape.

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