Newbie Questions About Penn Station (NYC)

Discussion in 'Guest Forum for Amtrak Questions' started by sarthaz, Jun 17, 2019.

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  1. Jun 17, 2019 #1

    sarthaz

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    sarthaz

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    Hello,

    I have never been on Amtrak or even seen a train station outside of Sodor, so I apologize if my questions sound nonsensical. I'm well aware that what I'm about to ask may be laughably impossible, but if it's not, I would love to know. This is not a math test, but a real-world scenario:

    I will be going to see a show near Penn Station (NYC) that starts at 7pm. The show claims to last exactly 2:35, or be done at 9:35pm. It will take me 10 minutes by car/15 by foot to get to Penn Station, where the latest train departing is a Northeast Regional leaving at 10:05pm. Can this be accomplished?

    Obviously, a dozen things can go wrong, like getting stuck in the theater, being unable to get a cab, show running late, so it's not ideal. But is it possible? Things I don't know:

    How big is the station?
    Can you show up 1 minute before departure and hop on?
    How quickly can I get from the entrance of the station to the Northeast Regional?
    Do these trains typically depart on time, or do I stand a good chance of getting lucky because the trains are always late?
    Am I missing something obvious?

    Really appreciate any help the experts on this forum can provide. Thank you in advance!
     
  2. Jun 17, 2019 #2

    drdumont

    drdumont

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    Station is very large. You can get confused if you aren't familiar with it.
    If you can get to the platform and HAVE A VALID TICKET IN HAND you can get aboard until the car door closes.
    Station entrance to platform - I would plan on 15 minutes. IIRC they hold you at the top of the escalator until train boarding is allowed.
    Check the timetables on the Amtrak website. As to on time performance? Who is John Galt?
    Here's a nifty website. Put in NYP as the station and watch for a few days. But, YMMV.
    https://asm.transitdocs.com/map (Animated station display in real time)
    Those trains are generally not full up. Buy your ticket before you leave the station, have it in hand as you approach the gate.
    Good luck!
     
  3. Jun 17, 2019 #3

    pennyk

    pennyk

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    I’m in Penn Station right now and, in my opinion, it’s pretty big and may not be easy to navigate for a newbie.
    I would say no, you cannot arrive 1 minute in advance and hop on. I believe gates close five minutes in advance. I will be boarding a long distance train about 25 minutes in advance.
     
  4. Jun 17, 2019 #4

    crescent-zephyr

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    The trains can be late but expect them to be on time. My experience is that most trains depart NYP pretty close to on time, but naturally they can be delayed.

    You can step aboard literally up until the doors close at time of departure.

    Here's the thing.. the station is large and confusing, but your plan is very doable. Make sure you walk / get dropped off at the Amtrak Entrances which are both on 8th Avenue (one at the corner of 8th and 31st, one at the corner of 8th and 33rd) these will take you down the escalators directly into the Amtrak gates, you just look up at the sign, go down to your track and you're done.

    If you get turned around and end up going into another entrance, all bets are off as it's easy to get turned around if you are not familiar with Penn Station.
     
  5. Jun 17, 2019 #5

    jis

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    On NJT or LIRR you can hop on until the last minute. On Amtrak, not so much. More than 5 minutes is required I think.
     
  6. Jun 17, 2019 #6

    Devil's Advocate

    Devil's Advocate

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    Other than Amtrak I'm not sure I've ever seen another passenger railroad with arbitrary prohibitions that prevent you from boarding for the last several minutes prior to departure. Maybe Eurostar?
     
  7. Jun 17, 2019 #7

    bratkinson

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    If you are OK with leaving the show 10-15 minutes before it's over, I would do so. I'd definitely take a taxi or Lyft or Uber to Penn Station. Definitely have a printed map of the station as well as have downloaded the Penn Station App https://www.amtrak.com/findyourway to show you which track your train is on, etc.

    Would -I- try making such a tight connection in an unfamiliar station? Probably not. My father taught me 50 years ago to always plan on arriving somewhere 10 minutes early. That way, any surprises enroute will usually not cause me to be late. For what it's worth, the 'closest' connections I've planned between trains at Penn Station is 55 minutes from scheduled arrival to scheduled departure. A late arriving train cut that down to about 20 minutes several years ago. Fortunately, I know my way around Penn Station.

    Worst case scenario, if you miss your 10:05PM train, the next one is 5+ hours later at 3:25AM. Alternatively, NJT may have some late night trains that depart later and stop at your destination.
     
  8. Jun 17, 2019 #8

    crescent-zephyr

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    It's been a while since I've gone through NYP (sadly... I miss it) but in the past few years you could definitely jump on just like NJT trains. They don't even begin boarding until 10-15 minutes prior... so the idea of getting everyone through the gates in 5-10 minutes is borderline impossible with NYP crowds.
     
  9. Jun 17, 2019 #9

    zephyr17

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    Most important tip I think is to use one of the 8th Ave entrances. If coming from a Broadway show, you will most likely coming from the north, so the one on the SE corner of 8th and 33rd.

    That entrance will lead directly to the Amtrak concourse, so at that point it is a matter of finding which track the train is boarding from. If you use one of the other entrances, the station can be quite confusing and very large (separate LIRR, NJT concourses, in addition to Amtrak's, 2 separate levels in addition to track level). You could easily waste 10 or 15 minutes just finding your way.

    Track are numbered lowest to highest from south (track 5) to north (track 17). If you come in by the escalator from 8th and 33rd you will be near track 17. Also note there are East and West gates for most tracks, so note which one is being used.
     
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2019
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  10. Jun 18, 2019 #10

    sarthaz

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    Thank you so much for all the detailed information. This is a wonderful forum.

    My gut tells me I can do this, but I'm not sure if it's worth it or not to be watching the clock on the Broadway show and then making a mad sprint to the train. :) I have to be in Union Station (WAS) by 7am at the latest, so the alternative is to take the 3:25am out of NYP and leave myself zero minutes of wiggle room and a different mad dash to my ultimate destination. Per your suggestions, I've been checking history of this train, and it looks like most days it's on time or early. If it's late, it's really late and all plans are toast, but I need to expect both of these trains to be on time.

    If I go for the 10:05pm and don't make it, and I have to wait 5.5 hours before the next train, is there anything to do at NYP that late? I know I could wander around the city, but at some point I imagine safety becomes an issue, and I should go to the station.

    Also, if I'm waiting around, is there luggage storage at the station that's accessible in the middle of the night?

    Finally, if I end up on this 3:25am train (typing that makes me shudder), any advice on getting some sleep on the ride?
     
  11. Jun 18, 2019 #11

    Bob Dylan

    Bob Dylan

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    Many of us have taken the "Redeye" "66/#67 between NYP and WAS.

    The Coach/ Biz Class waiting room is reserved for Amtrak ticket holders and an agent sits @ the Entranc/ Exit to the Room plus there is Security patrolling the area.

    #66/#67 takes checked baggage so you could check your "big stuff" and just leave your carry on ( no valuables) in the waiting room, maybe even ask the attendant if you could leave it by the desk for a gratuity.

    Suggestions include Booking Biz Class ( with the nice 2x1 Seating in the Split Cafe Car) and having a Small Travel pillow, light blanket and ear plugs and eye shade with you.

    You could also take Melatonian or other sleep aid if needed.

    The Apple never sleeps so there are plenty of things to so and see in Manhattan 24/7. ( including Street people or even go to a Movie).

    You could even ride around on the Subway to kill time and sight see, interesting people out on the night shift!
     
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2019
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  12. Jun 18, 2019 #12

    DCAKen

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    Don't count on your show starting exactly at 7:00. If there's an intermission, that might run long also.
     
  13. Jun 18, 2019 #13

    AutoTrDvr

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    As others have said, you'd be cutting it real close. One of the problems you have is knowing the track on which your train is leaving and, for a train originating in NYP, you won't know that (officially) until about 10 minutes prior to departure. You'd have to arrive at the station, look on the big boards, and see the track on which it is departing. And it's probably better to do that from the Mezzanine level than the big upper main terminal area, which can get kinda scary for those not used to it. If the train is coming from Boston, you might know which track from the "arrival" board, maybe a few minutes earlier than the departure board. The biggest indicator of your success or failure would be whether or not the station announcer has called "All Aboard" for the given train. If you hear that, or see it on the departure boards, your chances of getting on are reduced significantly. You can try but, as some have said, the may close the doors as much as 5 minutes earlier than the departure time.

    Normally, NJ Transit usually occupies Tracks 1-4. Both Amtrak and NJ Transit share Tracks 5-13 (as these have access to Sunnyside Yard and the feeder lines), with Amtrak pretty much taking 7-11 as that's where the upper deck entrances are with escalators and elevators,etc. Also they are the closest tracks near the Amtrak lounges. LIRR is all tracks 14 and above.

    But yes, I'd suggest a "cut off" time of, say, 9:15p, by which you must leave the theater, no matter if the show is finished or not. Understand that no matter how you get from the theater to NYP, count on delays.... in traffic, in Subways... count on them. Uber/Lyft is probably better because they can't try to long haul you. You should arrive at least 15 minutes prior to departure time and watch those arrival/departure boards. Know how to go immediately to your track. You might, for example, take an inbound train that arrives a bit earlier than your show, and just walk around NYP to get the feel of it, know where the stairs are, how to move around the mezzanine leve, etc. etc. So you know exactly where to go when you get back.

    Best of luck!
     
  14. Jun 18, 2019 #14

    Rasputin

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    I recommend that you make your life easier (but perhaps poorer) and get a hotel room for the night and leave the next day. Enjoy the entire show without the anxiety of having to leave on time or early to make it to Penn Station, a place that can be highly confusing. You may be able to pull it off but there is a high probability of failure.
     
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  15. Jun 18, 2019 #15

    chakk

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    You could also consider taking an afternoon train:

    You leave the Pennsylania Station 'bout a quarter to four;
    Read a magazine and then you're in Baltimore.
    Dinner in the diner -- nothing could be finer.
     
  16. Jun 18, 2019 #16

    zephyr17

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    As someone who visits NYC regularly but does not live there, I find the mezzanine level more confusing than the Amtrak level, with multiple separate concourses.

    I have departed and arrived Penn Station many times by both Amtrak and LIRR. I still think for a total newbie, like the OP, trying to board an Amtrak train from the LIRR mezzanine level would add to the confusion, despite the busy chaos of the Amtrak concourse.
     
  17. Jun 18, 2019 #17

    Dakota 400

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    I second this suggestion. If you have luggage with which to deal, be aware that arriving at the 8th Avenue entrance there is only stairs and an escalator to the lower floor. No elevator. Maybe you would be comfortable on an escalator with both hands holding luggage, but I was not!

    Also, given the price of Broadway shows, why would one even want to leave the show early?
     
  18. Jun 19, 2019 #18

    crescent-zephyr

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    I’ve mad dashes from a broadway theatre to NYP before. Broadway shows typically start exactly 5 minutes late. The box office can probably tell you the exact time the show gets out.

    Also... broadway theatres typically have multiple doors they open for exiting, ask an usher which doors open after the show and make a sprint for the doors closest to you when the show is over. getting stuck behind all the other people exiting can slow you down! Ha.

    If it was me, I’d try to make it and take the 3:25 if necessary. Either way it will be a fun story to tell!
     
  19. Jun 19, 2019 #19

    AutoTrDvr

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    ♫♪ until you realize you're on the wrong train and end up in Carolina.... ♪♫ :D
     
  20. Jun 19, 2019 #20

    PVD

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    The first questio is: "what is the actual location of the show?" The OP doesn't say Bway, "near Penn Station" can be anything from the Hammerstein Ballroom (across the street) or the Theatre at MSG, to something at the North end of the theater district. With a bit more info, we might be able to offer better advice.
     
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  21. Jun 19, 2019 #21

    me_little_me

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    I suggest you check out your route inside Penn Station before the show so you have an idea as to whereto go and what places and signs to look for.
     
  22. Jun 19, 2019 #22

    Barb Stout

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    Another thing that hasn't been mentioned is that on most Amtrak trains, if you don't show up for the train (as in miss it), you don't get your money back and have to pay again to take the next train. I'm not sure if this applies to this particular train or if the cost is high enough to be of any decision value.
     

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