TRACK 16 SIGN, Penn Station

by Kevin Walsh

As Midtown commuters know, Penn Station has been a complete morass of construction, at least for Long Island Rail Road customers, as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is expanding the main corridor, which has meant a complete gut job with every store along the corridor bought out and eliminated. It would seem that this is just a precursor to the mayhem, as NYS government has its eyes on rethinking the entire Penn Station area, which will mean gutting the rest of Penn Station and razing much of the surrounding neighborhood and slapping up a group of glass luxury residential towers. Fun times for the next two decades!

The fun has already begun, with the completion of the Moynihan Train Hall between 8th and 9th Avenue, which serves mainly Amtrak customers who use tracks 5 through 16, the only tracks that fit under the building. The “Moyn” is nice enough, but its vast shopping and dining areas remain empty while COVID-19 runs the game.

Signage on platforms from 1-16 has already been changed to what you see here. It has a confusing aspect, to me. Why is Boston indicated as being closer to 7th Avenue, Washington to 8th? (They are main stops on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor line, the heaviest-trafficked rail line in the country other than local subways and commuter routes.) What do Boston and Washington have to do with 7th and 8th Avenues?

I don’t think they put a lot of thought into this.

As always, “comment…as you see fit.” I earn a small payment when you click on any ad on the site.

Edited 11/29

11/24/21

17 comments

Andy November 25, 2021 - 9:49 am

The Amtrak signs refer to the ultimate destinations of the Amtrak trains leaving Penn, since the station is bi-directional. Penn is not a terminal, unlike Grand Central or the LIRR Atlantic Avenue facility. The route to Boston, in particular, goes through the same tunnels that LIRR trains use, and then follows a serpentine route over the Hell Gate Bridge to The Bronx, and then joining Metro-North’s New Haven line at New Rochelle. After New Rochelle the Boston trains continue on a relatively straight path to Rhode Island, and then swing northeast to reach South Station in Beantown.

I agree that the signage does not reflect actual geography – it reflects train movement direction to inform passengers. Ideally, a sign saying “Long Island” should appear below “Boston” because the majority of the passengers on Tracks 13 through 16 are LIRR riders. By the same logic, “New Jersey” should appear below “Washington DC” in deference to NJ Transit riders.

Today’s Penn Station serves three different railroads – Amtrak, LIRR, and NJ Transit. Amtrak owns the entire station but is the smallest of the three in terms of passenger volume. It’s all a legacy of the original Pennsylvania Railroad, which built the original station, opened in 1910, and through its ownership of the LIRR controlled the entire operation.

One final comment – all train movements at Penn are classified as either eastbound (Long Island and Boston-bound) or westbound (New Jersey and Washington-bound). Eastbound trains have even numbers, and westbound trains are odd numbers.

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Anonymous November 25, 2021 - 10:15 am

By train, you would take the tunnel under the Hudson to get to Washington (which is the 8th ave direction from there). Similarly, you’d go north along the Hudson which require travel towards 7th ave. I think they were being cute, anyway, but maybe the north / east bound trains are towards 7th and the westbound trains are towards 8th.

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Neil J Murphy November 25, 2021 - 11:35 am

Well, if you’re looking at a map, 7th Avenue is to the right of 8th Avenue, correct?

Boston, in ordinal directions, is to the northeast, or to the upper left of 7th avenue, while DC is southwest, or to the lower right of 8th Avenue.

Makes perfect sense to me.

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Neil J Murphy November 25, 2021 - 11:36 am

Wait a minute, I messed that up.

Boston is to the upper RIGHT, and DC to the lower LEFT.

(Ihaven’t had my coffee yet.)

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Michael Lagana November 25, 2021 - 1:16 pm

And 7th Ave. goes South & 8th Ave. goes North

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Steve November 25, 2021 - 3:38 pm

Boston and Washington are on the signs to indicate the direction of travel of the trains. To go towards Boston, the trains head east to Queens, over the Hell Gate Bridge through the Bronx to New England. To go to DC, the trains head west under the Hudson and through NJ, PA, etc. Also, not sure why you think that Boston, if it’s Northeast of NY, is closer to 8th Ave which is to the west, or why you think DC, if it’s Southeast, is closer to 7th Ave, which is to the east.

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Alec November 26, 2021 - 4:06 am

Did you even read what you wrote before posting this clickbait? First of all, in Manhattan, 7th Ave is farther east (i.e., closer to Boston) and 8th Ave is farther west (i.e., closer to Washington). And if that’s not clear enough…. when the Amtrak train leaves the station in the direction of the arrow pointing to Boston, it winds up in Boston. When it leaves the station in the direction of the arrow pointing to Washington, DC, it ends up in… you guessed it… Washington! I think they thought the sign through just fine. Also, can we discuss the elephant in the room? “The Moyn?” Really??

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Kevin Walsh November 26, 2021 - 10:59 am

Other than this, do you enjoy the website? I don’t see how 7th and 8th Avenues have anything directional to do with Boston and Washington at all, but se Andy Sparber’s response above, which is more sensible and less rude. Or you can go on sniping. Have a nice holiday weekend.

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Andy November 26, 2021 - 12:36 pm

Kevin, thank you for the plug, I certainly enjoy this website! I agree that Penn, especially these days, can be very confusing even to a knowledgeable traveler. When I worked for LIRR I spent many hours there. i still know the territory and travel there regularly.

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Dave in Milwaukee November 26, 2021 - 7:02 pm

Kevin – As an avid Forgotten fan since you started the site 20+ years ago, I just want to say again that I love the site and I love this post! Keep up the great work and ignore the trolls. And to Andy, thanks for the great history lesson. Rock on!

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Andy November 27, 2021 - 11:17 am

Thank you Dave!

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Tal Barzilai November 27, 2021 - 8:13 pm

I wonder if NYC is actually the midpoint between Boston and DC.

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Andy November 28, 2021 - 9:21 am

NY Penn Station is almost the exact midpoint between Boston and Washington. It’s about 225 miles from Penn to either Union Station (DC) or South Station (Boston).

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Edward November 28, 2021 - 4:12 pm

I’m thinking the arrows point in the direction the Amtrak trains are traveling en route to their ultimate destination. Trains going “left” of the sign are traveling north toward Boston, and those going “right” are southbound to DC. In a somewhat related note, my favorite highway sign in NYC is in Queens, which says “Brooklyn-Queens Expressway” with a downward arrow pointing toward “The Bronx and Staten Island.” Maybe they should rename it the “Bronx-Staten Island Expressway” LOL.

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Mitch45 November 30, 2021 - 3:36 pm

Getting away from the arrows for a moment, I really miss the bookstores in the Penn Station mezzanine.

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Kevin Walsh December 1, 2021 - 12:04 am

I miss everything in the corridor, they got rid of everything.

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James December 1, 2021 - 12:00 am

Every time I de-train through da Moyn I think: does Amtrak not want me to do this? That small yellow sign, that looks like some kind of underline, and a few even less visible afterthoughts are all there is telling me that a really nice, really expensive station house sits above and behind the train I just got off. How about a few platform stickers? Maybe a “Don’t give up” sign on the elevator shaft I have to squeeze past. And why is it more important to tell me which track-direction Washington is?

But maybe I shouldn’t complain, what with one single-wide escalator going up there at any given time.

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