“They live in Long Island and your attendance is required.” Mrs. Rapid Traveler thusly crushed The Rapid Traveler’s hope of a peaceful Saturday, with previously unknown relatives that surfaced in the wilds of Long Island. For as much as he loves travel, he makes every effort on weekends in NY to not set foot on public transport due to reduced schedules and service disruptions. A future post will cover coping with these disruptions and their baffling notices. But after two and a half hours each way, with trains canceled and expresses becoming local.
Of course they didn’t offer, but that permitted a chance to take quick snapshots of the right and wrong way to deal with LIRR (Long Island Rail Road) at New York’s Penn Station, the subterranean mess shared by several subway lines and LIRR (both run by MTA), NJT (New Jersey Transit) and Amtrak. Slate’s excellent series on the confusing signs, with MTA, NJT, and Amtrak all installing their own, uncoordinated signage is worth a read both by those who will have Penn Station inflicted on them and those who will enjoy commiserating with those who will.
Travelers following the LIRR signs will be directed to a vat of people next to the main ticket windows, on the east (6th Ave) side of the station, near the 1,2,3 subway lines. When the departure board flashes with the track assignment, the mass surges forward, descending down to the tracks. During rush hours the crush of people is overwhelming and the few ticket machines have lines dozens of people long (and the ticket windows even longer).
Fortunately, all it takes is continuing west along the large east-west hallway in the direction of the signs for the A,C,E subway and 7th Ave. When Kmart appears on the right, look left and a quiet hallway is marked by a LIRR departures board overhead. This is where people in the know wait and board trains, which is at the opposite end of the platforms from the main area. There are also several ticket machines which rarely have lines, but no staffed ticket windows.
Farther down past the LIRR tracks are the NJT tracks (and NJT ticket machines) which are similarly much quieter than the principal NJT waiting area on the level above.