Should Amtrak restore service to Grand Central Terminal, NYC?

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Fenway

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Amtrak ended service to GCT in 1991 but is it worth reevaluating in 2023?

My gut feeling is it would be a win today, especially for service to New England and Albany.

Thoughts?
 
No.

Not worth the extra cost, or effort to do this.
If you’re at GCT you can walk to Penn Station, ride metro north and transfer to Amtrak. If they ever build a tunnel between these stations then it would be worth it. However a tunnel would be very challenging. Those water supply tunnels that it would have to cross is a deal breaker.

So no, it’s not worth it.
 
As someone who rode a lot between upstate and Manhattan both before and after the 1991 transfer from GCT to Penn, I can say that I really much preferred Grand Central for trips where New York City was the destination. For most of the past 30 years, of course, Penn Station was a dump, so GCT was just a much nicer terminal from which to arrive and depart, though the opening of the Moynihan train hall has really evened the score on that point.

One thing I really miss about Grand Central is that the trains were serviced underground in the terminal, which meant that, in foul winter weather, there were none of the delays associated with the Sunnyside yard. Trains were never "delayed en route to the station." Instead, they were ready on the platform with the gates open about 20 minutes before departure, which made the boarding process so much more relaxed than Penn's mad scramble for the escalators when tracks are announced a few minutes before departure. So, it just functioned better as a terminal.

And Grand Central was closer to the core of the Manhattan office zone, so for business travel, there was a much higher probability of being able to walk to one's final destination from there, whereas arriving at Penn was much more likely to require transferring to a subway or cab.

But of course, the great advantage of Penn is the ability to make connections. If you're traveling from upstate to Philadelphia, Washington, Virginia, Florida or anywhere else to the south, transferring at Penn is way easier than having to schlep one's luggage across town (and having to allow an extra 30 minutes to do it). And there was a considerable savings to Amtrak from consolidating into one New York station instead of having two. That's why the West Side connection was built, and why I supported it at the time. And once the connection opened, we got more service between Albany and New York, because being able to make connections more easily suddenly meant there were more riders.
 
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I can't see any benefit to do that. They actually ran Amtrak trains from GCT a few years back when they had to so some major track work on the Empire connection. It pretty much killed the connections between the NEC/Silver Service/Crescent/Cardinal and the Empire service/Lakeshore Limited/Maple Leaf. The only advantage would be for people connecting to Amtrak from the Hudson or Harlem Metro North Lines. (If you're connection to Amtrak from the New Haven Line, you can use Stamford.) It's not that hard to connect from GCT to Penn Sation by subway or taxi/Uber/Lyft, or, if the weather is nice, walking.

Once the Empire Connection was built, Amtrak really didn't need two terminals in Manhattan, which is why they stopped running trains to GCT.
 
My experience riding to PHL from Boston in the pre Amtrak days when most trains from Boston went to GCT it was a pain to do the transfer, requiring 2 subway rides 42nd st shuttle to either 7th or 8th Ave lines, or walking. Although the subway ride was interesting from a railfans standpoint being first experience in NYC. I would not want to have to go back to those days.
 
Amtrak ended service to GCT in 1991 but is it worth reevaluating in 2023?

My gut feeling is it would be a win today, especially for service to New England and Albany.

Thoughts?
I don't think Amtrak needs to serve GCT itself. All that is needed is to allow through ticketing a transfer to Metro North to provide connecting access to GCT. The transfer could be done at stations where it would be a same platform transfer e.g. Stamford and Yonkers.
 
I don't think Amtrak needs to serve GCT itself. All that is needed is to allow through ticketing a transfer to Metro North to provide connecting access to GCT. The transfer could be done at stations where it would be a same platform transfer e.g. Stamford and Yonkers.
Through ticketing would be nice. Even without it, I've done the transfer at Harmon on some of the early morning trains, and it worked OK. Other times of day, the connection is long enough that there's no real time savings for most destinations vs. going to Penn, plus the Amtrak runs later in the day are more prone to tardiness and possibly missing the Metro North connections.
 
Through ticketing would be nice. Even without it, I've done the transfer at Harmon on some of the early morning trains, and it worked OK. Other times of day, the connection is long enough that there's no real time savings for most destinations vs. going to Penn, plus the Amtrak runs later in the day are more prone to tardiness and possibly missing the Metro North connections.
Specially these days as you can buy an MNRR ticket on the fly on your Smartphone, if you are so equipped, the through ticketing is less important than it used to be. But it is definitely a convenience.
 
If you’re at GCT you can walk to Penn Station, ride metro north and transfer to Amtrak. If they ever build a tunnel between these stations then it would be worth it. However a tunnel would be very challenging. Those water supply tunnels that it would have to cross is a deal breaker.
I thought there were some long-term plans to have some better connections between NYP and GCT so direct trains would be feasible. However, they seem to crop up every couple of years only to be killed on someone's desk.

A tunnel between the two, similar to the proposed connection between Boston South and North stations, would be a game-changer. Under the current configuration I wouldn't support a change due to accessibility concerns and/or non-obvious transfer mechanisms not under Amtrak's control.

Didn't Amtrak used to run a shuttle between NYP and GCT when trains had to be placed at GCT temporarily?
 
I thought there were some long-term plans to have some better connections between NYP and GCT so direct trains would be feasible. However, they seem to crop up every couple of years only to be killed on someone's desk.
There were a few alternatives studied as part of the Access to the Region's Core study in the late '80s to early '90s, and they were more or less found to be infeasible for any reasonable cost. However, some extremely vocal rail advocates outside the decision making process have brought it up again and again. But IMHO unfortunately they fail to understand how much additional work needs to be done to provide additional capacity in and out of GCT and Penn in order to operate such an ensemble smoothly. Bottom line is there is absolutely no active proposal/project under consideration, even back burner ones at present, except in the minds of a few advocates.
A tunnel between the two, similar to the proposed connection between Boston South and North stations, would be a game-changer.
For example, it will definitely suck the funding out of almost every other capital passenger rail related project in the region for a decade or two, which in balance appears to be undesirable, given that available funding is already meager when compared to reasonable needs.
 
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There used to be an Amtrak shuttle bus that made several trips each way per day between Penn and GCT back in the '80s, when all of the upstate trains and the Lake Shore were based at Grand Central. I never used it, but I think it was a convenience for people who didn't know New York City and just wanted to pass through it easily.
 
Beyond a handful of reasons that can really be boiled down to nostalgia, there is no reason Amtrak should serve GCT.

Before Moynihan, an argument, though bad, could have been made. Now, not so much.
Everyone has made valid points.

My thinking was running a couple of trains that were dedicated to being BOS-GCT and returning would enhance service north of NYC. Way too many times I have waited at NYP for trains going to Boston that are late because of issues of trains originating in DC or Virginia.

I also think you could enhance service to Albany from GCT.
 
The only thing feasible is divert one of the weekday rush hour Albany trains to and from GCT that would otherwise sit in Sunnyside Yard all day, if that. Otherwise, forget it. For over 30 years, Amtrak does not seem much interested in thru ticketing. If Metro North became a Thruway connection, the entire ticket would have to a be a hard ticket. Amtrak and MTA e-ticketing systems are not compatible.

One of the so called "advocates" who lives in Manhattan would love to reduce the Gateway tunnels to just one tunnel, get rid of the proposed Penn Station South to handle the increased trans-Hudson trains, and send them to GCT - somehow, barge into the lower level - uninvited, and disrupt Metro North operations. No clue as to what happens once the train gets to GCT, like it is some vast abandoned terminal waiting for some entity to rent it out like Cleveland Union Terminal. He will not let ARC Alternative G go, but keeps getting quoted by a New Jersey newspaper's railfan reporter and also is the blind author of the NY Daily News Editorial Board on these issues. So yes, a big mouth who has zero credibility, has burned bridges at MTA, NJT, and Amtrak over the last 20 years, but can still do damage as a neighborhood NIMBY.
 
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I can't see any benefit to do that. They actually ran Amtrak trains from GCT a few years back when they had to so some major track work on the Empire connection. It pretty much killed the connections between the NEC/Silver Service/Crescent/Cardinal and the Empire service/Lakeshore Limited/Maple Leaf. The only advantage would be for people connecting to Amtrak from the Hudson or Harlem Metro North Lines. (If you're connection to Amtrak from the New Haven Line, you can use Stamford.) It's not that hard to connect from GCT to Penn Sation by subway or taxi/Uber/Lyft, or, if the weather is nice, walking.

Once the Empire Connection was built, Amtrak really didn't need two terminals in Manhattan, which is why they stopped running trains to GCT.
To be fair, I'd argue that Amtrak killed that connection with a clumsy booking situation. I believe that I tried to test-book a few trips and the system was...not cooperative.

(Of course, Amtrak.com won't even show a "connection" between e.g. 66/67 and the Adirondack, which it would do once upon a time...but that's Amtrak IT for you.)
 
(Of course, Amtrak.com won't even show a "connection" between e.g. 66/67 and the Adirondack, which it would do once upon a time...but that's Amtrak IT for you.)
People have said that each connection needs to manually entered into the system, so that would be at the feet of whomever has to enter them, likely not IT.
 
For what it is worth, when the LSL departed from NYG (that is the official code for Grand Central Terminal) I had successfully booked and traveled on a MET-NYP-NYG-CHI itinerary using the connecting thruway service for NYP-NYG. So it did work at least once, once upon a time :)
 
To the extent there is any current need for Amtrak service to GCT, it really only has to do with the fact that Grand Central is more convenient to a lot of the big midtown office buildings. I would guess that if you polled riders on the first two trains from Albany to New York in the morning, you'd find a significant number, perhaps even a majority, who'd rather arrive at Grand Central than Penn if given the choice, especially if they could walk to their destination from GCT and would otherwise have to use transit or cab from Penn.

But even for those people, Penn is not that inconvenient. It's not off in Siberia; it's still in Midtown and has lots of transit connections. And in fact, it's close enough that very few people seem to bother with changing to Metro North to go to Grand Central. Changing at Harmon or Yonkers introduces uncertainty and the risk, particularly outside of rush hour, of a blown connection and a resulting delay of 30 minutes or more. Better to stay on to Penn and rely on the subway, which runs much more frequently, to get to one's final destination.
 
To the extent there is any current need for Amtrak service to GCT, it really only has to do with the fact that Grand Central is more convenient to a lot of the big midtown office buildings. I would guess that if you polled riders on the first two trains from Albany to New York in the morning, you'd find a significant number, perhaps even a majority, who'd rather arrive at Grand Central than Penn if given the choice, especially if they could walk to their destination from GCT and would otherwise have to use transit or cab from Penn.

But even for those people, Penn is not that inconvenient. It's not off in Siberia; it's still in Midtown and has lots of transit connections. And in fact, it's close enough that very few people seem to bother with changing to Metro North to go to Grand Central. Changing at Harmon or Yonkers introduces uncertainty and the risk, particularly outside of rush hour, of a blown connection and a resulting delay of 30 minutes or more. Better to stay on to Penn and rely on the subway, which runs much more frequently, to get to one's final destination.
Usually the people who need to go to GCT have a monthly ticket on MNRR for Yonkers and change to MNRR at Yonkers and go to Grand Central. I actually happen to know a few real live examples among my acquaintances If they see they are blowing a connection, they can always carry on to Penn Station. Afterall handling occasional ticketing is easy to handle ones Smartphone which most people who commute to new York already have, and the commuting usually happens in rush hours when there are oodles of trains anyway.
 
Everyone has made valid points.

My thinking was running a couple of trains that were dedicated to being BOS-GCT and returning would enhance service north of NYC. Way too many times I have waited at NYP for trains going to Boston that are late because of issues of trains originating in DC or Virginia.

I also think you could enhance service to Albany from GCT.
Running exclusively Boston - NYC is a good idea. Just run them to Penn.
 
There were a few alternatives studied as part of the Access to the Region's Core study in the late '80s to early '90s, and they were more or less found to be infeasible for any reasonable cost.
For example, it will definitely suck the funding out of almost every other capital passenger rail related project in the region for a decade or two, which in balance appears to be undesirable, given that available funding is already meager when compared to reasonable needs.
I definitely agree; we need to fix what's patently not working today or is going to be broken soon before any sort of GCT to NYP tunnel. Something like that would be in the "unconstrained budget project list" as it were. I think I just see proposals pop up in Google News once in a while and wonder if they are actually news or it's a PR release that Google thinks is "news".
 
I definitely agree; we need to fix what's patently not working today or is going to be broken soon before any sort of GCT to NYP tunnel. Something like that would be in the "unconstrained budget project list" as it were. I think I just see proposals pop up in Google News once in a while and wonder if they are actually news or it's a PR release that Google thinks is "news".
There has been no serious news from anyone credible about a Penn Station - Grand Central tunnel since around the time that NJT finalized their EIS (late '90s) for the ARC tunnels (which was killed by Governor Christie because it was going to the basement of Macy's :) ). The only official document in which it appears is the Access to Region's Core Scoping Document dating back to the '80s. It did not make it to the Locally Preferred Alternative stage. Since then there have been occasional opinion pieces and blogs written by rail aficionados and the plethora of various self appointed rail advocacy groups around New York. Some of them routinely stand up in various opportunities to give a statement for three minutes and talk about it, and it gets reported duly by lazy reporters.

Anyway this has little to do with Amtrak restoring service to Grand Central Terminal as mentioned by the OP.
 
I think a nice way to get between NYPS and near GCT without a walk lasting 25 minutes nor a 2-subway ride via Times Square is the MTA Q32 bus between W32nd Street and 7th Avenue and 43rd Street and Madison Avenue northbound or 5th Avenue southbound.

Just use a tap debit or credit card. Its run is out to Woodside and Jackson Heights in Queens from Penn Station. Think of it as the equivalent of the CTA 151 bus.
 
At the time GCT service ended, I recall the Empire State Passengers Association listed two reasons for it:

1) The aforementioned difficulty in transfers, and also:

2) They agreed that the rent Metro North was charging Amtrak (for comparatively few trains/day) ... "bordered upon extortion".

There have been at least two(?) summers in recent memory that - due to track work - Amtrak was temporarily re-routed to GCT.

I just don't expect anything more ... especially now that the LIRR is utilizing GCT.
 
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