How to Navigate Penn Station Like a Pro

There are many reasons why you might be passing through New York City’s Penn Station: maybe you’ve just flown into NYC for travel or business; maybe you’re trying to get somewhere in the surrounding area like Boston or New Jersey; maybe you’re using the train to get around the city, as a local or tourist. We’re guessing since you’re here looking at how to navigate Penn Station like a local that you’re visiting New York, maybe for the first time. 

This puts you in the prime position to explore the city or surrounding areas and states; there’s so much to see and do, and Penn Station is a great way to help you experience all of it! 

Penn Station: What Is It?

You are right to do a little research in advance of your trip, since Penn Station, also known as the Pennsylvania Railway Station, is huge and bustling. It’s the United States’s busiest railway station, containing twenty one tracks, seven tunnels, with 1,300 departures and arrivals passing through on a daily basis. Understandably, the station is busy pretty much all the time, especially during high commute hours. 

Since all the tracks run completely underground, it can feel like you’re in a different world while in the station, which we think only adds to the fluidity of time and space that one often feels when traveling. If your travel plans call for an expedition through Penn Station, be prepared in advance that you may feel a little overwhelmed at first. You’ll just need to get a solid grasp on where you’re going and then you’ll understand what to do.

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What Services Are Offered at Penn Station?

Penn Station has three lines operating out of it: Amtrak (which also owns the station), Long Island Rail Road, and New Jersey Transit. From Penn Station, you can take Amtrak’s trains and high-speed rails, as well as the two latter companies’ suburban rails. Simply put, Amtrak’s services are great for traveling longer distances or to the surrounding areas, while Long Island Rail Road and New Jersey Transit’s suburban rail services are great for traveling shorter distances and staying closer to the city. 

You can also find subway lines and bus transit routes to and from the station. These are considered good options to bring you to Penn Station so you can travel onwards through one of their three railway lines.

What To Know About the Expansion Plans

If you do any additional research on Penn Station, you’ll probably be confused by the references to old Penn Station versus new Penn Station versus remodeled Penn Station. Essentially, Penn Station has been overdue for a couple updates recently from all its use, which won’t be the first big change ever made to the station. 

The original Penn Station was two blocks long and grandiose, but it was torn down and replaced by the new Penn Station in 1968. Since then, Moynihan Train Hall has been an added expansion (it opened January of 2021) and now an almost $7 billion expansion and remodel is in the works.

How To Make It Through the Hustle and Bustle

Penn Station isn’t exactly a loved location in New York. In fact, locals unofficially titled it as one of the city’s ugliest buildings. While the looks don’t matter as much as its efficiency, it isn’t exactly heralded as a winner in this department either. Penn Station is notoriously hectic, crowded, and frequently experiencing delays and setbacks. This is to be expected since approximately 600,000 people use the station during weekdays as last reported. With any super busy station, crowds and lines are unavoidable. 

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Fortunately, it gets the job done of carrying you from one location to another so you can get the most exploration out of your trip. (And additionally, plans have been approved to brighten the aesthetics of the station during the new expansion, which should help it be more liked by its users).

With all the busyness and people, the last thing you want to do is carry your luggage through Penn Station, especially if it’s your first time. You can make it infinitely easier to navigate by pre-booking luggage storage in Penn Station and leaving your extra belongings behind.

Also, make sure you’re wearing comfortable shoes in case you get a little lost and have to backtrack through the station (or just in case you end up running to catch a train). 

It’s a smart idea to enter the station with a charged phone, but you can find outlets in the Amtrak waiting area if you’re stuck.

Lastly, give yourself extra time to navigate and ask questions if need be. Even though you’ve got running shoes, you don’t really want to run after your ride.

Takeaway

When you know you’re going to be traveling through a large and chaotic train depot like NYC’s Penn Station, the wisest step you can take is to simply do a little preparation beforehand so you can navigate it with ease. Hopefully these tips aid you in your journey through the station so you can get to your destination peacefully and uneventfully—but be sure to enjoy the ride too, even if that takes you through some places as hectic as Penn Station.

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