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New York’s summer of transit hell gets off to a not-so-hellish start

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How did New York and New Jersey commuters fare on the first day of Penn Station repairs?

NYC Commuters Begin 'Summer Of Hell' As Penn Station Begins Major Track Repairs Photo by Kevin Hagen/Getty Images

Amtrak kicked off its six-week period of repairs yesterday, ushering in the so-called “summer of hell” at Penn Station and beyond. In the months leading up to the start of track work—in which several tracks will be out of commission altogether, and some trains across various agencies will be canceled or diverted to other stations—MTA and Amtrak officials have repeatedly warned commuters that traveling to and from the station would be messy.

But as The New York Times (and others) have noted, the first day of repairs was surprisingly un-hellish, with one Long Island Rail Road commuter telling the Times that “this has been the best commuting day of my life so far.” (Whoa.)

One way to explain the relative smoothness of the day: massive amounts of preparation. As the Times notes, “Commuters left home early to troubleshoot new routes, and stations were covered with signs and were staffed by transit workers ready to offer guidance.” (It helps, of course, that the repairs have also been covered endlessly since they were announced back in April.)

According to the New York Daily News, travelers also took the advice about using alternative methods of transit to heart: Penn Station saw an 8 percent dip in its daily commuters, while the Atlantic Terminal saw a 67 percent increase (though that translates to 18,000 commuters compared to Penn Station’s 79,000). Subway ridership, meanwhile, increased by about 3,000.

That increase in ridership is definitely being felt by commuters, who took to Twitter this morning to complain about crowding on trains and platforms (particularly across NJ Transit and PATH stations):

Still, things could be a lot worse. Even MTA chairman Joe Lhota, who the Daily News spoke with at the Jamaica station in Queens, seemed pleasantly surprised by how the day went down. “When it works well it works very well, and this morning it worked very well,” he said. “I wish I had a piece of wood to knock on.” (We’ll see what the next few days bring.)

New York Penn Station

1 Penn Plz, New York, NY 10001 (212) 630-6401