Penn Station tips for surviving the ‘summer of hell’

The “summer of hell” has officially begun and, no, we’re not talking about the humidity.

For the next eight weeks, Long Island Rail Road and New Jersey Transit commuters who use Penn Station weekdays will be faced with deep cuts to peak service as Amtrak begins a track maintenance program aimed at fixing critical infrastructure.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo gets credit for the SOH tagline, but there are ways to lessen – and even avoid – a painful commute. Consider some of these Penn Station hacks to help get you through until the projected end of the agony on Sept. 1.


  • Know which train cars open next to the stairs when you arrive at Penn Station on your commute into the city. Beating the rush to get aboveground can save you minutes.
  • If you’re waiting for an LIRR train at Penn, don’t stand in the main concourse. There are several waiting areas that offer access to LIRR tracks. The concourse near the A, C, E subway lines is less crowded, and thus offers more of a chance at snagging a seat when your track is called.
  • Keep an eye on the LIRR track doors instead of the big screens for track announcements. Often the digital screens are the last to be updated after a track is announced. You’re more likely to see a train assigned to the track entrance first.
  • If you want to get to the far end of the LIRR tracks by the A, C and E subway lines but don’t want to navigate the crowds, there is another hallway that runs parallel to the main corridor located in the corner of the main concourse near track 16.

NJ Transit

  • While waiting for an NJ Transit train, stand upstairs and watch the screens for your track announcement. Often, the track will be posted before it’s announced through the overhead speakers, which can give you a lead on walking to your track while upstairs rather than trying to get through the crowd downstairs.
  • If your NJ Transit train is on tracks 9 or 10, there is a set of doors to the right of the big staircase that takes you to the downstairs waiting area.
  • If NJ Transit is announcing delays before you get to Newark, get off there and take the PATH to 33rd Street-Herald Square. Many of the delays take place when you get into the tunnels leading to Penn Station and PATH is cross-honoring NJ Transit tickets during the track work.
  • If the entrances to Penn Station are closed due to overcrowding, you can still get inside by going through the Penn Plaza office building.

Here’s how to avoid Penn Station all together:


Buses are cross-honoring tickets for both the LIRR and NJ Transit.  

PATH trains: NJ Transit riders can take the PATH from Newark to the World Trade Center or to 33rd Street, with stops at Christopher, Ninth, 14th and 23rd streets, using an NJT ticket.

Subways: LIRR ticketholders can transfer to the subway for free at Atlantic Terminal, Jamaica, Hunterspoint Avenue and Long Island City.

If you absolutely have to drive, try to set up a carpool in advance.