New York Pennsylvania Station, July 1944
Sgt. Karlson was stationed at Camp Kilmer during 1944 and he told tales of the station being jammed from the arcade to the West Gates, and yet people kept moving through the station, and ultimately, everybody got to where they were going.
The record for moving passengers through The Pennsylvania Station is something like 400,000 tickets lifted in a 24 hour period, during World War II. Destination: Freedom reported something like an expected 400,000 people in New York City and environs for the Super Bowl, many of whom would be vendors or reporters or hangers-on, not necessarily spectators.
New Jersey Transit (NJT) promoted the game with a special section of its web site, www.njtransit.com, including a countdown clock on the site’s home page, set for the kickoff time of 6:25 pm. There were special trains to the game and the events surrounding it, and NJT spent $2,500,000 (approved last February) to expand the lower-level platforms at Secaucus Station to accommodate ten-car trains of multi-level coaches. Most trains that normally use those platforms consist of six cars or less, plus one locomotive. NJT said Friday that it expected 12,000 to 15,000 fans to go to the game on their trains, so the cost of that project would exceed $208 for each rider, if 12,000 took the train to the stadium. If rail ridership for the event reached 25,000, that would have reduced the cost allocation to $100 per rider.Yes, but The Pennsylvania Railroad never handed off passengers to the Lackawanna at Secaucus, and the ability of transit authorities to respond to larger-than-expected crowds isn't what it used to be.
Newark resident Gary Johnson, who advocates for better transit, as well as for improved bicycle and pedestrian mobility, added up the numbers of people who could get to the stadium by different transportation modes. The 63 “Fan Express” buses could carry about 5000 riders, with standees. The special trains into and out of the stadium station (30 to the stadium and 26 leaving it) could carry as many as 30,000 people, if those thousands of fans arrived at the time when the trains ran. Still, NJT estimated that only 12,000 to 15,000 fans would arrive by train. That makes 17,000 to 20,000 on transit. Using NJT’s number, that leaves 60,000 people or more, with only 12,000 parking spaces available. That would require a vehicle occupancy rate of five people per vehicle, which is impossible. “I don’t see how everybody could get to the stadium. The numbers just don’t add up” said Johnson.The carrier anticipated about 15,000 passengers. Twice that many showed up.
NJ Transit officials said the agency transported about three times as many fans out the Meadowland after the Super Bowl as it typically does during a Giants game.At least New Jersey has a turnpike service plaza with a suitable name.
"We've moved more people than we've ever moved in and out of this place," said Jim Weinstein, executive director of NJ Transit, who was standing on the platform with some of the last passengers to leave the Meadowlands.
For many fans, it had been a harrowing day on the rails. More than 28,000 people bought train tickets to the Meadowlands station, shattering a record set more than four years ago, NJ Transit said. It was far more people than officials had expected to ride the trains, and it proved too much for the transit system to handle at times.
By early this morning, NJ Transit had transported 32,900 people back from the MetLife Stadium, said John Durso Jr., an agency spokesman.
NJ Transit brought in 20 charter buses, which had been stationed at the Vince Lombardi Service Area as part of a contingency plan, Durso said. The buses took 1,112 customers out of the lines for the trains at MetLife Stadium and dropped them off at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan, significantly cutting down the lines.
"This was all expected and all went according to plan," Durso said.
But when four shuttle trains show up simultaneously at Secaucus, where the pre-game security screening took place, the relatively small station is overwhelmed.
Associated Press photograph courtesy London Daily Mail.
"Success" isn't what it used to be.
A New Jersey Transit official said that 25,000 people had been moved only to Secaucus Junction by midnight, two hours after confetti started raining down on the field, and called the operation a 'tremendous success.'In 1926, the North Shore Line built a much larger temporary station, and borrowed rolling stock from the Chicago Rapid Transit Company, for a one-day International Eucharistic Congress at Mundelein. A rainstorm provoked an early departure for many pilgrims, and the railroad handled it. These days, though, the transfer stations resemble checkpoints.
It is not known how long it took to clear the transit hub of passengers.
'This is a joke,' said Seattle native Jeff Chapman, an engineer. 'We're not even from here and we could've told you this would've happened.'
'What do you expect when you don't give people any other option to get home,' added friend Willie Whitmore, a project manager. 'It's ridiculous.'
Scoreboard announcements inside the stadium begged people to stay inside the gates to ease congestion and the New Jersey State Police bizarrely advised fans via Twitter to 'enjoy the stadium atmosphere until congestion dissipates.'
This is terrible,'said Dan Steidl, of Green Bay. 'I'm ready to get out of here but I don't know when that'll happen.'
It appears that neither did officials, despite having hours to react to the disaster that was the ride in.
Associated Press photograph courtesy London Daily Mail.
It's not 1944 at Penn Station, either.
Bryan Pace for New York Daily News.
The rail professionals are weighing in. Here's the National Association of Railroad Passengers.
It’s hard to know exactly who is to blame in this situation. While it would be easy to point fingers at NJ Transit, it may simply be the case that the infrastructure was insufficient to the loads placed on it.There's a railroad station right at the stadium gate, and similar passenger loads have shown up for concerts (in addition to hosting a Giant or Jet game each weekend of the football season, Meadowlands is a good place for a summer concert). I wonder if the Belmont station doesn't date back to when the Long Island Railroad belonged to The Pennsylvania Railroad.
To compare, Long Island Rail Road’s Belmont Racetrack station was designed to accommodate huge, simultaneous influxes of passengers. With an overhead ramp to provide center access to multiple platforms, passengers can feed down to any of the three platforms serving four tracks from either direction. This is not the case with NJT’s Meadowland’s Sports Complex station. However, if the Meadowland’s is only going to make transit a top priority for a single day, is it really worth the cost to upgrade? The MetLife stadium is much more car-centric, with space given over to roughly 28,000 parking spots. Because of increased media and security for the big game, organizers decided to make only 11,000-13,000 of those available. In retrospect, it’s clear not enough thought was given to how people would get to the game, or whether the transportation infrastructure was capable for this sudden juxtaposition of priorities.
It is a question often posed to NARP, in one form or another: how can officials quickly fix this infrastructure problem that was created through decades of poor planning and underinvestment? Unfortunately, there is no magic switch we can flip. It’ll take many years of hard work to create a balanced transportation system. All the more reason to start today.
There's much more at The Lackawanna Coalition.