Amtrak Strike Will Be a Subway Disaster

Amtrak workers could go on strike as early as January 30th.  As with all strikes, there’s a much broader impact than you first think.

An Amtrak strike has affect on virtually all rail related travel.  What most people don’t realize is Amtrak controls the signals coming in and out of Penn Station.  This means all the rail switches are under their control.

Because of that, LIRR and NJ Transit trains cannot come in or out of Penn Station without them.  Even though multiple train companies use the rails, it is Amtrak doing the switch work.  If and when the Amtrak workers go out, Penn Station will grind to a stop.  It translates into the displacement of 85,000 LIRR riders and about 70,000 NJ Transit riders.

NJ Transit riders will be able to get close to the city, but not all the way in.  They would be able to ride as far as Hoboken, and then they would have to get off.  From there, they would need to take the PATH or Ferry.

LIRR riders would have to get off at Jamaica Station in Brooklyn.  From there, the only option would be to take the subway the rest of the way into Manhattan.

If the strike happens, there will be an enormous amount of volume on the PATH and subway.  Perhaps more than they are able to handle.  There would also be an insane amount of street traffic.

People would likely start to drive into the city.  If the option is drive to a PATH station or parking lot near a subway stop, people will probably just say “screw it” and drive all the way in.

Folks that choose not to drive are going to get crammed into PATH and Subway trains like they’ve never seen before.

January 30th happens to be a Wednesday.  I’d imagine that is a fairly slow day for incoming or outgoing tourist travel.  However, Thursday and Friday are going to get crazy.  People coming into the city for the weekend that had planned to take Amtrak will start to flood in using alternative methods.  Yikes.

6 thoughts on “Amtrak Strike Will Be a Subway Disaster

  1. LIRR riders could get off at Jamaica Queens or downtown Brooklyn (Atlantic & Flatbush).

    Am wondering if LIRR could get off at Hunterspoint and take a ferry (or the 7).


  2. Most of those alternate-route access points are fairly isolated. People coming on PATH will impact Lower Manhattan and the subways around the WTC transit hub. People coming into the Atlantic Ave. LIRR hub already can’t connect to Penn Station without taking the subway. Folks getting off at Jamaica (in Queens) are limited by the number of trains that run there.

    I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the subways won’t seem any more crowded than they usually do when or if this strike hits. That’s just my guess though.


  3. Actually it’s not just “control the switches”. It’s called dispatching and it means making all the decisions. Switches and signals are just part of how the decisions take affect. PSNY is owned by Amtrak, but jointly dispatched by Amtrak and LIRR. NJT turned down a chance to be a partner, and is considered a tennant.

    When this came up last time the TA planned to run trains over the Jamaica line from Jamaica to the 6th Ave line to serve midtown (there is a connection just west of Essex St, not normally used for revenue service).

    Historically, when railroads strike (they have different labor laws than everyone else) Congress intervenes and imposes the terms of the Presidential Board. So this will probably be short.

    I’d have thought “subway blogger” would know something about his/her topic, but this is the internet.


  4. Oops, sorry about that snide last sentence. Now that I looked around a bit I see this site is a different focus. And sorry about the spelling errors, that was never my forte.

    If there is a strike “Screw it and drive” probably won’t be an option. Expect the city to put in carpool restrictions to get into Manhattan (and, coincidentally, prove the mayors congestion plan can work). But it ain’t gonna be pretty in Queens. And, it occurs to me, this is a pretty bad time to take the 7 line express track out of service. Shea Stadium makes a good park & ride.


  5. I’d have thought “subway blogger” would know something about his/her topic, but this is the internet.

    Well, most people here don’t have a degree in engineering science. So, what I said is basically true. Of course, we thank you for the details.


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