Thursday, March 06, 2014

Zombie Apocalypse at Penn Station

Now that we've kicked this blog off, I think it's important to give the infrequent riders and non-commuting readers a visual understanding of the Penn Station terminal and the daily grind. Penn Station offers three services - Long Island Railroad, New Jersey Transit, and Amtrak.  To get a feel for what Penn Station is like on the LIRR side, picture an open space with some high but mostly low ceilings, shops selling mostly garbage, and a sitting area.  In total, it can comfortably fit maybe 2,000* people.  Now, imagine that space with 15,000 people*. You've just visualized the LIRR terminal at Penn.

* I made these numbers up.  But they feel right.

If you still can't visualize it, here's the main LIRR waiting area, when nobody is there.  This happens once a year on a Tuesday at 4:29 AM.

Here is the LIRR waiting area, on an unusually crowded day.  But the photo isn't far from daily reality.

Now, let's talk about the behavior of those 15,000 people who are there at any given time, mulling about and filling the space that can safely handle about 2,000.   Think of them as a room full of zombies.  They're fluttering aimlessly. Muttering to themselves, muttering to no one in particular, staring at mobile devices, staring up at the departure board with wild-eyed abandon.

Then, a track announcement comes over the PA.  "6:08 train to Huntington departing on Track 18."  BAM! 500 slack-jawed zombies at once make a break for Track 18, all moaning "TRAAAAAAINS!  TRAAAAAAAINS!" as they lose eyeballs, limbs, and other appendages from their undead corpses.  Ok, so maybe I'm exaggerating a little.  They're not really losing any other appendages.

As the undead run for the train, which mind you won't leave most likely for another 10 minutes, they do not care if they knock over suitcases, hot dog stands, flower vendor kiosks, small children in strollers, or other people.  They must get the BEST seat, presumably, because there will be a fresh brain there for them to eat.

As a veteran commuter, you get to know tricks to avoid the zombie apocalypse.

The savvy commuter gets to know the typical tracks his trains leave on, and descends to the platform BEFORE the announcement.  This allows him to avoid the flesh-eating monsters.  Sometimes, there will be a track change, but it's worth the hassle of changing tracks now and then to avoid the crush.

I'll share more tricks in later posts.  In the meantime, remember when commuting to use your BRAINS.

Happy commuting, and may you encounter uncommon sense.
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  1. Now how am I supposed to sleep tonight with that image in my .....

  2. Sorry, Dave, but you missed the low hanging fruit on this post. Zombie commuters would most clearly moan, "TRAAAAINS" as they shuffle along the platform.

    1. Brett I literally was up at 3 AM realizing that exact point. You are so right. Hate to miss the easy ones. I have updated it, but it feels hollow. A bit zombie-like.