Blockade around Penn Station

October 18, 1993

Except for one taxicab company and its patrons, the Charles Street entrance to Pennsylvania Station is still a mess -- a dangerous mess. The construction of a badly needed 500-space parking garage immediately south of the station has created a hazardous situation. That's been the case for several months now. City officials have taken a couple of steps designed to ease the blockade around the station for arriving and departing passengers. More changes are in the works, but they may not be enough.

The problem is that Amtrak and city officials have allowed the contractors to close the main entrance to the station, the ramp between St. Paul and Charles streets. There is no way to enter the station from St. Paul, on foot or in a car. The only gateway is the old side entrance, on a small, curved driveway off Charles, that used to be handy for dropping off passengers.

But that entrance is blocked for motorists by a barricade of taxicabs. They have exclusive use of the curb lane on the east side of Charles Street approaching the station and of the driveway at the station's sole remaining entrance.

Not even travelers arriving in taxis can use that driveway -- just passengers leaving the station and boarding cabs. And because of a cozy exclusive deal, only taxis affiliated with Yellow Cab can pick up arriving passengers there.

The result is that just about anyone burdened with baggage -- and a lot who are not -- arriving at the station by car or taxi alights opposite the station entrance in one of the two remaining traffic lanes of Charles. That blocks traffic on one of the busiest streets in the city and exposes these travelers to serious accident.

Since travelers began complaining a couple of months ago, city officials have taken ameliorative steps. They have posted signs on Charles Street south of the station advertising a drop-off area just north of it. Few drivers notice. The drop-off area, large enough for perhaps eight cars, has a 10-minute parking limit but seldom anyone there to enforce it. City officials plan to tighten restrictions, but they won't be effective unless the block is constantly patrolled.

Engineers have rebuilt major highways around here with less disruption than Amtrak and the city have permitted around Pennsylvania Station. Amtrak seems to believe the problem is not its business though its passengers are inconvenienced or endangered. The city in turn is fiddling around with half-measures that may help some but fall far short of breaking the blockade.

Does someone have to get seriously injured before there is decisive action?

5/8

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