adamj023 wrote:Track 19 is the most important part of the project and fortunately will be done soon. In fact, the empire connection seems like a waste except as a backup as Grand Central is a much nicer terminal and more people work by Grand Central as well. Is the Empire Connection any faster in travel time or it just allows a unified Amtrak at Penn Station? Is the current routing as opposed to Empire connection over the existing metronorth tracks?
While GCT is indeed much nicer and may be closer to where people work, it is not a station owned/operated by Amtrak. I'm sure Amtrak is paying Metro North for the rights to use the station this summer. Amtrak doesn't have any facilities anymore at GCT. Outside of ticket windows, I'm not sure how many other facilities they had there, pre-1991. Back then, the Amtrak ticket windows were in the passage between the waiting room and the concourse in the space over the ramps (those ticket windows are gone now). I'm not sure about baggage handling back then. Sure, it would be nice to make it work today and have Empire Service trains remain at GCT (along with the Lake Shore Limited), but from an Amtrak logistics and financial standpoint, it doesn't make much sense. Maybe when Moynihan Station gets built, it will make arriving/departing Penn more enjoyable, but... it'll never be like good ole' Grand Central (or the old Penn Station, from what I've heard).
As far as travel time, it may be a little faster for Amtrak utilizing GCT vs Penn, but nothing major I don't believe. There is a 2-track chokepoint near the Empire Connection drawbridge at Spuyten Duyvil due to the geography of the area, so things need to be timed precise through there, not to mention any Yankees baseball shuttles that run during game days, all which must run on the Park Ave viaduct. It's a busy railroad, even without Amtrak. The GCT detour utilizes Metro North tracks throughout the detour.
GCT is an extremely busy place with just Metro North trains there, and I'm sure they are making changes to accommodate Amtrak, knowing that this is short-term. Long-term, I don't know how they'd feel about that.
For an Amtrak passenger who changes to a train to other points on the NEC, there is great convenience in using Penn. I'm not sure what the percentage is of passengers who make that connection.
(My 2000th post!