The Big Board Goes Dark for Good at Penn Station

A longstanding ritual for travelers at the nation's busiest rail hub came to an end late Monday when workers began removing the large board that announced the times and platforms of departing trains at Pennsylvania Station.

The 10-foot-tall electronic timetable had long been the center of attention in the utilitarian waiting area for Amtrak and New Jersey Transit passengers, with travelers forced to keep their eyes trained on the display to know which gate to dash to when their train rolled in.

On Tuesday, it was a dark hulk, replaced with 40 eye-level digital panels scattered around the station. An Amtrak team will dismantle the sign within a week.

The board was one of the few recognizable landmarks in the nondescript, congested station, which serves more than 600,000 commuters daily.

"I was sad to see it go," said Adey Salyards, who works for a technology company in Washington.

She arrived in New York on Monday and stopped, surprised, under the board, which a day earlier was the main gathering point for passengers.

"When I came in yesterday, I took a picture," she said.

Any nostalgia among travelers vanished when they mentioned the frequent last-moment timing of train updates. Unlike at an airport, where people learn their gate assignments well in advance of a flight, at Penn Station passengers often get only a few minutes of notice before their train is set to depart. And that means a mad dash for the right stairwell to the station's underground platforms.

And that hasn't changed even on the new video panels.

Alexandra Riemma, a New York photography studio manager on her way to Providence, Rhode Island, said she won't miss anything about the mammoth old board.

"I don't miss the crowd," she said. "And, hopefully, the new system will be more reliable."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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