Signal problems led to NJ Transit, LIRR and Amtrak delays at Penn Station, and crowds of commuters swelled so much that police had to block off some of the entrances to the busy station during Wednesday's evening rush.
Police reopened the station's closed entrances at 6:30 p.m., but delays continued on the region's major transit lines hours after agencies warned riders to steel themselves for another nightmarish commute.
Officers blocked access to the station at 34th Street and Seventh Avenue at the height of rush hour because of "severe overcrowding" at the lower level of the station. Photos on social media showed officers, some with bullhorns, fending off angry commuters and closing gates as crowds crunched together, some refusing to budge.
"All the money we pay," one defeated commuter said, shaking his head as police told him and others to find another way home.
One of the officers tried to lighten the mood, yelling to a crowd: "You've been staring at me for hours — I wouldn't want to stare at me for hours."
Commuters told stories of missing appointments and school events, but many said waiting in cramped conditions had become a part of commuting in a region plagued by high ridership and outdated infrastructure.
"Living in New York City you tend to prepare for this, and know what's coming," one man said.
But that didn't quell the growing frustration many riders felt.
"It's a problem every day," one woman said. "It's not really fair."
Shortly before heaps of workers headed home, NJ Transit warned of hour-long delays as crews worked to correct the signal problems, which had limited the number of usable tracks on the eastern end of Penn. LIRR said its commuters would face similar delays.
There was no westbound LIRR service into Penn and eastbound service was limited to four branches — Ronkonkoma, Babylon, Port Jefferson and Port Washington — because of the signal problems.
Amtrak announced that its trains were also facing delays of at least a 1/2 hour. Boards showed that many trains traveling along the busy Northeast Corridor were on "Stand By."
Much of the service had returned by 7:30 p.m., but platforms were packed and lingering delays trickled on into the evening.
Rush-hour problems this week were just the latest in what has seemed to commuters like an incessant string of rail problems:
• On March 24 an Amtrak train derailed and bumped into an NJ Transit train.
• On April 3 a second derailment closed more than a third of New York Penn Station's tracks for four days.
• On April 14 a train got stuck in a tunnel for nearly three hours, leading to systemwide delays for travelers.
• On April 21 an Amtrak switch problem near Newark caused widespread delays.