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Amtrak Derailment Creates Commuting Mess Along East Coast

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Since trains aren't running between Philadelphia and New York, thousands of people are scrambling to find alternative plans. Stephen Nessen of member station WNYC has been speaking to travelers who are improvising today.

STEPHEN NESSEN, BYLINE: This message echoed through the halls of Penn Station.

(SOUNDBITE OF TRAIN STATION ANNOUNCEMENT)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: May I have your attention, please? All Amtrak train service on the Northeast Corridor between New York and Philadelphia is suspended indefinitely.

NESSEN: Travelers consulted smartphones and debated the fastest way to get out of New York. Wearing a blazer with a backpack slung over one shoulder, 37-year-old Feargal O'Connell was planning to spend the day in D.C. before going on to Atlanta to hike the Appalachian Trail.

FEARGAL O'CONNELL: It's kind of unfortunate. It's the first time it's let me down, actually. So I think I'm going to get a refund here. I'm just going to cancel my meetings and see if I can fly down to Atlanta.

NESSEN: He says the crash won't deter him from taking Amtrak in the future.

O'CONNELL: I think these types of accidents are going to happen, but I think it's still one of the most efficient and safest and reliable forms of transport.

NESSEN: Sharon Pennington from Idaho is here in New York on a week-long family vacation with her 2 daughters and husband. They were supposed to head to the capital today.

SHARON PENNINGTON: It was going to be really fun to go in and take the train in to do that.

NESSEN: Her 25-year old daughter Carlie whips her phone out and quickly books four Greyhound bus tickets.

CHARLIE PENNINGTON: It was actually significantly cheaper to take the bus. That was a perk.

NESSEN: Just north of Philadelphia, commuters in Trenton, N.J., had their own struggles. Lillian Roberts explains how she sidestepped the train from Philly by catching an Uber ride.

LILLIAN ROBERTS: The Uber wasn't bad. This is going to take longer than Amtrak, but, like, a little bit. I'm still getting in today, though, because all the Bolt buses were booked.

NESSEN: Meanwhile, John Munch from Malvern, Pa., took matters into his own hands.

JOHN MUNCH: I just drove from the city. So I was going to take the Amtrak on 30th Street and then instead just drove up here.

NESSEN: Northeast train service remains disrupted, forcing travelers to either stay put or get creative. For NPR News, I'm Stephen Nessen in New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.