Following yesterday’s revelation that the Dey St. Passageway won’t open for a few years, the Daily News took the space to remind its riders of the folly of the Fulton St. Transit Center. In an editorial calling the project a — wait for it — boondoggle, the paper questions the project on an overall basis.
Two transportation projects are eating up more money than you could ever imagine without adding one bit of new service or expanding the subways by a single foot of track. First, the Port Authority will spend at least $3.74 billion on a grandiose World Trade Center PATH station, double the size of Grand Central, complete with a strikingly elaborate above ground entranceway. Originally budgeted at $1.5 billion, the terminus, now running 9 years late, will replace a half-billion-dollar “temporary” station that has been quite well accommodating PATH’s comparatively small number of riders.
Not to be outdone, the MTA set out to untangle the joinder of the Broadway-Nassau station, serving the IND’s A and C with the Fulton St. stations of the BMT’s J and Z and the IRT’s West Side 2 and 3 and East Side 4 and 5. Never mind that riders have negotiated the convolutions for 64 years; the MTA budgeted $400 million to simplify transfers — a cost now risen to $1.4 billion and includes an oculus roof that will allow light to penetrate as at the Roman Pantheon. The plan is seven years behind schedule.
The projected tab for the PATH station and the Fulton Center totals $5.1 billion — money that could have been spent, for example, on extending the Second Ave. subway farther downtown…Now, the agency has built a walkway that does not allow free transfers and will largely be vacant until the office buildings rising at Ground Zero are filled with tenants. And then it would simply be a place to walk between Broadway and Church St. in bad weather. For $200 million.
This is a drum I’ve been beating for years. Even though the money is all federal, this project’s aims were tied more to the revitalization of Lower Manhattan than it was about improving train service. The PATH Hub as well suffers from similar problems with only a small percentage of the expenses going toward increasing train service.
We can ultimately discuss the merits of building Great Public Works to improve train service. There’s a cogent case to be made for spending on architecture and design in order to make travel more appealing, more comfortable and more convenient. But in an era where $5.1 billion isn’t easy to come by and pressing transit capacity concerns are far more important than making a subway station look good from the outside, these projects are federal boondoggles. Better planning would have incorporated design improvements with transit capacity upgrades.
The News says Joe Lhota has asked his staffers to reconsider restoring the free transfer via the Dey St. Passageway. That would be a real start even if few customers need it. Just the illusion of paying attention to transit demands would be a good first step here.