Jan
22

To rebuild or not to rebuild? That is the South Ferry question.

By

Water filled even the overpass above the 1 train’s terminal tracks at South Ferry. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)

In Lower Manhattan, a very expensive problem is brewing. The 1 train’s South Ferry Station, essentially totaled by flooding from Sandy, is in very bad shape, and the MTA estimates that fixing the damage caused to this terminal and the electrical infrastructure will cost $600 million. After years of supporting overpriced subway expansion, New Yorkers are finally experience subway sticker shock as many are questioning the wisdom of rebuilding South Ferry as it was.

When the House passed the Sandy relief package a few days ago, the question probably became a moot one. After all, the MTA will get its $600 million in federal funds it has earmarked for the project, and although my tour of the station last week revealed just how much work hasn’t been done to clean up the station, with money on hand, the MTA can begin assessing the damage and bidding out contracts for the restoration effort. Still, it’s worth examining a few arguments for and against. In the grand tradition of the Internet, there’s a poll at the end of this post.

The Argument Against Rebuilding

1. It’s too darn expensive.
It didn’t make sense to spend $545 million to build a new South Ferry station in the first, and it certainly doesn’t make sense to spend $600 million repairing one that just opened four years ago. Even though the money in both cases will have come from the federal government, the final price tag for South Ferry and its rebuild will top $1 billion. Even in today’s age of insanely high-priced capital projects, this dollar amount should give us pause. Is there no better or cheaper solution on hand?

2. Spending $600 million somewhere else.
One counterargument that I don’t address in the post concerns an analogy to the ARC Tunnel. Gov. Chris Christie canceled ARC because he felt, in part, that the money could be better used elsewhere. Am I making the same argument here? Perhaps so, but if we assume that the dollars are not unlimited, maybe the $600 million would be better used on hardening the subway system or funding capital projects that will encourage people to look away from flood-prone areas of the city. We can spend this $600 million in a way that doesn’t strain more resources in vulnerable neighborhoods.

3. It’s just going to flood again.
For many reasons — including the fact that it just hasn’t been quite long enough to look ahead — the MTA has been mum on how it will spend $600 million. Does this plan include enough station hardening and infrastructure protection? Aren’t we just rebuilding a station that will flood again in the next major hurricane and the next major storm surge? How many times can we the taxpayers expect to foot the bill for a station reconstruction after natural disasters floods the same area over and over again?

4. What about those other nearby stations?
The R train still stops at Whitehall St., and the 1 train’s Rector St. station is a four-block walk from South Ferry. Plus, the 4 and the 5 are right there at Bowling Green. West Side-bound riders can either take the R or walk to the 1, and those heading to the East Side didn’t need South Ferry anyway. These nearby stations should be enough to shoulder the load if South Ferry doesn’t reopen again, right?

The Argument For Rebuilding

1. Access to the Staten Island Ferry Terminal
Despite those nearby stations I just mentioned, the South Ferry stop services a lot of Staten Island Ferry-bound travelers. Prior to Sandy, the station had seen a steady uptick of passengers, and in 2011, over 29,500 people used the South Ferry/Whitehall St. complex on a daily basis. It’s the 33rd busiest station in the system, and the MTA shouldn’t be asking these subway riders to walk another half a mile or so the nearest 1 train station. It’s popular for Lower Manhattan workers, Staten Island residents, Ferry-bound travelers, tourists and everyone in between.

2. Key signal infrastructure and a convenient transfer
The new station features a significant amount of key signaling infrastructure for the old South Ferry loop and the West Side IRT from Rector St. and points south. It may have been folly to leave such vital equipment unprotected, but no matter what happens to South Ferry, it needs to be rebuilt somewhere. Since the electrical infrastructure is a major component of the price, we shouldn’t give up the station for it. Let’s just protect it instead. Plus, we can’t discount the value of an in-system transfer to a train that serves Brooklyn. The 1 and R do not meet again until Times Square, and this transfer point is a vital part of many people’s journeys.

3. The new station adds to 1 train capacity and is ADA-compliant.
With the opening of South Ferry, the MTA could run 24 trains per hour up the 1 line to Van Cortlandt Park. It couldn’t do that with the old loop station, and as this line has seen tremendous growth, especially in Harlem and Washington Heights, we have to maintain train capacity. We also cannot overlook ADA requirements. The new South Ferry was a fully-compliant station, and whatever replaces it would have to be ADA compliant as well. Retrofitting an old station would cost a considerable amount and pose additional engineering challenges.

4. The old South Ferry loop station in bad shape.
I didn’t have the opportunity to take a look at the old station, but it’s in bad shape as well. It too flooded during Sandy, and at a minimum, the signal infrastructure, which was controlled by the room in the new station, would have to be replaced. Overall, that station which hasn’t been in revenue service since early 2009 would need a considerable investment. The gap fillers are gone, capacity is limited, and reactivating it is not as simple as flipping a switch.

So there you have it. This is, of course, a non-exhaustive look at the issues, but it touches on the key concerns. I have major qualms about the final price for the station restoration, but it’s an important terminal that we cannot just discard. If the feds want to pay for a complete rebuild just a few years after funding the original construction, let’s not stop them. What say you?

Should the MTA rebuild the 1 train's South Ferry terminal?
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Categories : Manhattan

155 Responses to “To rebuild or not to rebuild? That is the South Ferry question.”

  1. Frank B says:

    Why on earth would they have spent money to remove the gap fillers? I mean, to leave them retracted, sure, but pay to remove them?

    Also, I’d like to see how on earth they plan to prevent this from happening again. Going to be difficult.

    How about the old Bowling Green Shuttle? Send a two-car train from Bowling Green to South Ferry? Surely not too many people would use it, but at least they’d get their IRT Transfer in some form… Albeit to the Lexington Avenue Line.

    And what about the Fulton Street Transfer? Haven’t we already been told that the connection between the R and E is complete, but that only a paltry 5 people an hour would use it? Why not open that up to alleviate West Side Access troubles for Staten Islanders?

    • Still so hard for me to believe that only 120 people per day would use the Dey St. Concourse. Even with 1 WTC still not completed, I have to believe a few more than that would find it useful. What exactly was the point in building it otherwise?

      • Someone says:

        No, it’s more like 120 people per minute during rush hours, I believe…

      • lawhawk says:

        I was saying exactly that after the storm hit and the MTA was struggling to get service restored in Lower Manhattan. The transfer would have opened up additional transfer and capacity at a time when the system was sorely lacking.

        The MTA says they’re not going to open it to customers until when? Later this year or next year when 1 and/or 4 WTC are open for business. Problem is that there’s probably sufficient demand for it right now, but if they’re worried that there’s going to be loitering during low use hours, then install movable gates and shutter the area during the overnight.

        Fact is that the MTA spent a significant amount of money on this piece of infrastructure and is now sitting on it unused. We’re still paying for it one way or another, and we might as well get our money’s worth now.

        • Jerrold says:

          First they spend a fortune to build something, then they suddenly decide that if they open it, the bums will hang out there.
          You might as well say the same about ANY station or passageway that is NOT among the most heavily used ones.

          I even wonder if the real reason for the new 47th St. entrance to Grand Central being kept closed after its completion has something to do with the MTA’s phobias about bums hanging out in places that are not mobbed with people all day long.

          • Outside of Inwood on the A and Penn Station, too many bums hanging out at subway stations hasn’t been that much of a concern for years. There are plenty of barely used long passageways – I’m thinking 7th Ave. on the Culver Line – that do not play host to communities of bums.

            • Someone says:

              The MTA closed down lots of passageways in the 1980s and 1990s because they were afraid that the passageways could be breeding grounds for bums.

              • I’ve written about those closed passageways numerous times. They were closed over legitimate safety concerns following a rape in the 6th Ave. passageway, not over concerns about bum habitats.

                • Bolwerk says:

                  It’s not the 1980s anymore, either. I really wish this paranoia about safety would stop already. Crime has being going down, but kneejerk policing has been going up.

    • R. Graham says:

      In regards to the gap fillers. The parts were harvested to be used at Union Square. A money saving move.

  2. Spendmore Wastemore says:

    Billion dollars to sink in a hole? Spendmore sees a thing here.

    Remember, it’s FREE MONEY, at least to NYC. Bid for the job, spend ten cents on the dollar for actual work and the other 90% invisibly diverted through many a hungry tentacle. Before the time the defective work crumbles into dust, it’ll flood again anyway, so no proof it was defective.

    Perfect.

  3. You wonder what effect the federal funds had on the cost of the project. The federal aid package was certain to pass, so why bother trying to control costs? Of course there is a long-term cost here as well – each project whose costs you let spiral out of control becomes a precedent for future projects…projects that won’t be paid for 100% by federal government.

    • Justin Samuels says:

      Precisely, so in the end all you do is severely limit new useful capital projects, since nothing is done to contain the costs. If the costs were better kept under management, the entirely length of the Second Avenue Subway could be under construction, and we could see restoration to the Rockaway Beach LIRR.

  4. R. Graham says:

    Going back to the old loop and as I mentioned already the gap fillers were harvested for use on the last standing fillers at Union Square to save money. I know someone intends to mention the loop reopening, however the gap fillers is only part of the problem. ADA is the other. The MTA would have to file for an ADA waiver to reopen the loop. A costly and time consuming situation that could result in a lawsuit for the reactivation of the 4 year old station regardless of the cost.

    • John-2 says:

      Given the negative publicity the feds got for their delays in post-Sandy relief efforts on Staten Island, I think the waiver would sail through pretty quickly if sought, but contingent on the upper station’s reopening only being a temporary situation, until the lower station is rebuilt.

      The problem for the MTA may be that with such a huge price tag on the rebuilding, they’d rather not get into a widespread public debate on the financial justification for reopening the lower station, if rehabbing the loop station costs less. Better for that debate to be contained on transit-related blogs and message boards than to become a major topic for the local media and the general public, if the agency began openly discussing restoration of the SF loop platform, even on just an emergency basis.

      • R. Graham says:

        What I also didn’t mention is that the loop station took damage too. So it as well would need funding for repairs in order to be opened to passengers. It’s a catch 22 situation.

  5. Herb Lehman says:

    If you were a Staten Islander, and you relied on the 1 train from South Ferry on a daily basis, I suspect your opinion on this matter would be different. (Fact check time: Rector Street is further than four blocks from the ferry; MTA’s signage says it’s seven blocks.) That said, even as someone who relies on the 1 train, I’m not sure $600 million is worth it.

    I’m surprised that, for that price, no one has floated the option of spending even more money (albeit a helluva lot more money) and extending the 1 train to St. George. Over the very long run, it probably saves money, as it would eliminate the need for the Staten Island Ferry except as a private, Circle Line-type service.

    Acceptable, lower cost solution: Significantly increase R service from every 12-15 minutes to every 4-5 minutes, even if some of those trains drop out at Whitehall Street and the rest continue into Brooklyn. (The MTA schedule indicates the R runs about every eight minutes, but anyone who rides the R train regularly knows that isn’t true.)

    • Frank B says:

      1 train’s totally impractical. SIR runs on BMT/IND Loading Gauge. If anything, finish the Staten Island Tunnel from Brooklyn to Staten Island, run the W Train from Staten Island, express up 4th Avenue, D runs local; W train express up Broadway.

      Costs $3 Billion for tunnel from St. George to Bay Ridge. (And that’s already partly built) Looking at $7-10 Billion for Manhattan to Staten Island direct, easily. And that’s not including the costs to extend all the SIR Platforms. (They can’t accomodate 10 car trains)

      • Someone says:

        Then, all the D train riders are going to make a ruckus about how they lost express service.
        A better idea is to run the N local up 4th Avenue instead, since it already runs local on the Broadway line.

        • Joseph Steindam says:

          And then N riders will complain that their commutes (already lengthened by running local in Manhattan) have gotten longer too. The truth is you can’t make either the N or the D local in Brooklyn, they cover too many stops beyond their express runs and commuting times would be much greater.

          • Someone says:

            But if you don’t make the SI service express, there is no point in making the tunnel, as it would take longer to travel from SI to South Ferry by subway, than if you just took the Staten Island Ferry.

            • Bolwerk says:

              SI to Brooklyn might be justified for its own sake. Not so much immediately, but I suspect new potential for economic activity could actually make it very useful. The North Shore somehow extended to Brooklyn would fit nicely into Triborough RX, but the bus fappers are itching to ruin North Shore transit forever.

              I agree the R doesn’t seem like a practical alternative to the SI Ferry. For that, you need something more direct.

      • Bolwerk says:

        The 1 would be significantly faster for riders than the other practical option, the R. In sane world costs, we’re looking at $3B-$4B for the tunnel to SI and then hundreds of millions in station/platform modifications. We’re talking about mostly outdoors, at-grade, low-density rail stations here. Converting from SIRT to IRT probably isn’t that big a deal – re-signaling might be the most difficult part, though CBTC should be available by then.

        Another option down the road is the SAS, though with only two tracks that squanders a much more practical trip to Brooklyn.

  6. Someone says:

    What if…
    …the old station collapsed on top of the new station? That definitely seems like a possibility, given the state of neglect that both SF stations are now in.

    • John-2 says:

      If that happened, you’d also take out the Joralemon Street tunnel, which runs below the old South Ferry station and above the new SF terminal. I doubt the MTA is going to let that scenario play out.

  7. Chet says:

    I think a lot of this really depends on how much money is for the actual station.

    There is a lot of damage to various systems that have to be rebuilt no matter what happens to the station itself. I’ve read that there is damage all the way up to Rector Street. Then, does some of that money go towards building a station that is less likely to flood or can withstand flooding?

    Finally, as a Staten Islander, I can almost guarantee there would be holy hell if the station were not rebuilt. The old loop was a mess- too small, too slow, too crowded, etc. Trying to reactivate that stop would truly be a waste of money. Islanders waited decades for that to be replaced. To be told they are going back to that, or told they need to walk to Rector Street (like this morning with a wind chill of 8 degrees) will cause a political mess for anyone who suggests it.

    In short, the station needs to be rebuilt, and rebuilt better- much better with understanding that it can and will suffer major flooding and the needed protections to survive such an event.

    • Nathanael says:

      They had a summary: something like half of the money is for the station, the other half is for the signal room etc.

  8. Someone says:

    On the other hand, the MTA should rebuild the station but without the major electronic equipment, which should be moved to higher ground.

    Also, make a free out-of-system transfer from the Whitehall Street station to the Bowling Green station, since we know this station won’t be reopened in a long time.

    • Matthias says:

      The 4/5 go up the East Side and don’t replace the 1 at all. What would be the point of a free transfer?

    • Berk32 says:

      the R and the 4/5 meet at at Borough Hall (last stop in Brooklyn) and at 14th St Union Sq.

      What would be the point of all the work for a connection between Whitehall and Bowling Green?

    • Someone says:

      Do you have any other ideas? (Don’t forget the transfers at Fulton Transit Center between the A, C, E, J, N, R, Z, 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 trains.)

    • Someone says:

      So, do you guys have any other ideas? (Don’t forget the transfers at Fulton Transit Center between the A, C, E, J, N, R, Z, 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 trains. Also note that the transfer is ADA-accessible.)

  9. Hoosac says:

    The larger question here is how to protect the subway from flooding in the future. The consensus seems to be that global warming makes repeated floods inevitable. If that’s the case, it seems we ought to be considering how to protect the system as a whole, including vulnerable stations like South Ferry, before just dumping $600 million into it to put the station back the way it was.

  10. John-2 says:

    I gave a reluctant vote to rebuild, but the MTA needs to be very thorough in making sure Zone A flood mitigation is part of the repair work, and that they explain to the public in detail exactly what is to be done.

    Even if the $$$ to fix lower SF are coming from Washington, the problem is the general perception this creates towards any new construction among the public for projects not funded via disaster relief funds. If the public thinks new projects are going to be overpriced and prone to faulty designs that need repairs just a few years later, the stomach to take on any new system expansion work is going to diminish.

  11. Since the 5 uses the inner south ferry loop to turn around when it terminates at Bowling Green in evenings and on weekends, what about reopening the inner loop platform?

    Pro: It can handle ten-car trains!

    Pro: This arrangement would take advantage of the increased capacity and connection options at Fulton Center (2, 3, 4, A, C, J , Z and PATH) West Side-bound passengers who previously took the 1 from South Ferry and connected to the 2 or 3 at Chambers St. would transfer to the 2 or 3 at Fulton, and have the additional option of the A or C.

    Con: Only the center doors of each 5 train car could open because of the sharp curve, as I understand it, but perhaps a solution to this (custom gap fillers and more cuts in the wall at the platform) would cost much less than $600 million.

    Con: Adds additional passenger load to the Lexington Line, but this might be mitigated by the connection options at Fulton Center.

    Issue (not necessarily pro or con): 5 train schedule would have to be redesigned to accommodate two services (to/from Flatbush Ave. and to/from South Ferry). This could be done with perhaps a 5 super express from Borough Hall to 14 St – Union Square, and the 5 from South Ferry covering the usual stops between Bowling Green and Union Square. Another option might be to connect the downtown local and express tracks south of Brooklyn Bridge – City Hall so the 6 could be extended to South Ferry.

    • Berk32 says:

      None of the current trains can only open the middle doors…

      And the inner loop only connects to the Lex Ave line – what purpose would this serve? Bowling Green is RIGHT there.

      • Just echoing this point: The inner loop does nothing to solve the problem of West Side access from the Ferry Terminal and is unnecessary with Bowling Green right around the corner.

        • Someone says:

          Another con: The SF loops aren’t ADA-accessible. Bowling Green is, however, ADA-accessible.

          • Evan says:

            At the risk of sounding insensitive, is that really important at this point?

            I think that the MTA should focus on getting the loop station open. Of course, at the same time it should figure out a way to make it ADA accessible in some way (which if expenses aren’t bloated up as usual shouldn’t be that expensive), but focus mainly on some kind of service up and running again at the station.

    • Matthew says:

      The platform openings for the inner loop platform were bricked up in 2007. The platform still exists as a storage area, but it is behind a solid wall now.

    • Someone says:

      Adds additional passenger load to the Lexington Line, but this might be mitigated by the connection options at Fulton Center.

      Ironically, the Fulton Center won’t open until the SF reconstruction is finished.

  12. lawhawk says:

    I’m in the rebuild smarter camp.

    That means raising the ventilation shafts and entry/egress locations several feet above the highest Sandy flood level. You do this by building ramps and mound the entry areas so that they’re more flood resistant while still meeting ADA accessibility requirements. Raise the ventilation on other subways in vicinity of the Battery. Make electronic and signaling systems water resistant and take steps to secure the systems from flooding.

    I can understand if the costs relating to that are significant, but tearing out the entire station and rebuilding shouldn’t be as expensive – or more so – than the original tunnel boring and construction.

    • LLQBTT says:

      I’m not sure that your first point, while a good idea, is achievable. The storm surge was something like 8 feet. Thus any surface structure would need to be at least 8 feet high for a Sandy storm or higher for a more severe weather event. These would essentially be ‘mini-structures’ on the streetscape.

      • Emilio says:

        Storm surge for The Battery during Sandy was 13.88 feet. This is the challenge to rebuild the new station, how do you stop that from happening again? It may not happen in 60 years, like Bloomberg says, or it may happen in six months. We just don’t know.

        Overall, it’s a very bad sign when the mayor of a large city that’s so susceptible to storm surge says it won’t happen again anytime soon. NYC in general should be preparing for it just like the Dutch and other Europeans did for their flooding.

        • Someone says:

          Experts predict that future hurricanes will be few and far between, but very intense. The storm surge for the Battery during future hurricanes might be even higher than 13.88 feet. Any surface structure has to be high enough such that the storm surges for future hurricanes cannot flood the subway.

          Also, the MTA might want to install waterproof doors inside its subway entrances.

          • Justin Samuels says:

            Did the experts necessarily predict Hurricane Sandy a few years ago? I never heard anyone publically say much about the risk of hurricanes in NY. However, we had back to back Hurricanes, Irene one year, Sandy the next year. Its quite possible next summer or next fall we could have another nasty hurricane. Or it could happen in the next few years.

            • Bolwerk says:

              We should assume it will be next summer. If we’re wrong, we will be prepared when it happens in the next decade. If we’re right and don’t do it, we just blew another $5B.

  13. One more idea: Why not just build an in-system transfer between the 1 and R at Rector? People could board the R at Whitehall and transfer to the 1 at Rector. The complex would also have to be made ADA compliant, but it least the investment would be in a station complex that’s less prone to catastrophic flooding than South Ferry.

  14. atom says:

    They need to recruit engineers who could assess how floodwalls could be incorporated around the exterior perimeter of the station; in order to minimize future flood damage. Take a trip to Holland or other flood-prone cities to determine how they handle underground infrastructure.
    On another note…….the city needs to bid the construction work to companies who aren’t excessively padding their bids………….that would surely lower that $600 million tab……….

  15. Larry Littlefield says:

    There has to be a station at South Ferry. Again, I’d just extend the platform of the orignial South Ferry station and renovate it, buy new platform extenders, build a ramp to make it ADA compliant, and move the signal room to higher ground — perhaps in the Ferry Terminal.

    The MTA wants to rebuild the new station, and that will color their estimates of the capacity of the new terminal with no trail tracks vs. the loop with the platform extender delay. Maybe they are right, but maybe not.

    If the BS was cut, and the NIMBYs were somehow overruled, the rehabbed original station just below the surface should be able to be open in just a couple of years. Not that this would be allowed to happen. It didn’t happen at Bleeker.

    Then again, how much would be be hosed on rehabbing the new South Ferry Station? The issue isn’t the $600 million. It is the $600 million extra that will be borrowed after the contractors somehow magically get more money. How much is being borrowed for the Fulton Transit Center? How much of the new South Ferry Station was actually federally funded?

    • Berk32 says:

      i just love how you think that everything you listed to reopen the outer loop would be cheaper than fixing the new station.

      “Just extend the platform”… how? They would’ve done it years ago when extending the rest of the platforms in the IRT system

      “Build a ramp” – what?? Again – would’ve been done years ago if it was so easy…
      Ya know how long it’s taken to make a station ADA accessible? They have to put in 2 elevators to make 2/3 at Fulton accessible. The one to the platform opened in like 2007 – the one to the street has yet to be finished (even though they’ve already finished the new entrance at the corner of William and Fulton over a year ago).

      “buy new platform extenders” – there’s a reason why they harvested this one for parts at 14th street……

      They don’t want to reopen the old station because it would bring back less frequent 1 train service on the entire line. Nobody wants that.

      • Larry Littlefield says:

        “Just extend the platform”… how? “Build a ramp” – what??”

        The old station isn’t in bedrock in a street with extensive utilities. It is not far below the surface in landfill. You’d use a backhoe, and whatever methods would be used to build a two-story foundation/basement 260 feet long and 30 feet wide.

        The alternative of just extending the existing platform was not considered because the MTA wanted to get rid of the curve and platform extenders. Moving the whole station back was their preferred option — but was nixed because of NIMBY objections to removing trees. This is landfill, and the trees are not original.

        • SomeGuy32 says:

          So why didn’t they do this years ago? Every other station (except 135th st on the 3 line) was extended to 10 cars over 60 years ago.

          I’m sure there was a very good reason then that hasn’t changed today…

        • Nathanael says:

          There’s very good reasons to get rid of the curve and platform extenders!

      • Larry Littlefield says:

        As for less frequent service, I’ve heard mixed reviews on that one from those more knowledgable than I.

        With a loop terminal, there is no crawling into the station because the signals have to be timed to prevent a runaway train from hitting a wall. On the other hand you have two delays as the platform extenders are extended and retracted. How long is that? Ten seconds out of 90 to 120 at rush hour, or more?

        • SomeGuy32 says:

          I’m not really sure why you’re questioning this.

          There are more trains running on the 1 line since they changes South Ferry terminals.

          • Larry Littlefield says:

            That doesn’t mean they couldn’t run more trains before. It just means they didn’t. Ridership is up.

            • Berk32 says:

              no – they couldn’t run more – South Ferry Loop was a major bottleneck.

              • Justin Samuels says:

                Its too bad the city is so hostile towards elevated trains. If it wasn’t, I’d say rebuilt the last stretch of the 1 train as an elevated line . After all, South Ferry used to have an elevated station. You wouldn’t have to worry about tunnel flooding with els.

                • Bolwerk says:

                  It wouldn’t even save money, and it almost certainly demands condemning boatloads of expensive property.

                  It should be built it cut and cover, as cheaply as possible while still dealing with storm surges – and with accommodations for a future extension to SI.

                  • Someone says:

                    Actually, Justin Samuels is right, SF used to have an elevated platform.

                    Besides, why extend the 1 train to SI, when you could extend the R to SI? Or even better, extend the N?

                    • Bolwerk says:

                      SF had an elevated platform that served elevated lines, which were demolished. The 1 never went from subsurface to elevated.

                      I don’t think the 1 should be extended per se, but accommodating it for the future is reasonable. And the tail tracks that would be part of that accommodation are probably very useful.

                    • Someone says:

                      I’d rather build a 4th Avenue express train to SI instead.

                      The loading gauge for the SIR is different than that of the 1 train, but the R train’s loading gauge is the same as that of the SIR’s. This makes it even easier to extend the R (or the N) to SI instead.

      • Someone says:

        They have to put in 2 elevators to make 2/3 at Fulton accessible. The one to the platform opened in like 2007 – the one to the street has yet to be finished (even though they’ve already finished the new entrance at the corner of William and Fulton over a year ago).

        The ADA-accessible entrance from the street to the mezzanine is already done. It’s on the corner of Broadway and Dey.

        • SomeGuy32 says:

          i’m talking about the 2/3 – not the 4/5

          And the elevators to the A/C that would complete the handicap transfer between the 2 lines are not done

          • Someone says:

            Wait… so you mean that those are still 4 separate stations?

            • SomeGuy32 says:

              of course…

              • Someone says:

                Well, that makes no sense.

                • SomeGuy32 says:

                  the J train blocks the passageway above the a/c line from going the entire length. you have to go down to the a/c platform to go from the 2/3 to the 4/5

                  • Someone says:

                    I thought the 2/3 platforms were west of the 4/5 platforms, which were west of the J/Z platforms.

                    • John-2 says:

                      East to West of Fulton it’s the 2/3 at Williams, the J/Z at Nassau and the 4/5 at Broadway. The 4/5 is one level below the street, the 2/3 is two levels and the J/Z is bi-level and about 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 levels under Fulton, based on how the access to the A/C platform is set up.

                      That’s why ADAing the whole complex is such a PITA, because the Nassau St. tunnel and station is built so that you can’t get to and from the two IRT lines without going all the way down to the IND platform. And the stairs there make wheelchair mobility between Broadway and Williams streets problematic (and even accessing the Chambers-bound platform on the J/Z from the new Fulton Transit Center figures to be an interesting feat of engineering to meet ADA requirements)

                    • Someone says:

                      That’s also the reason why the commute for disabled J/Z commuters is such a PITA.

                    • Nathanael says:

                      The new layout with elevators: down to the A/C Mez, down to the A/C platform, across, up to the Chambers-bound J/Z

  16. The Phantom says:

    Unless costs can be controlled in a fundamentally different manner than at any time in the past, it is grossly immoral to rebuild the South Ferry 1 station.

    Those huge amounts of funds are only worsening the problem of union and contractor abuse in NYC.

    We are all US taxpayers too. So even if we get 100% funding from the Feds, it is still very wrong to rebuild, unless a very new process is used for all of it.

  17. Joseph Steindam says:

    Before I’d vote, I’m curious to know how many 1 trains are currently running during rush hour. I understand that the outer loop limited operation capacity as a terminal, but does it have the same limiting effect as turning track when Rector Street is serving as the terminal. If the 1 to Rector can have 24 trains per hour, plus if we open the Dey Street corridor and put it in fare control so riders getting on at Whitehall can still get to the 2/3 I think I have to go with scrapping South Ferry and investing the money elsewhere to harden the system to future storms.

    Besides, in truth, I never found a use for the South Ferry-Whitehall transfer. I really can’t imagine a situation where if I were heading to Brooklyn that transferring to the 2 or walking the extra bit to the R or even the A would not have been easier than transferring at South Ferry. Coming from Brooklyn, the R is close enough to 1 stops in Lower Manhattan to not need the transfer, and the R to the 2 or 3 is easier in Brooklyn than the South Ferry-Whitehall transfer.

  18. Someone says:

    How about abandoning the current new SF station and instead connecting the 1 to the Joralemon St Tunnel instead, so 1 trains can go to Flatbush Avenue/Crown Heights?

  19. LLQBTT says:

    I can’t decide which way to vote. The station is necessary, no doubt in my mind about that. But the cost, whew?! How many stations along the L can be spruced up for the same amount, or say for example, adding the Ave A exit at First Ave.

    Perhaps an elevated people mover/moving sidewalk from Rector to South Ferry exit/xfer within fare control?

  20. The inner loop would indirectly solve west side access if people transferred at Fulton to the seventh or eighth avenue lines. But that’s beside the point – the consensus is that Bowling Green is a close enough option, so how about spending some of that $600 million on an in-system connection to Whitehall St.? Then people could enter at the main staircase opposite the ferry terminal and walk underground to the 4 and 5.

    Also: If only the Dey St. passage at Fulton had been built as an in- system transfer…

  21. Streetsman says:

    I voted no to the poll question as phrased, because I wish someone ELSE could re-build it cheaper somehow. $600mm is $75 for every person in New York City or roughly $1,300 for every resident of Staten Island. It’s hard to imagine how cleaning and rehabbing the station could cost that much, but you have to factor in the insane amount of bureaucracy involved in this project from the Feds, the State, the MTA, the consultants, the contractors, the union labor, etc. – everybody reviewing everybody else, liaising, administrating – it’s just a soup of people for what is maybe 50,000sf of infrastructure? That’s almost $12,000 a square foot. Just by comparison the One Bryant Park tower at 42nd/6th is 2 million sf of LEED-certified class A office space, with a new subway station entrance, and cost $1 billion – $500 per square foot. The MTA’s construction costs have just gone completely off the planet. Maybe someone could start a nonprofit called Friends of South Ferry station or South Ferry Development Corporation tasked with rebuilding it (and then promptly disbanding). It could combine grants with private fundraising and use community visioning and volunteer labor to spruce things up, much like would happen in a public park, and then work efficiently with a small staff to get this one capital project done quickly.

    • Someone says:

      The MTA’s construction costs have just gone completely off the planet.

      Apparently, for it takes $2 billion just to build the 1-2 new stops for the 7 and another $5 billion for the 4 new stops on the Q.

      Though, another possible reason for the price overshoot is because NYC is so densely built already.

    • Someone says:

      And also, you have to take into account the fact that all the interlocking equipment was destroyed during Sandy.

      • Streetsman says:

        I’ll acknowledge that probably a lot of expensive computer switching and mechanical equipment was destroyed by salt water at the South Ferry station, but is it really that much more expensive than the electrical, HVAC, data/telecom, fire and elevator equipment for a 58-story LEED-certified building? Right now $10,000psf is the absolute peak price for brand new luxury apartments – maybe the 10 most expensive sales in the city – including all construction costs and developer overhead and profit. That would include gilding, marble, finish carpentry, tilework, landscaping – the works. I just can’t see $12,000psf here at South Ferry. For some further comparison, this 16-acre development of a 900-unit residential apartment complex with two 47-story towers, a public park, theater and museum in Fort Lee, NJ is estimated to cost $500 million: http://www.nj.com/bergen/index.....t_lee.html
        Or in the public rail sector, construction of this brand new 11.5-mile light rail segment with 6 new stations and a new rail bridge over I-210 near Pasadena is also budgeted at $500 million: http://www.foothillextension.o....._to_azusa/
        How the heck can one subway station cost $600 million? Seriously

        • Streetsman says:

          There’s not even any tunneling involved, just a gut renovation and rehab. For $600 million you should be able to demo the entire site and build a brand new subway station with an office tower on top. I just don’t get it

          • Streetsman says:

            There’s another idea for you – sell the site with that new little park on it to a developer, giving them the right to build a modest office tower in exchange for reconstructing the station and providing an equal or greater amount of public space (if you really felt it crucial to maintain that little park even with Battery Park right there). Then we’d probably get the new station for free, plus cash. Maybe not the most popular idea but I’m just thinking out loud here – there must be some way to get someone else to do this work because $600 million can practically build you a small town.

            • Someone says:

              Due to its requirement for compete grade separation, heavy rail is significantly more expensive to build than any other rail line. Recent costs range from an estimate of $251 million per mile for the BART San Jose extension to a staggering $2.1 BILLION per mile for the Second Avenue Subway in New York – a number also reached by the East Side Access project to allow the Long Island Railroad to enter Grand Central Station. Long stretches of surface running and few stations probably help to explain the relative bargain of the BART extension and the Washington Metro extension to Dulles Airport ($268 million per mile), while the sheer number of existing subway tunnels (and perhaps a bit of New York City corruption left over from the Tammany Hall days) accounts for the astronomical cost in New York.

              The number of stations also adds to the cost of rail transit projects, particularly for underground sections where a station can easily cost $100 – 150 million. In an attempt to engage in value engineering , some projects will save money by removing stations even if it leaves too much of the line’s corridor without being able to access it.

        • Nathanael says:

          “but is it really that much more expensive than the electrical, HVAC, data/telecom, fire and elevator equipment for a 58-story LEED-certified building?”

          Yes. Much more. Signalling systems which are failsafe and also high-capacity are very, *very* difficult.

          About half the cost of the “station” (roughly $300 million) is signalling rebuild, IIRC.

          • T0 says:

            Is there a link for that? And what systems were destroyed in SF? Signals, traction power, etc? Even granting that all the systems were destroyed, $300m seems way too high. The breakdown of the $5b includes another $770m for signals and another $100m for signal labor. I mean good god, LA has $5b budgeted for Westside Subway, which is 8 miles and 7 stations of brand new construction.

            It’s not just the transit costs either. $400m for the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel and $350m for Queens Midtown, or about $50-60k/foot. (Interesting that SF seems to be a major issue but these don’t)

            All of which suggests there is some serious OPM Syndrome going on here. Not that I totally blame MTA, modern practice in US infrastructure investment seems to be that you get nothing until the damn thing collapses, gets flooded, or goes down in flames. I’m willing to bet that a lot of the signal system on the subway was complete shyte beforehand, so if you’re MTA, why not take the broadest possible definition of what has to be replaced?

            But still.

  22. AlexB says:

    The South Ferry station is clearly important and should be rebuilt. At 30,000 users daily, it is relied on by many. It fills an obvious purpose in the regional transportation system. The real problem is this: if this station was built in the modern era when we have hurricane maps and flood plains, and warnings and plans, why was this key signalling system located here and why was nothing done to flood proof the station? Why did it leak from day 1? With or without global warming, NYC was always at risk of getting a category 1 storm. Entrances can be planned with waterproof doors, ventilation structures can be built higher than possible storm surges. It obviously has to be rebuilt with all this in mind, but by genuinely competent people.

  23. bgriff says:

    I do wonder how the utility of this station will change once Cortlandt St reopens as part of a new World Trade Center. Maybe doesn’t make much difference either way (R still serves that area too) but does seem like it will draw more traffic on the southern branch of the 1.

    • Someone says:

      The new Cortlandt St station will be ADA-accessible, so it’s likely that SF wouldn’t have to be rebuilt at all.

  24. John-2 says:

    One thing they should consider either way is moving the main station entrance back inside the Ferry terminal, via extension of the terminal out to the current entrance, as was done when the new terminal was extended west to take in the old loop entrance, which previously had been in a stand-alone building.

    It would be interesting to see if the MTA has done any calculations on how much seawater entered the South Ferry and Whitehall stations from each of the two stations’ various entrances, and how much water got in via the closed SF loop entrance inside the ferry terminal, versus any sidewalk grates or other vents below the maximum floodwater level (the loop platform’s track slopes downward as it leaves the front end of the station, in order to allow the inner loop’s tracks to pass over the outer loop north of the station. So any flood water which entered the upper loop would drain towards the junction south of Rector and quite likely end up finding the lowest location, which would be the new station. Which means even if upper SF is never reactivated, it still needs to have the same flood prevention measures installed as with the lower platform).

    Putting the main entrance inside the terminal would at least allow for another level of protection against any flood, via sandbagging the inside and outside walls of the terminal’s lower level. You’d still have to do something about the entrances to the complex at the north ends of the SF and Whitehall platforms, which also are part of Zone A, but the width of the main SF entrance makes it likely that it was where the bulk of the floodwater found its way downstairs.

  25. Jason says:

    My understanding of the failure of the new station was that it had no where for the water to drain too (unlike Whitehall which had Montague tunnel). Not sure if this would fix the problem, but what if the MTA constructed a train yard underneath this entire complex where trains could stored/layed up during the day? They hear a storm coming, they move the trains out, then any water that pours in will just pour into what is essentially a large cavern with some tracks and signals? Maybe this yard could be built by extending the current tracks which would also solve the slowdown/crawl into the station.

    • AlexB says:

      That would cost a billion dollars to build the storage yard you’re describing, and it would likely completely fill up regardless of how big it is. You could flood proof the station for much less.

    • pea-jay says:

      what if they just dug some drainage tunnels at the end of the SF 1 station and connected them to the montegue tube. That would give the water somewhere to go. It took a lot less time to get that tube operational.

      Or better yet, just build the damn sea wall and gates at the Narrows.

    • Someone says:

      Not sure if this would fix the problem, but what if the MTA constructed a train yard underneath this entire complex where trains could stored/layed up during the day? They hear a storm coming, they move the trains out, then any water that pours in will just pour into what is essentially a large cavern with some tracks and signals? Maybe this yard could be built by extending the current tracks which would also solve the slowdown/crawl into the station.

      And you can turn that space into a drainage pipe for much less. The SMART Tunnel in Malaysia does exactly the same thing as the thing you are proposing, but in this case there is no empty space to drain into.

  26. They should rebuild it for the same reason they built it.

  27. Bolwerk says:

    I still don’t see any reason for these costs, unless they’re building something…strange.

    Really, how much could it cost to demolish it entirely and regrade it? Tens of millions, sure, but not hundreds.

    • Someone says:

      More than $600 million, that’s definite.

      • Bolwerk says:

        Can you explain that, or were you planning on leaving it sitting there like a turd on the floor?

        • Someone says:

          Well, actually, it would take even more than $600 million to demolish the station and rebuild it. The $600 million cost is probably to fix all the rusted tracks and signalling equipment, as well as the signal rooms destroyed by Sandy.

          • Bolwerk says:

            Try again. Tracks and signals cost maybe eight (probably seven) figures PER MILE, and we’re talking about much less than that. The structure is a few hundred feet long made of pretty common building materials.

            Really, nobody can answer: what should cost $600M? You can’t even really blame real estate condemnation here, since this is already publicly owned.

            • R. Graham says:

              Signals are more expensive than you may realize. It’s also an expertise that’s not as much in demand as it used to be meaning it cost more the older the type of signaling being used.

              The signal system used in the subways date back to the old BRT and BMT introduction of this type and format. CBTC type signaling is more common and yes very expensive to install but cost very little to maintain as the only items in need of protection are the wayside commuters which imitate signals on a moving block software system.

              The current signal system requires a signal room and equipment that will function with a very old signal rail grounding circuit system that supplies ATS with the information it needs. It takes years for the signal engineers to get some of this stuff to function together and tie in with the rest of the mainline network reliably. Signals do not come cheap. Don’t underestimate it.

              • Bolwerk says:

                Yes, that occurred to me. That’s why it said it probably should cost seven figures, but I could see it costing eight (10,000,000-99,999,999), per mile. Granted, probably not the high eight, in a sane world.

                Anyway, I suspect there shouldn’t be a signal room at South Ferry again, and signaling should be a separate line item from the station. If they want to make it CBTC in a few years anyway, this might be a good time to start. :-\

                • R. Graham says:

                  I’m going to go out on a limb and bet that I’ll be dead by the time CBTC arrives on the mainline in full service. And I’m in my early 30s.

                  • Bolwerk says:

                    Ha. Okay, that I can swallow.

                    Though, I’m still not sure it’s outrageous to have it on the South Ferry stub, even without the main line having it.

              • T0 says:

                Theoretically, they already have the design 100% complete. We’re talking about replacing an existing system that was installed 4 years ago right? $300m for signals at one turnback station doesn’t pass the smell test. Not even close.

  28. Riley says:

    simple solution to fund the rebuilding of South Ferry, a station that mostly benefits Staten Islanders…..temporarily charge on the Ferry to cover the costs of rebuilding, say $1 roundtrip?

    • Larry Littlefield says:

      Uh, no. And I’m the first to object to Staten Islanders kvetching for special deals like the Verranzano Toll.

  29. Neil deMause says:

    My problem with rebuilding: By the time a new station is done, the ferry would be able to dock at City Hall.

  30. SEAN says:

    Based on the political climate, the station shouldn’t get rebuilt despite the $600 million. However in the real world the station needs to be reconstructed. This is because it could set a pressident to not rebuild any non road infrastructure when it fails.

    Just my two cents

  31. ajedrez says:

    For the record, I live out on Staten Island.

    The station sees something like 29,000 riders per weekday. Considering that the R goes to Brooklyn, I’d assume that more riders are seeking the R than the (1), so maybe 12,000 riders actually want (1) service.

    They’re going to spend what is it, like $530 million, trying to save 12,000 riders a 10 minute walk. Meanwhile, the North Shore Rail Line (built as a heavy rail) would cost $400 million, and serve about 14,000 riders a day, under the current circumstances. (Assuming no new development, etc, which is likely to be generated). Of course, the eastern part of the line borders the water (but it isn’t the open harbor like South Ferry), but even with the amount of money required to make sure the line is hurricane-proofed (maybe moving it a little bit inland, or maybe using additional caissons or something to provide a stronger foundation), it would likely be a better investment than rebuilding that station. Or if we’re worried about flooding, helping fund an extension of the HBLR over the Bayonne Bridge could be a better use of the money. Not to mention projects in the other boroughs that could benefit from $530 million worth of improvements.

    Not to mention that with the Fulton Street Transit Center opening, and the passageways being streamlined, passengers could transfer from the (2)(3) to the R or (4)(5) , rather than the (1). (Plus, I don’t think this is the case, but if the new Cortlandt Street station on the (1) is connected to the Fulton Street Transit Center, you’d have a direct connection from the (1) to the R).

    • Ron Aryel says:

      The North Shore Line would cost over a billion dollars to provide heavy rail service and is not relevant to this discussion anyway. MTA would still have to get those North Shore riders to their Manhattan destinations. When World Trade Center One opens the IRT station there will need to be reopened as well and the South Ferry station and its free transfer from the R is needed to get passengers to the reopened IRT Cortlandt St station.

  32. Token boy says:

    Must i fix everything? 1st — you build pneumatic zoom tubes inplace of the smelly debris that is constant throughout system. 2d — shadduppahyouface. Thanks for listening and ask for more landfill.

  33. Rob Stevens says:

    I need to be persuaded that we need the new station for 24 trns/hr, when we had 30 without it [see Oct '65 Bwy Local schedule].

    • Someone says:

      That’s because they had automatic key signals back in 1965, where a train could enter the station before the train in front was done leaving. After a slew of rear-end collisions in the 1970s, the MTA discontinued automatic keying.

      Besides, the utilisation of 2 tracks in the loop station greatly improves capacity.

  34. Gary says:

    I’m also a native Staten Islander, I think this money would be better spent on other options – such as a subway to Staten Island from Brooklyn.

    Or possibly the North Shore train line as suggested by ajedrez above.

    Or the light rail from across the Bayonne Bridge.

    Just some sort of public transit option for Staten Island. I find it ridiculous that more Staten Islanders aren’t in an uproar over the timeline to fix the station (besides the cost). I take that subway very often, and I admit it’s only a minor inconvenience for it to not be there for now – but the thought of it not opening until 2014, OR it never opening AND Staten Island commuters not receiving anything in return is a slap in the face to the residents of the fifth borough.

  35. Ron Aryel says:

    The cost of the updated South Ferry station was $400 million, and an extra $530 million was spent because an old Revolutionary War fort was discovered on the site, and state law required the MTA to perorm archeological preservation. The new station was very coist-effective given the benefits it provided, although there was a slip up in waterproofing part of the station site and, yes, MTA should have been more proactive in terms of siting sensitive equipment above the water table. Should this station be rebuilt? Yes, it needs to be rebuilt because of the Ferry connection, and the transfer that redistributes passengers among IRT and BMT lines and the resulting access to the WTC area (remember that World Trade Center One will reopen soon). The $600 million will be provided 100% by the feds, and in the context of a $60 billion rebuilding fund, nobody should be whining about it. There are far more important things to complain about than this.

  36. Jonathan R. says:

    Ben, can you investigate how long it takes to reprint the destination cards on the IRT no.1 Broadway local trains that now say Special, and have a 8 1/2 x 11 poster underneath reading “242 St to Rector St”?

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] Second Ave Sagas: Should the South Ferry Station Be Rebuilt? [...]

  2. [...] Questions about the future of the South Ferry station — which was devastated by the storm surge — continue, with many asking if the $600 million price to rebuild the station would be better spent elsewhere. The debate over whether to rebuild or retreat in coastal areas gained new ferver following Governor Cuomo’s encouragement of homeowners to take a governmental buyout of their properties, an unpopular position with residents that have begun the rebuilding process, though a welcome one for some residents pushing for Bloomberg to initiate the process. [...]

  3. [...] our dalliances with the question, the MTA has spent the better part of the last few months vowing to rebuild the new South Ferry [...]

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