Home PANYNJ Once more unto the WTC PATH Hub

Once more unto the WTC PATH Hub

by Benjamin Kabak

A staircase most grand. (Via @WTCProgress)

It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of the World Trade Center PATH Hub. Due to a variety of factors, the Port Authority is spending an absurd amount of money to design what has repeatedly been called an iconic train station — which happens to be across the street from another supposedly iconic train station — and serves only a subway stop for PATH. The WTC Hub isn’t akin to Grand Central; there is no connection north, south or east, and it serves 35,000 passengers per day, fewer than Jay St.-Metrotech or the 8th Ave. 14th St. station. And, at a time when the need to expand trans-Hudson capacity has never been more evident, the price tag for a station that does nothing to address the region’s needs has ballooned toward $4 billion. It is, in a word, a boondoggle.

Eventually, when the station finally opens and passengers traverse the underground mall, the rebuilt World Trade Center area, and the marble-covered halls of Santiago Calatrava’s station, the focus on this project’s flaws may recede. It may even become that iconic image of Lower Manhattan its promoters had hoped it would become oh so many years ago. But we will still feel its impact every time we try to get to Laguardia Airport or sigh in frustration at another New Jersey Transit or Amtrak delay caused by congestion in the one rail tunnel connecting Manhattan to the rest of the world. Priorities will shift, and the specter of the stegosaurus will loom large.

Elliot Brown of The Wall Street Journal has penned what is, to date, the definitive work on the issues plaguing the transit hub. It includes honest assessments on the costs and construction problems and portends a future of cautious design (and perhaps capacity-focused projects rather than buildings more akin to vanity affairs). “Did you need to build the $3.7 billion transportation hub to achieve the meaningfulness of the World Trade Center redevelopment?” Scott Rechler, the Port Authority’s vice chair, wondered. “In hindsight, I don’t know if I would have come to that conclusion.”

I’d urge you to read Brown’s full story. He delves into every aspect of the project — including the Port Authority’s wish, overruled by then-Gov. George Pataki, to save around $500 million by shutting down the 1 line south of Chambers St. for indeterminate length of time to effect repairs and rebuild the Cortlandt St. station. I’ll excerpt some key parts as Brown traces the history of a hub that was once to cost $1.5-$2 billion and open nearly seven years ago:

An analysis of federal oversight reports viewed by The Wall Street Journal and interviews with current and former officials show a project sunk in a morass of politics and government. Those redesigning the World Trade Center—destroyed by terrorists in 2001—were besieged by demands from various agencies and officials, and “the answer was never, ‘No,’ ” said Christopher Ward, executive director from 2008 to 2011 of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the project’s builder.

Why that happened is more difficult to untangle. The Port Authority, run jointly by the two states, has long been known for political infighting. City, state and federal agencies, as well as real-estate developer Larry Silverstein, also joined in. In public and private clashes, they each pushed to include their own ideas, making the site’s design ever more complex, former project officials said. These disputes added significant delays and costs to the transit station, which serves as a backbone to the bigger 16-acre redevelopment site, connecting the World Trade Center’s four planned office towers, underground retail space and the 9/11 museum, the officials said and oversight reports show…

The high cost has been attributed by many public officials to its ornate and complex design by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. His plans proved far more difficult to build than anticipated, the Port Authority has said, requiring, for example, the manufacture of enormous steel spans overseas. Even daily maintenance will be costly. A recently opened hallway has white marble floors where workers remove scuff marks with sponges on sticks. Mr. Calatrava, through a spokesman, declined to comment.

But current and former officials who worked on the project, a terminal for the PATH commuter rail system, said in interviews they believed demands, disagreements and poor coordination among the many parties working on the World Trade Center site spurred hundreds of millions of dollars in overruns.

The special requests and demands break down as follows:

  • Michael Bloomberg wanted the memorial plaza open by the 10th Anniversary of the attacks. Doing so added at least $100 million to the budget as “a large swath of the underground terminal below the plaza had to be built without use of cranes or other large equipment. Workers had to move materials by hand.”
  • The decision to maintain 1 train service through the site and build a supported box added another $300-$500 million.
  • Complex underground connections added another $140 million to the price tag.

We don’t know how much Calatrava himself is getting for his design and engineering work. The Port Authority has, so far, yet to respond to Freedom of Information requests I’ve filed regarding these amounts. But it’s not an insubstantial amount, and, as Brown notes, upkeep costs for this fanciful subway stop will be plentiful.

So ultimately, we have a monument to Lower Manhattan for $4 billion and 35,000 passengers. We don’t have modernized airports or convenient ways to get there. We have transit capacity needs that go unfulfilled, and we have recognition that the WTC PATH Hub became more unmanageable than it should have. Let’s not repeat these mistakes in the future.

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LLQBTT September 4, 2014 - 1:18 pm

Maintenance and upkeep cost are going to be an annual drag on the PA. An NPR piece talks about a Calatrava building in Spain where after a few years, the tiles are already falling off and they are blaming the design, not the construction.


AG September 4, 2014 - 3:49 pm

Yup. Sadly it is pure political folly. This is a transport “hub” – not a palace. Maintenance costs should have factored in to the design – not the whims of some celebrity architect.

John-2 September 4, 2014 - 4:33 pm

My guess is they end up tiling the marble floors 10-15 years down the line, when the newness and uniqueness has worn off and functionality and cutting maintenance costs take priority.

D in Bushwick September 5, 2014 - 10:45 am

Political folly is the perfect description.
From Pataki, to PA officials, to DC politicians – decisions made after 9/11 were often irrational and careless. We’ve lost our privacy thanks to the NSA and we’ve become a pariah around the world for invading Iraq for Big Military. The PA would have wasted money on something else as they’ve always done.
Perhaps the WTC Hub will become the symbol of when America lost its way and that cost is much much higher.

Nathanael September 6, 2014 - 10:41 am

Good grief. Nobody should hire Calatrava.

OK. So I totally understand spending a half billion to keep the #1 running during construction. Arguable, but understandable. Closing the #1 would have created some serious pressure on the system due to the loss of South Ferry Station, and the complaints from Staten Island….

The other politically-induced choices are much less excusable, and the Calatrava business is absurd. Fulton Center had an eye on practicality, with pedestrian paths and platform space being first and foremost, and the “iconic building” being largely used as a convenient access site. This is quite the opposite.

lawhawk September 4, 2014 - 1:41 pm

The PANY is getting around the 35,000 passengers by claiming that there’s going to be 250,000 pedestrians in the complex daily. I’ll have to post a photo of this, but it’s on the vanity covers that the PANY hung along Vesey.

So, we’ve got between $540 million and $940 million in cost overrages because of three items: 1) the need to complete the memorial before 10th anniversary; 2) restoring 1 service to South Ferry ASAP; and 3) other complex connections.

That’s not quite half the amount of overrages on the initial $2.2 billion cost for the project.

There’s a whole lot of other projects that could have gotten underway for that amount – or kept the fares/tolls constant since the increase in tolls/fares corresponds with the hole that the WTC transit hub blew in the capital plan.

AG September 4, 2014 - 3:52 pm

Lower tolls induces more people to drive – but a silently the cost overruns could have funded other projects… Such as upgrading the airports – and paid for the PATH extension to the airport.

Eric F September 4, 2014 - 4:55 pm

People from anywhere else in the country literally gasp when the hear how high the tolls are for the Huidson crossings. No one would be “induced” to drive into the maelstrom of Manhattan at tolls half as high.

AG September 4, 2014 - 5:13 pm

When the tolls are raised – growth in driving over the Hudson crossing slows. That’s nothing new.
“People from anywhere else in the country”…. well the rest of the country doesn’t have the busiest river crossing either. The GWB by itself is the busiest bridge on planet earth. Lincoln and Holland tunnels – take a guess where they rank.
Keep the tolls where they are and add rail capacity under the Hudson.

lop September 4, 2014 - 11:31 pm

119,149,785 eastbound crossings over PA bridges and tunnels in 2011.

115,687,763 eastbound crossings over PA bridges and tunnels in 2013.

Rising tolls might do more than slow the growth.

Bolwerk September 5, 2014 - 11:10 am


AG September 5, 2014 - 7:36 pm

yeah – it should be a de-facto congestion pricing… too bad the money isn’t being used to actually increase rail capacity.

Eric September 8, 2014 - 7:36 am

Tolls should be raised until crossings decrease to the point that congestion is gone.

Last time I came out of the Holland Tunnel, there was lots of congestion.

AG September 8, 2014 - 6:36 pm

Rail capacity would have to be GREATLY increased for that to be anywhere near possible. I mean it’s probably not even realistic. 11 percent of the NJ workforce is in NY… I mean even in the 5 boroughs with all the subways – congestion hasn’t decreased.

Bolwerk September 8, 2014 - 9:31 pm

It’s very realistic, and probably close to trivial, no new rail capacity required. The XBL already moves approximately a subway line of people into the city. Dedicating another lane to buses could probably double that, using one lane to move more people by a factor of perhaps 10.

lop September 8, 2014 - 10:58 pm

From hub bound 8-9am 3711 people entered Manhattan through the lincoln tunnel, 3233 through the holland tunnel in autos, taxis, vans and trucks.

32653 on buses through the lincoln tunnel, 2399 through the holland tunnel.

Moving the same number of people in buses is trivial, sure. Moving the same people less so.

AG September 9, 2014 - 9:15 am

Sure that can be done… But how can that possibly cause congestion to disappear? Reducing and disappearing are completely different. He used the word “gone”. Two different things.

Bolwerk September 9, 2014 - 11:05 am

Road pricing probably can eliminate congestion entirely,* and high enough tolls could at least eliminate congestion emanating from the bridge. The catch is you need political support for it, which seems hard to get.

Here’s the kicker: pricing may even increase tunnel throughput for private auto passengers. More time waiting to cross ultimately means lower throughput, at least to a point.

* With the exception of extreme cases, like that caused by a bus capsizing in the tunnel.

AG September 9, 2014 - 12:25 pm

There is a delicate balancing act. There comes a level where economic activity won’t increase because people will just be unwilling to pay. This is already the second most expensive area to do business (Bay Area being #1 now).
I don’t know of any economically dynamic area on earth that has caused it’s congestion to be “gone”. Even the ones with the “best” transit systems have road congestion.

Bolwerk September 9, 2014 - 2:33 pm

Worry about that when we get there! We’re probably so expensive to do business in because of transportation more than any other factor. Our problem is our economy is retarded by our congestion, not that our congestion mitigation factors retard our economy. If anything, large cities in Europe probably have broader economic bases because they have less congestion.

AG September 9, 2014 - 3:07 pm

Except we can’t just “deal with that when we get there”. NYC is not like Euro cities in that the countries they are in charge high taxes to buy cars as well as fuel. NYC trying to do something similar unilaterally would ruin the regional economy.
Besides – who says they have “broader economic bases”? In terms of GDP – only London is anywhere near.
Moscow – Paris – Stockholm all rank as having some of the worst congestion in the world.

Bolwerk September 9, 2014 - 8:08 pm

How would that “unilaterally would ruin the regional economy”? A congestion fee is a demand usage tax rationally related to the supply of space.

NYC has a high GDP, but the economy doesn’t seem that diverse by the standards of western European cities that manage more sector diversity. More concerning, New York’s proportion of labor force participation is horrible: ~56%. Compare Hamburg, which specializes in most of the things New York specializes in and pulls off 88%.

AG September 9, 2014 - 10:50 pm

Bolwerk – congestion pricing exists in London and other cities. London still has congestion. I wasn’t talking about congestion pricing either. I was talking about the taxes associated with vehicle purchase and gasoline – as it relates to auto usage in Europe. Those are national policies. To use your example – Hamburg doesn’t have to compete with Frankfurt or Berlin in that regard. NY certainly would have to compete with other cities and states if it tried that.

Hamburg’s labor participation? Europe and the US are two different worlds.
In any event – the density is not even close… No use in trying to compare congestion.

Bolwerk September 10, 2014 - 11:55 am

London obviously didn’t set the congestion price high enough, at least at the times it still has congestion.

AIUI, New York already has above average costs associated with purchasing/financing a new vehicle actually, at least when compared to the rest of the USA. But go figure, we probably give a virtually free ride to the suburbanites using our road network, who could conceivably pay no fees related to usage and presumably fill their tanks out of town. This fucks us.

Upfront purchasing costs are possibly generally lower in Europe than the USA (at least the UK and Germany possibly are higher). European countries generally prefer to charge for use. However, New York has cheaper total ownership costs than many big international cities (though the difference isn’t as big as you seem to think).

I wouldn’t jump to any conclusions based on population density. Hamburg has a strange geography, lots of port facilities, and lots of water/parkland. Hamburg’s urban densities are lower than New York’s, but not remarkably so.

Tower18 September 5, 2014 - 6:59 pm

This is easily proven false. The last significant Hudson toll hike drove record ridership gains on PATH, the Port Authority even announced it this way. If tolls were cut in half, the opposite would happen. This is basic stuff.

lawhawk September 4, 2014 - 1:55 pm

Oh, and on cue, all PATH service is suspended on all lines due to signal problems. Cross-honoring with NJ Transit.


Eric F September 4, 2014 - 4:20 pm

One track in each direction. No redundancy in the system. Any problem causes the entire system to seize up. There should be a second set of tracks on the EWR-WTC line to allow very quick express service from EWR to WTC and to allow for general maintenance to not eliminate transport options for northern NJ.

Larry Littlefield September 4, 2014 - 2:26 pm

“We have transit capacity needs that go unfulfilled…Let’s not repeat these mistakes in the future.”

Ready to take the plunge? I suggest modifying the diagram of the Second Avenue Subway on your site banner.

The urgent capacity need is for access to East Midtown on something other than the Lex, for residents of the Upper East Side AND Brooklyn and Queens. We need Phase II to take the pressure off the Lex and provide an alternative to it for points north. But what about Phase III? It now seems like it can never happen, even if Phase II does.

We know underground stations are ridiculously expensive. The current plan has ten of them south of 59th Street, but no service connection to Queens or Brooklyn. Many of the proposed stations are in lower Manhattan, where there is already excess capacity on the Nassau Loop and BMT Broadway line, each connecting to the underutilized Montigue tunnel.

So keep the 55th Street and 42nd Street stations as East Midtown destinations. Connect to a Queens Boulevard service off the underutilized 63rd Street tunnel, as planned nearly 50 years ago. Haven a express run to 14th Street, for a transfer to the L. That’s 3 stations instead of 10.

Then hook over on Houston and connect to the current “F” tracks north of Delancey, where a transfer would be available from the J/M. And onto Brooklyn via the underutilized Rutgers Tunnel. I’d do the Rutgers/DeKalb connection on the other side, to allow access from all of the BMT Southern Division.

The SAS would be an express line south of 59th Street, for service to East Midtown. With three stations beyond phase II instead of ten.

Quirk September 4, 2014 - 6:23 pm

Good post.

Do you know where I can find more information at the 63rd st tunnel line? I thought it was supposed it be a separate line, no? I do think the hospitals near 34th need a subway line around them. There is a new medical facility being built on the corner of 34th/1st ave.

Also a NYT article in 1999 that said phase 3 was “impossible”. Is that true?

Larry Littlefield September 5, 2014 - 9:23 am

“I do think the hospitals near 34th need a subway line around them.”

A stop near the hospitals might be worth it, but let them fight for it rather than against it for a time. The subway would have to get base the Queens Midtown Tunnel and the LIRR tubes in the area, and that might put it at an elevation that makes a station there prohibitively expensive.

“Also a NYT article in 1999 that said phase 3 was “impossible”. Is that true?”

The way things have operated for the past 50 years, with a swarm of predators smelling blood and attacking any public works project, the construction of the entire NYC subway system would have been impossible.

Larry Littlefield September 5, 2014 - 9:29 am

Also, the 63rd St line was originally planned with one branch of the SAS shifting over to the Broadway Line (which is what they are building) and a connection from the tunnel going south.

The idea was you’d have two routes on the upper Second Avenue Subway. One would go down the whole line, and the other would branch off to Broadway. A route from Queens would take the place of the route that went to Broadway going south.



lop September 5, 2014 - 1:26 pm

The track maps on wikipedia for 63rd street show that the IND F tracks from Queens to 6th have a crossover to connect with but don’t merge with the BMT tracks from 2nd to Broadway.


Larry Littlefield September 5, 2014 - 2:41 pm

The tracks from Queens were supposed to branch off before Second Avenue and head south on Second Avenue as well, in addition to west on 63rd Street. That’s the way it was designed. How much is being built given cost over-runs I’m not sure.

Just imagine a branch heading south on the 63rd Street line between Roosevelt Island and Lexington Avenue, merging into the SAS.


lop September 5, 2014 - 3:36 pm

Yes I know. I was just mentioning the separate tracks since they aren’t shown that way in the links you posted.

What would you do with it in Queens though? Build a new line? Turn Port Washington into a rapid transit line?

Larry Littlefield September 5, 2014 - 8:30 pm

With CBTC you can have 40 trains per hour, allegedly. So there will be track capacity to add an additional express and/or local service, with transfers from the others. There is also tunnel capacity in the 63rd Street tunnel.

The only barrier would be terminal capacity. Both the Queens Boulevard line was planned for additional branches, so is should be possible to do a one-station extension to an additional terminal somewhere useful.

Quirk September 5, 2014 - 10:46 pm

One more question, why is the 63rd st tunnel called IND/BMT? I thought those companies were bankrupt a long time ago and weren’t there for the tube opening.

Bolwerk September 6, 2014 - 8:57 am

FWIW, I’m not sure those terms ever entirely left official use. There are stark differences between the IRT and IND/BMT that pretty much preclude shared operation. There are still subtle differences between the IND and BMT, but anything built by the IND or after for the lettered lines should be able to accommodate both.

They live(d?) on as popular designations too. I had an elderly woman asked me where the IRT was in the past decade.

BruceNY September 6, 2014 - 1:40 pm

A friend of mine told me that a lady asked him on the phone if she could take the IRT to get to his office–this was just a couple weeks ago!

AG September 6, 2014 - 9:42 am

Yeah – I myself asked why the MTA wasn’t being more aggressive with CBTC – and was told by others on this site it’s because it will be more complicated to implement here.

Bolwerk September 6, 2014 - 12:18 pm

Maybe 40TPH assuming there is capacity at the terminals.

I think even that’s a technical than practical limit, given their operational constraints, CBTC doesn’t do a lot for them besides perhaps reduce mechanical signal maintenance. And that, only-sorta-paradoxically, might be why somebody feels compelled to take their sweet time. :-\

Quirk September 5, 2014 - 10:44 pm

Thank you for the maps. Now I understand the plans

Larry Greenfield September 4, 2014 - 2:47 pm

Is that 35,000 unique people/weekday or 35,000 total fares/weekday?

Peter L September 4, 2014 - 3:37 pm

You come up with a list of $740,000,000 in cost overruns … and that’s not even half of the amount! You still need to more than double that amount.

Completely insane.

And when you think of other needs that go unmet, it’s really quite disgusting.

Chris C September 4, 2014 - 4:53 pm

I think the issue is is that $740m of extra costs were really not necessary if politicians had chosen based on economics rather than politics.

Making a decision to finish the memorial by X date had massive implications for the costs of the works

As did NOT shutting down the 1 line massively increased the complexity and cost of a job that would have been easier it the 1 had been suspended.

That really is wasted money that could have been used for other projects but the politicians decided otherwise.

At some point people should point that out to them the next time one of them bemoans the state of the infrastructure.

The other 1/2 of the overspend is due to the PA poorly managing the project and making design changes that added to the costs – e.g. doubling the number of the spines

Michael September 4, 2014 - 7:10 pm

I distinctly remember the year-long shut-down of the #1 south of the Chambers Street and South Ferry. Then #1 trains traveled to/from Brooklyn in place of the #3, and the #3 ran from Harlem to 14th Street, and #2 was local in Manhattan. Leaving just the #4 or #5 to Bowling Green, and the R-train at Whitehall Street for the Staten Island Ferry, and an otherwise convoluted trip to the westside of Manhattan and the Greenwich Village area. I remember plenty of nights walking from the #2 Wall Street station knowing full well that the ferry is leaving, and there’s a long wait for the next one. Of course this period was immediately after the towers fell, and before the twin beams of light emanated from the WTC site.

In another message stream on this forum, some talked about the possibly of the L-line being closed for Sandy related repairs. Not included in the discussion was that the MTA had to close down major portions of the L-line for the installation and testing of CBTC. Which left many riders for weeks on end with shuttle buses, closed stations, additional travel times, congested convoluted trips, etc. The idea is to let that recent history inform the discussion.

When there are discussions about shutting down various subway services there should also be a parallel discussion about those affected by such closures. Much too often the discussion seems to proceed upon the idea that such closures and service reductions are “cost-free” and “pain-less”. Often without any reference as to how similar closings affected the riders, and the public at large in the recent past.

Now it appears that some are almost saying, “Well yeah, they should have had the #1 segment (south of Chambers Street) closed until the towers are complete, shining and open, even if it would have taken 15-20 years to build the complex! As if such a closure would have had no effect at all upon anyone, the WTC area itself, or the functioning of the lower Manhattan district, or subway travelers!

Were there benefits to having the #1 trains running and working even if through the center of the WTC for the past decade? The idea is to let that recent history help form the answer.

Just a thought.

Chris C September 4, 2014 - 10:31 pm

No doubt there were benefits to keeping the 1 open to commuters etc but there were also costs – increased construction costs and time etc.

Someone obviously looked at that cost benefit analysis and made a decision to keep the 1 open but the PA then had to pay the increased costs of several hundred million $$ (which were then unavailable for other projects) plus take a longer time to do the job and at higher risk.

Last year the Chicago Transit Authority shut down a huge chunk of the Red Line for an upgrade for 5 months. That of course created lots of problems (and complaints from all and sundry) but it was far more efficient and cheaper than endless weekend shut downs. But a cost benefit showed w that the medium-long term benefits far outweighed the short term pain.

Over here in London at the end of August 1/2 of London Bridge Station was closed for nine days for major upgrade work as part of a multi-year multi million ££ upgrade plan. Some of the the work could have been done in endless weekend shutdowns but at a greater cost in money, time and lost work productivity but that would have only delayed the whole programme even more that it is taking already – the original project was called Thameslink 2000!. But a decision was made that major blackades were the best option. There was a shorter one at Easter and will be another over Christmas which will be even longer and more complex but again cheaper and more efficient in the long run.

lop September 4, 2014 - 11:43 pm

“Someone obviously looked at that cost benefit analysis and made a decision to keep the 1 open”

Or maybe the MTA looked at the cost benefit analysis for them and realized there were costs to shutting down the line but there were no benefits. And Pataki looked at the cost benefit analysis for him and realized pissing off some voters on SI who would lose their subway by the ferry was worse than having the feds pick up the tab for a more expensive PA project.

Chris C September 5, 2014 - 6:04 am

But no one was looking at the CBA for the whole project and given that the MTA is a state agency and the PA is a bi-state agency and both are under the aegis of the NY Governor …

Michael September 5, 2014 - 11:42 am

I just want to add that the closing of the #1 south of Chambers Street negatively affected riders on the #1, #2 & #3 lines in the Bronx, in Manhattan and in Brooklyn, not just us “always whining & complaining” Staten Islanders! (Please note that the above statement is sarcasm!)

As a comparison – each of the instances that noted another message were all LESS than the entire year that service south of Chambers Street on the #1 was closed in 2002.

Also with the removal of the “temporary ferry terminal”, the construction of the new much larger South Ferry Terminal, the construction of the park plaza in front of the terminal, and construction of the new subway terminal for the #1, the usual G.O.’s on the #1 line – and all of those related hassles – it is not as if the South Ferry area was not used to disruption for weeks/months on end.

That is the recent relevant history that informs my views concerning the idea “that segment should have been shut down completely until the towers were shining open & operating”. Comparing disruptions for a few weeks to year long disruptions, to a possible decades-long disruption are just not the same thing. It is an apples to oranges comparison!

It would be like saying that the disruptions of service on the Manhattan Bridge for the B, D, N, Q & W trains over an 18-year period had “no effect what so ever” on the riders, whether the riders come from the Bronx, Manhattan or Brooklyn. That the 18-year old disruption could be equated to a small disruption of a few weeks, because “well it is basically the same thing.”

I’m sure that there will be folks online who would say that closure of the Montague Street tunnel had “no effect what so ever” on the riders of the N, Q and R trains, because somehow the trains were moving somewhere! That the closure was just like a G.O. that lasted a few nights.

There is supposed to be a balancing between costs and benefits, as well as the negatives.

Tim September 5, 2014 - 2:33 pm

Seems like they could’ve run trains from Bowling Green to south Ferry, no? the New station hadn’t begun construction yet, and I think there’ say crossover that would allow it, at least according to this map : http://www.nycsubway.org/perl/.....oferry.png

Michael September 8, 2014 - 2:10 pm

Please note that the #5 train that “ends” at Bowling Green actually travels to and through the old South Ferry inner loop station, using the inner loop track that was formerly used by the very old South Ferry Shuttle train. The inner loop station platform for the South Ferry Shuttle train at South Ferry has been closed since 1977.

At the south end of the Bowling Green Station is the short platform that the South Ferry Shuttle used until it was eliminated in 1977. The renovation of the Bowling Green station was completed in 1978, and the never used renovated shuttle platform was closed off. The 1978 station renovation enlarged the Bowling Green station to its current form (orange tiles, new uptown platform, a much larger under-platform mezzanine, new escalators and new entrances. Prior to the 1978 renovation the only entrance and exit was the head-house at Battery Park making for a very crowded station with its single long middle platform between the Brooklyn-bound and uptown tracks, and a small cross-under to the short shuttle platform.

Could the MTA have diverted, say #5 trains to South Ferry using the #1 platform during this period? Yes, they could have, but they would not, and the reason goes back to the creation of the South Ferry Shuttle in the first place in 1908.

Brooklyn has so much more, way much more traffic than South Ferry requiring the sending #4 and #5 trains to Brooklyn. This has been the pattern for decades. During the rush hours almost all #4 and #5 trains head to/from Brooklyn due to the huge traffic loads, with their ultimate terminals changing over time.

During the mid-days until the mid-1970’s, both #4 and #5 headed to/from Atlantic Avenue. In recent decades, the #4 has become the full-time line traveling to/from a distant Brooklyn terminal full-time, while service on the #5 line varies as the needs change with trains often ending at Bowling Green during the mid-days, and late evenings, and weekends. During the very late evenings and midnight hours, the #5 is reduced to a Bronx Dyre Avenue shuttle. A number of G.O.’s have eliminated #5 in Manhattan entirely during the weekends for weeks at a time.

Due to 9/11, the #1 line south of Chambers Street was shut-down, the #1 South Ferry outer loop station was closed.

Without the #1 train running there full-time, and due to the sporadic service on whatever #5 trains would terminate there – it was simply better to let the folks from the South Ferry terminal/region walk the short distance to the Bowling Green station.


Jerrold September 4, 2014 - 11:23 pm

How right you are about the #1 train!
It’s the ridiculously unnecessary marble corridor that never should have been built. Like people have said, it’s the most expensive hallway in the world.

Eric F September 5, 2014 - 9:44 am

Keeping the 1 train open lead to delays in the construction as well as costs. It was not the case that putting the last couple stops on pause would have lead to 8-10 year closure. Keeping the 1 going was itself a reason for the delays.

Chris C September 5, 2014 - 4:01 pm

What I would have done is closed the 1, did the work that was necessary and then re-open the 1 as soon as the works that were near it were completed.

I wouldn’t wait until the whole project was complete before re-opening the 1.

Nathanael September 6, 2014 - 10:48 am

If the PA and everyone had had their act together, they could have constructed the portion of the site underneath the #1 while it was already closed (since it was closed for some time). By the time the #1 reopened, it had already been closed long enough to rebuild the entire area…. if they had managed to make some decisions early.

Nathanael September 6, 2014 - 10:46 am

The thing is, it was a good idea to build a hallway. Even a wide hallway. Even a hallway with skylights. This could have been done relatively straightfowardly; it’s been done many times before.

Making it a giant oval-shaped marble-clad hallway requiring lots of custom parts and special maintenance… THAT was unnecessary egotism on the part of Bloomberg, Pataki, Calatrava, etc.

Eric F September 4, 2014 - 3:47 pm

“The decision to maintain 1 train service through the site and build a supported box added another $300-$500 million.”

That’s a huge ticket item that cannot be blamed on the Port Authority. It would be nice if the PA had a half billion dollars of bonding capacity available right now to devote to the bus terminal.

Chris C September 4, 2014 - 10:38 pm

Yet the PA is the one having to pay that and take the blame for that spending.

If whoever made that decision had to fund it from their budget they might have made a different decision.

Eric F September 4, 2014 - 4:22 pm

“The WTC Hub isn’t akin to Grand Central; there is no connection north, south or east”

Well, there was a very easy connection to the 1 and to the E. Not sure how those connections will work when the new set-up is complete.

And like Grand Central, the hub is an entry point to NYC.

With those quibbles, I’m with you, though my own view is that the PATH system should be enhanced and expanded, rendering it worthy of the hub.

Sam Goetz September 4, 2014 - 5:06 pm

I think you’re right to complain about the horrible politics and corruption of the Port Authority causing awful unnecessary overages and diverting much needed infrastructure funds.

BUT, I do think you are continually underestimating the value to this particular site of having this potentially glamorous and beautiful station. By continually analyzing thist station as ONLY a train station you are massively undervaluing it’s importance. Really, it’s the cornerstone piece of rebuilding a space that by no means was ever guaranteed to come back to full power.

You cannot over estimate how haunted the WTC site is. This is not just a normal plot of land in the city. For a long long time NOBODY wanted to take their business there. But slowly yet surely, demand is creeping up and I think the impending Calatrava station (and the beauty of the memorial and Brookfield Place is a huge part of it.

Only time will tell, of course, but I do think when it’s all said and done the WTC site is going to be incredibly in demand for office space and retail and that very well might not have ever been the case if they simply kept the Port Authority station they have there now.

Just look at the Penn Station area. The awfulness of that station depresses the real estate and business values in that area like crazy. Amtrak gets almost NOTHING from the retail in the building itself.

If the Port Authority went and built something dull and ugly (like what they have now) how well might that site have rebounded? I really think a badly done station (that didn’t attract all the super high end retail that the Calatrava station already has booked) would have stalled what’s going to be a massive redevelopment of that area.

That area is going to EXPLODE. Already super tall buildings are starting to be commissioned. All those towers are going to fill up and more will join them. The retail in that station is going to be enormously profitable and will fill the cities coffers.

Now of course it could still go wrong. It all kind of depends on how the final station looks. If it ends up looking cheap and ugly, well, then you are completely right. It’s a boondoggle. But if Calatrava is actually able to accomplish something big here. Something awe-inspiring – the value to the site is enormous. Millions of people around the world will come to see it and businesses will flock to be close to it and this haunted site will not only regrow, but could be better than it ever was before.

All I’m saying is that you’re leaving this part of the station out. Great architecture and beauty is actually enormously valuable to a neighborhood. It raises everything around it. So the station is a lot more than 35,000 passengers a day. If it’s done correctly (and the jury is still out on this, but I have faith so far) it’s worth a lot more than that.

Benjamin Kabak September 4, 2014 - 5:29 pm


I appreciate the thoughtfulness of your reply and ultimately do not disagree with you on certain levels. I do believe, for instance, that we need a nicer Penn Station and that design is often overlooked with regards to transit improvements. That said, to me the biggest problem with this PATH Hub is that it is a massive expense without increasing capacity. I beat this drum repeatedly, but if we can’t spend less than a few billion dollars on a structure without, at the same time, providing more transit options, the priorities are skewed. You would think that for $4 billion, you could get an exceedingly beautiful building and increased capacity. I’m not arguing for one over another, but just for smarter spending and project management.

Sam Goetz September 4, 2014 - 6:00 pm

I couldn’t agree with you more that this city does not get any kind of bang for its buck when it comes to infrastructure spending. We so massively overspend on infrastructure compared to other Western countries. How in the world do we get the politicians to make a big deal of this? It’s an enormous impediment to increasing transit capacity. Every single transit advocate should be banging this drum and I really really appreciate all the writing you do advocating these causes.

They definitely should’ve expanded the transit capacity at the site while they were down there. Definitely a huge oversight of the project.

I’m a big fan of 2nd ave sagas, btw. Didn’t mean to come off as a hater. It just seemed like you were coming down against the “concept” of the Calatrava station like a lot of the critics seem to be doing (IE the guy from the Post). I believe strongly in grand architecture and was so happy initially when the initial plans for this station came out. I’m worried now that the Port is going to finish the job sloppily ruining what could be a grand statement, but we’ll see I guess.

Joey K September 4, 2014 - 7:12 pm

As others have said, the highlighted overruns in the WSJ article do not account for even the majority of the cost overruns for the entire project. I wonder how much of the $4 billion price tag was simply unavoidable due to the complexity of the project. And the decision to keep 1-service running, while costly to the Port Authority, still does not account for the alternative cost to the MTA or city at large for alternative service or lost productivity. Not saying it was the right move, but just saying that it is very possible that a non-Calatrava station would have been significantly more expensive than initial estimates regardless of the cost-saving measures employed.

That being said, while it would be great to have expanded service, considering the existing infrastructure, this would be very difficult at the WTC site, unless you wanted to go much deeper like the cavern space in Grand Central for East Side Access (which would cost significantly more mulah). Expanding PATH outside of NYC is a worthy venture, and the Port Authority is doing this as we speak to Newark Airport. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t dwell on the 35,000 passenger number. There will be hundreds of thousands of people that pass through the PATH hub everyday once it is completed. The retail there alone will be unparalleled in Lower Manhattan. And for the two other major retail spaces, Brookfield and the Fulton Center, the PATH hub is directly in the middle and completely accessible by underground passage. It is in this context that the bells and whistles will actually pay off in the form of higher rentals (Apple Store…). With all of the developments that have been ongoing over the last decade, it is hard to even remember the downtown that existed before 2001.

So, is all that marble necessary? Probable not. But you could say the same thing about the ornateness at Grand Central Terminal (yes I know it serves more passengers…). One of the reasons why Penn Station wasn’t seen to be as grand as Grand Central was that it wasn’t built with the materials that Grand Central was. Those soaring columns you see in those 1910 pictures were steel beams encased in plaster that, by the 1960s, had begun to flake away. The place wasn’t built to last, and it did not. I digress… The point is, it’s easy to quantify costs today, but it is exceedingly difficult to quantify benefits, whether tangible or intangible. You both make great points. Love the discussion.

So why aren’t you both working for the Port Authority or MTA??

AG September 4, 2014 - 10:00 pm

“So, is all that marble necessary? Probable not. But you could say the same thing about the ornateness at Grand Central Terminal”

Here’s the issue. Grand Central could be as ornate as it wanted it to be… It was built with private dollars. Likewise Penn.

Michael K September 5, 2014 - 11:43 am

So everything for public use needs to be class C? Just like gov’t offices…

Bolwerk September 5, 2014 - 12:08 pm

Nobody is saying that. A little elegance isn’t that hard. There are plenty of styles to choose from.

I have yet to see anyone make a convincing case that the temporary station needed to be replaced to begin with. IMNSHO Calatrava is being paid billions to take a big shit on the neighborhood.

Nathanael September 6, 2014 - 10:53 am

What Bolwerk said. A little elegance isn’t that hard.

Personally, I think one of the greatest examples of “elegance in public works” is the mosaic-tiled IRT and early BMT stations. The shape of the stations are functional, but every hallway you walk down is adorned with artwork. And the artwork is functional too (it tells you what station you’re in!).

The Calatrava station is quite the opposite. Impractical floors, impractical walls, impractical ceiling… the art is *fighting against* the function of the space, rather than enhancing it.

Nathanael September 6, 2014 - 10:56 am

This may sound like a throwback, but seriously: how much would it have cost to
(1) build a completely straightforward wide hallway with normal skylights
(2) Wrap it in mosaic tiles spelling out “”, “NYC Subway –>”, ” Dey Street”….

Yeah, I know, tilework is expensive these days, but it can’t possibly be more expensive than the marble, can it? And much more practical…

Nathanael September 6, 2014 - 10:58 am

Hmm, that didn’t quite print right. Guess I can’t use less-than signs.

“Port Authority Trans Hudson –>”

Bolwerk September 6, 2014 - 2:51 pm

If you want a less-than sign, use the HTML element


(I had to type &ampamp;gt; to get that)

I’d love to see more stylistic diversity, if anything. A station in Stockholm just painted exposed rock. I think that’s gorgeous.

Bolwerk September 6, 2014 - 8:50 pm

That’s a greater than sign. Oops!

BenS September 8, 2014 - 11:58 am

The temporary station didn’t need to be replaced? Are you so completely clueless about the location? The temporary station is falling apart, barely held together by chewing gum, plywood and cheap concrete. It is woefully insufficient for handling the passenger numbers that traverse it every day and a constant subject of extreme overcrowding. (Exiting a train at 8:45 am might find you waiting 5 minutes just to get off the platform.) It is also an extreme hazard with only one exit that could easily be blocked or destroyed by fire, natural disaster or terrorism, trapping thousands of people underground. Also, the temporary station blocks any continuation of Greenwich St to reestablish the urban fabric in the WTC. Anyone who thinks the temporary station is a viable solution for even two or three years longer has no right to even be involved in this discussion for their woeful ignorance of the situation.

Bolwerk September 8, 2014 - 1:20 pm

Hurr. Yes, I’m sure it’s held together with chewing gum.

Now, I never said there is no reason to fix problems related to the existing station, but it basically works. Nobody gets this histrionic about the considerably worse crowding conditions at at least a half dozen NYCTA stations. You’d think PATH riders just were more deserving of personal space or something.

AG September 5, 2014 - 7:57 pm

Public use and public dollars are two different things. There are many beautiful post offices also. The USPS is trying to sell most of them off.
If you run stations like parks such as Bryant or Central and have “conservancies” to pay for the upkeep fine. Now yes – the mall brings a lot of revenue to the PA – but that is still no excuse for spending so much money up front. Grand Central had to be saved too… it’s a beauty now – but even it had fallen on hard times. Grand Central has much more cache that this hub. There was simply no need to spend so much money.

Joey K September 5, 2014 - 2:41 pm

I mean, I see what you’re getting at, but that’s not really the point. It’s more about whether there a public value in ornateness. Is there a public interest in well-built, showpiece structures with lasting value. I think people would overwhelmingly agree that the answer is yes, but of course the devil is in the details. To what degree? Well, I was just saying that in the Penn Station vs. Grand Central example, Penn Station was built from shoddy materials and Grand Central was built to last. We like to think about how amazing Penn Station was because we look at black and white pictures from the early 1900s. The truth is the station was falling apart, especially by the 1950s and 1960s. The rarer color pictures show a more accurate portrayal of the state of affairs during those last two decades. There were many other reasons why Penn Station was knocked down and Grand Central was saved that have nothing to do with building materials, but this is just one angle I was pointing out.

With regard to the PATH Station, I think its too early to criticize the ultimate result because we haven’t seen how it plays into the downtown dynamic, which is about much more than the mere 35,000 people who currently use it as a train station. The PATH Station, like I said before, will be a home base for the three major retail destinations in that area. It will be a retreat for tourists visiting the WTC site. It connects to every subway line in Lower Manhattan. It is going to be one of the most trafficked spots in New York City. It’s important to get it right. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying they did or will. I’m just saying, it’s not as simple as looking at specific cost overruns and building materials. There is a bigger picture to this project.

AG September 5, 2014 - 7:49 pm

There is no dispute to how important that site is… But there ABSOLUTELY is a reason to gripe about the cost overruns. Public dollars are scarce. If they took $1 Billion of the overrun they could pay for the extension to Newark Airport – which will benefit all the people you detailed. Public works are very very inefficient when it comes to use of dollars. Brookfield Place (formerly the World Financial Center) – right across the way – just completely re-branded. Do you think the owners would have tolerated these cost overruns???

Bolwerk September 6, 2014 - 9:55 am

How many ornate showpieces do you need? PATH at the WTC is nothing more than a subway stop, a busy one but not impressively so. If you’re going to burn a pile of money, at least do what was done with Fulton Street (for 1/4 the cost?) and solve an actual problem, however minute it might be.

Nathanael September 6, 2014 - 10:50 am

The really inspired idea was to thread the PATH line up to meet the City Hall Loop and make it into an extension of the #6. Just enough buildings had been demolished that this was possible.

This was rejected because, I guess, fiefdoms.

Bolwerk September 6, 2014 - 12:04 pm

I’m not even sure it’s legally or technically feasible.

At least one technical issue: PATH has a different loading gauge, no?

That results at least one legal issue: ADA compliance! Possible solution: have two wheelchair loading areas? Might be a wider gap between the train and the platform when PATH runs on the 6.

One more legal issue: the bloody FRA

Nathanael September 7, 2014 - 8:44 pm

Actually, last I heard from someone who knew, PATH loading gauge is pretty much identical to IRT loading gauge.

The bloody FRA is a good point, of course.

lop September 8, 2014 - 2:16 am

Wiki says the PA5 is a ‘more advanced’ R142A. Both are Kawasaki and ~51 feet long. But the PA5 is listed as 0.192 meters wider, no mention of PA5 height. I guess they could have added a few inches to the platforms if they needed.

Nathanael September 8, 2014 - 11:34 am

Hmm, that is about 7 inches, more than I thought. Still probably manageable with platform extensions on PATH.

AG September 6, 2014 - 3:50 pm

Yeah – that could have been very useful… but politics…

Douglas John Bowen September 5, 2014 - 12:03 pm

Respectfully note the pedestrian capacity of a big, big area will be increased considerably. This from a current daily pedestrian. Otherwise concur with Mr. Kabak when it comes to rail capacity.

And Sam Goetz’s comments have much merit. I already bumped into a kind happy to see the “big dinosaur over there” (and, being a kid, he didn’t call it a Stegosaurus; he knew better). I don’t see such excitement over Penn Station, as Mr. Goetz astutely notes.

Beebo September 4, 2014 - 6:19 pm

Personally, I would have been okay with sprucing up the temporary station a little bit. The whole “gateway to the city” being a train station is something that’s long passed us by. In terms of impressing new arrivals, etc., its the airports. Amtrak, NJT, et al, are the province of commuters.

WRT routing the 2nd Avenue to closely follow the same path as the El, I’m with Larry. Especially with Downtown being more residential, who really needs a subway to go to Hanover Square? Even if it continued on to South Ferry, like a stub of the El did, the traffic patterns don’t justify it.

Quirk September 4, 2014 - 8:43 pm

Those towering skyscrapers at the edge of Lower Manhattan need a subway line.

Douglas John Bowen September 5, 2014 - 12:08 pm

Look at that; we appear to be more worried about our image, our presentation, to occasional visitors (via airports) more than we care about “those people (commuters), especially if they come and go from the sixth borough (Jersey City and Hoboken).

But those sixth-borough people also pay at least some taxes to Great Gotham, so the consistently blithe dismissals of “only 35,000 people a day” and etc. become a bit irksome to this rail advocate (who does fly, and who does use New York-area airports, and who wouldn’t mind improvements there either, just to be clear and sympathetic).

Benjamin Kabak September 5, 2014 - 12:13 pm

There’s a middle ground between “sprucing up the temporary station” and “spending $4 billion on a subway terminal.” The reference to 35,000 people isn’t so much a blithe dismissal as contextualization. Imagine the outcry if the MTA spent $4 billion on 14th St. and 8th Ave., tried to cover their ass by proclaiming it a great space of a few hundred thousand pedestrians and patted themselves on their back for a job well done. It’s simply context.

Douglas John Bowen September 5, 2014 - 12:49 pm

But, sir, the context you (and others, please note; the observation was not meant as a personal attack) seem determined to dismiss, almost not worth an afterthought, is all those misguided souls west of the Hudson Ocean.

Why no reference of “35,000” vis a vis Far Rockaway (or does that station generate more ridership for the Core)? Why the insistence on political boundaries, which (again, per taxation at least to a degree) smack some of us upside the head as artificial? (And as for relevance; you opened the door with the 8th/14th Street “suppose if” example; not a bad one, actually.)

This writer probably agrees with your overall take on this matter; I’m certainly not disputing the costliness of the station. Nor do I overlook the overlapping or sometimes lacking chain of command or authorities. Nor have I myself severely the PA and PATH, sometimes directly to the faces of those representing those agencies up front and in person, when I thought fit.

But if context matters, so does “a few hundred thousand pedestrians” when it comes to moving people, not just vehicles, in what is still the No. 2 central business district by population in the United States.

Douglas John Bowen September 5, 2014 - 12:50 pm

That should read; “I, myself, have severely savaged the PA and PATH.” Apologies for the hasty, errant writing.

Benjamin Kabak September 5, 2014 - 12:53 pm

I think you’re overly fixated on where they’re coming from; not me. This is a 35,000-per-day subway station — just like countless others in New York City are. Why should we sink $4 billion into it? Answer: We shouldn’t. The points of origin for trips that end at the WTC PATH subway station do not matter at all.

Beebo September 5, 2014 - 8:00 pm

If it didn’t exist already, I couldn’t see the sense of running a line to Far Rockaway.

Even so, that bern it runs on is still vulnerable and given the same type of storm, would probably suffer the same amount of damage. All things considered, restoring the LIRR right-of-way and demolishing the bern would have made more sense.

Nathanael September 6, 2014 - 11:07 am

I have to agree with this. The bay crossing is a very expensive absurdity which has washed out before — more than once! — and the Rockaways don’t get the ridership for a subway line. It’s a historical accident that they have one, dating from when the subway was government-subsidized and the LIRR wasn’t.

The entire Rockaways line (Far Rockaway to Rockaway Park) should be part of the LIRR Rockaway line, and the bay crossing should be shuttered. If you really really want a shorter route from the Rockaways to Brooklyn, it should cross at Flatbush Avenue as an extension of the #2 or the L line, which should be extended into Marine Park anyway. Gil Hodges Memorial bridge did OK in Sandy.

Bolwerk September 6, 2014 - 12:21 pm

Heh, the peninsula will wash away before anyone thinks to give up on the subway there.

Of course, that’s a distinct possibility. It’s an okay beach, but there should probably be a government program to wind down human habitation on the Rockaways.

lawhawk September 5, 2014 - 8:56 am

Ben’s mentioned this a couple of times, but it’s worth repeating.

Air rights.

You can still get a station worthy of being a central business district hub, but with the benefit of air rights sold above that could fund the current or future projects.

Fulton Center could have sold the air rights above the new center, with a billion dollar skyscraper above. Same with the Calatrava hub.

But the powers that be – at the MTA and PANY decided that they wanted a signature above-the-ground landmark, and made decisions that locked everyone into a costly project that doesn’t really add capacity.

Still, the WTC hub will have some additional capacity due to having 10-car platforms instead of the 8-car platforms that were in the original WTC. That’s additional capacity that is sorely needed during peak periods. But the layout of the stairs and escalators makes me wonder whether they thought out how to get all those people from the platforms to the mezzanine level in a timely and efficient manner.

The 10-car trains, combined with improved signals to allow trains to run closer together will add capacity to a system that can’t handle any more traffic without adding a costly tunnel.

Michael K September 5, 2014 - 11:47 am

Are you sure that air rights even exist for the parcel? i.e. were they sold off years ago? If not, the air rights can still be sold to a nearby project – I don’t see the issue.

AG September 5, 2014 - 7:39 pm

what kind of billion dollar skyscraper were you going to put over Fulton St.??? One to compete with the still not complete or full WTC????

Nathanael September 6, 2014 - 11:08 am

“But the layout of the stairs and escalators makes me wonder whether they thought out how to get all those people from the platforms to the mezzanine level in a timely and efficient manner. ”

This is exceptionally worrisome. The only practical benefits of the project are for pedestrian flow, and if they screwed that up, well…

Douglas John Bowen September 5, 2014 - 11:54 am

More like Ankylosaurus (Cretaceous period) than Stegosaurus, Jurassic.

And HERE’s a though, boondoggle or no: If Northeast Corridor capacity isn’t increased before (or as) the existing Hudson River tunnels become really problematic, doesn’t that make this station just a bit more valuable? Positive redundancy just might be more welcomed in such a case.

Alon Levy September 5, 2014 - 2:17 pm

Nope. The station can’t be used by anything except PATH.

Tim September 5, 2014 - 2:42 pm

True, but assuming the worst possible scenario (both amtrak tubes out), suddenly you’re terminating every Amtrak and NJT train in Hoboken, and suddenly that PATH station becomes invaluable.

Bolwerk September 5, 2014 - 7:01 pm

No more than the station we already have.

Beebo September 5, 2014 - 8:09 pm

Of course, chances are Hoboken would probably be flooded by whatever knocked out the Amtrak tubes.

Building infrastructure too near the water! The takeaway from Sandy is, we gotta stop doing that…

Can’t help the subways running under the rivers, but, in the present day, why do you need a waterfront train station? The barges that carried the cars over the Hudson are long gone.

The bern going to the Far Rockaways is the same issue.

paulb September 7, 2014 - 7:53 pm

Did the Fed funnel a lot of money into Calatrava, and if so was it willing to divert the money into regional projects to build up capacity instead, if the city had asked?


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