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South Ferry loop to reopen tomorrow morning

by Benjamin Kabak

Gap fillers, tight curve and a narrow platform mark the recommissioned South Ferry station. (Photo Courtesy: NYC Transit/ Marc A. Hermann)

The 1 train’s old South Ferry loop station will reopen at 5 a.m. tomorrow morning, the MTA announced this afternoon. The loop will operate for the foreseeable future while the newer two-track South Ferry terminal undergoes extensive repairs following its destruction at the floodwaters from Sandy’s storm surge. Those repairs should take a few years and will cost around $600 million according to estimates.

The reopening of the old loop marks the first time the MTA has closed a station only to reopen it later, but the agency did make a few key improvements. By removing a wall and building out an additional passageway, the connection between the R at Whitehall St. and the 1 at South Ferry remains in place. (I’m not sure, however, how useful such a transfer truly is.) However, only the first five cars at South Ferry will open at the curved station, and station egress points are limited. Still, just over five months after Sandy washed away the nearest subway station to the Staten Island Ferry, a temporary, imperfect solution is better than no service at all.

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Bill April 3, 2013 - 1:45 pm

I suppose such a transfer is helpful if you work in Downtown Brooklyn or are heading to a Nets game from Staten Island.

Benjamin Kabak April 3, 2013 - 1:47 pm

I’ve been rackin’ my brains on this one for a few days really. Here’s my take on those situations:

1. If you work in Downtown Brooklyn, the transfer between the 1 or 2/3 at Chambers is way better than the 1/R switch.

2. If you’re going to the Barclays Center from Staten Island, you’d just take the 4/5 at Bowling Green.

Simon April 3, 2013 - 1:57 pm

Likewise, for #2, you could just take the R at Whitehall St.

Perhaps if you are going from Franklin St to Prospect Av, for example, the single transfer is more appealing than taking the 1 to the 2/3 to the R.

Benjamin Kabak April 3, 2013 - 2:01 pm

As to the ferry terminal to Barclays, considering headways and number of stops, I try to avoid the R when possible.

Franklin St. to a 4th Ave. local stop is about the only scenario I can see where that transfer comes in handy. It’s still probably quicker to walk from Franklin to the R’s Canal St. stop.

Ryan April 3, 2013 - 3:50 pm

Any Seventh Avenue local stop south of Times Square, to any Fourth Avenue local stop, will do.

Benjamin Kabak April 3, 2013 - 3:52 pm

It really wouldn’t though. It’s a significantly faster ride to get an express and switch at Atlantic than it is to take the R through Lower Manhattan. Ride the R from Canal to Pacific St. It’s painfully slow.

John-2 April 3, 2013 - 5:59 pm

…though the new situation is marginally better than the old one — or, rather, the one with the new South Ferry terminal. Here, at least you’re already on the mezzanine if you’re going down to the R train, or once you get up from the R platform level, you only have to walk acroess the mezz and five steps up to the 1 platform to make the connection. With the transfer as implemented in 2009, you had two deep cavern stations, but the connecting passageway was virtually at street level.

The main advantage I can see is not for use on a regular basis, but either with possible service disruptions on the 2/3 or a weekend GO where the Clark Street tunnel would be shut down for maintenance. In that case the R/1 transfer could get you to/from Barclay’s Center-Atlantic or from Borough Hall to the west side south of about 34th Street when the normal choice is unavailable.

(The only option without it, if there’s no express service south of Chambers, is to transfer at Times Square to the R (or N) or at 14th Street from the 1 to the F or L and then to the R at Jay Street or Union Square. It’s certainly not a common situation, but given the number of weekend projects, it’s also one that can and will happen on occasion.)

lawhawk April 3, 2013 - 2:17 pm

Maybe the 1-R connection at Whitehall makes sense if you’re coming from Battery Park City and want to get under cover by catching the 1 at Rector, rather than walk the extra block to catch the R?

Then you’re transferring under cover, instead of walking in inclement weather? Other way it might make sense is if there’s delays heading uptown and you’re at Whitehall and want to stay in the system?

Benjamin Kabak April 3, 2013 - 2:28 pm

It’s not even an extra block from the 1 to the R at Rector St. The station entrances at the southern end are literally 90 feet apart from each other.

Jerrold April 3, 2013 - 2:43 pm

Speaking of inclement weather, what about people transferring on stormy days between the ferry and the R train? This way, an indoor route exists via the #1 train platform.

Alan April 6, 2013 - 1:18 pm

As someone who works near both stations, any enclosed way to get to more exits is welcome

Alex April 3, 2013 - 2:52 pm

When I worked on Varick and Houston my usual commute was a 6 block walk to the F at 4th Ave which I’d take to W4, then walk the 6 blocks to Varick. If it was pouring down rain, I could walk 2 blocks to the Prospect R stop and switch to the 1 which let me off at my building’s doorstep. However, I probably only did that 2 or 3 times. Long story short, it’s a nice perk, but I hope that transfer didn’t cost too much. There are others that would be more useful.

Ryan April 3, 2013 - 3:48 pm

I suppose that one heading from a Nets game would just take the 2/3 instead.

Benjamin Kabak April 3, 2013 - 3:51 pm

The 4 not the 2 or 3. Look at the map.

Ryan April 3, 2013 - 7:21 pm

Why the 4? Can’t they take the 2/3 and transfer to the 1 at Chambers?

al April 3, 2013 - 2:25 pm

Did they install the lithium lube to reduce the noise on curves?

PS 3rd rail on both sides, that is one sharp curve.

Fake Name April 3, 2013 - 2:49 pm

Does the TA ever publish any data on transfer use?

Henry April 4, 2013 - 12:44 am

Well, without turnstiles, there’s no way to truly count that at any specific location. They might use human counters sometimes, but human error is likely.

The short answer is no. I’m not sure about the long answer.

Chris C April 4, 2013 - 6:31 pm

In London because we use the Oyster card data is available on when people touch in and touch out and they can infer if and then where people made a transfer from one line to another by looking at the time between touch in and out against the known times it takes to get from A to B and then B to C etc.

Of course this is not totally accurate but allied with customer surveys and trip diaries it does give a very good indication of the routes people take and thus can then aid transport planning on running extra trains on certain parts of routes at certain parts of the day.

There have been several academic studies using the mass of data available – including MIT

Henry April 4, 2013 - 7:13 pm

The problem with that is that New York City’s system is infinitely more complex than the tube – there can be more than one transfer between two services, multiple services go between A and B, and not to mention the headache of trying to differentiate between riders using only the local, riders using only the express, or riders using a mix of both.

Ryan April 4, 2013 - 7:28 pm

I think that the Oyster card is far more confusing than the MetroCard, because even in the tube one can still make numerous transfers that take up time (and money). Not to mention that the Jubilee/Metropolitan and District/Picadilly lines on the Tube are also local/express pairs, just like the NYC subway is.

Chris C April 5, 2013 - 9:50 am

You do not get charged for transferring from one tube line to another within the system.

Oyster can even handle a journey that involves exiting the system at Hammersmith on the District & Piccadilly lines and re-entering the separate station Hammersmith on the Circle and Hammersmith/City lines and calculate it as one journey. (as long as the re-entry is within a short space of time)

You do get charged separately for using buses though.

I can even do journeys that involve switching from the tube to railway and Docklands Light Railway and it still calculates the correct fare if I’m on ‘pay as you go’ or the extra cost depending on my zonal travel card and if I go into an extra zone.

I’m not sure about your point regarding our ‘express’ lines. That has nothing to do with Oyster it was how the system was built.

Henry – yes I appreciate that the NYC system is more complex but the MTA will be able to infer where people are likely to transfer from one line to another depending on the start and finish points. Where TFL has the advantage over the MTA in this respect is that it has data on individual journies. Because of the way the gates have been programmed it can even tell if I enter/leave Victoria for example from the Victoria Line gates or the District Line gates and can then infer how I got there from my start / finish point.

Real Name April 3, 2013 - 3:06 pm

Logically there is only a single path which the transfer makes possible, which can of course be traveled in either direction.
One can travel south on the IRT (1 train) and tranfer to the BMT (R train) toward Brooklyn, or one can travel in the other direction; from Brooklyn into Manhattan on the R and then north on the 7th Avenue line. Although it is theoretically possible, it makes absolutely no sense to come south on the IRT and then go north up toward City Hall on the BMT (or vice versa).

But unless the origin of the trip is Rector Street (or, when it reopens, Cortlandt Street), the trip is way easier and quicker using the 2 or 3 into Brooklyn and then transferring to the R at Court Street/Borough Hall. I suppose that we could add Franklin, Canal, Houston and Christopher Streets as origins from which the single transfer at South Ferry/Whitehall is preferable to a double transfer (at Chambers to the 2/3 and again at Borough Hall to the R), but the value to me of all this is questionable.

No Name April 3, 2013 - 3:47 pm

Or, you can just transfer at Fulton Street to the 4/5 train, which does stop near South Ferry.

Fake Name April 3, 2013 - 3:28 pm

I see that the “Weekender” map for April 5-8, already shows South Ferry as having opened. I guess there are some areas in which the TA really does act quickly!


Larry Littlefield April 3, 2013 - 3:44 pm

Here is my take on it. It is a cost savings. You want a manned booth in the station. Because the two stations are connected, and really one station, you only need one for the two.

That labor cost saved into the future may or may not be worth the capital cost, but because it was federal money, it was less green.

Other than that, it is a useful transfer for someone going to Brooklyn that mistakenly gets on the #1 instead of walking a block to the R. Or someone who is on the R and wants to go the West Side north of Chambers, and doesn’t want to transfer twice (though the connection at Cortlandt may make that obsolete.

Nathanael April 3, 2013 - 6:45 pm

I believe you are correct. One manned booth rather than two.

Ryan April 3, 2013 - 3:45 pm

I checked Wikipedia and it’s already been updated to show this.

Brian April 3, 2013 - 4:14 pm

“The outer loop platform reopened on April 4, 2013” past tense to describe the future, funny

Kevin P. April 3, 2013 - 3:58 pm

The reopening of the old loop marks the first time the MTA has closed a station only to reopen it later

Let us not forget that NYCT wanted to close Intervale Avenue permanently after it was destroyed by fire. It took community uproar to get them to rebuild it.

Ryan April 3, 2013 - 7:32 pm

Let us not forget that NYCT wanted to close Intervale Avenue permanently after it was destroyed by fire. It took community uproar to get them to rebuild it.

And also, don’t forget the Franklin Avenue Shuttle.

Jerrold April 3, 2013 - 8:38 pm

Didn’t they also plan to close the 145 St./Lenox Ave. station once they finished building the “Lenox Terminal” (148 St./7 Ave.) station?
I understand that heavy community opposition resulted in both stations staying open.

Ryan April 3, 2013 - 9:44 pm

According to Wikipedia:

This station was intended to be closed in 1968 with the opening of Harlem–148th Street, but the plans were shelved due to protests from residents of a nearby apartment complex.

But there aren’t any citations, so we do not know if that is true.

Henry April 4, 2013 - 12:46 am

Your link links back to this article.

Ryan April 4, 2013 - 7:54 am

Oops, sorry. This is the link.

Simon April 4, 2013 - 1:23 pm

Intervale is ridiculously close to Simpson and Prospect.

Ryan April 4, 2013 - 7:32 pm

It is- by a factor of only 4 or 5 blocks. There are several other stations in the city that are only 1-3 blocks apart (e.g. Beverley Road and Cortelyou Road) yet they have not been nominated for closure.

Spendmore Wastemore April 3, 2013 - 4:51 pm

Now they can make a big improvement to the station. One and a half big improvements:

Change the old, newly opened station’s status as permanently open
One and a half:
Change the new, recently closed station’s status to permanently closed.

Pass Go, collect $600 million.

Andre L. April 3, 2013 - 6:19 pm

The situation is precarious. It can’t fit a whole train. It is not adapted for the disabled. Are you suggesting to make this patch permanent?

Nathanael April 3, 2013 - 6:46 pm

South Ferry is on the ADA key stations list — the list of stations which NYC Subway MUST make wheelchair accessible.

Now, it’s not the most useful station. So I’d be amenable to the option of taking it off the list and putting a more important station on the list. Which one do you propose?

Patrick April 3, 2013 - 6:59 pm

South Ferry is a pretty useful station….why on earth would they go through all the trouble of reopening the Sotuh Ferry Loop station if South Ferry was “not the most useful station.”

In my opinion, South Ferry definitely should be ADA accessible. It’s a key entry point to the system for many Staten Islanders (of which there are many who are disabled) and not making it ADA accessible is silly. The current station, as it is, without it’s ADA accessibility will work fine in a pinch, but it certainly shouldn’t be made pernamant as it is going forward.

Ryan April 3, 2013 - 7:24 pm

Or, they can make the Whitehall Street station ADA-accessible, and add a free ADA-accessible transfer between the 1/2/3 and R in Fulton Center.

Ryan April 3, 2013 - 7:23 pm

One and a half things the loop will never have:

One: Elevators.
One and a half: Capacity for full length trains.

Jerrold April 3, 2013 - 8:11 pm

After I pass Go, I would like to put any Transit executive who seriously considers that proposal IN JAIL.
Not in Free parking, not in Just Visiting, but IN JAIL.

Jerrold April 3, 2013 - 8:14 pm


I was referring to the proposal to make tomorrow morning’s
situation permanent.

pink l April 3, 2013 - 6:56 pm

I was wondering if it would be possible that when the new station opens (in however many years) if they will keep the old one in service. I mean sure it can’t fit a whole train, but it would add train capacity if you had some trains terminate at the old and the new.

Patrick April 3, 2013 - 7:03 pm

It wouldn’t add all that much capacity. The trainsets and tracks can only hold x amount of trains per hour anyways.

Plus it would be a real mess sending trains to two very different stations. What if I’m in car 7 and my train gets sent to the old South Ferry? I’m screwed. What if I’m in a wheelchair? Do I just hope for the best and be out of luck if my train goes to the loop station?

It would be too confusing.

Ryan April 3, 2013 - 7:31 pm

I think that having three platforms is confusing, like Patrick says above. It also does not add capacity to the line unless the entire Seventh Avenue line local tracks above Rector are equipped to handle as many as 40 trains per hour (16 from the loop and 24 from the new station). This means a train every 90 seconds (currently the 1 only operates at 12 trains per hour during peak hours.)

Also, 40% of all disabled passengers going to South Ferry would end up on the non-disabled platform (the loop.) And since there aren’t different rollsigns for the loop and for the new station, it would be hard to differentiate between the loop trains and the trains heading to the new station. Besides, 20% of passengers would also end up in one of the cars in the back of the train and won’t be able to get off at South Ferry.

Simon April 4, 2013 - 2:10 pm

All that switching would likely reduce capacity, particularly with the flat junction between the loop and terminal tracks, and either station involves slowing trains to a crawl.

asar April 3, 2013 - 7:12 pm

Wow wow wow! This is awsome ! South ferry opening back up is a miracle!no more waiting half an hour for the r train ! And then smith 9sts is opening back up at the end of the month

Abba April 3, 2013 - 11:24 pm

The loop station sure can come in handy for use as extra terminals.Would be confusing yes.However let’s say there is a major at the two track terminal.Some service is better then none.No?

Abba April 3, 2013 - 11:25 pm

The loop station sure can come in handy for use as extra terminals.Would be confusing yes.However let’s say there is a major switch problem at the two track terminal.Some service is better then none.No?

Abba April 3, 2013 - 11:27 pm

Or let’s say G-d forbid another Storm comes.At the very least the station should not be abandoned .

Frank B April 4, 2013 - 1:20 am

Amen to that.

John-2 April 4, 2013 - 12:18 am

The loop station is always going to be there, because the MTA needs the flexibility of the loop to route Seventh Avenue trains over to Lex and vice-versa. Where they got ‘lucky’ was that South Ferry had only been out of commission for a relatively short time, and had an access point that could be modified (relatively) easily into a connection with the surviving mezzanine.

If instead of four years, the loop had been out of commission for, say, 20-30 years when Sandy hit, or if there was no easy way to connect the station to the shared 24-hour fare control area with the R, it would have been tougher for the MTA to get the station back up and running.


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