Home Fulton Street Introducing the Fulton Street Transit Center

Introducing the Fulton Street Transit Center

by Benjamin Kabak


It’s now been two days since the $1.4 billion Fulton St. Transit Center opened, and in New York, that’s an eternity. Instagram has filled up with photos of the Fulton oculus, the subway system’s newest attraction, and reviews running the gamut are coming in. I offered a first look on Sunday night with photos and a skeptical essay on the way New York and, more importantly, the federal government spends its transit dollars. Tonight, let’s run through what this thing really is.

What is the Fulton Street Transit Center?

Located on Broadway between John and Fulton Street, the Transit Center is a fully ADA-compliant, multi-story building that sits atop the massive Fulton St. subway station. The $1.4 billion rehab project involved reimagining the underground areas that were a confusing tangle of dimly-lit ramps that traversed multiple train lines built by a variety of private entities at varying depths. The new Transit Center untangles this mess as best it can and provides a much smoother transfer between the 4/5 and the A/C, the key choke point in the station.

Right now, the Transit Center itself is devoid of another other than empty space, but it has 30,000 square feet of retail space that will begin to fill up in early 2015. Space ranges from 200-700 square feet all the way up to one space of 8000 square feet and one space of 10,000 square feet. Westfield is working on leasing the retail spots and hopes to attract a restaurant for one the spaces and a big-name anchor tenant (such as Apple) for the other big spot. Retail kiosks will fill some of the floor space as well, and Westfield is in charge of maintenance and cleanliness. Essentially, the headhouse is a mall.

You’re the saying this isn’t the big white thing near 1 World Trade Center that looks like a porcupine?

No, sorry. That’s Santiago Calatrava’s $4 billion World Trade Center PATH Hub, a project offering even less bang for the buck than this one that also happens to feature extensive retail space.

Inside the Fulton St. Transit Center. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)

So who designed and built this thing?

As the Port Authority went with a troubled starchitect for its project, the MTA used three architects of record: Grimshaw, Page Ayres Cowley, and HDR Daniel Frankfurt. The project was originally supposed to be completed seven years ago, but after engineering work proved more difficult and original designs too expensive, the MTA had to redesign the project on the go. These three firms led that effort.

Why didn’t the MTA build a 25-story mixed use building to better capitalize on the demand for real estate in New York City

That is literally the multi-million-dollar question. At a time when space is going for record dollar values and the MTA has to maximize its revenue potential, it had an opportunity to build up. Instead, the building is relatively short with only parts of four floor reserved for retail use. Together with the Corbin Building the MTA is realizing revenue streams of only 60,000 square feet for commercial and retail use.

What exactly is the Corbin Building?

Located next to the Fulton St. Transit Center, the 1888 Corbin Building was constructed as a proto-skyscraper for one-time LIRR President Austin Corbin. The building includes Guastavino tile structural floor arches visible from an escalator and a variety of terra cotta elements popular in the late 19th century. At the time, it was built in one year, a stark contrast to the 12 years it took modern crews to complete the Fulton St. project. The MTA had to spend a lot of time carefully underpinning the Corbin Building to install the necessary escalators and crews found a stock trade records from the 1880s during the work.

Westfield, the company in charge of renting out the retail space in the main Transit Center building, is also tasked with finding takers for the office space in the Corbin Building. The building contains approximately 30,000 square feet. A few years ago, I saw the inside, and it’s an interestingly narrow space that’s sure to attract tenants rather quickly.

These panels in the center of the atrium will one day have touch screens. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)

How is this the “Station of the Future”?

The MTA is calling this the subway station of the future, and that’s because of the technology involved. With 340 security cameras, it’s one of the most watched stations in the subway system, and it features numerous video ad boards, 16 On The Go kiosks and other information screens. All in all, the building now has 52 digital displays, two jumbo screens (one that’s 32×18 and another 24×16) and ads as far as the eye can see. The MTA can always take control of these screens in the event of an emergency, and the screens split time with an MTA Arts & Design digital video.

The Sky Reflector Net rings the Fulton St. oculus. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)

Tell me about this oculus.

Towering 110 feet above street level, the 53-foot diameter glass oculus is the main draw. It serves to bring daylight down into the depths of the subway and features the art installation called “Sky Reflector Night.” Designed by James Carpenter Design Associates, Grimsahw Architects and Arup, the 4000-pound cable net includes 952 alumninum panels that each geometrically unique. It will instantly become an icon of New York City.

The mezzanine above the former Broadway/Nassau stop is wide and well lit, a welcome change from its previous incarnation. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)

What about the station? I still have to walk up and down stairs. What gives?

In a rather amusing/oblivious bit from The Post, Steve Cuozzo issued my favorite critique of the Transit Center to date. Instantly forgetting how dismal the old station was, Cuozzo had this say: “No matter how it’s prettied up, there’s simply no way to shorten the long trek from the Nos. 4, 5 and 6 East Side lines under Broadway to the J and Z lines several blocks west. And you’ll still climb stairs.”

Of course you’ll still climb stairs! The MTA didn’t invent a time machine to head back to the early 1900s in order to force the BMT, IND and IRT to design a better station experience. The A and C trains are still a few stories below the 4 and 5 and the 2 and 3. The BMT trains that run underneath Nassau St. still bisect the the passageway that would otherwise connect the 2 and 3 to the 4 and 5 via a walkway above the A and C. It ain’t perfect, but it’s much easier to navigate.

How many people are going to use this?

That’s a good question. The MTA materials all claim 300,000 per day, but current entries at Fulton St. are only in the 65,000 range. Will an additional 235,000 subway riders per day use this station as a transfer point? That seems awfully high to me. For comparison, Times Square, the most popular subway station by no small amount, sees 200,000 entries per day.

R train thisaway. The Dey St. Concourse provides an out-of-system connection between Cortlandt St. (and points west) and the Fulton St. Transit Center. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)

I’ve heard of a new concourse under Dey St. What is it?

The Dey St. Concourse is an out-of-system walkway that connects the R at Cortlandt St. to the rest of the Fulton St. Transit Center. When work on the PATH Hub is completed the walkway will run from Brookfield Place near the Hudson River underneath the WTC site via the Calatrava station with out-of-system connections to the E and 1 trains. (Thus, the empty bullets in this photo.)

Did you say out-of-system transfer? What gives?

This is a major point of criticism: There is no free transfer between the R at Cortlandt St. and any of the trains at Fulton St. It’s an out-of-system connection that requires a swipe, and the MTA offered a few reasons. First, the Dey St. Concourse work was tricky as the MTA had to shore up very old buildings that lined Dey St. They had very little margin for error and couldn’t add more space to the corridor. They didn’t want to go through placing a barrier down the middle of it similar to the way the 53rd St.-3rd Avenue station is designed and claim they would lose $2 million annually by creating a new free transfer where one did not previously exist. Plus, all of the Fulton St. train lines connect to the R at Canal St., Borough Hall or Jay St.-MetroTech.

Who paid for this?

Although September 11 is beginning to feel like a different era in city history, federal post-9/11 funds built the Transit Center. Of The $1.4 billion, $847 came from Lower Manhattan Recovery Grants, $130 million came from the MTA in local funds, and $423 million came from the FTA’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the single largest FTA award under the ARRA program.

Was it all worth it?

I’ll leave that one up to you to decide.

The view from the lower level. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)

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Henry November 12, 2014 - 12:38 am

Can we shove Canal St onto the list for “next station to renovate/detangle”? That place is a mess.

I don’t think the mixed-use thing is necessarily bad, since the MTA can always sell the air rights to someone developing a lot nearby. At least this way we ensure the MTA doesn’t go overboard with the development part and wind up with either a multibillion-dollar office complex that can’t sell space (WTC) or Penn Plaza Part II.

Aaron Burger November 12, 2014 - 9:15 am

Quoting a comment made by Andres on June 18, 2014 in response to http://bkabak.wpengine.com/201.....june-26th/

“[Y]ou inadvertently revealed (what I believe is) the raison d’etre for the center. It prevents the construction of ‘a smarter economic choice’, one which would block the eastern views of 195 Broadway (the old AT&T building) and the hotel behind it. Both are (or were) owned by MTA chair Peter Kalikow at the time this project was launched.”

Is there any indication this could be the case? Personally I think a residential tower would be a boon for the area–especially since much of the nearby housing isn’t exactly luxury (~$2500/mo for a studio @ 90 Washington Street). Is there a reason this tower would have to be?

Henry November 12, 2014 - 11:53 am

2500/mo isn’t exactly “middle class” or “affordable” either. In any case, nearly all Lower Manhattan residential construction these days is luxury-oriented even as far as Delancey and the LES, so I would expect this to be yet another luxury tower given the lack of nearby available land supply with appropriate zoning.

Larry Littlefield November 12, 2014 - 4:08 pm

A gas station in Brooklyn is for sale for $450 per buildable square foot. For a 1,000-square-foot unit, tight for a family, a developer would have to charge $450,000, not including the cost of the building and profit. And with that kind of risk the expected profit has to be sky-high.


Henry November 12, 2014 - 4:30 pm

450,000 for a house might get you something all the way out in far eastern Queens, if that, and that’s been the case for a while.

Prices are low mostly because 1. New York has international appeal as a property market, 2. We never really suffered from the property collapse as much as other markets, and 3. The Bloomberg administration actually dezoned most of the city, restricting land supply even more than it was already restricted.

New York City didn’t have a housing price problem until we replaced the 1900s zoning code in the 1960s with artificial limits on height and single-use zoning. Sure, Manhattan has always been expensive, but you could always get something in the outer boroughs with a reasonable commute time and price point.

AlexB November 14, 2014 - 12:12 pm

The gas station with no occupiable square footage is for sale for $450 per potential buildable square foot. That means that before you actually build anything, the cost of land has already ADDED $450,000 to a 1,000 sf apt. That means you’d have to keep building costs below $600/sf in order to keep the apt near $1 million, assuming contractor and developer profit is included in that $600/sf

Bolwerk November 16, 2014 - 8:47 pm

I agree there might be a residential bubble right now, at least in NYC, but housing and gas stations are not good to compare to each other. Valuations for gas stations are probably based more on income potential than market demand. Market demand for the gas station lot is actually likely to be incredibly low for several reasons, one being that gas stations are barely more pleasant to have around than cesspools. Surely there are several environmental and regulatory hurdles to overcome converting between one and the other, which limits the market for new gas stations and makes it a rather noncompetitive venture – if there isn’t already a gas station across the street, there probably won’t be.

That said, gas stations tend to have pretty high and stable net incomes. People aren’t going to be filling up much less in an economic slump, so they are even rather recession-resistant. Apartments, OTOH, can literally have no or even negative income. But people buy them anyway for capital gains, vanity, convenience, or (the most oft-overlooked one) because they need to live somewhere.

Stephen Smith November 12, 2014 - 5:01 pm

Without a special rezoning (which the BdB admin will never allow, unless there’s an affordable housing requirement that saps all the value of the air rights to begin with), you cannot transfer air rights to any lots but those immediately adjacent.

Quirk November 13, 2014 - 12:09 am

From YIMBY??

John-2 November 12, 2014 - 2:07 am

I’m guessing Cuozzo was expecting an escalatorpalooza in the new station, where the intra-platform connections would get the same treatment as the access from the street down to fare control level did within the new building. but while the new building makes the immediate area around Fulton and Broadway easier to navigate, some of the logistical/width problems with the Nassau and Williams Street areas along Fulton remain, simply because the layout of the Nassau Loop forces the connections down to the A/C platform level.

As far as the retail space, we’ll still have to see if the Fulton Center and the Caltrava stegosaurus can co-exist as headhouse/malls a block from each other without one becoming the more ‘upscale’ of the two (i.e. — If you’re the MTA and you want something like Apple as your large space anchor store, can you get it if the competition is the white marble quasi-commuter rail station nearby, will the Caltrava building suck up all the high-end tenants and leave the Fulton Center as more of a lunchtime food court destination, with more lower-end retail at best? Retailers will have PATH plus the A/C/E/R/1 and — if you’re into walking-and-climbing — the 2/3 trains with fare control locations in the Port Authority’s building. The ones looking for commuters with higher incomes may decide that’s a better bang for their bucks).

Henry November 12, 2014 - 2:33 am

Brookfield is managing both Fulton and the WTC hub, as well as the shops at the WFC (and it used to manage the very large underground mall at the old WTC), so competition shouldn’t be super-destructive.

BoerumHillScott November 12, 2014 - 9:14 am

Brookfield Center/WFC (Brookfield) will be in competition with WTC and Fulton Center (Westfield).
However, they seem to going after different markets with Brookfield more high end and Westfield more midrange mass market.

I do agree that Westfield will coordinate the Fulton Center retail with the much larger (10x) WTC retail. That is one argument for keeping the passage connecting them out of fare control.

John-2 November 12, 2014 - 10:24 am

My question is really can Westfield co-ordinate to the MTA’s satisfaction in renting their headhouse, versus making the Port Authority happy with their over-twice-as-costly headhouse, which is designed to visually mesh more with the look of Brookfield’s WFC (and which, for $4 billion, you’d expect it would).

You can’t force more upscale retailers into the Fulton Center if they see their target demo as being better fitted to the people passing through the Calatrava headhouse mall. You can offer rental discounts, of course, but that would mean the cost per square foot for the Fulton Center would be way lower than what the Port Authority is getting. Which may not matter at all to the MTA, which could prefer more upscale tenants paying lower rent than something that, 15-20 years from now, ends up looking like the 21st Century version of the old rental properties in the Times Square/Port Authority Bus Terminal subway stations.

Jeff November 12, 2014 - 3:04 pm

For the record, the “headhouse” for the PATH station is just that, a headhouse. There’s zero above ground retail in that stegosaurus structure, or anything else for that matter. It’s essentially a giant statue.

All of the retail in the WTC Hub is located below ground (similar to the old WTC complex) or at street levels in the WTC towers.

BoerumHillScott November 12, 2014 - 3:31 pm

I guess it’s a matter of semantics, but I consider two levels of retail built into the lower walls of the structure to be part of the structure, even if they are below street grade, which is all man-made at that location anyway.

SEAN November 12, 2014 - 9:33 am

Correction… you ment Westfield not Brookfield is managing retail space at both Fulton center & WTC.

BTW, Brookfield owns about half of Chicago based General Growth Properties – the second largest mall owner in the country.

Tower18 November 12, 2014 - 11:19 am

His is a strange critique because transferring between the 4/5 and J at Fulton is stupid anyway. It’s much easier to do that transfer 1 station uptown at City Hall/Chambers.

It seems to me much of the transferring activity at Fulton is between J/Z and A/C, and between 4/5 and A/C. Maybe some 2/3 to A/C, but that’s easier at Park Pl/Chambers.

Simon November 13, 2014 - 12:14 pm

“…there’s simply no way to shorten the long trek from the Nos. 4, 5 and 6 East Side lines under Broadway to the J and Z lines several blocks west.”

Actually, the J/Z are one block east, and the 6 isn’t there to begin with.

Michael November 12, 2014 - 3:52 am

“That’s a good question. The MTA materials all claim 300,000 per day, but current entries at Fulton St. are only in the 65,000 range. Will an additional 235,000 subway riders per day use this station as a transfer point? That seems awfully high to me. For comparison, Times Square, the most popular subway station by no small amount, sees 200,000 entries per day.”

There are a number of subway stations that serve a vital function as a transfer station among the various lines that serve that station. Which could mean that the station gets a very high level of usage by the riders, even though the ridership counts by the turnstyles seems lower.

For example – my work trips to/from Brooklyn involve making a transfer at the new Fulton Transit Center between the A & C trains and the #4 and #5 trains. The Bowling Green station and my work subway station gets the “credit” of my Metro-Card swipes while the vital connecting station (Fulton Street/Broadway/Nassau) at first glance seems to not show up in any official statistics.

I’m pretty sure that the folks at the MTA who count ridership statistics and Metro-Card swipes also employ simple observation to help determine some of the very busy stations. I have to remember to bring that up at the next Transit Museum forum when the MTA staff member who handles the statistics speaks again.


BoerumHillScott November 12, 2014 - 9:19 am

This gets to the heart of many debates over projects like Fulton Center and WTC Transit center – how do you measure success?
Turnstile entries? In system transfers? System to system transfers? Pedestrians? Time savings? Shoppers? Lease amounts psf?

Complicating this is that neither project were paid for primarily from transit funds.

Tower18 November 12, 2014 - 11:25 am

For this reason, I feel like ridership on the G is somewhat undercounted, as many riders joining the G at Hoyt and Court Sq are counted elsewhere. Only observation would catch it.

Eric F November 12, 2014 - 9:33 am

Is the regret about not building an office tower at Fulton Center a case of hindsight being 20/20? Fulton Center was conceived very soon after 9/11. It’s hard to imagine envisioning a need for additional office space adding to the WTC space in lower Manhattan post 9/11. In fact, given that WTC is not fully built out and quite vacant, are we sure that a tower at this spot would be a money maker? Or would this have become a project pushing $2 billion with a vacant tower on top?

Jeff November 12, 2014 - 2:59 pm

You’re right. There’s really not much demand for new office towers in Lower Manhattan beyond the WTC buildings these days and Silverstein is still struggling to attract tenants for his towers.

AG November 12, 2014 - 3:45 pm

Not true… What was formerly known as the World Financial Center became Brookfield Place. In fairly short order they basically refilled the entire property with companies escaping midtown’s high prices. Those aren’t even new buildings. The problem with WTC is simply politics…. That said – selling the air rights is a better bet for the MTA.

Jeff November 12, 2014 - 5:41 pm

That’s not what I said. I said there is no market for *new* commercial construction. The commercial market in downtown is relatively in line with the rest of NY and is quite healthy. But developers aren’t adding *new* office space because of the big elephant in the room (the WTC) and the fact that there’s not much demand for it anyway. As far as I know, just about all of the construction going on in downtown are residential or lodging related, aside from the WTC.

AG November 12, 2014 - 11:28 pm

There is demand for new construction…. Older office space is being converted at a rapid rate to residential…
Office construction is not like residential or retail… You need tenants before you can get a loan. The WTC is obviously something different. No private developer would attempt to build new office space with the fact that they have to compete with the WTC going up… Vacancy in Lower Manhattan is lower than just about any other office market in the country… (except San Fran proper – and possibly DC).


Douglas John Bowen November 12, 2014 - 9:39 am

Well, “porcupine” is more apt than “Stegosaurus,” at any rate, vis a vis Calatrava. (Note to critics: Try “Ankylosaurus.”)

Mr. Kabak strives to be objective and fair in this review of Fulton Center per his announced intent, and is mostly successful. One clear slip, however (which, given it’s his space, he’s entitled to, just to be clear): The observation that Calatrava is “a project offering even less bang for the buck than this one.”

For myself, I’ll take out the word “even” and, with that done, agree with Mr. Kabak’s overall take on the subject.

Eric F November 12, 2014 - 11:32 am

Criticism of the WTC station cost has to come with separation of the cost of the starchitect design from what a good, solid, but simpler station would cost. WTC is different than Fulton in that, post-9/11, there was no permanent station and one had to be constructed. I have no idea what a bare bones permanent station would have run, but that has to be the basis for comparison. For Fulton, the basis for comparison is zero, as Fulton doesn’t add or restore a station.

John-2 November 12, 2014 - 1:03 pm

Something more utilitarian would have come up against the same questions the Fulton Center has, in terms of why no office space was considered above the retail space and transit use areas at the site.

Recapturing some of the lost office space from replacing Tower 1 and Tower 2 with a single structure could have been more centralized on the original 16 acre site if the PATH station had been incorporated into another office building, which for all intents would have recreated the original dual-use design of Hudson Terminal. But the Caltrava structure is as much or more about being seen above ground as a stand-alone monument to the politicians and the Port Authority leaders of a decade ago as it is about its actual purpose as a transit hub that simplifies connections at the WTC site (and there was no reason why the PA couldn’t have built a multi-use transit hub/retail mall/office space structure, other than the fact it would fade into being just another downtown office building if it wasn’t as tall as the Freedom Tower).

Henry November 12, 2014 - 1:22 pm

The thing is, WTC is already having trouble filling up its office space; 3 WTC still doesn’t have enough tenants, and 2 WTC isn’t even going to be built (which is sad, because it easily has the best design out of all of the towers at the complex). Another office tower would be a really easy way to sink the Port Authority’s budget for the next century.

The office tower argument is irrelevant anyways since air rights can be sold and transferred to other developers developing nearby. That’s what happened with GCT and the Metlife Building.

John-2 November 12, 2014 - 3:51 pm

But the Calatrava above-ground portion is going to be there for at least the next half-century, or until people forget how much it cost to build in the first place. and the design doesn’t lend itself to anything being built around it.

So you may be able to transfer air rights around 2065 or so, but not now (though given the choice between demolishing Pennsylvania Station 50 years ago to put up MSG and 2 Penn Plaza after only 50 years of life and tearing down the Caltarava salute to the history of reptiles a half-century into its existance for a new office town, I’d shed far less of a tear for the latter if I make it that long).

Henry November 12, 2014 - 4:04 pm

From what I understand, TDRs can be sold at any time, and in any case DCP may be able to give the Port Authority special allowances in how, where, and when they can sell their air rights given that Ground Zero almost certainly counts as a landmark area with a lot of historical background and open space that needs to be preserved.

Boris November 12, 2014 - 3:59 pm

The current PATH station is the “good, solid, but simpler station” that can be used for comparison. I believe it cost about $300 Million. That means the amount we can attribute to starchitect waste is $3.7 Billion.

Jeff November 12, 2014 - 5:47 pm

Haha. No.

The current PATH station is a temporary shell built as if it were an above ground structure and with zero accommodations for the safety/security needs of the site as well as the infrastructure/integration requirements with other components of the WTC complex. It was built to be temporary and it functions like it. There’s a very silly comparison.

AlexB November 14, 2014 - 12:19 pm

The entire cost of the PATH station includes all the underground work, including the passageways under West St. The temporary PATH station only included the station itself and its exits. The comparison would have to be between the expense of the marble finishes and the porcupine structure above. The whole thing in a utilitarian form would have run at least a billion and a half. The cost overruns didn’t just come from the headhouse.

Subutay Musluoglu November 12, 2014 - 10:24 am

Ben – A few notes to add: In addition to the firms you have cited (all architects), the engineering firm Arup also played a significant role in the structural, mechanical, and civil engineering design of the Fulton Center project (not just limited to the Sky Reflector), as did AECOM, which designed the structural box of the Dey Street Concourse Passageway. There were several individual construction contracts that collectively accounted for the project, and without going into the specific minutiae of each contractor, suffice it to say that Skanska performed the majority of the work, while Schiavone was responsible for the Transit Center building, and Judlau was responsible for the restoration of the Corbin Building.

With respect to the Dey Street Concourse, there are two important points that are in danger of being lost to history. First, as you stated, the passageway was to have been wider. While it is true that a wider corridor would have been trickier from a structural perspective, it was definitely doable. A “value engineering” exercise to save costs resulted in the reduction of the width of the passageway. That same cost cutting move was used as the justification for eliminating the possibility of two side by side moving sidewalks that were being considered for installation to speed up transfer times between the Fulton complex and the Cortlandt Street R station. Looking at the passageway in its finished form for the first time on Monday, it is my personal belief that there is more than sufficient space for two moving sidewalks (assuming they are similar to the ones at Court Square in Queens), as well as space for an adequate walking corridor, which would be necessary when the sidewalks were down for maintenance.

Second, during the design phase there was a debate as to whether the passageway should be an in-system transfer. It was discussed at MTA Board meetings several times during the design phase, a number of which I personally attended. I recall numerous reasons being offered not to have this as an in-system transfer, including the two factors you cited – the loss of revenue and the need to place a barrier down the middle. I take serious issue with both, as they both reflect flawed public policy. While I agree that the MTA should be rightfully concerned with loss of revenue, as a public agency tasked with being the primary transit provider in this city it is their inherent mission to make travel convenient, so using a $2 M annual loss of revenue as justification for not making this an in-system transfer is specious, especially considering the reality that public transit is generally accepted as a money losing enterprise in the context of its overall social and economic benefits. When compared to the excessive cost overruns on the MTA’s mega-projects and their ever increasing costs of debt service, inefficient labor, and rising employee health care and pension costs, $2 M appears amusingly minute. And the issue of a barrier in the middle of the passageway is downright silly, since the fare control areas of both ends of the passageway could very well have been designed in a manner that enables NYCT customers from the R and E (free transfers from the 1 would have been impractical) to transfer to the Fulton complex and vice versa, while preserving the integrity of the paid zone with respect to customers who are entering from the PA side of the WTC Transportation Hub. It’s all a matter of where you draw the fare control line. In this case the MTA chose to draw that line in a manner that prevents an in-system transfer. And yes, while there are alternative transfer points at other stations within reach, we all know that service disruptions can happen anywhere at any time, in very interesting and disruptive combinations, all the reason to have more connectivity, not less.

Henry November 12, 2014 - 12:00 pm

If I remember correctly, the other explanation for not making it in-system was that it would be available as an alternate route to overcrowded surface streets, and based on the crowding of sidewalks I’ve seen in those areas, that’s a valid justification.

Eric F November 12, 2014 - 2:17 pm

Agreed. And not all PATH passengers walking east are en route to a train. Many are just walking a few blocks to their final destinations.

AlexB November 12, 2014 - 10:59 am

Two questions:
1) Did the in-system transfer between the R Cortland and E WTC stations get completely axed? That seemed like a very important transfer point that was always getting overlooked.

2) Is there any data anywhere on how many people transfer at a given station and between which lines?

Subutay Musluoglu November 12, 2014 - 11:20 am


1. Unsure. The last I heard was that the E and R were to have been linked in some manner that was to be built by the PANYNJ as part of the WTC Hub project, but I am not aware of its current status, and whether it was to be a free transfer or out of system.

2. I am looking into this very issue right now. Typical station ridership figures are based on paid entries. Transfer figures have to be very reliable estimates since it is difficult to track a passenger’s progress through the system because they are not swiping again upon exit. So individual trips are tracked on station entry alone and assumptions are made based on where cards are being swiped. transfer information may be available somewhere on the MTA website as part of the annual ridership reports, though I have checked the older hard copy reports I have on hand (the latest of which is 2006) and transfer information is not included in those reports.

Jeff November 12, 2014 - 3:16 pm

The E and R (southbound) will have platform level exits right into the WTC Hub. So they’ll connect that way.

AlexB November 14, 2014 - 12:20 pm

Is that any different from the original design?

AlexB November 14, 2014 - 12:20 pm

Were you able to find any data on #2? Very curious to know if it’s out there.

Ron Aryel November 12, 2014 - 2:12 pm

Methinks you complain a bit much.

The MTA has a valid point about the free transfer, and there are other transfer points for the Broadway BMT that don’t involve a very long walk. Besides, the MTA can add a free transfer by reprogramming the MetroCard readers, the same type of free transfer that exists at the 63rd St-Lexington Av station.

As to office space, well, the World Trade Center has three towers open for business and two more building, and it isn’t full yet, one block away. So the estimates offered here are not realistic. The Fulton Transit Center is overpriced, I agree, but the size and scope of the building is spot-on for the neighborhood.

Larry Littlefield November 12, 2014 - 3:54 pm

As for the alternative use of the airspace, were it up to me that’s where the highest office tower downtown, One World Trade, would have gone. The subway entrance would be through the lobby.

Henry November 13, 2014 - 12:57 am

But don’t you know that would just be letting the terrorists win?

I’m still disgusted that the original 2003 plan, which was a hell lot more thoughtful as a WTC master plan than the current iteration, was allowed to be carved up and put into a meat grinder by the NYPD in the name of security.

Nathanael November 12, 2014 - 5:19 pm

“What about the station? I still have to walk up and down stairs. What gives?”

You don’t have to walk up and down stairs. Follow the signs to the elevators! 🙂

pete November 12, 2014 - 7:30 pm

Waste of money. The ramps and stairs are still there. No moving sidewalk was installed. The occulus will soon be filled with pigeon nests and pigeon poop. The ACLU/Homeless will sue the MTA because of MTA’s agent Westfield’s mall guards, through an “illegal” lease, depriving the homeless’s rights to stand/congregate/sleep/loiter/beg for $ in the mall since all MTA property is public property. The mall will then turn into a 3rd world flea market selling saris and counterfeit handbags and unattended bank ATMs and smelling like piss. http://nypost.com/2013/10/27/s.....usts-down/ http://www.nytimes.com/1995/02.....ation.html http://www.capitalnewyork.com/.....muslim-ads

adirondacker12800 November 12, 2014 - 8:34 pm

Like that hellhole Grand Central. It’s not 1980 anymore.

pete November 13, 2014 - 10:34 pm

Ever been in GCT at 1 AM in 2014? It is homeless shelter. All the bathroom stalls have hobos doing drugs after 9 PM. There are dozens of “MTA Police” cops and soldiers in GCT at all times. They can’t remove the homeless. What makes you think Westfield will be able to remove the homeless legally and not have them sleeping/sitting on the floor?

adirondacker12800 November 13, 2014 - 11:25 pm

And some pervert checking under all the stall doors to see what people are doing in them.

tacony November 14, 2014 - 12:57 pm

GCT closes every night from 2am to 5:30am. When it was open 24 hours it was full of homeless people camping out, and you can bet its closure policy was absolutely motivated by needing an excuse to kick them out and clean everything absent the ability to enforce general laws against loitering.

They actually had a half dozen late night trains coming into the station during those hours that had to be canceled when they started closing the station, so it’s definitely not for lack of demand.

No matter how much sympathy you have for homeless and/or drug addicted individuals, I can’t understand the idea that people who wish to legitimately use public restrooms for their intended purpose should take a backseat to people camping out in the stalls for hours on end. Those people need help, and ceding public restrooms to them doesn’t seem to me a good solution to their problems.

adirondacker12800 November 14, 2014 - 4:09 pm

Penn Station isn’t overrun by homeless people. Nor is the Port Authority Bus Terminal. It’s not 1980 anymore.

pete November 14, 2014 - 10:13 pm

While the 2 AM closing at GCT helps alot with the homeless, it isn’t perfect. The homeless sleep from 8-9 PM to 2 AM. That is 5 hours of quality sleep on the floor, indoors and heated. I often use that last inbound train to GCT or the last outbound train. MNR did move the departure times in 2014 from Stamford from ~12:30-~12:40 to 12:50-1, so trains come to GCT ~1:30 instead of 1:10. During the NH power outage, the last inbound train came regularly after 2 AM. The only “exit” that wasn’t locked was for the lex subway on 42nd street entrance and I had to walk past the crowd control rope that is used to “close” GCT” but keep the escalators and elevator to 4/5/6 open 24/7.

pete November 14, 2014 - 10:03 pm

Had a cop banging on my stall door at 1:40 AM saying GCT is closed and to get out. I confront the cop standing outside the bathroom door after I’m done at 1:45 AM, he says “they” need time to get out and “all of them” will be out before 2 AM or else. So nobody can see the bums doing drugs, they stuff the gaps in the stall door with toilet paper.

adirondacker12800 November 15, 2014 - 12:08 pm

why are you peering through the cracks in stall doors? Why would someone shooting up bother, he or she can just put their back to the door and no one can see what they are up to. Not that a whole lot of people peer in through the cracks.

Alon Levy November 14, 2014 - 3:46 pm

I don’t know about 1 am, but I was at Grand Central around midnight on a few occasions, and I don’t remember anything of this sort, unlike Penn Station, which friends who I trust tell me is a homeless shelter overnight.

Larry Littlefield November 13, 2014 - 9:29 am

I changed my commute, taking the Lex downtown to transfer to the A/C, to see the Fulton Transit Center.

The building is impressive, but I had to go out of my way to see it. Taking the passage at the rear of the 4/5 toward the A/C I almost walked right by it, and had to double back. I think most people will just continue to take their existing paths and stairs.

Meanwhile, it took me 45 minutes to get there from Grand Central, due to signal problems at Wall Street.

Larry Littlefield November 13, 2014 - 9:30 am

Maybe the commercial space will turn it into a place where people meet up. In any event, they ought to rename it New Amsterdam Station.

Larry Littlefield November 13, 2014 - 6:09 pm

OK here comes the suggestion. Throw a big New Years Eve party there. (There are restrooms somewhere, aren’t there?) With pop-up commercial selling goodies, a band, etc. Free for transit riders, aside from the food and drink.

Rich B November 13, 2014 - 10:44 am

I remain completely blown away by the way Fulton connects (or doesn’t) to the R.

First, I’ve been down the new corridor, and it’s massive. There’s more than enough room for a barrier down the middle to enable a free transfer to the R.

Second, the signage is really, really terrible. Outside the new head house, there are poles directing you inside for the R. But inside, the only obvious signs are for the other lines. The signs for the R are small, out-the-way, and confusing. A lot of tourists are going to end up on the uptown 4/5 platform wondering how they get to the R.

TH November 13, 2014 - 11:16 am

Yes, this about the signage! Its also particularly confusing coming from the Downtown R train where you currently have to use the in-system cross-under to the Uptown platform at Cortlandt in order to exit onto Church St. If you don’t know any better you will likely use the wall of turnstiles that now exists where a temporary wall used to be to exit only to realize that the only exit to the street is in-system, therefore having no choice but to use the Dey St. passage to Broadway in order to exit because there are no out of system exits on the Church St side of the corridor. For this reason alone, it should be a free transfer (at least until all of the construction is finished-although I guess its harder to take away a free transfer than it is to not have one from the beginning.)

Chuck G. November 14, 2014 - 7:15 pm

Each turnstile leading from he R to the Dey St passageway specifically says Exit Dey St & Broadway. The sign at the bottom of the downtown staircase has an arrow pointing to the uptown staircase saying Exit Dey St and Church St. The sign at the bottom of the uptown staircase says the same thing…Exit Dey & Church Sts.

Unless, of course, by “If you don’t know any better” you mean “If you don’t read the signs.” In that case, yes, I agree.

Chuck G. November 14, 2014 - 7:31 pm

Is it the MTA’s policy to show out-of-system transfers on their system signs?

I agree, if it were a paid transfer, the R circles should, and probably would, be more prevalent.

You’re right, though, I don’t know what they were thinking showing the R train circles at the street level on the east side of Broadway.

Phantom November 13, 2014 - 11:27 am

Rich B

Correct on all points. I was going to address this.

One of the new R train signs says that that the turnstiles lead to the uptown R. But those turnstiles actually lead to both – the uptown ( stairs or escalator ) or downtown/Brooklyn ( elevator )

The sign is misleading, not well thought out at all.

Ben, if you like I can take a photo of this maybe tomorrow or Monday and send to you.

Thomas Graves November 15, 2014 - 12:00 pm

Better than what was there before, but not worth $1.7B. The headhouse building itself is a utilitarian 1970’s design. In a couple of years it will be dirt-streaked and even uglier. Nothing like the crystal palace with the giant glass egg that was touted in early renderings. Like so many stations rebuilt by the MTA, the underground areas are already suffering from lack of cleaning and maintenance. Guess what it will look like in 5 years? While I’d like to buy into the idea that “it’s not 1980” anymore, my bi-monthly trips to Gotham suggest that NY under DeBlasio is slowly slipping back to the dirty, overwhelmed-by-the-homeless state it had back then. I hope predictions that the Fulton Center will be reeking of urine are wrong; I fear they are right. Of course, it’s politically incorrect to say you’re revolted by homeless shitting and pissing wherever they want – they have rights you know – but I feel sorry for New Yorkers who have to put up with this on a daily basis while the bleeding hearts make excuses for the third-world conditions. Would never happen here in Tokyo.

Don Anon November 15, 2014 - 11:20 pm

You’re blaming de Blasio? Really? You mean there were no homeless people in the subway system before January 1, 2014?

Bolwerk November 16, 2014 - 8:56 pm


If you read conservative agitprop, NYC is experiencing a massive crime uptick too.

Homelessness actually is going up, but it’s probably to be expected. Housing costs are ever going up, but the things that actually would prevent homelessness are mostly flatlining or even receding: shelters, housing assistance, food stamps, income assistance. Oh, and, uh, jobs that pay livable wages would probably be far and away the most important.

Nathanael November 19, 2014 - 12:33 am

Not to mention the constant shortage of funding for the mental hospitals. Which is what gives us the *crazy* homeless — in an earlier era, they would have had asylums, but since Reagan, the US has been terribly cruel.

Michael November 17, 2014 - 2:40 am

Here’s the part that I do not understand.

Like many I’m a New Yorker who traveled the subways well before the Times Square subway station at Broadway and 7th Avenue (#1-2-3-7-S-N-Q-R) was connected to the IND station at 42nd Street-Eighth Avenue (A-C-E). Usually after going to the movies, if I wanted to use the A or C trains to reach Brooklyn I knew to walk to 42nd Street/Eighth Avenue for the trains. If I wanted to use the #2 or #3 trains for travel either to Harlem, the Bronx, or Brooklyn I would use the entrances near 42nd Street and Seventh Avenue, and to use the entrances near Broadway for a less hassle connection to the N-Q-R trains. All of this was just the “kit-bag” of the average New York – to learn the useful entrances and exits.

Here are couple of pictures concerning the combined Times Square station and entrances, and the signage for those entrances.










The two former stations were combined because of the steep passageway from the #7 train mezzanine to the Port Authority Bus Terminal some time ago. The renovation and modernization of the station, and the re-arrangement of turn-styles allowed the two large stations to be combined into a unified station. The signage cited reflects that the two large complexes are seem combined, except that underground they are still largely separate stations where in order to use the A-C-E trains from 42nd Street/Broadway it is simply much, much easier to walk along the street than to travel down several levels and to walk up the steep passageway that connects the stations. The usual “kit-bag” of knowledge of the subways and the local area still comes into play.

The signage above the entrances show all of the possible trains that can be reached by those entrances, even if a particular entrance is BETTER for reaching particular trains. Some times there will be signage that suggest riders use particular entrances to more easily access certain trains, but still does not negate the idea that the access to all of the trains served by the station is still possible.

In relation to the Fulton Transit Center, it seems that there are folks expressing the idea that only certain entrances have certain signs, or that the signs become filled with much extra information. In addition much hay has been expressed about an opened passageway to a huge transit complex that is STILL UNDER CONSTRUCTION! Some have almost suggested going back to the days of, “You can’t get there from here” kind of logic in the signage, even if it is possible to do so.

Of course certain entrances are “better” for reaching certain trains or particular street destinations, but this kind of information is best gleaned by the “kit-bag” of subway traveler experience and learning.

The NYC subway system is from 60 to 100+ years old – getting the various already built stations/platforms/trains to easily mesh with other already built stations/platforms/trains creating a unified easily accessible whole is a tall order. The hundreds of trillions required to do it “over and get it right” is just never going to happen. We have to do the best that we can with the existing systems, with renovations, modernizations, extensions and improvements. Will it ever be PERFECT from every angle and vantage point – nope!

The “kit-bag” of subway traveler experience, information and learning – is going to be necessary for a long time, unless somebody somewhere creates smart-phone and tablet app containing all that experience, information and learning. Such an app would have to be available in the iOS, Android, and Windows 8-9-10 App-Stores to be really useful. The app would should use the Google eye-piece, also be handicapped accessible, verbal interactive, non-verbal interactive via swipe-stylus-tap input, also GPS/Wifi/Blue-Tooth/5G and 6G capable with i-Cloud, Drop-Box, and We-Cloud access and capability, using a touch-hearing-speech enabled form-factor that costs the users nothing, that is also easy to install, update and configure.

Or just maybe the “kit-bag” of subway traveler experience, information and learning – is going to be necessary for a long time.


Mike Shin November 20, 2014 - 12:25 pm

Would like to rent a commercial space in new Fulton Center to open a small business.

Please advise how to reach and negotiate with renting management office.

SEAN November 21, 2014 - 10:14 am

From the WMATA file.

Despite Work, Some Metro Escalators Are Down More Often Than Going Down

By: Martin Di Caro
November 21, 2014

Metro has spent millions of dollars repairing and replacing escalators, but some remain out of service or prone to mechanical problems.


The replacement of decades-old, broken down elevators and escalators may be the most visible piece of Metro’s recovery from the days of decay and deferred maintenance.

The new units certainly are front and center in Metro’s public relations campaign to show its customers the rail system is improving, as each new project usually is accompanied by a press release trumpeting the start or completion of construction. And the new escalators and elevators are performing well, along with the scores of units that have been rehabbed to new condition.

For the most part, that is.

A handful of Metro’s 20 new escalators are similar to the old ones they replaced: out-of-service too often. In fact, one of three new escalators at the Pentagon station has not worked in 40 days.

“It opened in October 2013. Three of the escalators there were replaced. Two are working pretty well,” said Lee Mendelowitz, the creator of DCMetroMetrics.com and a University of Maryland graduate student.

Mendelowitz compiles Metro’s open data to measure escalator and elevator performance. The problematic new escalator at Pentagon station has been operating during only 65 percent of Metro’s operating hours since it was installed by the contractor, New Jersey-based Schindler Escalators.

The escalator — one of six at Pentagon station — was deliberately shut down six weeks ago because it was not performing to Metro’s standards, according to transit authority spokesman Dan Stessel.

“If, after installation, we determine that a particular unit is not performing to our high standards, we will hold the manufacturer and contractor accountable for improvements — at their expense — until those standards are met. That is what you’re seeing now with one of the three units at Pentagon,” Stessel added.

Metro’s in-house engineers were unhappy with the escalator’s braking system.

“It is clearly in the interest of Metro riders, and taxpayers, that we compel the contractor to resolve any performance issues to our complete satisfaction during the warranty period,” Stessel said.

Schindler Escalators issued a statement, saying it has finished its analysis of the unit at Pentagon Station.

“The report confirms that the escalator is safe and operable, and recommends that WMATA make some adjustments to the unit to avoid shutdowns in the future. WMATA chose to remove the escalator from service as a precaution until they had confirmation that the escalator is safe to operate,” said company spokeswoman Kathi Rucki.

The troublesome escalator at Pentagon is the exception. But while most of Metro’s 615 escalators are performing at their highest level in more than five years, according to the transit authority, some new units continue to break down.

A street escalator at Foggy Bottom, completely replaced in November 2011 as part of a $6 million project, has been broken nearly 11 percent of the time since Mendelowitz began collecting data in June 2013. That includes a 10-day outage in June 2013, an eight-day outage in July 2013, a 12-day outage in January 2014, and a seven-day outage in February.

The middle escalator at the Dupont Circle south entrance, where all three units were re-opened in October 2012 after an extended replacement project, is one of the worst performing escalators on Metrorail.

“That middle escalator has been broken 13 percent of time. For some perspective that is 11th worst in the system when you count every escalator, every elevator in the system,” Mendelowitz said.

The Silver Line’s 27 escalators and 25 elevators are brand new, having opened in July. Most are working well, but the platform escalator at Wiehle-Reston East station had a five-day outage this month and has been out-of-service 11 percent of the time.

“Metro is relatively expensive, especially if you take it every day during peak hours, and if millions of dollars are being invested you’d hope they work like new escalators and elevators,” Mendelowitz said.

Metro’s Stessel said it is important to remember each escalator project is unique.

“In other words, these are not ‘off the shelf’ products, and should not be thought of the way one might think of the reliability of, say, a refrigerator. Each new escalator installation is performed, not by Metro, but a contractor who is global leader in the industry,” he said. Metro has a $150 million contract with Maryland-based KONE to replace 128 escalators by 2020.

Yaretzi August 25, 2015 - 3:21 am

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