Home PANYNJ Re-revisiting the faults behind the PATH Hub

Re-revisiting the faults behind the PATH Hub

by Benjamin Kabak
The WTC PATH Train Hub is nestled amidst the hustle and bustle of Lower Manhattan. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)

The WTC PATH Train Hub is nestled amidst the hustle and bustle of Lower Manhattan. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)

At the risk of, as I put last night, tilting at windmills, I’d like to re-revisit the PATH Hub, and David W. Dunlap’s Times article on the many ways in which this project has gone wrong. In yesterday’s post, I framed it again, as I’ve done many times, as a project plagued by a starchitect’s ego. In my view, he ran rough-shod over a sloppy political process, and an agency beset with leadership problems. That’s not far incorrect, but it’s not the issue facing the World Trade Center PATH Hub.

The rust I focused on last night probably isn’t rust; the fireproofing wasn’t necessarily the fault of the person who sketched out a vision too grand for a subway stop. In the end, I’ve likely been too hard on Calatrava, if that’s possible, while giving the political drivers a pass. So let’s look again at some gems from Dunlap’s article.

We start with George Pataki. He was actually the governor when this crazy saga began. That’s how long it’s taken to build this thing!

George E. Pataki, a Republican who was then the governor of New York, was considering a run for president and knew his reputation would be burnished by a train terminal he said would claim a “rightful place among New York City’s most inspiring architectural icons.” He likened the transportation hub to Grand Central and promised — unrealistically — that it would be operating in 2009.

But the governor fully supported the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s desire to keep the newly rebuilt No. 1 subway line running through the trade center site, instead of allowing the Port Authority to temporarily close part of the line and shave months and hundreds of millions of dollars off the hub’s construction. That, however, would have cut an important transit link and angered commuters from Staten Island, a Republican stronghold, who use the No. 1 line after getting off the ferry. The authority was forced to build under, around and over the subway line, at a cost of at least $355 million.

It’s unclear as well how much additional time building around over the subway line took, but I sometimes wonder if that argument is a spurious one. Considering how long it’s taken to build, there’s no way anyone could have survived politically with 1 train service to South Ferry out of commission for so long.

How about Bloomberg?

Michael R. Bloomberg, who was then the mayor, demanded in 2008 that the memorial be completed by the attack’s 10-year anniversary. That meant part of the hub’s roof, which would be the decking under the memorial plaza, had to be built first, adding about $75 million to the budget.

And how about the Port Authority?

A 2005 construction contract was supposed to set a guaranteed maximum price, but to accelerate the work, several expensive subcontracts were approved. And in 2008, the authority rejected money-saving suggestions worth over $500 million.

And the security state from the post-9/11 mindset so pervasive in the early 2000s?

And there were many hitches. The Bloomberg administration upended the project in 2005, when a Police Department security assessment compelled significant revisions. To improve blast resistance, the Oculus had to have twice the number of steel ribs. The birdlike structure began to resemble a stegosaurus.

And that pesky problem of leadership churn that has rendered the Port Authority impotent and ineffective for the better part of a decade?

Consistent direction was rendered almost impossible by constantly changing leadership: four New York governors who appointed five executive directors of the authority, and five New Jersey governors who appointed four chairmen. Complicating matters even more, different projects were undertaken within inches of one another at ground zero. For a time, a plastic tarp was all that separated the hub from the National September 11 Memorial Museum. Contributing to the bloat in the budget was the authority’s practice of using it as a catchall for any related work performed on abutting sites, on common passageways and on shared mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems — over $400 million in all…

The authority did move to trim costs in 2008 by reducing the size of the Oculus and eliminating the movable roof. Still, it rebuffed suggestions from independent engineers and architects that the Oculus be even smaller, that parts of the temporary station be reused and that columns, rather than a bridgelike structure, carry the No. 1 subway line through the hub’s interior.

There’s more in Dunlap’s story, and if you didn’t read it last night, read it tonight. In a way, Santiago Calatrava is a red herring, though Dunlap’s story traces how his demands too helped contribute to the problem. This is about the faulty political process and the politicalization of the Port Authority, and again, I ask if we’ve learned anything. When the Hub opens, Shiny New Toy Syndrome will push the cost problem into the background, and we’ll forget how, even at $2 billion, this thing was overpriced. What comes next?

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ChrisC December 9, 2014 - 6:25 am

Ben I never had a problem with you being critical about Calatrava and parts of his design but I did when you blamed everything on him rather than the decisions of the PA and its political masters. So it’s good that you’ve become more balanced in your views and admitted your past errors.

But will anyone ever learn from this? No, No and thrice No is the answer to that one.

Too late for Fulton of course but the PA are planning on spending mega $$$ on LGA, JFK, the bus terminal and the PATH to EWR so still plenty of chances for them to mess it up again!

ChrisC December 9, 2014 - 6:27 am

Of course I know that Fulton in the MTA but there appears to be no cross organisation learning either!

Jeff December 9, 2014 - 9:25 am

I don’t think so. The problems from the WTC I think are fairly extraordinary. All of the past tragedy on the site, all of the public attention, all of the politics, and all of the different stakeholders, both public and private. Just way too many factors to consider for anything to go well.

It’s unlikely there will ever be a project as convoluted and messy as this one in the NY metro area. Renovations at airports are routine for the PA and rarely make the news like the WTC does. The PA controls the bus terminal and its a fairly low key project also. The origin of the PATH extension was political in nature (but what isn’t?) but it’s a PATH project where the PA can do their own thing without too much interference from others.

John-2 December 9, 2014 - 7:33 am

In the end, the people who originally approved the ideas are out of office, and at the gubernatorial level in both New York and New Jersey, the people who replaced the people who were in charge when the plans were conceived are out of office, and ditto most of the Port Authority appointees of the time.

So there’s really no one to be held accountable who was there early enough in the pipeline to scale back the work where it would have done any good. And with the Calatrava hub you were dealing with the ultimate example of freely spending Other People’s Money, because the original contribution didn’t come out of the PA’s coffers but from the federal government’s 9/11 reconstruction pool.

It makes it a lot easier to fashion a grandiose white elephant bird stegosaurus porcupine whatever when you’re playing with House & Senate money. The main hope that can come from this is if people remember the massive cost overruns and are more cautious on future projects, especially ones where a far larger part of the start-up money will have to come from local sources, rather than be dumped in the area politicians’ laps by Washington.

Larry Littlefield December 9, 2014 - 8:18 am

What about the outside groups demanding the moon on this one site and not worried about practicalities or needs elsewhere?

The political players you mention had a host of issues, and this was going to be paid for by federal/borrowed/unaccountable Port Authority money, so it was easy for them to give “the people” (with influence) what they want. As if there was no opportunity cost.

Who sat on that Lower Manhattan Reconstruction Commission, or whatever it was called? There are people who are still angry — that the Liberstrand tower wasn’t built for twice the money.

Jeff December 9, 2014 - 9:15 am

I think out of everything on the WTC site (memorial, towers, performance art center, church, etc.) the transit hub was actually the LEAST demanded of all the projects from the public and from those community groups (except for the tour bus parking lot maybe). The project just came out of nowhere in 2003, wasn’t even in Libeskind’s master plan.

SEAN December 9, 2014 - 9:42 am


You ask what comes next – you above all should know the answer to that one – ESA & it’s own unique set of problems.

On the “security state” issue, lets not forget that despite all the money to make the freedom tower the most secure office tower on the planet – it was still penetrated by a 16-year old & a few thrill seekers with ease. Speaking of witch, why would the most secured office tower on the planet be even named the freedom tower in the first place. Was it some kind of backwords neoliberal logic?

Peter December 9, 2014 - 12:59 pm

It’s not. It’s officially One World Trade Center.

SEAN December 9, 2014 - 1:16 pm

Semantics of the buildings name aside – that doesn’t answer the over all question of enormous sums of money for security in a building that is ment to represent freedom. And yet that level of security was so easily breached & by a 16-year old no less.

Nathanael December 10, 2014 - 3:07 am

Security theater. It is never security. Most government operations in the US have no security at all, just security theater. A CIA agent famously entered the CIA for years with a picture of his dog on his ID card, waiting for someone to notice (which they never did).

Real security is something very different, and actually stems from securing as little as possible. “Security” is a matter of attention. People have limited attention, so the more things you try to “secure”, the less secure any of them are.

There should be essentially no security on almost everything. This is the only way to have any secure facilities. Think of a bank: the safe deposit boxes are secure. Everything else is more or less not secure; theft is largely detected after the fact by accounting, and robberies are deterred by social trust. This is the way it SHOULD be.

lop December 10, 2014 - 9:37 pm

That’s why TD bank stopped tying down their pens. Worry about keeping the pens safe and the vault gets left wide open.

Scoop December 9, 2014 - 10:33 am

The problem with all stories of this nature is that the focus on peculiar quirks of individual projects. The real problem is clearly the general system by which we plan and procure projects.

What I really can’t understand, though, is why everyone thinks this would be so hard to fix. Why not just look at the system in some country that gets excellent results and copy it?

I assume it’s not that easy because people like Alon say they don’t know how to make construction cheaper in the NYC area, but I really don’t understand why it’s not that simple.

I also don’t understand why reporters focus on one-time issues like the 1 train and ignore the big issue.

Who can explain this to me?

Bolwerk December 9, 2014 - 12:35 pm

Ignoring quirks, scale seems to be a consistent problem. European trains are often shorter, but even setting that aside the stations New York has built lately have been gargantuan.

Spiderpig December 9, 2014 - 10:36 am

From what I read, I’m pretty sure the 1 train would not have been closed this whole time. They just would have built a certain portion which would have been easier with the subway not running. But it still would have been a significant amount of time.

Jeff December 9, 2014 - 1:23 pm

It would have been a significant amount of time.

Ben is incorrect in his post – the Hub doesn’t get built OVER the 1 line, it was built UNDER it. Basically, instead of tearing down the 1 line and then just building a new structure (the cheaper option), a ton of extra money was spent trying to work around it and under it, AND building a new structure around it to support its new use, all while a subway line was running through the structure.

But tearing down the 1 line would have taken it out of commission UNTIL all of the infrastructure below it was completed, which would have taken a long time.

lop December 9, 2014 - 3:52 pm

Why wasn’t this planned out better? Did they not know they wanted the passageway under the train when they were rebuilding the 1?

BoerumHillScott December 9, 2014 - 3:59 pm

The 1 was rebuilt before the master plan was chosen, and the only goal was to replace what was there before, on the same footprint, as quick as possible.

The PATH station was rebuilt in a similar manner.

Nathanael December 10, 2014 - 3:10 am

If not for the wacky BS politics, they could have hired an architect to:

(1) rebuild the PATH station in the most appropriate-to-train-service manner;
(2) rebuild the #1 line in the most appropriate manner;
(3) leave a bunch of supporting columns, placed based on #1/PATH considerations, and let someone else worry about any overbuilds later.

Jeff December 10, 2014 - 1:31 pm

Whatever they did in the aftermath of 9/11 HAD to be temporary, because they didn’t have the site master plan yet.

The fact that so much construction had to happen underneath the 1 train was precisely because of layout of the towers in the master plan. This is stuff that could not be foreseen back in 2001-02.

So it’s not a planning issue. Its just the nature of the project.

BoerumHillScott December 10, 2014 - 2:01 pm

Exactly. The 1 ended up being underpinned not only by the Transit Center, but by the Vehicle Security Center tunnels on both the north and south side of the site.

The PATH platforms ended up staying in the same place (with the addition of a new platform D to the West), but platforms A and B had to be demolished anyway to make way for utility lines/tunnels.

Also, even though the PATH platforms stayed in the same place though construction, the entrance (including large escalator bank) had to be moved a couple of times as WTC construction progressed.

Based on the knowledge they had at the time, I think the right decision was made in early 2002 to construct the PATH station to temporary levels of quality while the final plan was being created and implemented.

The real crime is how long it took to do this, the changes along the way, and the huge underestimation of costs – This has been a problem with every single aspect of the WTC. If the public knew the true costs of things as they were proposed, the final designs probably would have been very different.

Michael December 10, 2014 - 4:30 pm

Yes, this was during the time that the #1 train to South Ferry was completely out of service for a year or more. Then the #1 and #2 trains were re-routed as locals in Manhattan to Brooklyn, with #1 trains operating to New Lots Avenue. Then #3 trains operated to 14th Street/7 Avenue. During the late nights #1 trains ended at Chambers Street with an interesting switch operation to not conflict with arriving #2 trains from Brooklyn. Then the nearest stop that the #1 had to South Ferry was the Wall Street which required a good walk to and from the South Ferry Terminal. The closure of the #1 station there allowed some of the work on the new ferry terminal to proceed with fewer problems. In those days (circa 2000) the only direct ways to reach South Ferry were the #4 & #5 trains at Bowling Green and the R trains at Whitehall Street, (unsure about the N or W trains).

To those who suggest that the closing of the #1 train to/from South Ferry was easy, or would have made construction at WTC, forget the issues that occurred at that time. The closure affected riders not only to/from South Ferry but riders in the Bronx, Manhattan and Brooklyn. How does such stuff get forgotten?


Peter December 9, 2014 - 1:27 pm

The unique circumstances of this site magnified the problems. Remember this is Ground Zero — sacred ground! It is not an exaggeration to say the whole world was watching what happened there — a situation that reinforces politicians’ worst tendencies toward ostentation and money-is-no-object thinking.

Also the veneer assumed outsize significance. A typical transit station is judged foremost by how it circulates trains and passengers. In the case of the WTC PATH — which will surely become one of the most photographed train stations in the world — appearances took on an outsize significance. Politicians and PA leaders wanted something iconic that would look great on a postcard and in a tourist snapshot. Their overriding interest was not improving the lives of workaday PATH commuters.

There are lessons to be learned from the PATH debacle. At Penn Station/Moynihan we see a similar dynamic playing out between forces that want to build a nice headhouse and those who want to see more mundane improvements to tracks, platforms and tunnels that will do more to actually improve circulation. But the public pressure to build an iconic edifice will never be as great at Penn Station, or almost any other site in the city, as it was at Ground Zero.

Nathanael December 10, 2014 - 3:12 am

As an Amtrak passenger from upstate, I will say that the only thing which would seriously improve circulation for non-commuter passengers is a new headhouse with new direct platform access.

Either knock down MSG and rebuild a headhouse there, or put it across the street in Farley, but you need a new headhouse. The existing warren of tunnels, while tolerable for commuters, is simply unsuitable for serving passengers to Buffalo, let alone passengers to North Carolina.

BoerumHillScott December 9, 2014 - 4:26 pm

$4 billion is overpriced.

$2 billion would have been a bargain (by NYC standards), considering all of the infrastructure, direct revenue generation ($1 billion from Westfield), and indirect revenue generation from the office buildings that is included in this project.

The only thing that would have been cheaper would be to not redevelop the WTC at all, but once the decision was made to redevelop it as an office complex, there was a clear need for an underground concourse to move people between the PATH, 1, E, R, and office buildings, not to mention the costs associated with a permanent PATH station.

Given NYC construction costs, I guess that rebuilding to the same level of the former WTC PATH and Concourse/Mall would have still been over $2 billion, and that would have not had included the connection to WFC, the upgraded mall facilities that Westfield paid for much for, the wider passageways, and of course the pretty but not practical above ground stuff.

Scoop December 9, 2014 - 4:58 pm

To say that $4 billion is overpriced may be the greatest understatement in the history of blog comments.

If you look at the construction costs that Alon cites, if New York could equal the low-cost builders, that $4 billion could have cut 2 new trans-Hudson tunnels (leaving the mid-town tunnels to Amtrak) rerouted all commuter rail from Jersey through those tunnels, made the Calatrava building into a train terminus, then connected it to Penn Station with enough tunnels for all the trains, and then made the same connection between Penn Station and Grand Central and then sent all the trains from Jersey out to Long Island and Connecticut.

Then, with the remaining billion dollars, they could have connected the downtown PATH line to the 1 subway at City Hall.

adirondacker12800 December 9, 2014 - 5:36 pm

Abandoning service to South Ferry so trains could go to New Jersey would have gone over really well. I suspect getting the trains onto the elevator that is also a turntable so they could get between the tunnels would have slowed the trip down a lot.

Eric December 16, 2014 - 4:20 am

The 1 train doesn’t go to City Hall. When he said City Hall, it was clear he meant the 6 train, which in fact could have been connected to PATH without any loss of service.

Jurassic Park December 9, 2014 - 8:59 pm

The security crap is the biggest load in my opinion. A close second to demanding the plaza be open for a day on the calendar.

You could literally drive a bus filled to the brim with explosives into the PANY bus terminal, and nobody would notice (because you’re a bus, driving into a bus station!). I’m sure such an explosion would have horrendous results and kill many more people than an attempt to topple the stegosaurus.

But who gives a shit about bus riders?

Josh December 11, 2014 - 2:31 pm

It’s not about caring about bus riders vs. caring about train riders. It’s about caring about things that are in the public eye vs. caring about things that aren’t. If someone bombed PABT, you can be sure Chuck Schumer would be on the scene decrying the Port Authority for not having guarded against it; the problem is that what gets funded is measures that would’ve prevented past threats that everyone is aware of, not measures that might prevent potential future threats.

Kenn December 10, 2014 - 5:32 am

Someone wrote this on curbed http://ny.curbed.com/archives/.....illion.php

“Administrative costs? Translation: corruption. A giant taxpayer funded cookie jar available to the usual sleaze bags. That they could in any way justify 4 billion dollars for this ridiculous gateway just shows how stupid they think the public is. And they may be right.”

JJJJ December 10, 2014 - 9:46 am

When other countries do it, we call it bribery.
When Americans do it, it’s called lobbying.

When other countries do it, we call it corruption.
When Americans do it, we call it “cost over-runs”

Alon Levy December 10, 2014 - 12:34 pm

Actually… there are some impressive cost overruns this side of the Pond. Barcelona’s Line 9-10 was supposed to cost 1.9 billion euros and ended up costing 6.5 billion. Munich’s second S-Bahn tunnel is if I remember correctly twice over the original budget, and indefinitely postponed.

The difference is that the absolute costs here are lower.

Metro December 12, 2014 - 9:22 am

It’s true there are incredible cost overruns in other places too. But still: for Barcelona, they still got 30 miles of new subway lines and 40+ stations (!). Seems quite cheap to me!

And as for Muënchen, it is not such a big city to justify such large-scale projects, especially when they already have an extroardinary efficient system. Actually, the transit/rail system is already so overbuilt in German cities, that it’s almost unbeliveable that they want to add more (from a north american perspective of course).

Munich: 1,5 Millions pop (5M metro region)
S-Bahn: 275 miles
U-Bahn: 60 miles

And all post-1960 infrastructure! Not too bad?

If they have to build anything in Germany, believe me, it’s perfectly planned on the long-term, it works perfectly and it’s worth every single penny of it. Even if it cost twice the price, at least you get a bang for your buck!

But the Path Hub? It does’nt even look like a transit project to me. I’m not even sure how one would describe it.

It’s not there’s no money, the money is just never used on stuff useful to people in the states. However, for highways, security, waging wars, sending people live on Moon or Mars, the budget is unlimited. And now this monstruosity at ground zero.

The city are screwed anwyway here. United States and even Canada, are paradise for single occupancy vehicules!

Alon Levy December 12, 2014 - 10:59 am

Eh. Germany’s perfectly capable of building lines that make you go “what the hell were they thinking?”. For example, the not-so-high-speed train line from Berlin to Munich, which detours to go through a metro region of 400,000 because the state it’s in lobbied for it.

Also, look up the Berlin S-Bahn meltdown. DB is skimping on maintenance to look good for future privatization, and the result is that a few years ago, Berlin had to ground 75% of its S-Bahn fleet on a day’s notice.

Metro December 12, 2014 - 11:42 am

You’re right tough. They are being screwd now like britain was at the time of Tatchers. They are going down. And would pay the high cost in 20 years to bring back to the actual level! Large mistake…

But as for their high speed lines, they might not be the fastest but they operate like subway systems. Not like the TGV in France with compete with airplane: Paris-Marseille in 3 hours but no service at all in between (900 km).

And in Germany (or Japan for instance), trains are very well integrated with the regional rail system as well as public transit wich makes you save a lot of time on your complete journey. Door to door, not just downtown station to downtown station. They also have a lot more high speed lines than France, wich form a network.

In France, they only have a bunch of lines converging into Paris, wich doesn’t even connect togheter! You have to take the subway to change between one the 5 major station in Paris, and it sometimes involves two transfers!

Compared to germany, their high speed lines are almost only suitable for business trip between Paris and other large cities, because they serve only downtown to downtown, with nothing in between. And since the rest of network is also incomple, you get to a situation where mobility is a very complicated thing. Especially since very few people live downtown!

Anyway, i don’t know wich one is the better, but DB compared to SNCF, goes without a commentary, and as for here, we don’t even have regular train worth to mention.

At least, in Germany, they achieved to build something, wich might not be perfect, at least as been built, carry people and improved quality of life. Even if they slash service in two on the S-Bahn, it would probably still be the best surburban system in Europe…

Metro December 12, 2014 - 2:44 pm

Anyway, that off the point; the point is that they can build things, and they build a lot. Also it may work well even after the privatisation of the S-Bahn in 2017, as it already work in smaller german cities. Because, as oppose to UK for instance, governement works over there.

Also, they don’t have the same goals in privatisation. All matters in UK is to shift the cost off the taxpayer. Not everywhere people think this way. I’m not worried for them…

The other thing, in Europe they have high experience on large-scale construction project, because they realise dozens of large complex projects every year on the continent. Not just high-rise office towers and bungalows construction.

Alon Levy December 12, 2014 - 9:20 pm

You keep saying government works in Germany, but there’s a lot of evidence it doesn’t, at least when it comes to infrastructure construction. Germany underinvests in infrastructure, and the projects it does build are very expensive relative to what they’re building; Munich has no excuse for having higher construction costs than Paris.

The ICE network indeed is intended to form an everywhere-to-everywhere network, and there it’s better than the TGV network. And yet, more people use the TGV, and more people use intercity rail in general in France than in Germany. Whereas France’s legacy intercity rail atrophies because all investment goes to the TGV, Germany’s shrinks because DB offloads it to the states to be operated and subsidized as regional lines (in Europe, intercity trains don’t get government subsidies, but regional trains do). Germany is much better than France at keeping those regional trains operating, insofar as there are a handful of decent TER lines nationwide while the rest suck, whereas in Germany even small cities have decent regional rail. But as far as construction goes, Germany is a laggard.

But even for regional service, Germany is only partially good. Berlin, Munich, and Hamburg all have great S-Bahn networks, but the major Swiss cities still blow away everyone else, and Paris also has excellent transit. Paris has a problem with the RER network being too radial, but because it can build things at reasonable cost, and because it’s enormous, it’s sinking a couple tens of billions into an entirely new circumferential network.

And honestly, all regional rail networks have that radiality problem, because for suburb-to-suburb travel people drive. You’d expect the Rhine-Ruhr to shine because it’s polycentric and the German integrated transfer network’s good at handling that, but its ridership isn’t great – per capita it’s about the same as metro New York, where the major European transit cities are easily double that.

Metro December 13, 2014 - 2:20 am

Well for one thing, Munich and other german city are plagued with bombs heritated from the US and british raids: apparently, they found 15 bombs every week in construction sites in the cities. Not so long ago they founded a 1000 Kg bomb 3 foot under the pavement in a large city (i don’t remember wich). Some of them have to be blasted on the spot, if they can’t get the fuse out… The windows in a 1 mile radius fly in pieces then!

Just last year, they founded a very large bomb right under a railway track used by hundred of trains everyday somewhere in Berlin.

Anyway i don’t find german perfect in every aspect, far from that, but i think they are very well equiped especially in transportation infrastructure. It’s even more obvious when you see France before going to Germany.

Paris is not so good, see last year criminals hold up a double-deck RER D train robbing all the passenger in the first carriage one by one and beating most of them, during the time the train was stop in a suburban station. Outside of the touristic area, it’s a shithole and train service reflect that.

And also in Berlin, you’ve got not turnstile anywhere but proof of payment. You would get inspected couple times during the day for sure. And you don’t see a lot of people without fare, since there’s a fine of 900 Euros. They must also save a couple billions with that.

In Paris, they’ve got large turnstile with full portal, but still, i’ve never seen more people cheating than there. Just go at Clignancourt and watch for 2-3 minutes how many people jump the gates… All this money spend for nothing in the end.

SNCF: 1,1 billion pas./year for 64 millions population

DB: 2 billions pas./year for 80 millions population

Alon Levy December 14, 2014 - 4:57 pm

The passenger figures you quote include regional rail operated by the national train company (but not all of it, since a big chunk of the RER is operated by RATP). Regional rail in provincial France is truly shitty. But if you look at intercity traffic only, France is ahead of Germany.

Paris has a plague of turnstile-jumping, yeah. And if France were a less racist country, maybe the population would have more than a quantum mass’s worth of trust in the police, allowing the police to issue summons. But I don’t think you can really blame Parisian racism and inequality on RATP or SNCF, whereas you can definitely blame Berlin’s S-Bahn meltdown on DB’s cost cutting and the Erfurt detour of the Berlin-Munich HSR line on Thuringian political meddling in investment decisions.

Metro December 14, 2014 - 6:30 pm

You’re right. We must add 465 Millions passengers for the RATP RER. Wich bring it to about the same number. Commuter trafic from Paris account for two thirds of the SNCF total ridership (excluding RATP lines), but it’s true they carry more people with their TGV than other countries in Europe (they also have more lines than any other except China maybe?).

But their TGV badly lack connectivity to rail and transit, most stations are built out of town, and often the only way to get their is by car (as most places in France nowadays). They don’t have this problem in Paris of course. Also, they kept the old lines open wich take twice the time, with poor service, and sell high-cost TGV ticket to their fancy business clientele (all first class). That kind of ”hierarchisation” of the rail network does’nt benefit anybody. Everybody pay taxes but who can afford a 400 Euros ticket. But again what can you expect from a country like that…

German ICE often used old lines that had been improved, is not as fast as the SNCF TGV, that’s for sure. It’s just a train, like the other trains and everybody can use it. Personally, i think Germany do better as a whole.

About the Berlin S-Bahn, when i went there in 2005, i notice the service standards were so high that you never see people standing, in fact, the trains are so frequent on most branches that they often runned almost empty for miles especially outside the Ring.

It’s true it’s not a big city like Paris or New-York, and they want to push service, but still, seemed a little bit exagerated to me at the time…

It’s like overcrowding (or crowding at all) do not exist there. I remember standing in the new Central station in the middle of the day and seeing trains coming one after the other on the many S-Bahn platforms this station features. Everything spotless.

Seemed almost unreal for here! Now, they’re loosing service too (thanks to Tatcher #2).

Metro December 15, 2014 - 2:36 am

I just found all the schedules for the Berliner S-Bahn. They run 24 trains/hour all day long… on their east-west and north-south trunks.

Bornholmer Straße for example:

Is there any line in New-York with such levels of service?

Alon Levy December 15, 2014 - 1:17 pm

SNCF has customer-hating yield management system, but average intercity fares on SNCF and DB per passenger-km are about the same.

The Berlin S-Bahn has good service! The meltdown was temporary – they fixed the brakes and restored service. But it’s still a thing that happened, same as with the accidents. The ICE has killed more passengers per passenger-km than CRH – compare Eschede and Wenzhou – but nobody thinks German trains are unsafe, whereas Chinese trains are getting a bad reputation. But obviously even in Germany accidents are very rare, with a fraction of the death rate of American passenger trains (which themselves are very safe by cars’ standards).

Benjamin Kabak December 10, 2014 - 9:48 am

Did you really need a Curbed commenter to tell you that? 🙂

Ken December 10, 2014 - 3:11 pm

Is Jjjj the commenter from curbed? I thought the comment was funny that’s all

BoerumHillScott December 11, 2014 - 8:10 am

Legal, PR firms, and project management firms got very well paid out of this project.

Some was typical cost overrun fluff of questionable legitimacy, but there was a large amount needed to coordinate with/deal with/combat the other groups at play, including the victim family associations, the memorial foundation, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, Silverstein, Durst, the City of NY, and the MTA.

Ron Aryel December 12, 2014 - 5:42 pm

While the MTA merely overpaid for the Fulton Transit Center (but accomplished something very important with it), the Port Authority threw money in the trash with the PATH Hub. If the PA really needed to spend that much, then $1.5 billion should have been spent for the WTC station, and the rest ($2.5+ billion) extending PATH to a new terminal on the eastern side of Manhattan. That the Port authority did not require the #1 subway to close during construction did not lead to $500 million in additional costs – and I agree with not shutting down the IRT. But, unlike Fulton Center, the PA already had a functional, ADA compliant station. So the $4.5 billion station is a waste.


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