Reopening a closed subway station: South Ferry and Cluny – La Sorbonne


Greetings everyone!

I know I’ve been talking quite a lot about the Paris Metro as of late. However, I don’t want to leave the New York City Subway out of my discussions, as there’s much to talk about on that system. Particularly, I will be speaking of news that the New York City MTA will be, for the first time in the agency’s history, reopening a previously closed subway station.

During the lifetime of a subway system, many stations may permanently be closed to passengers for a variety of reasons. Common reasons include: the distance of the station in comparison to adjacent stations (stations too close to each other), cost of maintaining the station (too expensive to maintain and keep open), and the design of the station (either the station is obsolete or too oddball to keep open). In any case, once a subway station is permanently closed to passengers, passenger access will be permanently sealed and trains will simply pass through the corridor without stopping.

The old South Ferry Loop station in New York City, NY, USA.
Please see for photo details.

South Ferry Outer Loop Station – New York City, NY, USA

The first station that I will profile in this post is the South Ferry “looped” station of the New York City Subway – Line 1, which was constructed in 1905. The station originally comprised of only one looped station until 1918, when a second looped platform was built inside of the original loop. The 1905 station was then known as the outer loop, while the 1918 station was known as the inner loop.

Both of these stations served two different subway lines during the time that they were open, and both were known for their extremely sharp curves. In fact, the inner loop’s curvature is much more severe than that of the outer loop. Trains servicing the inner loop could only have their center doors open, leaving the platform to be mostly walled-off with special archways to allow for the center doors of the train to be visible for boarding. In the 1950s, newer rolling stock was put into service along many of New York’s subway lines, which required that all train doors open at the same time. This eventually forced the inner loop station to cease service, although a shuttle service ran from the Bowling Green station a few blocks north, to the inner loop station until 1977 using modified cars that allowed only the center doors to open at the station. Today, the inner loop station is used as inter=agency space for the NYCMTA.

As for the outer loop, it continued to be serviced by the subway system until 2009, when a replacement station opened. The outer loop’s curvature required the use of “gap fillers”, which were basically movable platform segments that would extend when a train arrived, allowing passengers to safely board and de-board the train. When the train prepared to leave the station, and the train doors closed, the “gap fillers” would contract.  The “gap fillers” were controlled by an office/control center within the station. Another setback for the outer loop, which eventually prompted the NYCMTA to build a replacement station, is the length of the platform. Today, many of the New York City subway lines utilize trains of at least 7 cars, with Line 1 using 10-car trains (something that is completely unheard of on the Paris Metro). Because the outer loop was designed for only 5-car trains, the first 5 cars of a 10-car subway train can be used for boarding and de-boarding. This would always cause passengers to scurry towards the front 5 cars prior to arriving at the South Ferry station. In addition, the original platform is very narrow and thus cannot handle the large influx of passengers that connect to the subway each day.

While many stations along the system have been extended over the years, it was determined that a new station be built to replace the older South Ferry station. The newer station was funded in part by federal funds that were provided to New York City after 9/11 to rebuild lower Manhattan and was opened to passengers on March 16, 2009 (the older station then closed). The new station comprises of two tracks and a single island platform on a much slighter curve, and the length of the new platform is sufficient for two 10-car trains, thus substantially speeding up the boarding process. The station is also equipped with three exits, as opposed to only one with the old station, a seamless connection to the Whitehall St station (where Line R is served), and elevators, making the station ADA compliant. With numerous ferry terminals lying along the southern fringe of Manhattan, the new South Ferry station could not be anymore vital to the commutes of thousands of passengers each day.

Superstorm Sandy ravages the newer terminal:

It was never thought at first that the older South Ferry station would ever be used for passenger service again. Unfortunately, this outlook changed after October 29, 2012 when Superstorm Sandy ravaged the New York City metro region, causing water to flood the newer station all the way to the mezzanine level and closing the station indefinitely. The mezzanine level of the newer station is at about the same level as the old station, since the newer platform was built beneath the existing loop. When water was pumped out of the newer station, the extent of the damage became clear. Numerous electrical systems were severely damaged by flood waters, including track signaling and control center systems. Because of this, the newer station will remain closed indefinitely. Current estimates of rebuilding and reopening the newer South Ferry station is around $600 million and could take up to three years to complete, which does not sit well with commuters and agency and government officials. In fact, the Bowling Green station along Lines 4 & 5 have seen severe overcrowding since the closure of the South Ferry station.

Refurbishing the older South Ferry station will come at about $2 million, which will make sure the station is repaired and upgraded for passenger service. This includes repairing and restoring the “gap fillers”, installing communication, security, and surveillance equipment, and building a connection between the older station platform and the newer mezzanine to allow seamless access from the newer entry points and the Whitehall St station for Line R.

Station Cluny – La Sorbonne in Paris, France.
Please see for photo details.

Cluny – La Sorbonne Station – Paris, France

The second station that I will profile is the Cluny – La Sorbonne station along Line 10 of the Paris Metro, which also closed for a period of time before it was reopened to passengers. Unlike the South Ferry station however, Cluny – La Sorbonne (originally known as just station Cluny) was closed in 1939 due to its close proximity to nearby stations. In fact, one can clearly see the platforms of station Odeon and vice versa. During the 1930s and 40s, a handful of stations were permanently closed due to their close proximity to adjacent stations. Other examples include station St. Martin along Lines 8 & 9, which lie only about 100 meters away from station Strassbourg-St. Denis, and station Arsenal along Line 5, a stone’s throw away from from station Quai de la Rapee.

The RER prompts reopening of the station:

Although there was no intention to reopen station Cluny in the beginning, the construction of the RER Line C during the 1980s prompted the RATP to construct a connecting hallway between station St. Michel of Line 4, station St. Michel-Notre Dame of RER Lines B & C, and station Cluny of Line 10. The resulting connection reopened station Cluny, which was renamed at that point as Cluny – La Sorbonne. Without this connection, passengers would have been required to make a “U” path to station Odeon, transfer to Line 4, and then transfer to the commuter rail at station St. Michel-Notre Dame.

The really nice thing about station Cluny – La Sorbonne is the wonderful mosaic that graces that platform’s ceiling. I really wished that I could have seen this mosaic during my 2009 trip to Paris. In fact, I did not even have a chance to use Line 10 when I was there. However, on my next visit, I will have to remember to snap a few photos of the beautiful mosaic!


There are many others that never reopened.

Though these are just two stations along two different systems that have reopened to passengers, many other stations have been closed permanently (such as stations Arsenal and St. Martin in Paris) and are likely never to reopen. There is however a glimmer of hope for another Parisian station, Haxo. Station Haxo actually was never opened to passengers to begin with, though it was constructed with the original Line 7 in 1905. There has been much speculation that one day, the RATP will merge sub-lines 3b and 7b into a unified line that would extend towards Gare d’lEst and perhaps further west. If (and I say IF) this were to occur, the unified line will probably be assigned the number of 19. Yes…Line 19 (because if the current plan for the Grand Paris Express holds, we will have 15 through 18 assigned to those lines).

In New York, there are several stations that were closed and are likely never to reopen: City Hall (IRT), 18th St, Bergen St (lower level), and a couple of unused platforms within Chambers St (BMT) are just a few. These stations closed for various reasons, but I would suspect that it made much sense to close some of them because either the platforms were too narrow or curved (especially in the case of City Hall, where the curve creates a very wide gap between the train and the platform), or they were too close to neighboring stations (by which the platforms had been extended). If a commitment is made to rebuild the newer South Ferry station, the older station will probably close down permanently after 2015 or 2016.


HAPPY 200th POST! 😀

On a side note; this marks my 200th blog post! I want to take a brief moment to thank everyone who has viewed my site, as well as those who are following my site either via WordPress, Twitter, Facebook, or following me on YouTube! I also want to thank all those who have brought me inspiration to build my website! Without them, I probably would not have this site at all!

HARTride 2012.


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