South Ferry Subway Station Update

It’s been almost two months since the New York City MTA reopened the old South Ferry Loop subway station, and customers are very delighted to see the vital transit link restored. During the past several weeks, I’ve watched at least two dozen YouTube videos (some from die-hard transit fans) of the station in action; from the trains screeching around the looped platform, to the gap fillers expanding and contracting. As I mentioned in a previous post, the 100+ year old station reopened to passengers on April 4, 2013, following the destruction of the newer replacement station that was due to SuperStorm Sandy. In this post, I will highlight some of the things that I’ve observed through news reports, other blog postings, and yes…those YouTube videos.

Just to make things clear; I’ve never actually stepped foot into South Ferry, but I sure wished that I did during my 2011 visit. Seeing the ambiance of the newer station through videos really highlights one of the crown achievements of the New York City MTA in recent  years, mainly because the station was built underneath the existing station and tunnels, and was all done without disrupting regular subway traffic. In this video that I found on YouTube, you can see how the newer station was designed and built. It was definitely a difficult task to carry out, but one that was completed at the cost of $530 millon, and within a much shorter time frame than originally concieved.

The wrath of SuperStorm Sandy brought the New York City MTA to the realization that something has to be done to relocate the most vital infrastructure components (such as the control center) from future water damage. Because many of these components were located so deep into the newer station, they all suffered extensive water damage and have been rendered as useless. This is the key reason why the estimated price tag of rebuilding the newer South Ferry station is at $600 million. The estimated time frame for the rebuilding process is anywhere from two to three years, so you can expect that the older South Ferry Loop station will be in service at least through 2015.

At first, the NYCMTA did not consider reopening the old South Ferry Loop, deeming it too much of a task to bring the station back into operating condition. However, as the immense costs and time frame of bringing back service to the newer station became more evident, officials at the MTA determined that it would be too much of a disservice to customers to not bring back service to South Ferry as soon as possible. The decision to reopen the South Ferry Loop station was made final in March, 2013, after the MTA heard from frustrated customers and state officials about the painstaking daily commutes from the Staten Island Ferry terminal to the Rector St station during the midst of a very cold winter.

During the month of March, the MTA poured $2 million dollars worth of work into restoring the older loop. Such work included installing new electrical feeds, surveillance and communication equipment, restoring the station’s existing entrance and the gap fillers. Two escalators that connect the street level just outside of the Staten Island Ferry terminal to the newer concourse level were restored, and additional monitors were installed to allow train operators a full view of the platform. The reopening of the South Ferry Loop also marks the first time that customers can travel between the Whitehall St station and the South Ferry Loop seamlessly via the newer concourse complex. This connection was made possible by a connecting stairwell that was built between the southeastern edge of the South Ferry Loop platform and the newer concourse. This connection is shown in the below diagram that I created:

South Ferry-Whitehall St Diagram

The red crescent represents the South Ferry Loop platform, while the green area represents the newer concourse. The area in yellow, next the loop platform, represents the newly built stairwell. The two red X’s represent access points to the newer South Ferry platform that have been closed off by temporary walls. The two supplemental entrances to the newer platform (one of them being located in Battery Park) also remain closed, along with the newer platform’s elevator access. Because the station’s elevators are closed (and will remain closed until full station restoration is complete), wheelchair passengers are required to take the bus to Chambers St, which is the closest ADA accessible subway station along Line 1.

In this YouTube video that I found, you can see how the Whitehall St and South Ferry stations look like today. Although it certainly isn’t the same inside South Ferry, with the temporary walls blocking access to the damaged platform, the reopening of the older loop does make the rush hour commute for thousands of customers going to and from the Staten Island Ferry terminal much easier. About midway through the video, you can hear the gap fillers of the older loop contracting, followed by the northbound train screeching out of the station.

To close out this post, I would definitely suggest to keep a lot of patience if you commute through South Ferry on a regular basis. Again, the newer station isn’t slated to open until at least 2015, which means that the 5-car rule at the station is here to stay for a while.

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