Why is the PATH station at World Trade Center so hard to leave?
May 25, 2018 6:54 AM   Subscribe

I was housesitting recently for someone in New Jersey and took PATH to work at the World Trade Center, and walking through the station to reach the exit seemed to take longer than the train ride. (The exit I wanted, on Greenwich, seemed especially hard to reach; I had to double back across the length of the building.) Does anyone know why it's designed this way? Is it just trying to trap people in the mall? Isn't it unsafe in an emergency to have the exits so far from the trains?
posted by pinochiette to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
There is still a whole lot of construction going on at the WTC site, and there probably will be for decades. Presumably, as more buildings are completed, more exits will be added, but don't hold your breath.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 7:10 AM on May 25, 2018


The only non-cynical explanation I can come up with is that WTC is a transportation hub. For my own personal commute, I much preferred the multi-escalator superhighway used during construction, but I have to admit that the routes between PATH and Fulton / Park Place / Chambers / Cortlandt are pretty good . . .

. . . except for the fact that everything flows through that MFing Oculus. The worst combination of idiot tourist trap, abandoned shopping mall, and commuter choke point / mixing bowl I can imagine. So yeah, it's diabolically designed commercial foot traffic patterns keeping you in there, no handy exits like no clocks at a casino.
posted by whuppy at 7:14 AM on May 25, 2018 [7 favorites]


maybe im being naïve because it is the Friday before a holiday weekend but I find using the WTC path fairly fine (although I agree there is a lot of walking within the transit center itself - my usual route involves transferring between the Path and R or, when I have to walk further, the 4 and 5 trains). Honestly some of this feels like a mental trick - you'd have to walk almost as far whether you were inside the station or not (your doubling back not withstanding - some of the planned entrances are not yet open and nothing is terribly well marked).

We'll see how I feel about it in a couple months when my everyday commute will involve walking from the 4/5 across the entirety of the station to the far west side. Im not super jazzed about my daily commute involving walking through that mall thing (ESPECIALLY when they close off/fill up the middle of it for events and things) but if it wasn't there id still have to traverse lower manhattan which is no great joy on the sidewalks as they currently stand.

When I have come from the Path back into WTC I almost appreciate how long it takes to get out of the station - it allows the crowd to stretch a bit as people take on their different walking paces. In comparison, when I go through Grand Central on the subway (not Metro North) every day at rush hour, its hell all the way from the platforms to the sidewalks - and everyone is basically stuck going at the speed of the slowest person in the line.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 8:01 AM on May 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


Going from the PATH to Greenwich St is pretty fast actually. The fastest route is to go into the Apple Store (which is right near the exit to the PATH), up the internal stairs, then take a right when you go out the doors, and take the stairs or escalator up to the exit. That puts you on Greenwich.
If you don't want to cut through the store, you can go up the main stairs/escalators that are just past the Apple Store and exit onto Vesey, and Greenwich is just a few steps away from there.

As a general matter, I find the layout and location of the exits make sense given that it's a transportation hub + a mall, but it just takes some practice. (Ideally, of course, it should be immediately intuitive and not require any foreknowledge...) It's so much better than Penn Station. Plus, I really like the grandness of the main Oculus space; I always enjoy emerging from the PATH and going up the stairs into such a big, airy, bright hall.
posted by odin53 at 8:16 AM on May 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


Like Times Square/42d St., that hub links together a lot of stops on different lines. I'm not saying there's no "duty free effect" going on, but if the station wasn't there, you'd often still have to hike a good ways. Perhaps not changing elevation so much, though.

Also, the place is permanently cluttered with the worst kind of tourists.

(Plus, as others have said, construction isn't finished and not all exits are open yet.)
posted by praemunire at 9:25 AM on May 25, 2018 [3 favorites]


I work nearby, on transit and sometimes accessibility issues, no less, and wanted to say I really share your concerns, though I'm afraid I don't have a definitive answer. The idea, to say nothing of the reality, of a major transit hub designed like a mall drives me bonkers. (Plus it's super frustrating to me on a personal level since I have some mild mobility issues and would like to, say, get lunch from some far-flung parts of the Oculus without doubling--and more--my steps in each direction.)

To be fair, I would note that for some reason the Greenwich exit is extra terrible; I'm not even sure why it exists, other than as a way for tourists to stand above the main body of the mall and take photos. I don't quite understand why the design makes it so hard to access that particular exit--I guess because extending the elevator or stairs would take up a large amount of floor space that would be hard for crowds of PATH commuters to maneuver around? I agree with other commenters that the rest of the layout is not as terrible (though the part where escalators and stairs alternate, over by the Apple Store, always puzzles me).
posted by ferret branca at 9:01 PM on May 25, 2018 [3 favorites]


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