Metal panels suspended by a network of cables will reflect natural light from the 'oculus' skylight down into the depths of the transit hub [Credit: Arup]

New York's largest transport hub opens to the public

New York’s biggest underground terminus will open to the public this morning following a decade-long infrastructure project.

The $1.4bn (£880m) Fulton Center in Lower Manhattan, where nine subway lines converge just feet from the city's revitalised World Trade Center, was inaugurated yesterday by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).

The project, which began in 2005, was designed to streamline the complex warren of pedestrian tunnels that connected the various underground lines built by competing private subway operators in the early 20th century with little consideration for how passengers would transfer from line to line.

The MTA appointed a consortium led by Arup to design the new transit hub, which features re-engineered platforms and passenger access below ground alongside the latest digital technology and energy-efficient structural design, to smooth the flow of the more than 275,000 passengers that pass through the station every weekday.

"Welcome to the station of the 21st century," said engineer Michael Horodniceanu, who led the project as president of the MTA's Capital Construction.

The central feature of the new hub at street-level is a domed atrium of glass and steel encasing a network of tensioned cables that support a series of metal panels that reflect natural light from a skylight designers call the ‘oculus’ down two storeys to the deepest levels of the complex.

Arup’s structural designers applied parametric modelling tools to work out the structure’s complex, non-uniform geometry.


Related article: Maximising light in New York City subway station design


Inside the Fulton Center three large staircase-and-escalator combinations, wide walkways, brightly lit concourses, universal disabled access and more than 50 screens displaying maps, service updates, digital art and advertisements, help speed passenger flow.

A 350ft (107m) tunnel links the Fulton Center to the World Trade Center's Santiago Calatrava-designed transport facility being built and the PATH commuter train to New Jersey, which will open next year.

The US government funded 90 per cent of the cost of the centre and New York state the rest, with roughly $850m coming from a special congressional appropriation in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks that partly damaged five stations served by the hub.

Now, just feet from the new World Trade Center, the complex is part of a "new hot area", said Senator Charles Schumer.

"It shows you how New York City can always reinvent itself and get better," he said. Remembering the maze of the old Fulton Street stop he said: "You would have to rush through those narrow corridors weaving through passengers; everyone is going in every direction, where you could knock someone over or they'd knock you over."

The Fulton project also includes the restoration of an early high-rise – the 125-year-old, nine-storey Corbin Building – which will include entrances to the transit hub.

Further information: Arup associate Zak Kostura explains the challenge of designing an underground terminal illuminated with natural light

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