The futureNYCSubway: Manhattan-bound G Train

Brooklyn Loop Lines
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Imagine if you lived in Greenpoint and could get to Times Sq on one train? Or if you lived in Bed-Stuy and didn’t have to use the L to get home?

The G train was designed to be the Brooklyn to Queens local train that would be a counterpart to the 8th Ave and 6th Ave subways in Manhattan. The thought at the time was that there would be enough ridership between downtown Brooklyn and Queens to justify having the G train be the only local train running along the Queens Blvd subway but ridership never panned out. Because the tunnels for the G train were designed so that it could ONLY run between Queens and Brooklyn the line has always acted as a circumferential commuter sifter; riders use it to transfer to Manhattan bound trains at key points. The Independent Subway had planned a massive transfer station at Union and South 4th St where riders on the G could, at one station, transfer to trains headed to 8th, 6th, and 2nd Aves. This major expansion never took place (though the shell station at Broadway still exists). Because of this passengers are limited to transferring at Hoyt-Schermerhorn Sts to reach downtown Manhattan, to the L train at Metropolitan Ave to reach 14th St and then transfer again to get to Midtown, or to change at Court Sq to the 7, E and M trains to reach Midtown.

There are two things keeping the G train from running into Manhattan: First is the fact that the tracks along the Crosstown Line don’t allow the trains to enter Manhattan without some fancy and disruptive turning around; For some unknown reason the tracks at Hoyt-Schermerhorn station between the Crosstown Line and the Fulton St Line (A/C trains) don’t even have a cross-over. This would have at least allowed 8th Ave trains to run directly to Bedford-Nostrand Avs. Second is that there is no real extra capacity in Manhattan for the G train without a new subway. While the 2nd Ave subway will be adding new capacity, that is IF they build it south of 63rd St, it won’t be ideal for a G train loop since the 2nd Ave subway does not intersect most of the other Manhattan trunk lines.

If strategic connections are built then the G train could utilize existing capacity within Manhattan that would allow for riders to be better distributed off the G train and take pressure off of the two current transfer points. I’m proposing two new loop lines, the GD through Downtown and GM through Midtown. Not too long ago the NYC Subway featured trains with double letters indicating local or specific services.

Downtown Loop Subway

Map of proposed Downtown-Crosstown Loop.
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Map of proposed Downtown-Crosstown Loop.

In 1912 the New York State Public Service Commission was tasked with finding routes for new subways throughout New York City. The need for improved transit between Brooklyn and Manhattan was apparent and the Commission looked at many different routes. Because of the way Brooklyn is laid out simple radial lines from Manhattan through Bedford-Stuyvesant would be difficult to build in a way that would be most effective serve the most number of riders. Because of this the Commission proposed a series of subway loops which would run along 14th St and Delancey St in Manhattan, run to Brooklyn via a new tunnel and the Williamsburg Bridge, and via two trunk subways run through Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Bedford-Stuyvesant before turning west to downtown Brooklyn and lower Manhattan, then head back uptown. The Interborough Rapid Transit Co. and the Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit Co., which were given dual contracts to build the new subways, built the parts of the plan that they saw as having the highest ridership (14th St subway and a loop via the Williamsburg Bridge) but rejected the trunk subways through Williamsburg and Bedford-Stuyvesant. When then Independent Subway was built it incorporated part of the loop idea with the Crosstown Line but as I descried above they rejected any possibility of it looping through Manhattan.

Looping the G train through lower Manhattan would have a major impact on congestion at Jay St-MetroTech, Hoyt-Schermerhorn and Lorimer St/Metropolitan Av. These two stations are the only places to transfer from lower Manhattan to the Crosstown Line. Most riders need to transfer at least twice from lines in Manhattan to get to the G train. If the G train could loop through lower Manhattan and hit stations along the 7th Ave, Lexington Ave, and Broadway subways then only a single transfer would be needed and the more options would relieve congestion at the two current choke points.

Proposed track map showing how new Crosstown Loop Lines would connect Manhattan and Brooklyn.
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Proposed track map showing how new Crosstown Loop Lines would connect Manhattan and Brooklyn.

The only place for the G train to loop through lower Manhattan is along the Centre St subway used by the J/Z trains. The subway was designed at a time when lower Manhattan was a booming manufacturing district but as these jobs left and moved to Midtown ridership along the Centre St subway dropped and today there are a second set of tracks an platforms between Chambers St and Essex St that are abandoned. What would be required to allow the G train to use these tracks would be a new tunnel under the East River between the Lower East Side and Williamsburg, as well as a new connection between the DeKalb Av station in downtown Brooklyn and the Crosstown Line.

The new East River tunnel would be the most expensive aspect of the plan but with ridership along the L train between Manhattan and Brooklyn at all time highs a new connection will be needed eventually. In the IND Second System plan for a subway to Utica Ave they planned a new subway from 2nd Ave/Houston St to South 4th St. This new tunnel would be an alternative version of this plan; a new subway connecting the 2nd Ave/Houston St station would run east under Houston St to Ave D (with a new station at Clinton St). At Ave D it would turn south and run through the Baruch Houses; in an odd twist of design the buildings of the Baruch Houses align so that a tunnel could be built through the project with no need for building relocation which would allow for a tunnel closer to South 4th St.

At the Delancey St/Essex St station a connection would require reconfiguring the station from 2 platforms with 3 tracks to 3 platforms with 4 tracks. The inner tracks would continue along the Williamsburg Bridge but the outer tracks (the existing northern Manhattan-bound track and the new southern Brooklyn-bound track) would tunnel under Delancey St along side of the Williamsburg Bridge and merge with the aforementioned East River tunnel. On the Brooklyn side the tunnel would run under South 4th St and up Borinquen Pl where a new junction would be built to connect with the G train. This new tunnel would also allow 6th Ave trains to run to Williamsburg and connect to a future subway to relieve the L train while it would also finally give the G train access to Manhattan.

Track map of downtown Brooklyn showing BMT and IND lines.
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Track map of downtown Brooklyn showing BMT and IND lines.

When the IRT and BMT were building subways into downtown Brooklyn many were built with provisions for a connection to a subway under Lafayette Ave. Because it was the IND which finally did build a subway under Lafayette Ave, the G train, the provisions left were either destroyed or used for other connections. A G train loop coming from the Centre St subway would run down through Chambers St and Broad St where it would reenter Brooklyn via the Montague St tunnel (used by the N/R trains) and then on to DeKalb Ave. DeKalb Av station is a major junction between trains coming from the 4th Ave and Brighton Beach Lines headed to Manhattan via the Montague St tunnel and the Manhattan Bridge. Many different route configurations are possible and one which is not used today is for trains using the Montague St tunnel to connect to the Brighton Beach Line (this was used previously for M trains at one point). The two tracks that exist for this connection were actually built to connect to an elevated subway which ran down Fulton St. This connection was never built when it was decided to demolish the elevated all together and replace it with the Fulton St subway (A/C trains). It is these tracks which will be repurposed to connect the G back up with the Crosstown Line.

Proposed new track map of downtown Brooklyn showing DeKalb-Crosstown Line connection.
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Proposed new track map of downtown Brooklyn showing DeKalb-Crosstown Line connection.

The only thing standing it the way of this is the Crosstown Line itself; the Fulton St station on the G train is right where any connection between DeKalb Av and the Crosstown Line would be built. Fulton St station would be demolished and a new track connection built with the Crosstown Line reusing the space of the old station. The IND, famous for overbuilding, placed the Lafayette Ave station on the C train literally one block away so Fulton St station ridership would be absorbed by the C train or at DeKalb Av.

This loop which I’ve described would allow the G train to hit every single major Manhattan trunk line in one go: riders coming from Brooklyn can get to Broadway at DeKalb Ave or transfer to 7th Ave and Lexington Ave trains at Borough Hall. Riders coming from Manhattan, especially uptown, no longer have to cram onto L trains but can transfer at Delancey St-Essex St, Canal St, Brooklyn Bridge, or Fulton St. Because the loop would use the existing capacity along the Centre St subway and share a new tunnel under the East River it would always be a piggyback service to radial lines into Manhattan. The new junction at Fulton St also means that G trains would continue to run to Church Ave and that riders in Bedford-Stuyvesant at stations with the highest ridership growth would see wait times halved as there would be twice as much service available. Extra track space and platforms as Chambers St and Bedford-Nostrand Avs allow for the loop to offer flexible service if ridership along one segment of the line is higher than the other.

Midtown Loop

Map of proposed Midtown-Crosstown Loop.
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Map of proposed Midtown-Crosstown Loop.

While a downtown loop would be a boon for G train riders living in Bedford-Stuyvesant looking to get into Manhattan, it would leave riders from Greenpoint with virtually no improvements. The Centre St subway offers an affordable capacity for a loop but Midtown has less capacity to spare. Right now there are two trunk lines with unused capacity: the 8th Ave Line and the Broadway Line. The Broadway Line, however, will only have extra capacity for another year or so until the 2nd Ave Subway is opened when Q trains will be rerouted to 96th St/2nd Ave and, presumably, the W train will be resurrected between Astoria and lower Manhattan. This leaves the 8th Ave Line south of 53rd St with room for more service. With a new East River tunnel I outlined above a second loop from Greenpoint to 8th Ave could be designed.

At Borinquen Pl a second connection would be built between the South 4th subway and the Crosstown Line, this time headed north to Metropolitan Ave. As the line enters Long Island City the tunnel would split right before the 21 St-Van Alst station with a new connection to the 53rd St tunnel headed into Manhattan. Because the 53rd St tunnel is currently used by E and M trains some M trains would need to be rerouted through the 63rd St tunnel to the north. This would reduce service to Queens Plaza station but as M trains would continue to Forest Hills at 36th St the effect may be minimal.

Proposed track map showing how Crosstown Loop Lines would connect with the existing Crosstown Line in Williamsburg.
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Proposed track map showing how Crosstown Loop Lines would connect with the existing Crosstown Line in Williamsburg.

Along 53rd St and south along 8th Ave there is enough capacity for this new G train loop. C or E trains may need to be routed along the express tracks but this won’t have a negative impact. Much of the ridership along 8th Ave in Midtown is local or requires a transfer at W4th St so the addition of the Crosstown Line won’t be noticed by much of the ridership there. Additionally a train that runs directly from 8th Ave to Broadway-Lafayette on Houston St will reduce the need for 8th Ave riders to transfer at W4th St. Using the local track connection between W4th and Broadway-Lafayette the loop will run to 2nd Ave where the Houston St subway will be extended as I described above to connect with the new East River tunnel.

This second loop would impact existing subways the way the lower Manhattan loop wouldn’t; the M train would be effected on both ends as it may need to be rerouted through 63rd St and south of W4th St. While M trains could then terminate at World Trade Center the 6th Ave-Myrtle Ave Line would be lost and this has seen a high growth in ridership ever since the M train was rerouted up 6th Ave in 2010. It may also be that because the Midtown Loop is much longer than the downtown one it wouldn’t offer as flexible of service; there are not easy places to terminate loop trains here as there are with the Downtown Loop. These issues could be overcome if ridership is high enough, which it might be one day as a slew of new high rise apartments are coming to the Greenpoint waterfront in the coming years.

Ideally the G train would be a piggyback service along radial lines entering into Manhattan (the way it is along the F train in in Carroll Gardens and the way it was along the IND Queens Blvd Line until service was cut back to Court Sq). The problem with reconfiguring the G train so that radial lines run along side it through Brooklyn is that then the radial lines need new subways through Williamsburg, Bedford-Stuyvesant, and Bushwick in order for the whole system to work; that is an expense the MTA is not even willing to study at this point. By enhancing the circumferential nature of the G train by creating loops into Manhattan the city can take advantage of existing capacity by building new connections that one day could be used for radial lines into Brooklyn but will see immediate use. In fact creating more transfer points along the G train will have an immediate impact on the L train and may even reduce the need for a new subway through Bushwick until much further into the future. Because the existing G train will still run between Court Sq and Church Ave riders will see an improvement in service without changing existing patters. In fact, because the G train only runs at about 7 min headways during peak hours today adding these two loop lines will halve that so riders out in Bedford-Stuyvesant or Greenpoint could see trains coming every 4 minuets at peak times.

33 comments on “The futureNYCSubway: Manhattan-bound G TrainAdd yours →

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  1. So in the end of your idea there are supposed to be the GM loop which I think means (G – Manhattan) and GD (G – Downtown) and have like a major connector between the three lines and making a convenient plan for a South 4th Street Subway? Cool by me

  2. You could utilize the extra 8th Av. capacity you mention to provide a little more service to Queens Plaza right now. Move the M with the F to go by way of 63rd St. as you suggest here, and then add a new 8th Av. train to go along with the E by way of 53rd St. It would terminate at Queens Plaza and use the center track east of Queens Plaza to reverse.

  3. But that hurts more than it helps; Queens riders will be worse off with 2 8th Ave trains and no 6th Ave trains at Queens Plaza rather than what is there now. It’s not perfect but it’s a better balance.

  4. The help is to provide additional 8th Av. service, particularly to 42nd St. and 34th St., two of the busiest stations in the system, as well as a partial fifth train to Queens. How much one considers that to help depends on how much value one puts on having four trains instead of only three trains running on the 8th Av. line. Only those actually getting on at Queens Plaza or 23rd St. – Ely Av. or transferring from the G would lose direct 6th Av. access, and they can walk across the platform at 7th Av.

  5. It’s a tough call given the constraints of the current system. Once CBTC is installed along Queens Blvd more E trains can be run so switching the M to 63rd won’t be needed. Given that there is a capacity limitation at Jamaica Center-Parsons/Archer it might make sense to have a new train, the K perhaps, that runs the same as the E but terminates at Jamaica-179th (where many E trains have to turn already). There you get your additional 8th Ave train without disrupting 6th Ave trains.

  6. Basically this: https://www.google.com/maps/@40.7009686,-73.9023682,12.47z/data=!4m2!6m1!1sz-XOBJKktHNs.kKJD0vSiWoM8!5m1!1e2

    The biggest issue would be between Chambers St and Jay St-MetroTech but if CBTC was also installed there then the additional trains would be doable. Routing it to Church Av is mostly about terminal space at WTC and it would also reduce the need for transfers at Jay St somewhat but that would depend on how many people are actually transferring.

  7. The real solution is to add one east river tunnel from Atlantic Avenue to Lower manhattan, connecting the local tracks from hoyt schermerhorn-chambers on the AC. This will allow the 8th avenue line to have full local and express all the way to Queens (E trains to Euclid Ave, and a new K Express Service, for example) . It will also allow capacity to possibly run a branch off the AC along Utica Ave. Thinking further, if you could make that east river tunnel a double level tunnel (Exactly like the 63rd street one), you can bring LIRR service to Lower manhattan via the Calatrava terminal from Atlantic Ave. Most bang for the buck as far as new east river tunnels go

  8. I would argue that a new tunnel should be part of the 2nd Ave Subway, however, connecting it to an existing line would get things done a whole lot quicker.

    A double level would be nice but keep in mind that the LIRR is going to cut back service along Atlantic Ave once the East Side Access is open. The Atlantic Branch will become a shuttle so a better use would be to convert it to some kind of superexpress subway out to Queens. If this could be combined with the Fulton St Line and the new East River tunnel then you would only need a single level tunnel that would kill two birds with one stone.

    Running a Utica Ave branch off the Fulton St line (or the LIRR Atlantic Branch for that matter) is tricky because of how the station is built. The IRT built their Utica Ave station west of the actual avenue so that the branch could merge properly. The IND assumed that a subway would cross Fulton St above Utica Ave station. This means that the whole area would need to be blown up and rebuilt which kind of hurts the proposal. There aren’t any good solutions for Utica Ave (especially since it would have to be an elevated train for half the route which means it DOA).

  9. Do you have reason to believe this is something the MTA is considering? A straight shot from N/W Bed-Stuy to Manhattan would be amazing.

  10. That K train is amazing! Perfect for my current commute–7th Ave/9th St (BK) to 53rd & Lex (MN). Right now, I’m taking the F>6 @ Bleecker or the G>E/M @ Court Sq (whichever comes first). The K would be a one-seat ride for me, no new build, and utilizes the express track btw Jay St and 7th Ave. Sounds great to me.

  11. Cool concept, but I think you could achieve this same convenience jsut by adding in some of the transfers that the systems left out.

    1) Create a transfer tunnel under Hoyt street, so G riders can transfer directly to the 7th avenue line.

    2) Tear down the Hewes street & Lorimer Street stations, and replace them with a Union Avenue station that’s directly over Broadway on the G line.

    If you really wanted to expand the G’s service, I’d think you’d want to send the tracks further north, and have the service end in Astoria.

  12. 1) That still leaves out 4th Ave/Brighton/Broadway riders.
    2) Totally agree.
    3) I’d love that somehow. Right now there is no good way to do it. Connecting it to the N, which I’ve advocated in the past, wouldn’t be ideal since the vast majority of traffic would be headed to Manhattan. I think the best alternative would be to extend the G to Forest Hills once CBTC gets implemented on Queens Blvd or extending the G along my proposed Northern Blvd Line.

  13. What was the point of adding a 2nd line from 6th avenue in the first place? It seems to me that the F from 6th Avenue, the E from 8th Avenue, the R from Broadway, and the G from Brooklyn fed quite nicely into the Queens Plaza to 71st Avenue/179th Street run. Is there any realistic hope that the G will ever be restored to 71st Avenue?

  14. Mickey,

    The original idea was to take the extra capacity on the 6th Ave and Broadway lines and send them to Forest Hills via a new express subway which would have paralleled Queens Blvd. The 63rd St tunnel was built but the super express subway to Forest Hills was scrapped so the only option the MTA had to actually use the new tunnel was to connect it to Queens Blvd. There is more demand for Manhattan bound trains than there is for Brooklyn bound Crosstown trains on Queens Blvd so given the capacity constraints the V/M won out over the G.

    In the new capital campaign the MTA just passed they have budgeted money to install new CBTC signal systems along Queens Blvd which will allow more trains to run along the existing tracks. Theoretically what this means is that G trains can again be run to Forest Hills. Then the issue becomes one of capacity at Forest Hills to turn trains around. Most likely the R or the M would be extended to 179th St which sounds obvious but in reality isn’t that popular because riders will just transfer to the E or F the first chance they get AND you need to pay drivers for the additional time spent taking their trains to 179th and back. This is totally doable but it needs to be financially viable for the MTA otherwise they are paying extra to run empty trains. This is why Queens Blvd local trains all terminate at Forest Hills today.

    Furthermore the Archer Ave subway, the E/J/Z, was supposed to be extended further east/southeast and wasn’t built with enough capacity for an efficient terminal. There is much higher demand along Archer Ave than Hillside Ave but the capacity isn’t there and won’t be unless the subway under Archer Ave is extended (which there are no plans to do). Having the R run to Jamaica Center-Parsons Bvld makes the most sense but it can’t be done without a subway extension.

    What would be amazing is if the city/state decided to ditch the Queensway park proposal build a branch off Queens Blvd along the Rockaway Beach line to Rockaway Park. Because it would split off the local tracks you could run the M down there and not have the capacity issue at Forest Hills where now just the R and G would terminate. Given the extra capacity CBTC would allow this is all doable with reasonable headways.

    Long story short: Queens Blvd doesn’t have enough capacity today.

  15. One way to get the G back to Forest Hills without a log jam on turning trains around there would be to use CBTC to increase capacity on the Queens Blvd. express tracks. Then you could have a Broadway express (the N or the Q running by way of 63rd St.) join the E and the F on the Queens Blvd. express tracks. You wouldn’t have the log jam on turning trains around at 179th St. because of the very large turnaround capacity there. With a Broadway express running, you wouldn’t need the R as a Queens Blvd. local and you could have the two Queens Blvd. locals be the M and the G.

  16. Any excess Broadway Line capacity needs to be used along the Astoria Line. The demand between Roosevelt Ave and Forest Hills so so great that you’d still need the R or at least 2 local trains running at 30tph or more. Express wise the demand is much greater along Archer Ave than Hillside Ave so extending any local or adding more express to 179th doesn’t really help where help is needed. CBTC helps but only so much if the terminals can’t handle it. Archer Ave needs to be extended southeast at the very least to built proper turning tracks for more service.

    What I see happening is when CBTC is up and running there will be a new 8th Ave express service from 179th to WTC or even along Fulton St. Have the E exclusively run from Archer Ave to WTC and the new rush hour service can pick up demand from 179th to Euclid Ave or even Rockaway Park. That helps the most amount of people.

    The G will always lose out.

  17. Not really since anyone getting on the G will at some point, sooner than later, have to transfer to an express train. The Brooklyn to Queens demand, while it has certainly risen over the years, is still a fraction of the Manhattan to Queens demand.

    Will the MTA run G trains to Forest Hills once CBTC is up and running? Most likely, at least at first since it would be the most obvious extra service to run. But I think you’ll still see the crowds at Roosevelt Av and Queens Plaza which will slow down service.

  18. How can excess Broadway Line capacity be used along the Astoria Line? There are room for 4 trains on the Broadway Line. They used to be the N, the Q, the R, and the W. But there is room for only 2 trains on the Astoria Line, currently the N and the Q. When the first stage of the Second Avenue subway is completed, the Q will go there. If the N were to become a Queens Blvd. express, that would still leave the R and a revived W to be the Astoria Line trains. If CBTC were to go to the Astoria Line, you would still have the problem of turnaround capacity at Ditmars Blvd., similar to the present problem on Archer Av.

  19. The R cannot run on the Astoria Line because it needs to have access to the Jamaica Yards (as there are no yards in Bay Ridge). Returning to the N/W on the Astoria Line is the only viable option. That leaves the R to Forest Hills. It’s not perfect but it’s the only thing that works.

  20. I do see what you are saying about capacity at Astoria. If the yard access wasn’t an issue then the routing you are proposing would actually be ideal. If the city could overcome the NIMBY resistance and extend the Astoria Line to LaGuardia Airport and build an additional yard in vacant land that ConEd owns then the Astoria Line could run at a much higher capacity even without CBTC.

  21. I can see your point about yard access for the R. As you have pointed out, it would help greatly to have another line in Queens, whether it be the Northern Blvd. line or another one. It is unusual that you have more capacity from Manhattan to Queens (only the F uses the 63rd St. tunnel) than room to accept that capacity in an outlying borough.

  22. Since the M train does not run along Queens Blvd. on weekends, and the R sporadically at best, is there any plausible reason why the G couldn’t continue to pick up the slack on weekends?

  23. Is there anyone at the MTA one could address directly about this? I for one would love for someone over there to give an explanation.

  24. Really it’s just about money. It costs money to pay train drivers for the extra time it takes to send the G to Forest Hills and extra money to maintain the cars. Given the tight finances of the MTA they would rather spend that money on more Manhattan bound service where there is a greater demand. The MTA knows there is demand along Queens Blvd which is why they are installing new CBTC signals along the line which would, theoretically, allow G trains to run to Forest Hills full time. In the mean time call Gov Cuomo or Mayor de Blasio and tell them to give the MTA more money.

  25. just wanted to point out that occasionally the manhattan bound Q train runs over the R line after dekalb, so there is a track switch that lets brighton line trains run via that Montague tunnel. Sometimes B trains terminate at White Hall R train station when there are track issues along 6th ave during the day.

  26. It certainly isn’t a perfect or fool proof plan. You’d have to rebuild Hoyt – Schermerhorn station to really fix the G and even then there isn’t much you can do of the 2nd Ave Subway isn’t connected.

  27. So why cant the connection be made in Queens between the G tracks and the 53rd OR 63 St tunnel? This would give us a ‘loop’ with the least amount of new construction.

  28. Why Cant They Increase Capacity On The Queens Blvd Line For The (G)
    or Make A New Subway UNDER MEtropolitan avenue?