futureNYCSubway v3 [PDF]
After posting the second version of my futureNYCSubway plan last week I received a lot of great feedback, especially on Second Ave Sagas. I never claimed to have all the best ideas so getting constructive criticism is fantastic. I did a quick look through my ideas verses what others proposed and I decided to do one last version which I think is actually more in keeping with the original methodology of finding a more affordable way to expand the system. I will break them down by highest priority to lowest.
2nd Ave Subway from 125th to Houston St.
While I am still adamant that the 2nd Ave Subway should be built with an express track I’ll base my plans on the fact that Phase 3 will most likely be built with only 2 tracks. This limits the line to two branches without compromising headways. Phase 4 could be scrapped entirely and instead the 2nd Ave Subway can be integrated into the BMT Jamaica Line with one branch heading downtown via the Centre St Subway (and on into Brooklyn via the Montague St Tunnel) and the other to Brooklyn Junction via the Williamsburg Bridge. The BMT Jamaica Line is lightly used (and in fact half the subway is abandoned). The rerouting of the M train has shown what improved access to midtown Manhattan can do for ridership and I feel that a similar routing for 2nd Ave trains will increase ridership out to Broadway Junction. This new routing combined with the wave of gentrification moving east through Bushwick would mean a rapid rise in ridership along the line. 2nd Ave trains will actually terminate at Atlantic Ave on the L line using an unused connection between the BMT Jamaica and Canarsie Lines that was once in service when there were more elevated lines in Brooklyn.
On the north side of the 2nd Ave Subway someone suggested that the Q train, instead of heading west to Broadway, should in fact be routed up to Dyre Ave to take over the 5 train. This seems brilliant to me since it would provide Bronx residents a quicker one seat ride to Times Sq where a routing of the T train would still require a transfer. The T train would then extend under 125th St to Broadway as a crosstown line.
Queens Superexpress and Rockaway Branch Service
The Queens Superexpress remains a top priority due to the congestion along the Queens Boulevard Subway. I’ve simplified the design of the route in a way that accomplishes what I originally had in mind but with much less construction. Originally I had two connections, one to the 63rd St Tunnel and the other at Court Sq. This routing would have required a second Queens Plaza station. If, however, the connection at Court Sq is removed and instead moved just north of Queens Plaza you could route just as many trains but with less new construction. The F and M trains would switch so that Queens Boulevard local service (M) would split off after 36 St and use the 63rd St Tunnel to Manhattan while F trains would again use the 53rd St Tunnel. R trains coming from the 60th St Tunnel would branch off after Queens Plaza and connect to the Superexpress. This would simplify switching at Queens Plaza and free up space so that IND Crosstown G trains could again run to Forest Hills. Local riders would still get into Manhattan just as quickly as before and R train riders can transfer at Queens Plaza for the local G.
Coming off the 63rd St Tunnel 2nd Ave trains would then run express out to Howard Beach via the former LIRR Rockaway Branch and M trains would branch off at 63rd Dr and head to Howard Beach. The Woodhaven Boulevard station would be converted to an express station. R trains would connect back to the main Queens Boulevard Subway at Forest Hills and run out to Jamaica-179th as local with F trains running express.
Crosstown Line and Franklin Ave Connection
Creating a one seat ride from Brighton Beach to Queens Plaza via the IND Crosstown Line seems strange at first but doing so would create a new crosstown connection that would better serve half of the borough of Brooklyn which today has only a long bus ride available to them. Any commuter living east of Ocean Parkway has no direct access to the IND Crosstown Line and if they want to get to northern Brooklyn or Queens must make a long commute through downtown Brooklyn and lower Manhattan before changing for trains to Williamsburg or Queens. This 1.45 mile connection would shave a significant amount of time off of some commutes. The idea is not that far fetched since right now the MTA is planning a Select Bus Service for Nostrand Ave from Sheepshead Bay to Williamsburg. This bus will still have to deal with traversing almost the entire borough via street traffic. With a new crosstown connection many commuters would only have to take a short bus ride to the Brighton Beach Line. The new subway line would bypass all street traffic. With new office and residential development booming along the G train today this connection would also open up these new job centers to neighborhoods that currently have no direct access to them.
Many people have asked why I have not included the Triboro RX in my plans. Besides the point that if it was ever built it would use commuter rail technology and not subway technology, I also feel that it would cost much more than estimated and not serve the city as well as planners hope. I honestly feel that for the money the Franklin Ave Connection would be much more affordable and serve more commuters than the Triboro RX. With just one transfer you would be able to get from Long Island City to any subway line in Brooklyn using almost all existing subway lines (as a side note I would also recommend that on the BMT Jamaica Line Hewes and Lorimer St stations be truncated into a Union Ave station with free transfer to the IND Crosstown Line). That is the promise of the Triboro RX but one which would cost vastly more than the Franklin Ave Connection.
Nostrand Ave and Utica Ave Lines
The biggest issue most people had with my previous plan was a lack of an IRT Nostrand Ave extension. A few people brought up the fact that the IRT in Brooklyn is still below capacity and building a Utica Ave Subway with IND specs would be overkill. I was originally against a Nostrand Ave extension due to the lack of express service but I realized that this could be overcome by implementing rush hour skip-stop service with the two trains that currently run there. The Nostrand Ave Subway could be extended south to Avenue Z with 5 new stations and skip-stop service would half the amount of time it would take to get to Eastern Parkway.
A Utica Ave line as well would best be served by IRT as well since new stations could be planned further apart. Additionally I still feel that the Utica Ave Subway can be built as an elevated line running through custom built buildings like a modern day High Line rather than elevated above the street to both save on construction costs and create a new source of income. The trains would run through the second story of these block long buildings with commercial space on the ground floor. As demand grows new buildings can be constructed above the tracks.
10th Ave Subway
I’ve removed the 86th St Crosstown line from the 10th Ave Subway proposal but a 2 track line, extending the L train at 14th St and 8th Ave to 72nd St and Amsterdam Ave, will still be required after 20 years of development throughout the west side of Manhattan overloads the 2/3 and 7 trains currently at capacity.
Astoria Line Extension to LaGuardia
Politicians made such a stink last time it was proposed due to a short elevated track extension but their shortsightedness will only make traveling to LaGuardia a pain for years to come. The only way to build out the current system is by building elevated trains in the outer boroughs. A one stop extension of the N train to LaGuardia which would run through an industrial no-mans land will hardly affect anyone and give travelers a one seat ride from the hotels of midtown to LaGuardia Airport.
This line could then be extended east through Flushing as originally envisioned in the 1929 Second System plan. Instead of running along the LIE the elevated line would connect to the Flushing Line at Willets Point and run along the Kissena Park Corridor out to Francis Lewis Blvd along a landscaped elevated track. Rush hour trains running out to Flushing would use the express track through Astoria and the W train could be brought back as a local train to LaGuardia.
Extending the Hillside Ave and Archer Ave subways in Jamaica should be included in any long range plan. Any subway extension this far out would have to be at grade (along the LIRR) or elevated to make it financially viable. The Hillside Ave Subway would be extended some distance east as a 2 track subway where it meets a portal and continues out to Springfield Boulevard as a 2 track elevated line. Local service would terminate at Jamaica-179th St and express at Springfield Boulevard. The Archer Ave Subway would be built with upper level or Queens Boulevard trains running along the LIRR Atlantic Branch to Rosedale and lower level or BMT Jamaica trains running out to Belmont Park along the LIRR Main Line.
In central Queens extending the BMT Myrtle Ave Line through Middle Village to Roosevelt Ave would create a much needed interborough subway connection but one that would be lighter in use than the IND Crosstown Line. It would open up Middle Village to subway service and allow Bushwick and Bed Sty residents access to jobs in Jackson Heights and Flushing. The extension itself would run along an existing freight railroad ROW and would run below grade. This would paralell a route used by the proposed Triboro RX but only for this short distance. Trains at night and weekend would run as a shuttle service between Roosevelt Ave and Essex St in Manhattan.
IRT Flushing 7 Train Extensions
As in my previous plan the 7 train would be extended as a 2 track subway further east under Roosevelt Ave to Northern Blvd at 157th St. I’ve combined the College Point Subway with the Flushing Line as a new branch leaving the main line after Main St-Flushing. The College Point branch would run north under Linden Place to 28th Ave where it would come to the surface and run at grade to a terminal at 20th Ave. These two small branches will move bus transfers back outside the congested downtown Flushing business district as well as allow for more efficient termination of trains in Flushing. Service may be split between a 7 and 8 train or running the line as branches.
Triple Track Jamaica Line
If extending 2nd Ave trains along the BMT Jamaica Line becomes successful I can foresee the need to triple track the rest of the Jamaica elevated track between Broadway Junction and 121st St. The line was built as 2 tracks with space for a third. This would require the rebuilding of stations along the way as some stations exist within the ROW of the third track and others will need to be rebuilt to accommodate express service. This may also be built in conjunction with the extension of the Archer Ave Subway out to Belmont Park. This is a low priority but one that could be built as a cheaper alternative to extending the IND Fulton St Subway. It’s also a case of the chicken and the egg; which comes first, better transportation or growth in ridership? Extending 2nd Ave trains as a first step should be done to test if the ridership changes.
I’ve never known why the 1 train had never been extended north to the border of Yonkers but when someone asked about Riverdale I realized that the 1 train could use an extension. I’ve also brought back the 9 train for rush hour skip-stop service since I believe that once the Hudson Yards and World Trade Center are both built and open the need for better service on the west side will warrant additional local service (9).
Extending the IND Concourse Line east to Coop City would kill two birds with one stone as it would finally bring a subway to Coop City and also create a de facto crosstown subway which would allow commuters to bypass congested parts of the Lexington Ave Subway and its Bronx branches.
Staten Island Subway
While many advocate a subway to Staten Island I feel that the best use of funds would be to restore the North Shore Branch of the Staten Island Railroad and possibly extend it to Newark with through running to Penn Station. While this trip would be a round about way to get from Staten Island to Manhattan it would be a one seat ride to midtown and acknowledge that not everyone who lives on Staten Island works in Manhattan.
If a subway is to be built I maintain that the best course of action would be to finally quadruple track the 4th Ave Subway through Bay Ridge and extend a 2 track subway to Fort Wadsworth. From here an elevated line would run out to Victory Blvd and south to the Staten Island Mall. If a subway was built along the northern alternative route, under 68th St in Bay Ridge to St George Terminal, the tunnel under the harbor would be twice as long and would require a subway through all of Staten Island (as opposed to an elevated track along a highway) and be vastly more expensive. It would also duplicate service rather than expand new service to areas not served by the SIRR.
Although this is a quick and dirty rewrite of my last plan I feel that this is probably the closest thing to what New York leaders should be aiming towards in terms of subway expansion. Obviously this is just one part to the transit network throughout the region and I have neglected to touch on commuter rail, ferry, bus, or light rail expansion. Those will be for another day. I want to thank everyone for their feedback and I look forward to hearing more after seeing this new update.
The real test is how to build such a network. It’s going to take a strong political force to build anything in NYC; It always has. The current lot of mayoral contenders don’t seem to have much of a plan for transit expansion. Such a vast expansion plan will take a revolutionary funding source and I wouldn’t know where to begin with devising one; Congestion pricing could work if it wasn’t politically unpopular. So we wait and the subways we have get more crowded by the day. Hopefully I can inspire someone who knows how the game works and one day these will be more than lines on a computer screen.
futureNYCSubway v2 System Map | Click for PDF
The first futureNYCSubway was more a look at what had been proposed and various alternatives rather than a realistic plan. It was basically a thought experiment about all the different ways the system could be expanded. When I finished the project in 2010 I was pretty exhausted with the New York subway. Over the next couple of years as I explored more of the city and saw the actual needs of the system clearer I began to gradually come back the system expansion plans I developed. The first FNYCS plan was what could be possible with money as no issue. Back in the real world where it is basically the only issue I realized I needed to distill out more realistic ideas that could use existing infrastructure better and develop lines that served the growing areas of the city while better connecting the outer boroughs. As traffic to the CBDs of Manhattan plateaus and a ring of neighborhoods along the East River waterfront develop from Long Island City, Williamsburg, and to Downtown Brooklyn I realized that inter-outerboro service needed to be looked at closer. Projects like the Triboro RX which have sat on the drawing boards for years are a good start but I realized that strategically extending certain lines with extra capacity could do the same job while at the same time commanding higher ridership numbers and creating one or two seat rides (with very simple transfers) to these growing new centers.
At the same time the subway now sees its highest ridership levels ever and capacity has been reached on many lines. Improved signal systems allow for more trains but this will only be a band-aid in some places like Long Island City and Williamsburg where gentrification has exploded over the last decade and will only continue to do so. The legacy of Mayor Michael Bloomberg is being debated in the waning days of his administration but the fact is that as the city becomes safer and more popular than ever there will continue to be growth.
The MTA recently put out a document outlining issues it sees coming up in the next 20 years and to no surprise the subway tunnels connecting Queens and Brooklyn to Manhattan will be maxed out. Even today at the Bedford Ave station on the BMT L line one must wait for multiple trains to pass before there is space. New lines were planned generations ago but the financial realities of an aging system with terrible funding sources gives way to little improvement where it is needed. Small actions like extending the M train from Ridgewood to midtown Manhattan have shown the value of increased transit options as the population of northern Brooklyn grows in part because of improved subway access. But how long until what these small fixes aren’t enough?
The futureNYCSubway v2 aims to take a closer look at the issues the system is facing while taking into consideration the limitations to subway expansion today.
2nd Ave Subway
2nd Ave Subway Showing 4 Track Line with Queens Tunnel Connections
As of this writing the opening of the first phase of the 2nd Ave Subway (SAS) is 3-4 years away. This segment will take the BMT Broadway Express (Q) train and run it up to 96th St at 2nd Ave. Already local politicians are starting to make noise about finding funding for the second phase which should be less expensive and less intrusive as much of the tunnels from 96th St to 125th St were dug in the 1970s and have sat vacant ever since.
The issue after Phase 2 is built is how to find funding for Phase 3 and 4 which would extend the line south from 63rd St to Hanover Sq in the Financial District, creating a new T train. Phase 3 and 4, as planned, would be almost three times as long as Phase 1, cost vastly more money and take years longer. The glaring issue that I’ve had with the SAS all along is that there is no express track. Not even a third track, like many elevated lines have, which would allow rerouting trains when the line gets backed up. If one train goes down the entire SAS is stuck.
Phase 3 is an opportunity to right this wrong by building a 4 track subway from 57th St to East Houston St. North of 57th St the line would connect to the existing SAS to 125th and to the existing 63rd St Tunnel to Queens. The additional tracks would then be connected to the 60th St Tunnel which is used by the N and R trains for local service to Astoria and Forest Hills, respectfully. Ridership along the BMT Astoria Line has increased dramatically and adding a direct connection to the SAS would take major pressure off the 59th St/Lexington Ave station on the 4/5/6 as a transfer point. Not building an express track would mean that, when the need inevitably arises, the costs of building one after the fact would be prohibitive. It’s going to be expensive to build Phase 3 no matter what so let’s just get it right.
At the southern end of Phase 3 the SAS would be woven into the IND 6th Ave and BMT Jamaica Lines as originally envisioned by modifying the Chrystie St Cut. SAS trains would terminate at Grand St (Phase 4 would continue south from Grand St to Hanover Sq), connect to the Williamburg Bridge at Essex/Delancey St, and head to Williamsburg via a new tunnel under the East River which would also connect to the IND 6th Ave line at 2nd Ave (a provision built for the IND Second System).
South 4th Subway
South 4th Subway
The bulk of SAS traffic coming from Brooklyn should come from northern Brooklyn as opposed to southern Brooklyn. By this I mean it would be very easy to connect the SAS to the Manhattan Bridge and divert trains from Brighton Beach or Coney Island through 2nd Ave. But this would only move existing service around and leave northern Brooklyn still choked with just the L train. Any new capacity in Manhattan should be used to address traffic coming from northern Brooklyn. It’s time to build the South 4th Subway.
A 4 track subway from East Houston St under the East River to South 4th St and Havermeyer St. At Havermeyer St the line would merge with a new connection to the tracks running over the Williamsburg Bridge via a portal built on the Brooklyn side of the bridge. A South 4th Subway would be the opportunity to relocate the elevated tracks of the BMT Jamaica Line from Marcy Ave to Lormier St. This new trunk line would run from Havermeyer St to Union Ave/Broadway Station (using the built but never used shell station) and under Sternberg Park to Boreum St. The tracks would then split with local tracks running to Bushwick Ave at Boerum St and express tracks straight under private property to Bushwick Ave at Flushing Ave. Local tracks would branch off so that 6th Ave trains can connect to the BMT Canarise Line and run to Myrtle-Wyckoff St while SAS trains connect back with the trunk line at Broadway. Just south of the intersection of Bushwick and Flushing Aves the subway would split with 3 tracks rising to the surface to connect with the existing elevated line just west of Myrtle-Broadway station and 4 tracks continuing to Stuyvesant Ave.
This complicated interchange would allow Jamaica bound trains to merge with Myrtle Ave, Utica Ave, and Canarsie bound trains and allow for simple transfers with express trains bypassing Bushwick and local trains taking pressure off of Bedford Ave. The growth of Williamsburg and Bushwick has put the L train beyond capacity. Connecting 6th Ave trains to the eastern section of the BMT Canarsie Line (serving the quickly growing stations of Morgan, Jefferson, DeKalb, and Myrtle-Wyckoff) would take the pressure off trains when they get to Lorimer and Bedford. This new service would also have a direct connection to the IND Crosstown G train and siphon off transfers at Metropolitan Av, reducing loads on the L further.
Relocating the western end of the BMT Jamaica Line would speed up service and allow for a variety of routing options as the Centre St Subway in Manhattan is lightly used. The demolition of the elevated track would raise property values in an already growing neighborhood and the new South 4th Subway would finally give the area the transit capacity to afford such growth. Already today the M train has allowed a one-seat ride from Bushwick to Midtown Manhattan. A South 4th Subway would allow for ever more growth and take pressure off of the packed L trains.
Utica Ave Subway
Utica Ave Subway
The original plan for the Utica Ave Subway used a four track subway out to Flatbush connecting to the IND 6th and 8th Ave Subways in Manhattan. Plans for the line have evolved over the years including the original IRT plan to extend the IRT from Utica Ave at Eastern Parkway to Kings Highway. In the outline above for the South 4th Subway I end the line at Broadway and Stuyvesant Ave as a 4 track station. From this point the line would continue south to Utica Ave as a 3 track line with rush hour express service. This 3 track subway would have SAS trains running express and 14th St-Crosstown trains, a new branch off the BMT Canarsie Line, running local.
South of Church Ave much of Utica Ave is lined with 1 or 2 story commercial buildings (“tax payers” goes back to when land speculators would buy land and put up a cheap commercial development that would cover property tax while they waited for the value of the land to increase). What I would propose as a more affordable solution is to buy up these properties and build a continuous structure from some point south of Church Ave to Flatbush Ave which would be 2 or 3 stories tall and have the trains running along the roofs while allowing for commercial development below. This way the line could be built for significantly cheaper than a subway but remove the blight that comes with traditional elevated trains. An added bonus is that the ROW then becomes an income stream with space for retail and commercial businesses.
Bronx IND Concourse Extension and 2nd Ave Dyre Ave
Extending the SAS into the Bronx will be limited to one train service due to the fact that the first and second phases of the SAS are being built with only 2 local tracks. Because of this limitation the most affordable option for SAS Bronx service and the one that would have the greatest impact on easing traffic on the IRT Lexington Ave Line would be to build an at-grade superexpress line from 125th St to Hunts Point along the Metro North ROW through the South Bronx and Port Morris up to the East 180th St IRT station using the abandoned platforms. The SAS service would then take over the Dyre Ave Line currently used by the 5 train as originally envisioned by transit planners when the old New York, Westchester & Boston Railroad line was added to the subway system in 1941. This would allow for transfers at 180th and Hunts Point with express service bypassing the South Bronx thus reducing the amount of commuters on the 5 and 6 trains through Lexington Ave.
The success of the Select Bus Service from Inwood to Coop City in the Bronx has shown the need for improved cross-Bronx service. With this in mind the IND Concourse Line (B/D trains), which terminates at 205th-Norwood, should be extended east as originally planned under Burke Ave running to East Gun Hill Road to Coop City. This 2 track extension would finally give Coop City a subway connection and allow for transfers along the IRT White Planes Line (2/5) and the Dyre Ave Line (outlined above). Currently the 2 train is the only train that connects the eastern Bronx with the west side of Manhattan. Extending the Concourse Line east would give commuters a quicker and redundant way to reach the west Bronx and west side of Manhattan.
Queens Superexpress, Rockaway Branch and IND Queens Blvd Line Extensions
The Queens Boulevard Subway has seen the most consistent grown as a whole over the last couple decades. New immigrants have settled in central Queens and new luxury developments have sprouted in Long Island City. All of this growth has put a strain on not just one subway line but all four East River tunnels headed into midtown. This growth in western and central Queens poses a unique problem in terms of service because eastern Queens remains woefully undeserved by the subway; how can we extend service into new areas without compromising service in the east.
The first solution would be to complete the Queens Superexpress Line. The Superexpress was planned as far back as the 1950s. Between Woodside and Rego Park there exists 2 fallow track beds along the Main Line of the LIRR. By building a 2 track subway line along this route (which would require moving tracks for the LIRR Port Washington Line) the IND Queens Blvd Line suddenly goes from 4 tracks to 6. The 63rd St Tunnel was originally built for the Superexpress Line but funding ran out. The tunnel was eventually connected to the IND Queens Blvd Line instead (the F train makes this run today). This partial solution has not helped much and one can argue that it has made things worse since now Crosstown (G) trains no longer run out to Forest Hills but instead require a long transfer at Court Sq.
Planned Queens Super-Express Line.
The Superexpress would have four parts to it:
- A connection to the 53rd St Tunnel at Court Sq (with the E/M platform being converted into a 4 track station) and a connection to the 63rd St Tunnel (F train and future SAS trains).
- A trunk line which would run along the LIRR Main Line with a station at Woodside to Forest Hills. Under Yellowstone Blvd the line would merge with the existing IND Queens Blvd Line before 71st Ave-Forest Hills Station.
- At Rego Park the line would split with a branch running south to the Rockaways along the abandoned LIRR Rockaway Line. The Rockaway branch would also have a connection to the IND Queens Blvd Line Local tracks using the provisions built into the existing tunnels when the IND Queens Blvd Line was originally constructed. This connection would allow the reactivated Rockaway Branch to have two trains, one running local via Queens Blvd and the other running express to midtown via the Superexpress. As Rockaway Branch trains would, in this plan, use the 53rd St Tunnel the spacing of these trains could be staged so that service to Ozone Park and the Rockaways would have regular headways while not over taxing the capacity of the 53rd St Tunnel.
- The connection at Forest Hills would allow a third express train to run east of Forest Hills to Jamaica. The original routing of the E and F trains under Hillside Ave could be restored and the Hillside Ave subway could then be extended further east as either a subway or elevated track. The Superexpress train could then be sent through the Archer Ave subway in downtown Jamaica and further extended to Rosedale along the LIRR Atlantic Branch as originally envisioned.
Another possible extension of the IND Queens Blvd Line using existing tunnels would be to extend the local train (R) from Forest Hills through the Jamaica Yards and into a new tunnel under 73rd Ave out to Francis Lewis Blvd.
Additionally, the Archer Ave Line which is used by BMT Jamaica (J/Z) trains could then be extended east to Belmont Park with similar skip-stop service.
10th Ave Subway and 86th St Crosstown Line
Midtown Manhattan showing 10th Ave Subway with 86th St Crosstown Route.
In the recent MTA 20 year outlook for congestion issues the IRT 7th Ave-Broadway Line between 72nd St and Penn Station is predicted to see the most congestion on the west side. As the Hudson Yards brings more and more development to the west side of Manhattan over the next 20 years the current infrastructure will become strained. The IRT Flushing 7 Train extension will help for only so long. Hells Kitchen and the Upper West Side will see a boom in commuters headed for the Hudson Yards and eventually a new subway will be needed. A 10th Ave extension of the BMT 14th St-Canarsie Line will be the best option. In the original futureNYCSubway plan I envisioned the line going up 10th Ave to some point in midtown and making its way over to Long Island City.
This new alignment adds another element to the plan. Moving the line up to 72nd St to take traffic away from the congestion parts of the IRT 7th Ave-Broadway Line and then crossing over to the east side up at 86th St creates a crosstown line for the Upper East and West sides. From here the subway would head to Astoria and run under Broadway to Northern Boulevard. While the subway itself would be 2 tracks, a third track at 72nd St/Broadway and 86th St/2nd Ave would allow for a crosstown shuttle service should the need arise.
Besides the benefit of a crosstown subway at 86th St the new subway to Astoria will act as a bypass for commuters around the soon to be congested areas of Long Island City and the East River tunnels at 53rd, 60th, and 63rd Streets. A transfer at Northern Boulevard station on the IND Queens Blvd Line will siphon off commuters from Corona, Forest Hills, and Jamaica and allow them a ride around midtown.
Northern Blvd Line to LaGuardia
The trunk section of the Northern Boulevard Subway will run from Broadway to 108th St as a 4 track line. At Northern Boulevard Station two sets of tracks will combine; the first from the 10th Ave-86th St Crosstown Line outlined above and the second from a new connection to the IND Crosstown Line (G) at Court Sq in Long Island City. The G train extension will have a stop at Queens Plaza, a new station built next to the existing Queens Plaza Station, and then run express to Broadway/Northern Boulevard. The 10th Ave trains will run express to Mets-Willets Point while IND Crosstown trains will run local to LaGuardia Airport.
Queens Expansion showing Northern Blvd Trunk Line to LaGuardia Airport and IRT Flushing Line Exentions
The Northern Boulevard Line will branch off at 108th St and express trains will then run up to College Point along Linden Place as mostly elevated to 20th Ave. The way the tracks are to be laid out would allow for a shuttle train to run from Mets-Willets Point to LaGuardia Airport much like the AirTrain except this would be a free transfer.
The IRT Flushing 7 Line will also see two extensions. The current terminal at Main St-Flushing was never built as a proper terminus as the line was always intended to be extended east. A subway under Roosevelt Ave to Northern Boulevard would allow the the construction of a proper terminal for trains and move bus transfers back outside of the congested central Flushing shopping district.
Using the non-revenue service tracks leading from 111th St to the train yards between Roosevelt Ave and Arthur Ashe Stadium a new branch line would be created and extended as an elevated line running through the Kissena Park Corridor to Francis Lewis Boulevard. A 2 track elevated line would have longer spacing between stations would better serve the suburban area of Queens without running above the streets creating blight. Running the line through the park would allow for landscaping that would minimize the visual and noise aspects of the line.
Brooklyn-Queens Interboro Connections and the Triboro RX
Franklin Ave Shuttle Extension from Fulton St to Lafayette Ave.
One of the major drawbacks of the subway system in New York City is that it’s Manhattan-centric. While this is based on the fact that most of the traffic is headed into and out of Manhattan there is still a need, a growing need, for better interboro connections. The Triboro Rx plan has been making the rounds lately (thanks in part to my outline of the line in the first futureNYCSubway proposal) but I do not feel that the line is worth the cost. There are two small connections which I feel would have the biggest impact for the least cost.
The main problem with the Triboro Rx Line is that it won’t be anywhere near as cheap and easy to build as people think. For one the ROW is in many places narrow and goes along the backyards of many residential communities. Expanding the ROW would turn many neighborhoods against the plan. The rail line currently there is not a subway line but a freight line and by US law you cannot run subways on freight lines. This means that if the line was to be run as a subway it would require a complete new build from one end to the other, thus negating the affordability aspect of the plan. The other problem is that the line itself doesn’t connect any places within the city where people want to go. As such the line, if built, would end up being a commuter rail shuttle service with awkward transfers and that would never justify the costs.
The alternatives I propose are much more surgical in nature. The first would be to use the existing Franklin Ave Shuttle which connects the BMT Brighton Beach Line to the IND Fulton St Line (formerly connecting to the Fulton St elevated line and before that a steam railroad from Atlantic Ave to Brighton Beach) and rebuild the line as a subway, extending it north through Clinton Hill to Lafayette Ave and connect it to the IND Crosstown Line using the provisions for such a connection at the Bedford-Nostrand Station.
This connection may seem trivial at first but if you consider that the Crosstown Line is the only subway that runs from southern Brooklyn to norther Brooklyn. You can only transfer to this line if you are coming from southwestern Broonlyn and west of Ocean Parkway. That leaves a large section of Brooklyn, Flatbush, Sheepshead Bay, Brownsville, Crown Heights, and much of Bedford-Stuyvesant with no connection at all to the one train which runs to northern Brooklyn and Queens. Commuters are forced to take a slow bus through the entire run of Brooklyn. The connection under Franklin Ave would mean that a local train could run from Brighton Beach to Long Island City with no transfers. Passengers that would normally have to take a long bus trip from southeastern Brooklyn can now take a quick bus ride to the BMT Brighton Beach Line, or transfer from the IND Fulton St or IRT Eastern Parkway Lines, and get to northern Brooklyn and LIC in half the time. This small connection would revolutionize how people in Brooklyn could get around the city.
The second connection would be to extend the BMT Myrtle Ave elevated line (M) from Metropolitan Ave to Roosevelt Ave in Jackson Heights along the freight ROW through Middle Village. This connection would use the built-but-never-used terminal at Roosevelt Ave (an abandoned section of the Second System) and allow commuters from central Queens a way to bypass LIC and midtown Manhattan when traveling to norther Brooklyn, the LES, lower Manhattan or even downtown Brooklyn. As such the extension would take pressure off the East River tunnels from Queens to midtown.
Staten Island RR North Shore
N Train Extension to Staten Island
The most obvious and affordable option for Staten Island is to reactive the North Shore Branch of the Staten Island Railroad. I outline the idea further in my original post for the futureNYCSubway.
Other options would be to extend the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail over the Bayonne Bridge to serve northwestern Staten Island. Another would be to extend reactivated North Shore trains to Newark, NJ as a way to give islanders another option to get off the island and as a way to acknowledge that many trips off Staten Island are headed to New Jersey and not into Manhattan.
When the BMT 4th Ave Subway was built there were two provisions left for a future tunnel to Staten Island. Just south of 59th St Station there is purported to be bell mouths left for a tunnel under 67th St to St George. The second provision is that while the 4th Ave Subway has only 2 tracks between 59th St and 95th St the tunnel itself was designed to be expanded to 4 tracks should the need arise. While this second option may be more disruptive to Bay Ridge I feel that an expansion of the 4th Ave Subway and extending it under the Narrows to Staten Island would be more of a benefit to Bay Ridge as this would extend express service to 86th St.
The tunnel option I prefer would run parallel to the Verrazonno-Narrows Bridge from the southern tip of Bay Ridge to Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island. The route the line would then take would run along the Staten Island Expressway in either a subway along the frontage roads or along an elevated track along the median. The line would run out to Richmond Ave where it would then swing south to terminate at the Staten Island Mall. This central routing would be better at serving the Island due to the suburban development patterns it has and would act as a de facto commuter rail line (more like Washington DC or BART in the San Francisco area).
The idea for the second version of my futureNYCSubway series was to take a more realistic look at where the subway system is today and where it should go. Obviously money is a major issue facing the system and it will take a visionary and powerful force to get even the smallest expansion built. But that isn’t impossible. These ideas that I’ve built out of past plans and by looking at current problems; some proposals I think are stronger than others: 4 track 2nd Ave Subway, Franklin Ave connection, Superexpress Lines. Others are nice to have but will take time. Northern Brooklyn continues to gentrify and even reactivating the Chrystie St Cut for 6th Ave service out to Metropolitan Ave will only go so far.
The other thing I wanted to do was to present my ideas in a much more visually relatable way. The maps I used in the first series were of my own creations but I immediately saw the downside of this. If I had used the current map and expanded out from there, as I did with my futureMBTA project, then I feel like my ideas would have spread faster as people would recognize instantly the new routes I proposed. Unfortunately the current map the MTA uses is a mess, abstracted and distorted with no order, and would have required me to redraw the entire thing anyway. The solution was to use the updated Vignelli map, the 2008 version of the historic 1972 map which was much less accessible and deemed a failure. The 2008 update is everything a transit map should be; clean, clear, easy to navigate, and downright pretty to look at. I realized that this was the only map that I could use to express my plans in a way that people would be comfortable seeing. The MTA uses the new Vignelli map for its online Weekender service updates because it is much easier to see how each line is affected by changes. With my plans I needed to show how each line could interact with the whole system and how an extension here could affect another line elsewhere. I didn’t use the map with permission from Vignelli Asc. but I do credit them. The map I’ve created is for educational purposes only and not for sale. I thank them for their brilliant work and my expansion map is a testament to their brilliant work.
futureNYCSubway v2 System Map | Click for PDF
- IND Second System
- Post War Expansion
- The Second Ave Subway: History
- The Second Ave Subway: To The Bronx and the Nassau Line
- Brooklyn: Bushwick Trunk Line
- Manhattan: West Side and Hudson Crossings
- Queens: Flushing Trunk Line
- Staten Island: The Last Frontier
- TriboroRX and Atlantic Ave Super-Express
- Conclusion: the vanshnookenraggen plan
Artists rendering of the Inner Belt Expressway through Cambridge, MA
I had a nice phone interview with Eric Jaffe from The Atlantic Cities (a website I fell in love with the second I found it) last week. He had discovered many of the maps I have made over the years and wanted to write a quick article on what I do. He was really cool and interested in the maps I make and I have to say it was cool to talk with someone who is into this same crazy thing. If you have read anything on this site before you’ve seen the maps but the article gives you a nice little back story about me and why I do this.
Mapping the Almost-Real City
History is filled with city plans that, for one reason or another, never became anything more. Some of them find their way into archives or museums. Some of them still await funding or completion or destruction in a sort of civic purgatory. And some of them are revived, at least in a digital sense, by hobbyist mapmaker Andrew Lynch.
The 28-year-old Lynch posts an eclectic array of urban design work at his website, Vanshnookenraggen. (The name is a nonsense word he made up in high school and used because he figured — correctly, obviously — that the domain would be available.) His creations over the years include a Google Map rendering that depicts the unbuilt Lower Manhattan Expressway and a hypothetical subway map of Boston.
If the subways of New York City act as arteries pumping commuters through the body of the city then the Franklin Ave Shuttle in Crown Heights is surely the appendix of the city.
History of Franklin Ave Shuttle
Franklin Ave Line in 1920 , 1924, and 1951.
The Franklin Ave Shuttle has quite an interesting history. Like with the many of the subways in Brooklyn the line started off as a steam railroad to bring people to Coney Island in the summers. The Brooklyn, Flatbush & Coney Island Railway was born in 1878 and ran from the Long Island Railroad terminal at Flatbush Ave to the former Bedford Terminal (long since demolished now), then made a 90 degree turn south and cut it’s way through that glacial moraine that runs through the center of Long Island (the slope in Park Slope, the heights in Crown Heights), popping out just past Flatbush Ave. From here the line ran straight to Brighton Beach along the very same right-of-way that the BMT Brighton Beach B and Q trains take (the line was originally built at grade and eventually expanded and grade separated as this section of Brooklyn began to develop).
In 1899 the line was rebuilt and connected to the Fulton St elevated train which ran along Fulton St to the Brooklyn Bridge. This allowed passengers a direct link to downtown Manhattan. This connection didn’t last long as in 1920 the subway under Flatbush Ave was built out to the Prospect Park station and even quicker subway service began running to Brighton Beach. The Franklin Ave line still ran to Fulton St over the elevated track for 8 more years until the Fulton St elevated line was closed and replaced by the current subway, the IND Fulton St A and C trains. Interestingly service still ran between Brighton Beach and the new truncated Franklin Ave station at Fulton St until 1963 when the current shuttle service was born.
Franklin Ave Shuttle Extension from Fulton St to Lafayette Ave.
In 1999 the entire shuttle line was rebuilt with new stations. The original line was two tracks with stations at Fulton St, Dean St, Park Pl, and Consumers Park (rebuilt as Botanical Gardens). Due to the short distance between Dean St and Park Pl stations the Dean St station was completely demolished. The line now runs mostly on one track, from Franklin Ave to Park Pl, then two tracks to Prospect Park.
Source: BMT Franklin Ave Line
Although the line is not that heavily used it does provide an important connection for commuters coming from southern Brooklyn to the subways coming from eastern Brooklyn. If you are commuting, say, from Midwood, and you want to connect to the A or C train, the only other connection possible would be to transfer at DeKalb Ave to the R train, take that one stop to Jay St-Metro Tech, and transfer again. Keep in mind that this transfer only opened in February 2011. To transfer to the IRT 2,3,4, or 5 trains, someone coming from southern Brooklyn would need to change at Atlantic Terminal, not that convenient given how large and disconnected that station is. Because of the legacy of three different companies competing against one another, transfers are difficult or non existent in the case of the IRT and IND lines in Brooklyn. Where do you switch from the 4 train to the A train? In Manhattan only. Another legacy is that of Manhattan-centric service patterns. The subway system is geared more towards people commuting into and out of Manhattan every day than from Brooklyn to Queens (or another borough). Ask anyone who lives along the G train and they will tell you how inconvenient it is.
Interestingly, transit planners have long seen the potential of using the Franklin Ave right-of-way as it parallels both Bedford and Nostrand Avenues, both important north-south thoroughfares. As far back as 1922 when the city first proposed building it’s own subway system (back then there were only two private, competing systems, the IRT and BMT) there were plans to utilize this small section of track. What today is known as the IND Crosstown Line G train had a much grander origin.
Brooklyn Crosstown Line
The so-called Brooklyn Crosstown Line was originally projected as an elevated [line] when the dual system was laid out, but its construction was deferred because of local objection to elevated construction, and because of the fact that the city’s resources for the more expensive alternative of subway building had been exhausted. It is the opinion of the [Transit] Commission that the line should be built as a subway without further delay; first, as a means of articulating all of the rapid transit lines at present traversing Brooklyn and Queens, so that any one of these can be reached conveniently and quickly from any other one; second, as a means of access to the shore front of Brooklyn and Queens north of the Navy Yard; and third, as a direct means of carrying passengers from Manhattan and Queens to Brooklyn and Coney Island without traversing the congested district of lower Manhattan.
Such a line will tend further to decentralize traffic by building up another prosperous business thoroughfare north and south in Brooklyn, and will save the Queens traffic bound for Brooklyn from a long detour through Manhattan. Through Long Island City the line will follow Jackson Avenue, one of the widest and most important thoroughfares in the business section of Queens.
Through the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn, it will follow Manhattan Avenue, the principal business street of that section, and thence through Roebling Street, Williamsburgh, and by the cutting of a new street, of about three blocks in length, from Roebling Street to Bedford Avenue, to a connection with the Brighton Beach Line at Fulton Street and Franklin Avenue. In its progress it would furnish points of transfer to the stations of all the other lines it would intercept-the Broadway, Myrtle and Lexington Avenue elevated lines, and the 14th Street-Eastern subway.
The Commission has also in view a further connection between this line by way of Flushing Avenue or Park Avenue and Jay and Smith Streets, to the Borough Hall section of Brooklyn. At some future time, no doubt, it will also be desirable to connect the northern end of the line directly with the Astoria branch of the Queensborough System, thence into Manhattan at 125th Street and across 125th Street to Fort Lee Ferry.
The estimated cost of the line as now proposed is $24,000,000, and the time to complete from three to three and one-half years.
NEW SUBWAYS: Proposed Additions to Rapid Transit System to Cost $218,000,000; 1922
The proposed crosstown subway would have run from Coney Island to Harlem via Bedford-Stuyvesant, Greenpoint, Long Island City, and Astoria. The subway was eventually built was far less grand and ultimately poorly designed as it runs a serpentine path through Brooklyn into Long Island City (it once ran out to Forest Hills but was service was cut back to Court Sq, Long Island City in 2001). The IND Crosstown Line was built, almost completely, as a two track local service. That is except for one small section between the Classon Ave station and the Bedford-Nostrand station. Here, for seemingly no reason, there exists a third center track which runs past Bedford-Nostrand under Lafayette Ave and splits into two tracks, quickly dead-ending at Marcy Ave.
There are two good theories for this: first, much like with many other parts of the IND system, many sections were built out to allow for further extensions and new lines. A subway from downtown Brooklyn to Bushwick under Lafayette Ave had been on the planning boards since the original subway was extended into Brooklyn in 1905. In the 1930s the city was building a line from Brooklyn to Queens along Lafayette Ave and left provisions for an easy extension. Second, the third track allows for quick layups for trains in the event of construction or for storage. The MTA does this from time to time where service will only run from Hoyt-Schermerhorn to Bedford-Nostrand due to track work further down the line.
This extra single track now allows for an ingenious new connection, the purpose of this post. The plan would to rebuild the Franklin Ave Shuttle as a subway from just past Botanical Gardens (where it runs along an elevated track) to Fulton St and then extending it to Lafayette Ave (with a new station at Gates Ave) turning east and merging into the current IND Crosstown Line using the existing middle track. This short connection would finally allow commuters to connect to the IND Crosstown Line without having to first go all the way to downtown Brooklyn and allow for commuters on the IRT Eastern Parkway Line to connect to the IND Fulton St and Crosstown Lines.
Franklin Ave Shuttle track map showing the current set up and the proposed extension. Not to scale.
This new subway would be at first built with just one track but with space for a second. At Gates Ave there would be two tracks and an island platform to allow for shuttle trains to pass one another. The current Franklin Ave Shuttle runs a quick route with only two train cars. The new stations would be built for four cars but space would be provided to allow for easy expansion to six cars. This way if the service proved successful then a second track could be added and it would be feasible to run subway trains from Coney Island up to Long Island City (and further out to Forest Hills). At first, though, the line would still run as just a shuttle service from Prospect Park station to Bedford-Nostrand.
Current Bus Rapid Transit Plans
Proposed BRT routes in Brooklyn. Light Blue is the Bedford Ave-Nostrand Ave BRT Line.
At first glance you might wonder why it would make any sense to connect two lines with some of the lowest ridership in the entire system with a new subway. Like I mentioned before, these lines parallel the main north-south arteries of central Brooklyn, Bedford Ave and Nostrand Ave. These two avenues are some of the few roads which span the entire borough, from Sheepshead Bay in the south to Greenpoint in the north. They serve as a backbone for many of the communities through which they run. A subway connection along this route was proposed almost a century ago and the growth since then has only made improved rapid transit more desirable.
The city is currently experimenting with the idea of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), buses which run in their own dedicated lanes and have pre-paid boarding systems designed to speed up service. Already these buses are running across the northern Bronx and along 1st and 2nd Aves on the east side of Manhattan. While mostly a success (not without some initial adjustment time by locals) the next BRT line proposed along Bedford and Nostrand Aves have come up against stiff resistance. Unlike the more transit dependent east side of Manhattan, this section of Brooklyn has developed without good subway access and many more people drive. The new bus lanes would take away many parking spaces along their route and this has business owners up in arms.
A true BRT system spanning Brooklyn from Greenpoint to Sheepshead Bay would cost only a few million dollars (full: dedicated lanes, pre-payment systems, camera enforcement, marketing) and no one would imagine that a new subway, however short, would be that cheap. But extending the Franklin Ave Shuttle may still be a more viable alternative. The extension would connect southern Brooklyn with northern Brooklyn using mostly existing tracks and rights-of-way. Construction would only impact a small section of the city. Even with the extra transfers, going by subway would still be faster than a bus, even a bus with less stops. While buses are more flexible than trains, a complete subway connection would do more to facilitate north-south travel than a bus would.
Like a phoenix from the ashes, the death of the ARC Tunnel (Access to the Regions Core) has lead to a new idea which has ignited people’s imaginations: extending the 7 Line to Secaucus, NJ.
ARC Tunnel plan.
A bit of back story for the uninitiated: The ARC Tunnel has been in the works for a good two decades. As more and more commuters flow in and out of Manhattan from New Jersey every year the century old Penn Central tunnels from Secaucus into Manhattan began to reach their maximum capacity. To alleviate this planners have been working on building a new set of tunnels under the Hudson River which would allow trains that would normally need to terminate in Hoboken to reach Manhattan. Much noise had been made about the final plan, which would have sent trains through Secaucus Junction station twice and dug a massive new train terminal under Macy’s department store (meaning that the new tunnels would not at any point feed into the existing Penn Station). The price tag was initially set at $8.7 billion and construction, what had started, was to last for 8 years. Most people distrusted these numbers.
7 Line extension from Times Sq to Jacob Javits Center.
When Gov Chris Christie was elected in 2009 one of the first things he took aim at was New Jersey’s bloated, unbalanced budget. Knowing that the state could not afford the projected cost overruns, Christie killed the project in October 2010. In doing so he sent back $3 billion of Federal funds to Washington which had been allocated for the project.
Days later an idea popped it’s head out from the rubble, an idea which at any other time would have never been taken seriously: extend the 7 Line to Secaucus instead. In my futureNYCSubway post about cross-Hudson subways I mentioned that besides the engineering challenges of tunneling under the Hudson River were political ones. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority runs the New York City Subway (among other things) but their jurisdiction ends at the border. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has authority over all bridges and tunnels which cross the border in the New York-New Jersey area. Because of this the prospect of extending the NYC Subway into another jurisdiction would add so many more levels of bureaucracy that most planners wouldn’t even consider proposing the idea. But in strange times like this when a project which was all but certain is dead and gone, people begin to think outside the box.
7 Line extension to Secaucus
What makes the idea of extending the 7 Line into New Jersey interesting is that the 7 Line extension from Times Sq to the Jacob Javits Center is already well under construction and paid for. The equipment is already there, working day and night, and could theoretically just keep digging. But where, exactly, would the new line go? The proposal is so new that no maps, other than a rough sketch, have been made. Even my plan to extend the 7 Line into New Jersey had the line run through Hoboken and Jersey City instead of Secaucus.
Digging to Secaucus makes more sense than going to Jersey City. Secaucus is already a giant transfer station for trains that don’t go into Manhattan. Terminating the subway there would allow for commuters to connect to other subway lines and to Grand Central Terminal, something the original ARC plan would have not reached (though there were ideas to connect the new tunnel to the also-under construction East Side Access through Grand Central). The plan, at least as I’ve imagined it, would continue the 7 Line from W 25th St (where the current tunnels under construction stop) under the Hudson River to a point under 9th St in Hoboken, NJ with a station at Washington Ave. The tunnel continues west under 9th St with a station at the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail station at 9th St. The tunnel dives into the hard rock of the Palisades and turns north under Washington Park up to Secaucus Rd with a station serving Summit Ave. Following Secaucus Rd the line comes to the surface via a new portal near Tonnelle Ave, past which a new park-and-ride facility will be built. From here the line runs along an embankment to the Secaucus Junction station.
7 Line extension to Newark
Leaving the extension here would still be immensely helpful for commuters. But what no one has mentioned yet is that from Secaucus it would be a straight shot to Newark-Liberty Airport. The 7 Line already serves LaGuardia Airport via a shuttle bus and planners have, for years, imagined ways to connect the 3 major airports in the region via mass transit. The 7 Line would whisk travelers from the airport to Times Sq, Midtown, Grand Central, and would connect to most of the other subway lines; The plan is so simple and perfect. A traveler needing to switch from JFK to Newark-Liberty could take the Queens Blvd express E train to Times Sq and change for the 7 to Newark-Liberty without having to pay for a second train at Penn Station (as one would have to do presently). On my map I have additional stations at Harrison, Newark Penn Station, and Ironsides. A direct line into Midtown Manhattan would do wonders for the economy of the city of Newark.
A major incentive to building the 7 Line extension to Secaucus is that it would cost half that of the ARC tunnel since most of the major infrastructure in Manhattan is already built. No real numbers have been studied yet and the route planned here is just as much hearsay as any other. But the potential of congestion relief and economic growth for both New York and New Jersey have captured the imaginations of both states. The unfortunate reality, though, is that because New Jersey gave it’s money back to the Federal government any new project will take many years of review to actually get off the ground. While the tunnel-boring machines are still turning in Manhattan they won’t magically keep going under the Hudson.