Fixing the Myrtle-Broadway Problem

Two Myrtle Ave trains merge at Myrtle Ave, one coming from Manhattan and the other from downtown Brooklyn.  Photo by Frank Pfuhler via nycsubway.org

Two Myrtle Ave trains merge at Myrtle Ave, one coming from Manhattan and the other from downtown Brooklyn. Photo by Frank Pfuhler via nycsubway.org

Starting in the summer of 2017 the MTA will shut down service along the Myrtle Ave Line (M train) from Broadway to Metropolitan Ave. The closure is so the MTA can rebuild a crumbling bridge and viaduct to allow for better service once the Canarsie Tubes of the L train are shut down for Hurricane Sandy related repairs. While this relatively small project is important for keeping the system moving it is really only a band aid on a larger issue: the BMT Jamaica and Myrtle Ave Lines have some of the oldest continually operating track structure in the entire NYC Subway and the junction at Myrtle Ave is a bottleneck along two lines which are seeing continued ridership growth due to the popularity of both Bushwick and now Bedford-Stuyvesant. This is a missed opportunity by the MTA to not just rebuild aging infrastructure but do so which eliminates a crucial bottleneck and expands capacity along both lines.

Both the Jamaica Line (J/Z trains) and the Myrtle Ave Line originally date back to the late 1880s when Brooklyn was still its own independent city and was growing rapidly. What we have with the M train today is only a vestige of a longer line which continued down Myrtle Ave to downtown Brooklyn and over the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan. The Myrtle Ave Line eventually had direct connections to many of the other Brooklyn elevated lines which have now been torn down as well. In 1914 the direct connection between the Myrtle Ave Line and the Jamaica Line at Myrtle-Broadway was opened allowing dual services to run, one via the Brooklyn Bridge and one via the Williamsburg Bridge. Originally a connection was planned from Chambers St station with the Brooklyn Bridge which would have allowed elevated lines to loop back into Brooklyn offering a variety of services. Such a system never came to pass as the new subways proved more popular than the old elevated lines which the city soon began to replace. After WWII the population of central Brooklyn declined and so too did ridership on the Myrtle Ave Line which ended downtown service in 1969. The elevated structure from downtown Brooklyn to Marcus Garvey Blvd was town down and all service east of Broadway ran exclusively to Manhattan via the Williamsburg Bridge.

An M train passes at grade over the J train track causing delays.  Photo by Paul Pesante via nycsubway.org

An M train passes at grade over the J train track causing delays. Photo by Paul Pesante via nycsubway.org

As the popularity of Williamsburg and Bushwick has grown over the last 20 years so too has ridership. In 2010 the M train was rerouted from downtown to 6th Ave which has proven very popular and an alternative to the crowded L train. This is where the bottleneck at Myrtle-Broadway starts to become an issue. As more trains are needed to account for ridership growth the at-grade junction keeps capacity limited. This wasn’t as much of an issue when the M train terminated at Broad St since the J/Z provided additional downtown service. But the M now continues on to Forest Hills via the notoriously congested Queens Blvd Line. Due to the bottleneck M trains can only be scheduled at about 8 trains per hour leaving time for up to 5 more trains per hour available if the bottleneck was removed (theoretically there could be as much as 15tph but due to congestion along 6th Ave and Queens Blvd realistically the max is 12 or 13 tph). Not only would this mean better service for Williamsburg and Bushwick but also for Queens as well.

M train passes by the abandoned upper level at Myrtle Ave.  Photo by Filip Matuska via nycsubway.org

M train passes by the abandoned upper level at Myrtle Ave. Photo by Filip Matuska via nycsubway.org

The MTA is planning on rebuilding the concrete viaduct that connects the Broadway Line with the Myrtle Ave Line but not eliminating the bottleneck. This bottle neck can be eliminated by building a new flying junction between the Flushing Av station and Myrtle Ave station. The current local tracks would be moved outward so that two new tracks can be added between. These two new tracks would connect to both the local and express tracks. As they approach Myrtle Ave the new tracks would rise up and a new upper level station would be built over the existing Myrtle Ave station, though slightly to the west. This new station would mirror the existing station with three tracks and two island platforms. The remnants of the old Myrtle Ave El would be removed south of Broadway so that the new tracks could be extended along the abandoned trackways as they turn down Myrtle Ave. The trackways are still in good shape as they are connected to the existing junction structure. This new upper level station would serve Myrtle Ave trains exclusively and the reason for the mirrored design is so elevators could be installed to connect the platforms. Additionally a third track could be installed between the new Myrtle upper level and the existing Myrtle Ave Line. A third track was installed between Central Ave and Wyckoff Ave but was only used for storage and was removed in 1946. With an increase in trains per hour a third track may be useful for turning trains at Wyckoff Ave at rush hour or for emergencies.

Track map showing current and proposed Myrtle-Broadway connections.

Track map showing current and proposed Myrtle-Broadway connections.

A dual level station like what I am proposing has precedent throughout the NYC Subway. At West 8 St on the Brighton Beach Line (Q train) and the Culver Line (F train) each train has a separate level with the Q train rising up to the upper level exactly how the new Myrtle Ave connection would do so. Historically at Gun Hill Rd on the White Plains Line (2/5 trains) there was a similar connection with the now demolished 3rd Ave El with each line on a separate level and then merging north of the station. Not only does this design eliminate trains having to pass in front of one another but in the case of Myrtle Ave the sharp 90 degree curve would be eliminated so trains can turn faster and safer, not to mention the reduced wear and tear as well as noise.

Q train approaching W 8 St station.  Photo by David Tropiansky via nycsubway.org

Q train approaching W 8 St station. Photo by David Tropiansky via nycsubway.org

The repairs the MTA is undertaking next year are part of a larger recovery plan and not part of any long range strategy. As time is of the essence when it comes to the Canarsie Tubes I cannot fault the MTA for deciding to go for the quick option for rebuilding the Myrtle Ave connection. But as more and more people move into central and northern Brooklyn the limitations of our existing infrastructure are becoming apparent.

futureNYCSubway v4

futureNYCSubway v4

futureNYCSubway v4. Click to download large PDF version.

Two years ago I released an update for my futureNYCSubway series. Version 2 sought to create an updated and more realistic vision from that of the first FNYCS. Version 3 came soon after as a stripped down, budget conscience concept. Since then as I have spoken to more people about my ideas and as ridership on the MTA has hit all time highs I began to see the need for a new plan. As has been widely reported (and obvious to anyone who rides the subway) the ridership numbers throughout the system are up and especially along the L and M trains through Williamsburg and Bushwick as gentrification there continues at a breakneck pace. The MTA released its new 5 year budget and is $15 billion short. This includes money for Phase 2 of the 2nd Ave Subway which would continue the line (under construction currently) to 125th St. Maybe de Blasio, continuing with his support of rezoning East New York, Brooklyn for more affordable housing, has proposed building the Utica Ave Subway, a subway which predates the 2nd Ave Subway and one which has been proposed in various forms many times over the last 100 years. A think tank called ReThinkNYC led by Jim Venturi has released a far reaching plan which would greatly expand LaGuardia Airport and involve new subway lines to the Bronx and a massive new train terminal to connect the region to the new LaGuardia.

This has led me to rethink what I had proposed in the last version of the FNYCS. Much of the previous plans were built off of ideas that came from another era in New York’s history. The 2nd Ave Subway, as it is being built today, was designed at a time when subway ridership was stagnant and urban growth, especially in the Bronx, was small at best. Today the Bronx is seeing a population resurgence so constructing the 2nd Ave Subway with no express tracks seems short sighted. Growth in northern Brooklyn, an area which faced similar large scale depopulation in the 1970s as the Bronx, has not only recovered from the recession but continues at a pace which has seen subway stations ridership throughout Bushwick increase by double digits. New commuting patters from western Queens and an increase in reverse or off peak commuting means that a totally Manhattan-centric subway system should be rethought. A great inspiration for some of the new routes came from a New Yorker article looking at under the radar dollar van routes. Cost still remains the biggest hurdle for subway expansion so new routes need to be considered that take advantage of existing rights-of-way or reconfiguring existing lines for better service. Still, in many areas new tunnels are the only option. Intra-city commuter rail, which in European cities like Berlin, Paris, and London is integrated with subway service, is a flexible transit concept that could better serve the outer boroughs than fixed subway lines.

2nd Ave Subway

2nd Ave Subway with proposed outer borough corridors.  Via Streetsblog

2nd Ave Subway with proposed outer borough corridors. Via Streetsblog


As I mentioned above the 2nd Ave Subway is currently being built as a 2 track subway from 63rd St to 96th St in Manhattan. Phase 2 would extend the line north to 125th St and Park Ave with a tail track under 2nd Ave for storage and future expansion. Phase 2 is up in the air until funding can be found but it is worth noting that much of the actual tunnels in Phase 2 were built in the 1970s but mothballed when the economic crisis hit the city. No tracks or stations were built but just having the tunnels themselves there will save time and money. But because the line is still only 2 tracks this limits how much service the 2nd Ave Subway can provide. Early plans called for express tracks which would spread new service throughout the Bronx. 2 tracks limits the tunnels to only two or three train services.

2nd Ave Subway Lines to Dyre Ave and Cross Harlem
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2nd Ave Subway Lines to Dyre Ave and Cross Harlem

Dyre Ave

The most important extension and the one which would have the biggest impact is connecting the Dyre Ave Line (the 5 train today) to the 2nd Ave Subway via the existing ROW along side the Metro-North/Northeastern Corridor tracks from 180th St in Parkchester, Bronx, through Port Morris and south of Bruckner Blvd. Connecting the Dyre Ave Line to the 2nd Ave Subway is an idea which goes back to the 1920s and one which is been proposed in one form or another since.

Cross-Harlem

The other important 2nd Ave Subway branch would be a Cross-Harlem extension under 125th St to Broadway. Currently the only way to get crosstown via subway is in Midtown or 14th St where the subways are the most congested. A Cross-Harlem Line would balance the loads in Midtown and connect all of Harlem. Further expanding it across the East River to Astoria and LaGuardia Airport would create a triboro subway link which would allow for commuters to easily move between Queens, upper Manhattan, and the Bronx without a trip through Midtown (for more see South Bronx Airport Center below).

Phase 3

1970s Track Map for 2nd Ave Subway. via nycsubway.org
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1970s Track Map for 2nd Ave Subway. via nycsubway.org

Phase 3 of the 2nd Ave Subway is still designed as a 2 track line but since we may be a generation away from even seeing a shovel in the ground for Phase 3 it is worth reconsidering the need for 4 tracks. The 63rd St Tunnel to Queens was designed with a connection to the 2nd Ave Subway so trains could run express to Forest Hills and beyond. Given the growth in ridership on subways in central Queens it will be important to get the most out of the 2nd Ave Subway where it connects to Queens. 4 tracks from 63rd St to Houston St would allow additional trains split between Queens and the Upper East Side so that more branches are possible in Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx.

Phase 4

Phase 4 of the 2nd Ave Subway is planned as a 2 track line south of Houston St to a terminal at Wall St-Hanover Sq. A track map I found from the 1970s shows a bi-level terminal, though by the time these plans were updated in the late 1990s I’m sure this has been reduced to a single level terminal for budget consideration. It’s worth noting that while the IND 6th Ave Subway was built with space for the 2nd Ave Subway and the Chrystie St Connection was built to allow for integration of the 2nd Ave Subway at Grand St station, neither connections are being considered for the current 2nd Ave Subway plans.

In version 3 of the FNYCS I proposed taking the BMT Centre St Subway (J/Z trains between Broad St and Delancey/Essexs Sts) and rebuilding the line as the southern section of the 2nd Ave Subway so that 2nd Ave trains could use existing tunnels to connect to Brooklyn. While this seemed like a better use of funds than building a brand new tunnel through the Financial District and possibly a new tunnel under the East River to downtown Brooklyn, I was swayed by an argument I read on the nyctransitforums.com which pointed out that 1) the subway under Delancey St would have to be rebuilt due to the geometry needed for the subway tunnel curves 2) this would require demolishing the Bowery station and possibly the Essex St station platforms on the J/Z line 3) that the stations along the line can only hold 8 car trains where IND stations (and new 2nd Ave stations) are built for 10 car trains and 4) the lines in Brooklyn which connect to the Centre St subway are already at capacity. This means the actual cost of converting the Centre St Subway and finding space for all the displaced trains in Brooklyn would most likely negate any savings projected verses building a new subway which would also serve a new area of the city.

Because of this I’ve updated my Phase 4 plans to fit more in line with those of the 1970s plan with a bi-level terminal. The upper level would be used for terminating trains while the lower level would continue to Brooklyn. It may still be possible to connect to the Montague St Tunnel at Broad St (used today by N and R trains) but again the geometry of the tunnel connection might be too tight. This is something that needs to be looked at by an engineer which is why I’ve elected to run the 2nd Ave Subway to Brooklyn via a new tunnel between Coenties Slip/NY Vietnam Veterans Memorial Plaza and Pierrepont St at which point the tunnel would veer south to link up with the existing Court St station that is currently the home of the NY Transit Museum. This would connect the 2nd Ave Subway to the only Brooklyn subway that is running under capacity, the IND Fulton St Subway (A/C trains).

Brooklyn Service

2nd Ave Subway Lines with Brooklyn Connections
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2nd Ave Subway Lines with Brooklyn Connections

Capacity is a major problem with extending the 2nd Ave Subway into Brooklyn. DeKalb Station is a junction point between all the BMT trains in Brooklyn and one which can not handle additional traffic between trains running to Bay Ridge, Coney Island, and Brighton Beach. The only subway with extra capacity is the IND Fulton St Subway as only two trains run along it (and at night only the A runs). Furthermore with gentrification sweeping through Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant the need for more service along Fulton St will have only grown by the time the 2nd Ave Subway makes it to Phase 4. But having 2nd Ave trains running along Fulton St is only half of the equation. When the East Side Access project, set to open in late 2022, is up and running the MTA will no longer need to run Long Island Railroad trains to Atlantic Terminal. The current plan is to run a shuttle service form Atlantic Terminal to Jamaica but utilizing the Atlantic Ave ROW for an actual subway line is far more preferable.

In 2008 then MTA Chairman Elliott Sander made the case for expanding the 2nd Ave Subway into the outer boroughs and one such route was via the Atlantic Ave Branch. While this may seem like a good way to use the soon to be abandoned ROW there is one major hurdle: Atlantic Terminal itself. Right now at the intersection of Atlantic Ave and Flatbush Ave in Brooklyn runs two 4 track subways (2,3,4,5,N,R, D trains), one 2 track subway(B,Q trains), and an existing commuter rail terminal. If the 2nd Ave Subway is to be extended under Atlantic Ave to use the existing ROW it must first bury deep under Atlantic Terminal via a very expensive station which would need to support the existing infrastructure above. Then it must run to Jamaica making only a few stops at existing stations, or better yet at new stations along the line which are only two short blocks from stations along the existing IND Fulton St Subway. Yet again using an existing ROW doesn’t match up to the costs of upgrading it. Using the existing capacity along Fulton St is the cheapest option that offers the most service.

But that doesn’t mean the entire ROW should be abandoned. Running through East NY and Woodhaven, Queens the Atlantic Ave Branch runs through an area which isn’t as well served by existing express subways. The J/Z from Broadway Junction/East NY to Jamaica has no express track and runs a skip stop service at rush hour. The A/C trains running under Pitkin Ave are a half mile south of Atlantic Ave and run out to the Rockaways but not Jamaica. This means there is potential to run 2nd Ave trains along the stretch of Atlantic Ave from Broadway Junction to Jamaica. Where the IND Fulton St Subway curves south under Pennsylvania Ave two tracks would branch off of the local tracks and connect to the Atlantic Ave Branch. I would recommend as few infill stations as possible so that trains can act as an express line from Broadway Junction to Jamaica as the J/Z and A/C trains can cover existing local trips. New stations would be at Crescent St and Woodhaven Blvd. As there is capacity for two 2nd Ave services running along Fulton St one service can run to Jamaica (Archer Ave subway) and the other run out to Rockaway Park via a reopened Rockaway Branch Line (which would also connect to the IND Queens Blvd Subway). Woodhaven Blvd station would also act as a late night terminal for Rockaway Park trains, a service which would be a big improvement over the existing shuttle from Rockaway Park to Broad Channel.

2nd Ave Subway Lines around Broadway Junction showing new connection to Atlantic Ave Branch and East NY terminal.
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2nd Ave Subway Lines around Broadway Junction showing new connection to Atlantic Ave Branch and East NY terminal.

While this would be the main focus of 2nd Ave trains in Brooklyn having 4 tracks in Manhattan along 2nd Ave would mean that two additional trains could run which would best be used to utilize the Chrystie St Connection with one train running across the Williamsburg Bridge to Atlantic Ave-East NY (a service which once ran as the K train after the Chrystie St Connection opened) and another replacing the B train to Brighton Beach (more about the rerouted B train in the next section). Running 2nd Ave trains over the Williamsburg Bridge would help balance the load of new commuters from Bushwick and Bed-Stuy which currently use the L or M to get to Midtown or take the J and transfer. The J train and the BMT Centre St Subway in general suffer from being built when more people from northern Brooklyn were headed to lower Manhattan and the Financial District. Today commuting patterns have changed but the high cost of new infrastructure has hampered the ability to make needed service changes. Routing a branch of the 2nd Ave Subway along Broadway in Brooklyn would give commuters a quicker one seat ride to Midtown while still preserving the one seat ride to lower Manhattan.

Queens Service

2nd Ave Subway Lines through Queens including Superexpress, Long Island Expressway, LaGuardia, and Southeastern Queens Lines.
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2nd Ave Subway Lines through Queens including Superexpress, Long Island Expressway, LaGuardia, and Southeastern Queens Lines.

MTA Plan of Action from 1968
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MTA Plan of Action from 1968 showing the Superexpress and LIE Subways

With 4 tracks along 2nd Ave two trains could be routed through the 63rd St tunnel to the proposed Superexpress Subway out to Forest Hills. Plans in the 1960s and 1970s also called for a branch off the Superexpress to run along the Long Island Expressway and I’ve incorporated this into the plan. As Robert Moses, who build the LIE, had little love of public transportation he left no room along his highways for future subway lines (as Chicago did with the Blue and Red Lines). This requires a subway along the frontage roads of the LIE (this was also how the Queens Blvd-Archer Ave Subway was built along side of the Van Wyck Expressway). The silver lining is that there are possibly fewer utilities to relocate along these frontage roads and constructing a tunnel along the highway will have less of a negative impact along the surrounding neighborhoods. The Archer Ave Subway through Jamaica Center was built to interface with the Superexpress Subway and future extensions were planned to Hollis, Queens and southeast along the LIRR Far Rockaway Branch to Laurelton. These extensions would be possible with a 2nd Ave-Superexpress Subway as existing lines don’t have the capacity for such extensions. Using the Atlantic Ave Branch the 2nd Ave trains would act as express lines to both downtown Brooklyn, lower Manhattan, and Midtown. Lastly, building the Superexpress means that G trains can be extended from Court Sq through Queens Plaza and terminate using tracks along the Superexpress line. Terminating G trains at Court Sq requires a labyrinthine transfer via two or more trains to continue into Queens so having the ability to run G trains through Queens Plaza station would ease transfers. This cannot be done presently due to the track layout north of Queens Plaza station but building the Superexpress line with an additional track connection to the IND Queens Blvd Subway would allow for such an extension of the G.

Track Map for proposed Superexpress Subway from Queens Plaza to Forest Hills.
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Track Map for proposed Superexpress Subway from Queens Plaza to Forest Hills.

Queens Plaza Track Map: Current Layout and Proposed
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Queens Plaza Track Map: Current Layout and Proposed

Southeastern Queens presents a transit problem when it comes to subways. The land has a high water table so tunnels are prone to flooding. Unlike in south Brooklyn there are no old railroads that could be converted into subway service and no ROWs were left for transit (the N, D, F, and Q trains all run along former steam railroad lines converted to subways by the 1920s); even highways were not built through southeast Queens but rather run on the periphery. The area is a largely residential and in dire need of better transit. Because of the distance from Manhattan any subway would need to run express through Brooklyn or Queens to keep commuting times low. While the LIRR does run through the area the higher fare costs and inflexible service patters dissuade many riders. The best option would be to extend subways along existing LIRR ROWs with as little tunneling as possible. The Southeast Line, as described above, would extend the Archer Ave Subway along the LIRR Far Rockaway Branch to Rosedale, totally converting the branch from LIRR to subway operations, and running it along the Superexpress Line. The second line would extend the Atlantic Ave Branch using the Archer Ave Subway to Hillside-177 St and then along the West Hempstead Branch until Linden Blvd where the line would tunnel just over a mile to Springfield Blvd. Additionally service on the J train would be extended to Hollis. New Select Bus Service routes could fill in the gaps so commuting from the edge of Queens can be as quick and seamless as possible.

New and Extended subway lines in Jamaica, Queens.
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New and Extended subway lines in Jamaica, Queens.

Grand St Subway and Bushwick Express

1929_IND_Second_System
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1929 IND Second System showing South 4th St and Utica Ave subways.

After the 2nd Ave Subway the next area facing a congestion crisis is Williamsburg. Looking at a map of New York City you can see certain transit nodes where all lines from a borough intersect before entering Manhattan; Long Island City in Queens, downtown Brooklyn, and the area around 149th St in the Bronx. This was designed for flexibility in routing trains and so that riders could easily transfer to different lines outside of busy Midtown and Downtown transfer stations. In the 1930s Williamsburg was slated to be the 4th major transfer node so that riders from outer Brooklyn and southern Queens could bypass downtown Brooklyn and lower Manhattan. Plans were drawn up for the South 4th St Subway along with a 4 track Utica Ave and 4 track Myrtle Ave Subways. Collectively, along with the 2nd Ave Subway and other lesser extensions, this was known as the IND Second System. While provisions along the first phase of the IND were built for future expansion the Great Depression and high costs of the newly built IND lines killed this far reaching second phase. Then as northern and central Brooklyn began to depopulate in from the 1960s on the need for such an expansive subway vanished. What planners didn’t foresee was the transformation which Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Bed-Stuy have undergone since the 1990s and will continue to go through for the foreseeable future. Had the IND Utica Ave and IND Myrtle Ave Subways been built the L train today would not be so crowded for sure.

But that does not mean that we should dust off plans from 80 years ago as the growth throughout northern Brooklyn has not grown along the routes of these never built subways. The needs of today are based on what is here: the L, G, M, and J/Z trains all saw substantial ridership growth in the last decade and will continue to see growth as more people are pushed east by gentrification. In previous plans I tried to find a solution which would strike a balance between building subways to respond to current and future demand while taking into consideration the high costs of building what is essentially a totally new subway; the current subways in northern Brooklyn are only 2 or 3 tracks and cannot easily take on new extensions or express service. Furthermore the design flaws of the existing transfers limits the effectiveness of these subways.

Even with new 2nd Ave service on the BMT Jamaica Line through Williamsburg and Bed-Stuy a new tunnel further north will be needed to address the L train congestion. This new tunnel would run from the IND 6th Ave Subway at 2nd Ave under the East River to Grand St and Union Ave in Williamsburg. Here the line would split with one branch headed east under Grand St and making a long curve southeast to Flushing Ave where it would run parallel to the existing L train. The other branch would turn south and merge with the IND Crosstown Line between Metropolitan Ave and Broadway stations.

Grand St Subway with Bushwick Express and Brighton Beach via Crosstown and Franklin Av Lines
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Grand St Subway with Bushwick Express and Brighton Beach via Crosstown and Franklin Av Lines

This first branch would be the Bushwick Express and act as an express counterpart to the L train through Bushwick. There would be stations at Grand, Jefferson, and Myrtle-Wyckoff. The new subway would require a deep bore tunnel under the English Kills section of Newtown Creek and then run along the ROW of the old Evergreen Branch RR. Because the Evergreen Branch was abandoned in the 1920s much of the ROW has been built up. However if you tour the ROW you will notice that much of what has been built is small garages/factories or parking lots. Only a few residential buildings are there and any displacement could easily be offset by air rights construction after the subway is built or offsite development. The new subway would continue southeast until after Halsey St where it would veer northeast to run along the ROW of the NY Connecting RR, the rail line that runs from Bay Ridge through Queens and over the Hell Gate Bridge. The subway would run along the existing track or below if the ROW needed to be rebuilt for passenger service (see IntraCity Rail below) and run through Middle Village to 57th Ave where it would run along the LIE to connect with the Superexpress-LIE branch I described above. As a further connection the line would then branch off the LIE under the interchange between the Van Wyck and Long Island Expressways headed north under the expressway to a new terminal at Flushing-Main St. The new line would connect the major nodes of central Queens, Queens Center Mall and Flushing, with northern Brooklyn and lower Manhattan and act as a collector for riders coming from central and eastern Queens to bypass Long Island City and Midtown.

Franklin Ave Shuttle Extension
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Franklin Ave Shuttle Extension from Fulton St to Lafayette Ave.

The second route which would merge with the IND Crosstown Line is an attempt replicate the utility of the IND Utica Ave Subway, acting as a bypass around downtown Brooklyn and lower Manhattan, but doing so by using as much existing infrastructure as possible. In my last two FNYCS proposals I introduced the Franklin Ave connection which would create a new crosstown subway using the Brighton Beach ROW and along the old Franklin Ave Shuttle. This crosstown route would finally connect the BMT Brighton Beach Line, the IRT Eastern Parkway Line, and the IND Fulton St Line to northern Brooklyn without having to first travel all the way to Atlantic Ave and transfer. Creating a true north-south subway through central Brooklyn would respond to a demand which has required the building of two separate Select Bus Service routes, one along Bedford-Nostrand Aves and a new one proposed for Utica Ave. I noticed that a large portion of riders using the L train between Manhattan and Brooklyn transfer at Lorimer St-Metropolitan Ave to grab the G train to head to Bed-Stuy. A new service which would be a one seat ride from Manhattan to Bed-Stuy along this corridor would take many riders off the L train. The need for a Utica Ave subway is still present (I address this below) so the question is whether a fully built out subway like that of the IND Second System is needed or a smaller version which connects just to the IRT Eastern Parkway Line would work. Because the need for the Utica Ave Subway is greater south of Eastern Parkway than it is between Williamsburg and Eastern Parkway (where subways already exist), this new service, which would be a rerouting of the B train along the IND Crosstown Line and new Franklin Ave Subway, would solve the problem of getting from southeastern Brooklyn to Midtown while at the same time increasing service to a growing section of the city.

Chinatown connecting van routes.  Map via the New Yorker
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Chinatown connecting van routes. Map via the New Yorker

Because this new subway would need two trains from the IND 6th Ave Line this would mean rerouting the B and M along Houston St into Williamsburg. B trains would still run to Brighton Beach using the existing capacity along the Brighton Beach Line south of Prospect Park. The existing M train, the elevated Myrtle Ave Line, would be replaced by a rerouted Z train which would return to running to Broad St and possibly Sunset Park as the M train once did. With a connection to the Bushwick Express Line at Metropolitan Ave Z trains would continue north to Corona giving central Queens a one seat ride to lower Manhattan. This is a major benefit to the Bushwick Express concept as the line wouldn’t just take pressure off of the L train but also open up service through areas of Queens not currently served or areas that only have service to Midtown. In the New Yorker article “New York’s Shadow Transit” a major under the radar commuting corridor exists between Flushing, Chinatown, and Sunset Park; the three Chinatowns of NYC. This expanded Z train would connect all three with a one seat ride.

South Bronx Airport Center

South Bronx Airport Center with Subway connections.
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South Bronx Airport Center with Subway connections.

The South Bronx Airport Center has less to do with subway expansion by itself but rather a way to incorporate subway expansion into a new urban system. In version 3 of the FNYCS I designed a subway shuttle service using the Cross-Harlem Line running through Randalls Island into Astoria and on to LaGuardia Airport. That was before I was inspired by the ReThinkNYC proposal by Jim Venturi. As part of the ReThinkNYC proposal Rikers Island will be depopulated of its infamous prison and new terminal facilities for LaGuardia Airport will be built there. Right across the East River in Port Morris, Bronx, a major rail terminal and mini-city will be built which will connect rail travelers coming from New England, Upstate NY, and New Jersey. It is a truly revolutionary proposal; an idea with a lot of broad strokes, high ideals and an unimaginable cost so I began to wonder about a stripped down version which would be more affordable.

ReThinkNYC proposal for a Port Morris-LaGuardia terminal.  futureNYCSubway proposal would use the vacant land to the west instead.
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ReThinkNYC proposal for a Port Morris-LaGuardia terminal. futureNYCSubway proposal would use the vacant land to the west instead.

The brilliance of the ReThinkNYC plan is using land in the Bronx for airport check-in facilities since there isn’t much room for expansion at the current airport. Building these new facilities where subways, intercity trains, and highways meet reduces traffic and the need for so many transfers. But instead of redeveloping all of Port Morris it would be cheaper to use the vacant land bordered by the Harlem River, Bronx Kill, and E 132nd St. This section of land also happens to be through where the 2nd Ave-Dyre Ave Line would run and a new station along the Metro-North/Northeastern Corridor tracks along the Bronx approach of the Hell Gate Bridge would form the basic transit connection. Because the area is at the beginning of the Bruckner Expressway either existing city streets could be expanded for the additional traffic or new ramps built which would serve intercity buses. The ReThinkNYC proposal is more about making the current commuter rail network, which terminates in Manhattan, into an intercity, through-running network which would offer one seat rides from New Jersey to Connecticut. I am more focused on the subway aspect and I think that an airport terminal here would work even without a radical rethinking of the regions rail system.

The first level would be train yards for the 2nd Ave Subway. Above that would be a large parking garage. The central section of the new project would be an off site (of the airport) check-in facility where bags are checked and tickets purchased. Centralizing as much of the passenger infrastructure here would reduce traffic on the RFK-Triboro Bridge or Bronx-Whitestone Bridge. Additional sections of the center would have hotels, retail, and possibly affordable housing. As the massive new development would cut off the South Bronx from the waterfront (not that it isn’t already cut off) there would be a large new pedestrian bridge over the Bronx Kill connecting Bruckner Blvd with the parks of Randalls Island.

Close up map showing subway routes between Harlem and LaGuardia Airport via South Bronx Airport Center.
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Close up map showing subway routes between Harlem and LaGuardia Airport via South Bronx Airport Center.

A new subway from the Airport Center to LaGuardia via Astoria would run four services: a branch of the 2nd Ave Subway to LaGuardia, a subway shuttle from the Metro-North station at Harlem-125th St to Astoria Blvd, and a baggage transportation system so that passengers bags can be transported directly to their proper terminals (to clarify the baggage “subway” would be completely separate from the passenger subway). Once in Queens there would also be a connection to the N train, extended from Astoria-Ditmars Blvd. The number of stations would depend on the redesign of the LaGuardia Terminals. Because LaGuardia is right next to a dense urban neighborhood these stations would also be heavily used by non-airport bound commuters. The subway would then extend past LaGuardia and run along the Grand Central Parkway to Mets-Willets Point along the route proposed by Gov Andrew Cuomo for the new AirTrain. The subway would then terminate at Flushing-Main St. Anyone going to the airport can now reach it via Manhattan, the Bronx, or Queens while regular commuters from Flushing and northern Queens will use it to bypass Long Island City and Midtown while commuting to upper Manhattan and the Bronx. Building only an AirTrain, which would cost an additional fee for subway riders, would only serve the airport. Expanding the subway network through the airport along with a new connection to the Bronx has more value and thus worth the extra cost.

Utica and Nostrand Ave Extensions

Map showing proposed Utica Ave Subway and Nostrand Ave Subway Extension.
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Map showing proposed Utica Ave Subway and Nostrand Ave Subway Extension.

The need for subway service to southeastern Brooklyn got renewed interest when Mayor de Blasio recently come out in favor of building the Utica Ave Subway. No details have come forth so it may be just another fluff piece from City Hall. Regardless, a 2 track subway extending the 4 train south of Eastern Parkway is the only logical option. As I explained above building the Utica Ave Subway through Williamsburg, the IND Second System plan, would double the cost and scope of the project and have to spend too much of the construction building subways through areas that already have subways (Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Bed-Stuy). The need is greatest south of Eastern Parkway and though there are issues with capacity as the IRT Eastern Parkway branches get closer to downtown Brooklyn I think that having the Franklin Ave Subway acting as a bypass would mitigate any capacity issues.

Track Map for proposed IRT Nostrand Ave Subway extension.
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Track Map for proposed IRT Nostrand Ave Subway extension.

Additionally the Nostrand Ave Subway should be extended south to Sheepshead Bay. I have included a new skip-stop service along the line to speed travel times, though it would have to be studied to know the effectiveness of such service.

Queens Extensions

Rockaway Branch

R Train extension along the LIRR Rockaway Branch via NYObserver
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R Train extension along the LIRR Rockaway Branch via NYObserver


Reactivating the abandoned LIRR Rockaway Branch, connecting Queens Blvd trains to Howard Beach-JFK, is possibly the best transit expansion for the least amount of money the city could build. The biggest issue is the neighboring residential communities which have enjoyed a quiet existence next to the abandoned ROW for 50 years. The benefits to the city, and even to these neighbors, would outweigh the inconvenience. When the IND Queens Blvd Subway was built provisions along the tunnel were left to extend local trains south after 63 Dr-Rego Park. Further studies should be done to find the best placement for stations but the original stations at Parkside-Metropolitan Ave, Jamaica Ave, Atlantic Ave, and 103 Ave could be rebuilt. Because the only way to incorporate this new service into the Queens Blvd Subway is via a local train, most likely the R, it may be a worthwhile investment to convert Woodhaven Blvd station to an express station. Incorporating the Superexpress into the Rockaway Branch may also work but given how far off the Superexpress is from being built finding a solution via the Queens Blvd Subway is the only viable option.

Hillside Ave Extension

Track Map for proposed IND Hillside Ave Subway extension.
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Track Map for proposed IND Hillside Ave Subway extension.

Extending the Hillside Ave subway in Jamaica should be included in any long range plan. Again, extending subway tunnels may be prohibitively expensive this far out in Queens so this is would be a low priority. This is a corridor which would benefit from a Select Bus Service to determine any future needs for subway construction.

Flushing Expansion

Flushing Extensions
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Flushing Extensions

Flushing is in dire need of improved subway transportation. In proposals above I’ve outlined how the 2nd Ave Subway could be extended out this way via LaGuardia and how the Bushwick Express could give Flushing residents a one seat ride to lower Manhattan via central Queens and Williamsburg. The two most important corridors for new service are down Roosevelt Ave to Northern Blvd and north under Parsons Blvd or 149 St. The only way to do this is via tunneling. The 7 train is seeing continued growth and with the introduction of CBCT signalling it will be able to run more trains. What I’m proposing is splitting the service between a 7 train and an 8 train. Because the line only has 3 tracks express service would run at rush hour, as it does now. Two branches would fill in these corridors and sop up commuters who normally would make a transfer from bus routes at Flushing-Main St, a station never designed to handle the traffic it sees. A new terminal station for 2nd Ave and Bushwick trains would shoulder the burden and distribute commuters away from the congested Roosevelt Ave corridor through Corona and Jackson Heights.

Manhattan and Bronx Extensions

10th Ave Subway

A 2 track line, extending the L train at 14th St and 8th Ave to 72nd St and Amsterdam Ave will be required after 20 years of development throughout the west side of Manhattan overloads the 2/3 and 7 trains currently at capacity. Nothing about this has changed from version 3 except it the subway may be built with 3 tracks in sections for extra train storage.

North Riverdale Extensions

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).

IND Concourse Line Extension

Track Map for proposed IND Concourse Line extension, predating Coop City.
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Track Map for proposed IND Concourse Line extension, predating Coop City.

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.

IntraCity Rail

IntraCity Lines.
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IntraCity Lines.

I’ve written in the past how I never saw the RPA’s proposal for a circumferential transit line, dubbed Triboro RX, worth the cost. While it has high ideals the fact is the ROW doesn’t really run anywhere people need to commute to. As the original railroad lines on which it is based never saw passenger service (except in small sections like through East New York) most subways don’t stop for easy transfers. This makes the concept less than ideal.

But looking at the line by itself might be short sighted. Cities in Europe are finding innovative ways to use their existing train lines by creating hybrid commuter rail transit systems. The S-Bahn in Berlin, the RER in Paris, and the Overground in London have all revolutionized how these commuter rail lines work. These hybrid lines also integrate with the subway as much as possible and costs are in line with subway prices rather than a destination based fare system. Transfers can be made via smart passes so station costs can be kept low.

The idea behind the IntraCity Line is that you take the existing radial commuter rail routes of the LIRR and Metro-North and connect them via existing rail ROWs that are currently lightly used for freight. The map I have designed does not provide any routes set in stone as it would take a large study to determine which routes would make the most sense. But by building new connections in Queens and the Bronx a commuter from Long Island could get to Westchester without having to change in Midtown or drive over the congested East River bridges. If the Cross Harbor Freight Tunnel is finally constructed then the Staten Island RR could be extended directly to Grand Central or Penn Station. Now the three regional airports are all connected to rail lines that serve the entire region rather than only Long Island or New Jersey.

Granted the majority of trips in the New York region area headed to Manhattan. But there is still a need for trips that go to other centers, Flushing, Jamaica, the South Bronx, and Staten Island. While these are not major commercial districts like Midtown they are major sub centers within the city and connecting them to a more flexible network of trains would open up job centers outside of Manhattan. New auto bridges and highways won’t be built in New York City they way there were in the 20th Century so the only way to reduce traffic is through innovative uses of the infrastructure we have. Anyone who doesn’t commute into Manhattan needs to travel around the city and they only option for many is to drive.

The IntraCity concept won’t be cheap and may well be on the same scope, cost wise, as a fully built 2nd Ave Subway or East Side Access. But the new network would open up so much new economic growth possibilities at the same time as reducing congestion on transit lines and highways around the region that it may well be worth more to build than it would to build small, piecemeal subways and highways that only address small areas of congestion. Additionally there is climate change to consider; Hurricane Sandy showed the economic impact that blocking existing transit tunnels does to the city so having a back up route that can still connect commuters by bypassing closed tunnels can keep the city running during times of crisis.

Conclusion

As always these ideas are fun to fantasize about but what really matters is money. If you read the history of subways in New York you see the same thing over and over again; to get anything built you need a powerful politician who wants to get it done. If it wasn’t for John Hylan we wouldn’t have the A train (also the B,C,D,E,F & G trains). LaGuardia ripped the Els down but it was Robert Moses who built highways instead. Rockefeller knocked Moses out of power by creating the MTA which used the Triboro Bridge and Tunnel funds to upgrade the aging system. Michael Bloomberg wanted a subway for his real estate pals and later this year the 7 Train extension to Hudson Yards is set to open. Our current Governor is, unfortunately, no friend of transit and while Mayor Bill de Blasio has supported transit expansion he has yet to put his money where his mouth is.

The New York City Subway needs to be lead by people who don’t remember the bad days of the 1970s and 80s when ridership plummeted. New York is a different place now and this is reflected by the highest subway ridership numbers ever. We need politicians who look to the future. The city has for too long only seen the subway as something it had to patch up and keep running. There hasn’t been a serious wide ranging transportation plan for the city since 1968 and it’s time for the city to take hard look at what it will take to keep the city growing and keep it affordable.

Obviously just building subways will not be enough. In this version of the FNYCS I introduced a sketch of an idea for IntraCity rail but the truth is what is really needed is a more balanced system. Many of the lines I’ve proposed can’t even be built until other projects (2nd Ave, East Side Access) are built first so it’s worth considering adding new Select Service, BRT, routes throughout the outer boroughs to gauge the future need of many of these corridors. Ferry service too can help, though this is limited to new developments along the water. This brings up the issue of climate change and how the city and subway needs to adapt for sea level rise and future storms. Building a future transportation network which has redundancies built in and encourages new development away from low lying areas will soften the impact of future disasters.

On a really nerdy cartographic note I want to add that I think I found a good way to integrate the different subway and rail systems in the region into one map. I also added a key showing the routes of each train and how it would run, as well as a visual key for reading the map (FNYCS v1 had this but not v2 or v3). Since I last drew a FNYCS map the man who inspired this map, Massimo Vignelli, passed away and I want to thank him for his amazing work. I use his map as a tribute to him and also because it offers visual clarity which I am constantly trying to honor. It’s hard to change and expand the map so much, adding so much new information, and still keep it easy to read. The fact that he created a system that can so easily and cleanly be expanded upon speaks to his genius.

As always I welcome a constructive discussion of my ideas and if you spot any errors please let me know.

The futureNYCSubway: A Second L Train

Anyone who takes the BMT Canarsie Line (the L train to most New Yorkers) can see the effects of a decade’s worth of gentrification first hand. What was once a postindustrial backwater, bombed out from years of industrial decay and urban unrest, the norther Brooklyn neighborhoods of Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and Bushwick have exploded with growth over the last decade as artists, hipsters, and now YUPy families moved in in search of lower rents and more space (ironically rents are now equal to parts of Manhattan in central Williamsburg). Thousands of words have been written about this type of hyper-gentrification so it would be a waste of time for me to address the social reasons behind it. Rather this is about where we are now and were we are going.

Proposed 4 track 14th St subway connecting to other 4 track subways in northern Brooklyn.
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Proposed 4 track 14th St subway connecting to other 4 track subways in northern Brooklyn. 1912.

When subway planners first proposed new subways through northern Brooklyn a century ago the city was a different place. Construction costs at the time were low compared to today and the areas around Williamsburg and Bushwick were bustling with industry and newly arrived immigrants (Bushwick was home to many German immigrants who set up a thriving beer industry before prohibition killed it off). The first subways planned along the 14th St and norther Brooklyn corridors were all 4 track lines with connections to Queens and outer Brooklyn which would loop through lower Manhattan. It was an ambitious idea but when World War 1 put a strain on resources and inflation made the cost of building a subway prohibitively higher the plans were scaled back. What started as a 4 track crosstown subway from 14th St in Manhattan to Williamsburg with branches to Bushwick, Coney Island and Utica Ave soon became a truncated 2 track line from 6th Ave to Montrose Ave with plans for an elevated line after that. Construction was further delayed when Brooklyn residents protested any new elevated subway construction causing the Bushwick section to be built as a more expensive subway.

"2 Brand-New Subways Planned for Brooklyn" Showing routes of the build Eastern Parkway Line and the unbuilt Utica Ave line.
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“2 Brand-New Subways Planned for Brooklyn” Showing routes of the build Eastern Parkway Line and the unbuilt Utica Ave line.

BMT track map showing "14th St-Eastern Line" connecting with Canarsie Line and Liberty Ave Line.
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BMT track map showing “14th St-Eastern Line” connecting with Canarsie Line and Liberty Ave Line.

We cannot fault the early subway planners for lack of foresight in building the Canarsie Line since the priority of the first subways were to ease congestion in the central business district (at the time lower Manhattan) and open up farm land in the outer boroughs for new development. The Canarsie Line originally connected to existing elevated lines in New Lots and East New York but when these elevated lines were torn down in favor of new subways these connections were lost and the line was eventually left with the L train from 14th St to Canarsie that we have today.

The Canarsie Line is the only line in the NYC Subway which runs entirely on 2 tracks and does not share its route with another line. This presents certain problems; if a train is disabled on other lines with 3 or 4 tracks trains can be rerouted around it and service continued. If an L train is disabled for some reason all trains along the line are stopped. Crowding is also a huge issue; the MTA has been installing a new computer signalling system which allows for more trains and less crowds, something which is more difficult and expensive on lines with multiple branches. As such the Canarsie Line has been a testing ground for new technologies before they are introduced throughout the rest of the system. But while better signals and more trains certainly help it is only a band aid on a larger growth problem.

Growth along the Canarsie Line has exploded over the last decade and even a lull due to the recession offered only a slight respite as projects that have laid dormant for years have been finding new funding sources and promise to transform the area to an even greater extent. Mega projects like the Domino Sugar plant redevelopment or the proposed Greenpoint Landing waterfront mini-city will bring thousands of new residents, jobs, and commuters to a subway system that is barely able to support the current demand.

In the past I’ve toyed with the idea of resurrecting the abandoned IND Second System and the South 4th Subway. There is no doubt that if this subway had been built that northern Brooklyn would easily be able to support the new growth going on today. However, since nothing was built apart from a couple of future provisions, it would be wise to find a solution that solves our current and future needs. The subway we have today is not the same as it was 80 years ago and we face different needs than what a South 4th Subway would address. The original South 4th Subway had connections to the IND 8th Ave and IND 6th Ave lines in Manhattan but it is questionable that these connections would properly serve the ridership that uses the Canarsie Line today.

A report (PDF) by the MTA looking at future needs of the system acknowledged capacity constraints between Manhattan and Williamsburg. The M train rerouted along 6th Ave has been a success but this acts more as a bypass for commuters from Bushwick around Williamsburg into Manhattan. Continued growth along the route of the L train, especially near the Jefferson Ave station, means that there still needs to be better transit along the current route of the L train through Williamsburg proper. What seems to be the most effective solution would be to build a second, parallel subway along the Canarsie route which would double capacity as well as allow for express and local service.

Phase 1

Double Deck Subway, "The Design of Subways", 1918 Source
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Double Deck Subway, “The Design of Subways”, 1918 Source

The first option I considered would be a double decked subway with 2 tracks in each direction on either level. This would mean constructing a new subway directly under the existing subway from 14th St-8th Ave to the East River with a new tunnel to Williamsburg running just south of the existing tunnel. The 8th Ave, 6th Ave, Union Sq, and Bedford Ave stations are all island platforms which would mean that if a duplicate level was built below riders could catch 8th Ave bound trains on the upper level and Brooklyn bound trains on the lower level. Stations such as 3rd Ave, 1st Ave, and other Brooklyn stations with two side platforms could be converted into bi-level stations like those along the IND 8th Ave Line along Central Park West with local service on just one side (this would mean that one of the existing platforms in these stations would be abandoned and a new one built below the other operating platform.

While this is technically feasible it would require the existing subway to be supported while a cavern is dug beneath the existing tunnel structure. This is the same basic concept of how Boston built the Big Dig but on a much smaller scale. Street level disruptions due to construction would be minimized but the existing subway would have to be shut down from time to time for connections to be built. This sounds disruptive but is really no different than what riders have to deal with ever few weekends when service is shut down between 8th Ave and Bedford Ave.

The second option would be to construct a parallel subway not below the existing one but rather a block away. Conveniently much of the Canarsie Line runs along city blocks that are spaced closer together than the avenues. A parallel subway would be built from 8th Ave to the East River under 13th St in Manhattan. Platforms under 14th and 13th streets would be connected via new mezzanines as each tunnel would handle one direction of traffic. A new tunnel under the East River to North 6th St would run to Marcy Ave where it would swing under Devoe St. At Bushwick Ave the new and existing tunnels would merge so that local tracks would continue along the existing route while the new express tracks would dive below English Kills to connect with the local tracks again just west of Flushing Ave. Just southwest of Wyckoff Ave, under which the Canarsie Line runs, exists an abandoned and partially developed railroad right of way. The Evergreen Branch was opened in 1876 and once ran all the way from the East River in Greenpoint to Manhattan Beach until 1885. Freight service still ran along the line until 1960. Today the ROW has been partially built over with small buildings and parking lots. Running less than 300ft away from Wyckoff Ave this ROW would be a much cheaper alternative to building a subway under the existing subway tunnels. After the new subway is built the land could then be sold to developers to recoup the construction costs. In the outline below I also have the express tracks swinging north after Halsey St station to a terminal at Myrtle/Fresh Pond Rd which would allow for further extensions into Queens.


View Parallel L Train in a larger map

Phase 2

Each alternative has their pros and cons (cost vs disruption) but if built an expanded Canarsie Line would mean more than just an easing of congestion along 14th St, it would mean that the line could handle branches into unserved areas of Brooklyn and Queens.

Union Turnpike Subway through Utopia and Glen Oaks.
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Union Turnpike Subway through Utopia and Glen Oaks.

In past futureNYCSubway posts I’ve explained my ideas for new subways into eastern Queens. The most affordable options would involve extending the existing IND Queens Blvd, Hillside Ave, Archer Ave, IRT Flushing and BMT Jamaica lines further east. Extending subways may seem like just drawing a line on a map but in reality you need to put the trains somewhere. The subways we have today do not effectively serve outer areas of Brooklyn and Queens and while extending existing lines may help it would also mean very long commutes and to these outer areas and more congested trains along existing lines. An expanded Canarsie Line would act as a trunk line for new branches without congesting existing lines.

The two branches I would advocate for would be the Union Turnpike branch out to Douglaston Parkway and a branch which runs through the Archer Ave subway and along the LIRR Main Line to Belmont Park. They would connect to the trunk of the Canarsie Line after Halsey station and run along the existing LIRR Montauwk Branch ROW through Glendale and Forest Park.

In Manhattan my proposed 10th Ave subway could be built up to 72nd St as a 4 track line with express and local service to further address growth in Hell’s Kitchen and the Hudson Yards.

Below is version 3f of the futureNYCSubway map showing the expanded Canarsie Line as well as a couple more expansion ideas I will explain in upcoming posts. Stay tuned!

fnycs3_f
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The futureNYCSubway: TriboroRX & Atlantic Ave Express

Introduction

I realize that on most of the maps I’ve made for this series there are a couple new subway lines which I’ve not described. I probably should have put this section closer to the beginning, but no matter. These two proposals, the Triboro RX Line and the Atlantic Ave Super-Express Line both come from the Regional Plan Association, the major non-profit planning organization for the New York Metropolitan area. The RPA’s plans are famous for being influential despite not being legally binding. The first RPA plan from 1929 laid out proposals for a complete rethinking of the highways in and around the metropolitan area (which were only later implemented by Robert Moses decades later). Other RPA plans have called for the redevelopment of the New Jersey waterfront, something which has been underway for the last couple decades.

TriboroRX

Triboro RX Line through southern Brooklyn from Bay Ridge to Broadway Junction.
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Triboro RX Line through southern Brooklyn from Bay Ridge to Broadway Junction.

The Triboro RX Line was proposed in the Third Regional Plan back in 1996. The idea is simple: there are many unused or under-used rail lines that cross through the outer boroughs which could be used to provide passenger rail service to undeserved areas of the city. What’s more, many of these lines link up, in a sort of rail network, so that with only marginal extra construction a new “loop” or “crosstown” subway/commuter rail line could be created. The line was called Triboro RX and began at the waterfront in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. The Long Island Railroad Bay Ridge Line was once part of the rail system which brought city dwellers to Coney Island back in the late 19th and early 20th century. When many of these lines were converted to subways the Bay Ridge Line stopped carrying passengers and today only carries freight. The line makes a broad arc through southern Brooklyn from Bay Ridge to Broadway Junction, almost as if you drew it with a compass.

What makes this line so appealing is that it would connect to every subway in Brooklyn (except the Brooklyn-Queens Crosstown Line) and would act like a shuttle to bring passengers over to lines which might not connect even in downtown Brooklyn or Manhattan. The line would also bring subway access to areas of Flatlands, East Flatbush, and Canarsie which today are woefully under served.

Rendering of the Cross-Brooklyn Expressway

Rendering of the Cross-Brooklyn Expressway

An interesting side note is that this is not the first time that mass transit has been proposed for this corridor. Back in the 1960s Robert Moses wanted to use this right-of-way for a highway, the Cross-Brooklyn Expressway. To get public support for the plan the proposal called for a below grade highway with mass transit along side (see drawing at left). Above, to cover the highway, would have been a linear park system with large apartment buildings, dubbed the Linear City. While it was an interesting idea, in reality such a project would have destroyed neighborhoods, increased traffic, and dotted the landscape with offensive and inhuman towers. The park probably would have been thrown out in early plans because of cost overruns and most likely so would have the mass transit line. Because this corridor is still so important, the idea of a Cross Brooklyn Expressway is still being mulled around by transportation planners, in some cases combined with a cross harbor freight tunnel.

Triboro RX through Jackson Heights.
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Triboro RX through Jackson Heights.

After the Triboro RX whips around southern Brooklyn it comes up through Broadway Junction. At this point the line would, if built as a subway, run along the same tracks as the BMT Canarsie L Line. The Canarsie Line at this point is elevated but runs along side the Bay Ridge Line which is sunk below grade (click here to see a picture I took of this spot). Plans as far back as the 1960s called for demolishing the elevated structure and rebuilding it in the railroad trench. If the Triboro RX was built then this would be part of the plan, with the current elevated stations replaced with new below grade stations. The trench at this point could be built over with a park and/or housing, much like the original Linear City plan at a much smaller scale.

After Broadway Junction the Triboro RX would continue along the Canarsie Line until it (the Canarsie Line) turns towards Bushwick, at which point the Triboro RX would head through Ridgewood and into Middle Villege, Maspeth, and into Jackson Heights. In Jackson Heights there are two options for where the line could run; The original RPA plan just has the line continuing along the existing railroad line up into Astoria but there is a little know abandoned subway tunnel and station at the Roosevelt Ave station which could be used to more conveniently connect the Triboro RX to the Queens Blvd Line (E,F,M,R trains) and Flushing Line (7 train). The additional station was built by the IND when the Queens Blvd Line was first constructed in the 1930s. The original concept was for a subway to the Rockaways to use the station, one service would connect to the Queens Blvd Line while one service would terminate at Roosevelt Ave. (For more information check out the Roosevelt Ave page at Joseph Brennan fantastic Abandoned Stations site.)

The Triboro RX would continue along through Astoria where it would travel up to 7 stories in the air along the Hell Gate Bridge. Stations at this point would need to be engineered into the viaduct which would add to the cost but would allow for spectacular views of the city (and of course, transfers to other subway lines). On Randalls Island there could also be a station, though it would likely have the lowest ridership in the system. The island is home to concerts, ball fields, and a psychiatric center and is well served by buses but a station would do more to open the island up to people who’ve probably never thought about going there.

TrXiboro RX through the south Bronx.
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TrXiboro RX through the south Bronx.

The last section of the line enters the south Bronx through Port Morris and has two possible routes; The first, as proposed by the RPA, would utilize an abandoned freight rail tunnel which used to serve the port and warehouses. The tunnel runs under St. Mary’s Park and links up with the MetroNorth Harlem River Line at Melrose Ave. Here the Triboro RX would turn back south and head west under 161st St to Yankee Stadium. The RPA plan calls for the line to terminate at 161st/Yankee Stadium but I propose that the line link up with the IND Grand Concourse B/D Line and head into Manhattan, terminating at 145th St. This would make for fewer transfers and allow Manhattan better access to the outer boroughs (so, if a subway tunnel to Staten Island was to be constructed, this line would be the only subway route to travel through ever borough).

An alternative route would take the Triboro RX closer to Hunts Point before turning west under 163rd St. In my Second Ave Subway proposal I call for a 4 track subway under 163rd St to serve two Second Ave trains to Throgs Neck and Co-op City. If this tunnel was to be built then the Triboro RX line could share the trackage. After 3rd Ave it would continue to Yankee Stadium, thus creating a crosstown subway of sorts through the south Bronx.

Atlantic Ave Super-Express

Atlantic Ave Super-Express from Manhattan to Brooklyn.
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Atlantic Ave Super-Express from Manhattan to Brooklyn.

The Atlantic Ave Super-Express comes from a 1999 RPA proposal. The MetroLink was the RPAs concept of an integrated Second Ave Subway system which would save on construction costs by utilizing existing infrastructure, much of which I covered in my Second Ave Subway proposals. A major element to the RPA proposal was the conversion of the Long Island Railroad Atlantic Branch which runs under Atlantic Ave from Jamaica to Flatbush Ave. The RPA proposed continuing the Second Ave Subway from lower Manhattan to Atlantic Ave where the subway would run express out to Jamaica with two branches, one to Jamaica Center and another to JFK Airport. Interestingly, the RPA also proposed that these two branches terminate, in Manhattan, at Grand Central Terminal via a short spur under 42nd St.

The most important, and most expensive, part of a Super-Express subway along Atlantic Ave would be the connection to Manhattan from Brooklyn. Over the last 10 years planners and politicians have tried to find a way to connect lower Manhattan with either the Long Island Railroad or just to JFK via a subway or extension of the AirTrain. The problem has been cost; any plausible plan would be in the billions. The most recent plans floated called for extending the LIRR into Manhattan via a tunnel with a new terminal in lower Manhattan. Because of the space required such a terminal would be prohibitively expensive. If, however, the LIRR along Atlantic Ave was to be converted to subway service then it could be cheaply connected to existing service via the Manhattan Bridge (into Chambers St) or via the Nassau St subway. Alternatively, if the Second Ave Subway was finished through Water St then this tunnel could then connect to Atlantic Ave (proposed for the MetroLink).

Map of planned but unbuilt BMT system with subway connections to the Brooklyn Bridge.
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Map of planned but unbuilt BMT system with subway connections to the Brooklyn Bridge.

An even more radical idea would be to extend it over the Brooklyn Bridge where it would run from Chamber St, over the bridge and under Adams St to Atlantic Ave. Such a plan is not without precedent; trains ran over the bridge when it first opened and when the BMT was building their subways through lower Manhattan there was a very serious plan to build this exact connection. There was originally to be two large loops, one which ran from DeKalb St in Brooklyn, over the Manhattan Bridge to Chambers St and down through Nassau St, under the East River via the tunnel, and linking back up with DeKalb St back in Brooklyn. This loop was built. The second one, a much larger loop was not. This loop would have started out at Broadway Junction in East New York. Using the Broadway Elevated Line (J/M/Z trains), it would enter Manhattan via the Williamsburg Bridge where it would run to Chambers St via the Centre St Subway. After Chambers St it would make a sharp turn and head to Brooklyn via the Brooklyn Bridge. From here trains would make their way back to Broadway Junction via any number of the elevated lines which snaked through Bedford-Stuyvesant at the time (Myrtle Ave, Lexington Ave, or Fulton St Els). Today, however, it may seem impractical to have trains running on the Brooklyn Bridge, but in a future where gas is much more expensive it would make sense given how many more people trains can carry. (For more information and better diagrams showing this proposed connection check out the Chambers St page at Joseph Brennan fantastic Abandoned Stations site.)

On the Brooklyn side, the LIRR terminates at Flatbush Ave so a new tunnel would need to be cut from Flatbush to the East River. This would be the most expensive part (along with a new tunnel if such a plan was chosen) but one which is also not without precedent. When the LIRR was originally built it in fact ran all the way to ferries on the East River. A large ditch was cut through Brooklyn Heights but the soot and noise so disturbed the populous that the railroad was ordered to cap the trench, thus making it a tunnel (and some would argue the first subway in the world). But tunnel system was so primitive that riding through the tunnel with the soot and noise was unbearable for riders. Soon the tunnel was shut down and service cut back to an above ground terminal at Flatbush Ave. The tunnel fell into legend until it was rediscovered by Bob Diamond in 1980. Today you can even take tours of the tunnel (for more information check out the BHRA’s web site.) Of course if a subway was to be built today it would not be able to reuse such a tunnel.

The Atlantic Ave Super-Express through Broadway Junction.
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The Atlantic Ave Super-Express through Broadway Junction.

After Flatbush Ave the Super-Express Line would run down Atlantic Ave, making the existing stop at Nostrand Ave, to Broadway Junction. Here there are two options, the first is that the line could continue along Atlantic Ave out to Jamaica with no extra stops along the way, or it could link up with my previously proposed Bushwick Trunk Line. The Bushwick Trunk Line would allow trains to loop back through Chambers St like the original BMT plan, this time is extra express tracks through both Bushwick and along Atlantic Ave. On the Atlantic Ave side there would be only two tracks along Atlantic Ave from downtown Brooklyn to Broadway Junction. At Broadway Junction the Bushwick Trunk Line would connect with the Super-Express to create a 4 track subway from Broadway Junction, along Atlantic Ave in East New York, out to Jamaica. There could be three or four different train services: an all local train from Jamaica to Chambers St via Bushwick, an express train from Jamaica to Chamber St via Bushwick, an express train from Jamaica to Chambers St via Atlantic Ave, and an express loop which would run through Bushwick to Chambers St and back along Atlantic Ave.

The Atlantic Ave Super-Express lines in Jamaica.
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The Atlantic Ave Super-Express lines in Jamaica.

From Broadway Junction to Jamaica it may make sense to rebuild Atlantic Ave with 4 tracks and demolish the existing elevated structure which runs through Cypress Hills and Richmond Hill. The elevated line was supposedly built to allow for an express track but one was never added. Because of this, and due to the fact that this section of trackage is the oldest in the entire New York City Subway system, it may be a good investment to replace the elevated structure with a 4 track subway along Atlantic Ave. Though passengers would no longer have a subway so close to them, a relocation would get rid of the blight which the line brings and allow for a much quicker commute into the city. And while some people would have to walk further, moving the line south would bring subway service closer to others.

In Jamaica Center the Super-Express Line would use the Archer Ave Subway. The original plan for the Archer Ave Subway (which would have served another super-express subway through Queens) was to have two branches, one running east along the LIRR right-of-way to Queens Village, and one running southeast along the Far Rockaway branch through Laurelton and Rosedale (which would replace LIRR service with subway service). These two extensions should still be a high expansion priority regardless if the Super-Express Line is built. Due to the congestion along the LIRR it might not be feasible to use the LIRR right-of-way to Queens Village so a two track subway might be built along Hollis Ave. This would more evenly distribute subway service but would be much more expensive. Another possibility is that if the IND Fulton St Subway extension was to be built then the two subways (that and the Super-Express) could link up allowing Queens Blvd trains to reach further into southeastern Queens.

Conclusion

I left these two expansion ideas for last because, while they score points in terms of cost, they seem like scraps compared to major projects like the Second Ave Subway. A giant loop subway connecting all boroughs seems good on paper but in reality it might not have the ridership to justify the cost. A crosstown subway from Brooklyn to Queens was planned for decades before it was finally built as the G train and today the G is perhaps the most loathed line in the system; it runs very infrequently and runs only 6 or 4 car trains as opposed to the usual 10 cars. It basically acts as a glorified shuttle. If the G, which actually runs between large employment centers and through dense residential neighborhoods, can hardly work out, how is a massive system like the Triboro RX to work? But at the same time the Triboro RX would run through major areas of the city which are far from other subways and would connect to almost every other line in the system.

The Atlantic Ave Super-Express also looks good on paper but once again the benefit might not out weigh the cost. The city has been trying for the last decade to bring the LIRR into lower Manhattan (or some variation) but the cost has just been too great. Still, the existing Broadway El can only serve Brooklyn for so long before it becomes obsolete. Converting Atlantic Ave into a subway which would serve new areas of the city and connect to the existing system to save on cost may, sooner rather than later, become a high priority project.

Note: Unlike my previous posts I am not going to include another system map to show how these two projects would add to the system as a whole. In my next and final post I will explain how all the projects I discussed fit together with a giant system and geographical map.


The futureNYCSubway

  1. Introduction
  2. IND Second System
  3. Post War Expansion
  4. The Second Ave Subway: History
  5. The Second Ave Subway: To The Bronx and the Nassau Line
  6. Brooklyn: Bushwick Trunk Line
  7. Manhattan: West Side and Hudson Crossings
  8. Queens: Flushing Trunk Line
  9. Staten Island: The Last Frontier
  10. TriboroRX and Atlantic Ave Super-Express
  11. Conclusion: the vanshnookenraggen plan

The futureNYCSubway: Bushwick Trunk Line

Introduction

1924 BMT dual contracts map
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1924 BMT map showing existing elevated lines (in black) and proposed subways.

Because of how and when Brooklyn developed in the 19th Century it has today one of the most extensive subway and elevated rail networks in the entire nation, and it is only one borough of the city. So many lines criss-crossed Brooklyn back in the day that, unlike many other cities who’ve expanded service over the last century, Brooklyn has actually lost miles of tracks due to the dismantling of elevated lines through Bedford-Stuyvesant and Borough Park. Still, Brooklyn remains one of the most well served areas in the nation in terms of subway lines. However, there are still major sections of Brooklyn that developed after World War II and outside the range of subway service.

The city foresaw this development and planned to build subways to Flatbush, Flatlands, and Sheepshead Bay but was stopped by the Great Depression and changing priorities (e.g. the car). When the Independent subway released its grand expansion plan in 1929 it included a major trunk line though northern Brooklyn that branched out to reach the Rockaways and Sheepshead Bay. The lines connected to the 6th Ave and 8th Ave Subways had at one time up to 8 tracks servicing four different subways branching off into Brooklyn and Queens.

Much has changed in northern Brooklyn since those days. Back then there were three major elevated lines in northern Brooklyn; the Jamaica Line elevated which still runs today (J/Z trains), the Myrtle Ave elevated which once ran all the way from dowtown Brooklyn to Metropolitan Ave but was cut back to Broadway in the 1950s (M train), and the long gone Lexington Ave elevated line which ran through Bedford-Stuyvesant along Lexington Ave and was also torn down. Many of the neighborhoods of northern Brooklyn suffered severe population drains after World War II. Much of the industry left and by the 1980s the area became one of the poorest in the nation.

It is amazing then how far we have come within a generation. Due to the low cost of real estate and the availability of large loft warehouses, Williamsbug has gone from a no-mans land to being the newest, hippest neighborhood in the city. During the 1990s due to waves of new immigration from South America, Bushwick began to stabelize. As gentrification moved east from Williamsburg areas of Bushwick and Bedford-Stuyvesant began to gentrify. Today the area’s population has grown dramatically fom 10 years ago and ridership levels on every subway station in Williamsburg, Bushwick, and northern Bedford-Stuyvesant have risen. This now presents the problem: how will the century old transit infrastructure handle this new growth?

Now I am bringing this proposal back, a new trunk line serving northern Brooklyn with branches out to Queens and southeastern Brooklyn that will replace the antiquated Broadway and Myrtle Ave elevated tracks and allow for better local service and faster commutes from the far reaches of the city. This new subway is called the Bushwick Trunk Line.

6th Ave and 8th Ave Subway Connections

1929 IND Proposal for South 4th St subway.
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1929 IND Proposal for South 4th St subway.

The original proposal from the 1920s was called the South Fourth St Subway for the street under which it ran. It began in two places in Manhattan, both vestiges of the IND Second System. On the 6th Ave Line at 2nd Ave station there are 2 platforms and 4 tracks. Only the outer tracks have ever been in service with the inner tracks used, until 2010, as a terminal for the V train. The inner tracks were originally built to service trains coming from Williamsburg via a tunnel under the East River. This is the first part of the Bushwick Trunk Line proposal. The second is over on the 8th Ave Line. After Canal St station on the 8th Ave Line the express and local tracks diverge into two separate tunnels. Today the A and C trains run on to Brooklyn through on one set of tracks while the E uses the other set to terminate at World Trade Center. It is these tracks, the World Trade Center tracks, that were originally supposed to head east under Worth St. The so-called Worth St Subway made a short jog along Worth St to East Broadway and down to Grand St where it dove under the East River towards Williamsburg. Both of these tunnels, at some point in Williamsburg, would have come together to form a 4 track subway under South 4th St. There were various proposals for where this would happen and various schemes for how many trains would run. The line would have been able to handle 2 express and 2 local with branches out to the Rockaways and Sheepshead Bay.

Because my proposals encompass as vaster area then along South 4th St I’ve taken the liberty to rename the proposal the “Bushwick Trunk Line”. A trunk line is a main line of a railroad that is created by combining many different passageways that branch off at some point. For instance the Lexington Ave Subway is a trunk line because it combines the 4/5/6 trains in a subway under Lexington Ave. The Bushwick Trunk Line would combine trains from central Queens, Jamaica, Flatlands, Sheepshead Bay, and Bushwick into a single massive subway and redistribute them into Manhattan.

Bushwick Trunk Line connections into Manhattan.
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Bushwick Trunk Line connections into Manhattan with alternatives.

To update the original plan we have a few different options. On the 6th Ave Subway a new tunnel should still continue east along Houston St across the East River to South 4th St in Williamsburg. A station will be placed between Aves B and C to give subway access to one of the only areas of Manhattan still without close subway access. A proposal from the 1930s also brought in a connection with the Second Ave Subway which would branch off before the 2nd Ave station at Houston St and run parallel to the 6th Ave extension under Stanton St. The two subways would combine somewhere under the East River.

The 8th Ave Subway connection would be shifted south from the original proposal under Worth St to Chambers St where a new transfer facility would be constructed connecting the Lexington Ave Subwayand the Jamaica/Centre St Subway. From here the new subway would continue along the original route under East Broadway to Grand St and under the East River to connect with the 6th Ave extension to form the bulk of the Bushwick Trunk Line. Alternative alignments would have the subway running under Clinton St and merging with the 6th Ave extension before the East River or running the 8th Ave extension along Broadway in Williamsburg and connecting with the 6th Ave extension further east.

While in Williamsburg another subway connects to the Trunk Line; the Jamaica Line which today runs on an elevated track. A new portal would be constructed at the Brooklyn approach of the Williamsburg Bridge to connect the tracks on the bridge to the new subway. The elevated tracks would be torn down.

For those keeping track of the tracks, there would be two, 2 track tunnels under the East River meeting at a single 4 track station at Berry St and South 4th St. Continuing east the Jamaica Line would connect adding 2 additional tracks making 2 local tracks and 4 express tracks. These 6 tracks would run to Union Ave where at the Broadway Station on the IND Crosstown G Line is the shell of a 6 track station which was built in anticipation of the South 4th St Subway.

If you think about this in transportation planning terms then the Crosstown Line suddenly becomes a lot more useful. There is very little traffic between downtown Brooklyn and Long Island City but this was not supposed to be the case. The South 4th St subway was meant to meet with the Crosstown Line between downtown Brooklyn and Long Island City which would have added much more traffic to the line, distributing commuters more efficiently and taking pressure off transfer points in Manhattan.

Bushwick Trunk Line

Bushwick Trunk Line track map.
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Bushwick Trunk Line track map.

East of Union Ave the Trunk Line would run north of and parallel to Broadway which would require cutting a new street from South 4th/Union Ave to Beaver St/Flushing Ave. A routing along Broadway would necessitate the demolition of the elevated train before new service would be built to replace it. The city has a very poor track record of replacing elevated trains with subway service which is why the more expensive option of cutting a new street would be the better one.

The purpose of the Bushwick Trunk Line is to allow for modern subways to service outlying areas of the city, bring them together to sort passengers, and transport them out into different areas of Manhattan (and downtown Brooklyn). The different subways coming together in the Trunk Line are the Myrtle Ave Subway/Union Turnpike Subway (with a branch of the Crosstown Line), the Utica Ave Subway (with connections to the Canarsie Line), and the replacement subway for the demolished Jamaica Line elevated tracks. The Trunk Line would have 2 local tracks and 4 express tracks which would be below the local tracks.

6 tracks running from South 4th St under the new street would merge again with a new branch of the 14th St-Canarsie Line. This branch would break off the Canarsie Line after Montrose St and continue south under Bushwick Ave. This merger would occur right before a massive new transfer station at Myrtle St/Bushwick Ave. This station would be very similar to the West 4th St station with two sets of 4 track platforms separated by a mezzanine. 8 tracks would enter the station, 12 tracks would leave the station; 4 tracks for each branch line. To wrap your head around what I’m proposing here I’ve created a track map. A track map shows each track as a thin line. Here I have color coded each set of tracks to show which trains would run where. Platforms are the solid rectangles. Dashed lines indicate when a track runs below another track (3rd dimension).

After Myrtle Ave the different subways would branch off but a 4 track subway would continue east under Bushwick Ave to replace the Jamaica Line elevated. The new subway would go as far as the train yards at Broadway Junction where the tracks would rise to the surface and continue along the existing elevated structure. In a later post I will address what can be done about the existing elevated line.

Myrtle Ave Subway and Crosstown Subway Connection

Bushwick Trunk Line with alternative routings.
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Bushwick Trunk Line with alternative routings.

The Mrytle Ave Subway would be the first branch off the Trunk Line and would be a replacement for the elevated train currently along Myrtle Ave through Bushwick and Ridgewood. The Myrtle Ave Subway would split off the Bushwick Trunk Line after the Myrtle Ave station and travel northeast under Myrtle Ave to Fresh Pond Rd where it would rise to the surface, run at grade, to travel along side the Long Island Railroad Montauk Branch tracks. At this point there would also be a separate track system to connect the new subway to the existing Fresh Pond train yards. The subway would be 4 tracks serving 8th Ave trains.

A number of alternatives are available. The first would utilize an old freight rail line which terminates at Bushwick Place and Montrose Ave. This line once ran passenger trains from Williamsburg to Coney Island and Long Island but cut this service in the 1920s. The first alternative would have a subway branch off the Bushwick Trunk Line right after the Union Ave station running under Montrose Ave and rising to the surface to run at grade somewhere after Varick Ave along this stretch of track. The line would follow the freight tracks until Flushing Ave where they would run along side the LIRR Montauk Branch tracks, continuing east. A second alignment in this would run the subway under Flushing Ave for a while before connecting with the LIRR Montauk Branch. This second alignment would be more costly than the freight track alignment but would have the benefit of closer to residential areas.

Vestigial tracks as Bedford-Nostrand.
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Vestigial tracks as Bedford-Nostrand.

A downside to the Myrtle Ave Subway alignment is that it runs south of the current elevated subway through Ridgewood. An alternative that would address this would run the subway up Gates Ave to the point where it meets the LIRR Montauk Branch tracks. This alignment would serve more people as it runs through the heart of the neighborhood and would also run close by the Fresh Pond train yards but a major downside would be very disruptive construction along residential streets.

Though the Myrtle Ave Subway would mainly branch off of the Bushwick Trunk Line I also call for a new subway which would branch off the IND Crosstown Line after the Bedford-Nostrand Aves station. A commuter using said station will note that there are in fact 3 tracks with 2 island platform, strange since the Crosstown Line has only local service and runs with 2 tracks for the rest of its length (see pictures at NYCSubway.org). There are two thoughts to why this extra track exists, the first being that it was designed to be a terminal station for service changes, and second that it was designed to be a junction station where two subway lines would combine. The middle track at Bedford-Nostrand continues east while the outside tracks curve to the north. The third track then splits into 2 tracks but dead ends (which could be used for layups of trains of extending service east). This dead end is where we start, continuing the subway along Lafayette Ave to Broadway where it would curve northeast under Kossuth Pl and Stanhope St, connecting with the Myrtle Ave Subway before Knickerbocker Ave.

This additional tunnel would allow service from central Queens three options of service: an express into Manhattan, a local into Manhattan (both of which would allow for easy transfers to uptown or downtown trains) and a local to downtown Brooklyn. The new Crosstown Line Connection would also finally repair the connection between northern Brooklyn and downtown Brooklyn which was severed when the Myrtle Ave elevated was taken down in the 1960s.

Union Turnpike Subway

Union Turnpike Subway through Forest Hills.
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Union Turnpike Subway through Forest Hills.

The Myrtle Ave Subway would continue east into Queens through Glendale along the LIRR Montauk Branch tracks to Forest Hills. After Woodhaven Blvd the subway would run under Union Turnpike. The Union Turnpike Subway would continue east under Union Turnpike to the Nassau County border. This 4 track subway line with three trains would be the first to open up a large section of central Queens to new subway service into downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn. The subway would intersect the Queens Blvd Line so commuters would be able to switch to express trains to Long Island City and midtown Manhattan. At Queens Blvd/Union Turnpike there would be a connection between the tracks of the two subway lines which would enable trains from the Union Turnpike Subway to access the existing train yards just north of Union Turnpike, the Jamaica Yards.

An alternative alignment would run the subway under Metropolitan Ave through Middle Village. This alignment would run closer to residential areas but would also be much more expensive than a subway running at grade along the LIRR tracks. The Metropolitan Ave alignment would, however, allow for an alternative western alignment of the new subway which would swing up and around Forest Hills to merge with the Queens Blvd Subway (as opposed to running south of Forest Hills.) This alternative alignment would be a good option if funding comes up short which would prevent the subway from just ending in the middle of nowhere (Please note that I am not saying that Forest Hills is the middle of nowhere.)

Union Turnpike Subway through Utopia and Glen Oaks.
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Union Turnpike Subway through Utopia and Glen Oaks.

(Side Note: In these and future posts I include in each proposal from all previous expansion plans so that they build on one another. As such in each of these maps here you can see my plans for Second Ave Subway extensions into Queens. For explanations of these extensions see the Second Ave Subway post.)

After Forest Hills the Union Turnpike Subway would run one of two ways: the first would be straight down Union Turnpike to the Nassau County border, and the second would be a more northernly route under Jewel Ave. This second alignment would require a large “S” curve in the routing of the subway after Forest Hills which would run the subway at grade along the Van Wyck Expressway up to Jewel Ave where it would turn east again. With either alignment the 4 track subway would run to 188th St where the local trains would terminate and the express trains would take over. The subway past 188th St could either run in a 2 track or a 3 track tunnel to allow peak period express trips (much like the IND Grand Concourse B/D Subway does today). An alternative to running the subway out to Glen Oaks would have the line jog south at the Clearview Expressway to connect with an extended Hillside Ave subway to Queens Village and Bellerose.

Utica Ave Subway

Utica Ave Subway through Flatlands and Sheepshead Bay.
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Utica Ave Subway through Flatlands and Sheepshead Bay.

The Utica Ave Subway comes from the original IND Second System expansion plans from the 1920s and 30s. This area of Brooklyn was still largely undeveloped at that time and the subway would most likely have been built as an elevated structure to save money. After the neighborhoods of Flatlands, Sheepshead Bay, and Gerritsen developed after World War II it became too unpopular to build an elevated structure but too costly to justify a subway even though the demand was higher than ever. A subway under Utica Ave still remains in transit planners minds as ideas have been proposed for long term expansion during the last 50 years that involve a scaled back subway branching off the IRT Eastern Parkway 3/4 Line or the IRT Nostrand Ave 2/5 Line.

My updated proposal keeps true to the original with a slight difference. In the original proposal the Utica Ave Subway would branch off the Bushwick Trunk Line after Myrtle Ave and travel down Stuyvesant Ave to Fulton St. At the Utica Ave station on the Fulton St Subway there is a 4 track express shell station which was constructed in anticipation of the Utica Ave Subway. My proposal runs the subway a block east under Malcom X Blvd/Reid Ave to avoid demolition of a school building. From there the subway would run straight south down Utica Ave to Flatlands Ave. Here the subway could take a number of different routes. The first would be to keep running south to Flatbush Ave. Another would be to turn southwest under Flatlands Ave and run to Nostrand Ave where it would continue south along Nostrand Ave to Voorhies Ave. Both of these options were proposed during the 1920s and 30s plans.

Utica Ave Subway through Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights.
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Utica Ave Subway through Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights.

On major difference between the original plans and my plans are that I call for a connection between the 14th St-Canarsie Line and the Utica Ave Subway at Myrtle Ave (see track map above). Historical proposals all called for a 4 track subway with express and local service. However these proposals existed before the Chrystie St Connection which allowed 6th Ave trains to run into south Brooklyn. The original proposal for the Utica Ave Subway had local and express 6th Ave bound trains which is today not possible since adding a fifth service to the 6th Ave Subway would congest the line too much. This is why I propose a connection between the Canarsie Line which would run 6th Ave trains express and 14th St trains local. All trains on the Utica Ave Subway would run to midtown since there would be no less than four different points along the line where commuters would be able to transfer to express trains to downtown Manhattan (making Utica Ave trains running to downtown Manhattan quite redundant).

Then there is the extension of the IRT subway. Alternatives proposed in the past have run an IND and IRT subway parallel to each other or a combined subway. In the map to the right I explore both options. My only issue with extending the IRT subway south is that the Nostrand Ave Subway is currently only a 2 track local subway and extending the line so far south without an express train would make travel times much longer and be much costlier than just building a 4 track Utica Ave Subway with express and local service. Adding an express track to the Nostrand Ave Subway would be far too disruptive to service which at that point would make a new 4 track subway under Utica Ave justifiable.

Conclusion

To sum up the Bushwick Trunk Line services: 6th Ave express (restored “V” service) and 14th St-Canarsie local (a new “O” service) trains would run along Utica Ave, 8th Ave express and local trains (“A” service and a new “H” service), added by a Crosstown local train (a new “K” service), would run out along Myrtle Ave/Union Turnpike Subways, and Jamaica Line express and local trains (existing “J” and “Z” service) would continue to run out to Broadway Junction but in a new subway. All elevated structures between the Williamsburg Bridge and Broadway Junction would be demolished.

There are three major reasons why a new trunk line subway is needed for northern Brooklyn. Firstly, the existing infrastructure is old and cannot handle the foreseeable population increases. Northern Brooklyn was one of the worst hit areas of urban decay during the latter half of the 20th Century but has begun to stabilize with an influx of new residents attracted by low land prices. Secondly, any addition service to areas of Brooklyn and Queens which are today out of reach by subways need fast express capacity to ferry commuters from so far out into the central city. Current subways are either at capacity or are in no shape to be extended further out. This speaks to the failure of the city to properly plan for post World War II residential development. Had the original IND Second System proposals for a trunk line subway through northern Brooklyn been even partially completed then major parts of the city would be better accessible today.

Thirdly, there no more room for the city to spread outwards. Even with this current recession, population trends locally and globally point to increased urbanization. Brooklyn and Queens were consolidated into Greater New York City in 1898 precisely because they had space. Today, while they lack horizontal space, the average height of a building in these boroughs is still only a few stories. Highways and roads can handle only so much. New mass transit routes are needed if the city is to grow and growth in suburban areas of Brooklyn and Queens is the next logical step. As hard as it is to imagine now the skyscrapers of midtown Manhattan were once small hamlets and farms. The suburban streets of central Queens may one day be home to large apartment houses. It is very probable that there will be resistance to such growth but there will come a time when it is inevitable and the infrastructure must be put in place lest the city choke on traffic.

These subway plans are only one part of this growth. I believe that the growth can be properly planned in conjunction with expanded infrastructure. If not what will happen city wide is what has happened to Williamsburg; the transportation infrastructure has not been able to keep up with the residential growth. There is much push back now towards more development due to the lack of capacity. If the South 4th St Subway had been built 60 years ago then this would not be an issue. The city is building an extension of the IRT 7 Line to the Far West Side of Manhattan in anticipation of development, what would happen if the city built subways to where there already is major development choking current infrastructure?

Subway Diagram

Subway diagram showing Bushwick Trunk Line and Second Ave Subway systems.

Subway diagram showing Bushwick Trunk Line and Second Ave Subway systems.


The futureNYCSubway

  1. Introduction
  2. IND Second System
  3. Post War Expansion
  4. The Second Ave Subway: History
  5. The Second Ave Subway: To The Bronx and the Nassau Line
  6. Brooklyn: Bushwick Trunk Line
  7. Manhattan: West Side and Hudson Crossings
  8. Queens: Flushing Trunk Line
  9. Staten Island: The Last Frontier
  10. TriboroRX and Atlantic Ave Super-Express
  11. Conclusion: the vanshnookenraggen plan