Should there even be a One Seat Ride to the Airport?

Rendering of proposed LaGuardia AirTrain

Continuing on his infrastructure grand tour Governor Andrew Cuomo announced last month that he was proposing a $10 billion overhaul of JFK Airport. Included in the proposal are plans for expanding the Van Wyck Expressway (how “green” of him) and finding ways to expand and improve the AirTrain. From the report’s website:

Increase the capacity from two to four cars per train and increase its frequency – These changes would allow the AirTrain to roughly double its capacity and handle more than 40 million passengers annually.
Improve the east of connection from the Subway or LIRR by top-to-bottom rebuild of interconnections at Jamaica and Sutphin Blvd – Completely overhaul the subway and Long Island Railroad connection to the JFK AirTrain. These improvements would include essential modern amenities such as high-performance elevators and escalators, charging stations and expanded walkways. A modernized mezzanine will create simpler navigation and smoother transfers to the AirTrain including improved wayfinding and LED flight status screens. Images of the transformed Jamaica Station and AirTrain connection can be found here.

That sounds affordable and effective. But the next line is what really grabbed transit activists:

Explore the feasibility of one seat ride to JFK – JFK is one of the only major airports in the world that does not offer travelers a one seat ride from its city center. Therefore, the panel recommends that the MTA and its partners jointly explore the feasibility of a one-seat ride to JFK.

A one seat ride from an airport to a city center is considered best practices for developed countries. Transit access in general is considered a basic necessity for airports but this is something that American cities leave as an afterthought. LAX is famously impossible to get to via the Metro even though the Green Line terminates relatively close. NYC had subway plans in the works for connections to Floyd Bennett Field (before LaGuardia built his own airport) and when the IND Queens Blvd subway was built provisions were added for a line down Van Wyck Blvd which could have easily been extended to then Idlewild Airport (today JFK Airport) until Robert Moses chose to build an expressway instead. In the 1990s plans were floated to extend the N train to LaGuardia but were shot down by local politicians. The MTA once ran the Train-to-the-Plane but this proved unpopular given the need to transfer to a bus at Howard Beach. The Port Authority built the AirTrain, which opened in 2003, and has proved much more successful even though it still requires a transfer from the subway or LIRR.

image-2822

MTA Plan for Mass Transit 1969, 1971 showing alternative proposals for JFK connections.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s the newly formed MTA proposed sending the LIRR to JFK via the abandoned Rockaway Branch and even a branch of the LIRR through Baisley Pond Park in South Jamaica. Even as the Port Authority was designing the AirTrain there were proposals to extend it to lower Manhattan via the LIRR Atlantic Branch and then over the Manhattan Bridge or via a new tunnel. These proposals had high price tags and would have had a negative impact on existing subway service.

RPA One Seat Ride Options to JFK

Right after the Governor made this announcement the Regional Plan Association put out a colorful breakdown of various one seat ride options which Alon Levy did a very good job of ripping apart. I’m not here to repeat everything he said but rather throw a couple ideas out.

JFK

image-2823

NYC Program for Mass Transit Map 1969 showing LIRR to JFK Airport

As New York has bounced back from 9/11 the growth of subway and LIRR ridership has meant that more and more commuters are coming up against more and more tourists (with their luggage) in ever packed train cars. There is no doubt that better transit is needed but the idea that we need to invest billions of dollars to give tourists a smoother trip into the city seems completely misplaced. I also question the very idea that we need to have a one seat ride to JFK Airport considering the size of NYC. Governor Cuomo has received many donations from the hotel industry in the city which is why he has supported legislation clamping down on AirBNB. No doubt it is the hotel lobby which is also pushing for a one seat ride to ferry tourists and business travelers directly from the airport into their hotel rooms as seamlessly as possible. In essence a one seat ride to the airport is a give away to the hotel industry while citizens of the city see only packed trains with increasing fares. And a one seat ride in this case means a one seat ride to midtown Manhattan which completely overlooks the needs of travelers coming or going ANYWHERE ELSE IN THE CITY OR REGION. AirBNB isn’t going anywhere which means travelers have more options for lodging and therefore will always need to have a multiple seat ride to/from the airport.

I like the idea of the AirTrain as it serves its purpose very well. Getting to the AirTrain via the A, E, or LIRR can difficult for locals as well as travelers and segregating travelers (and their luggage) from everyday commuters would free up space on trains which can be packed at all hours of the day. But getting the AirTrain into Manhattan would prove to be far more costly than it’s worth. The AirTrain was supposedly designed to allow it to run on the LIRR tracks with the same rail gauge and third rail power. This means that sending the AirTrain to Manhattan via the LIRR would be the most obvious answer except that LIRR runs 10 car trains at high speeds while AirTrains run at 60mph max and usually have only 2 cars per train. Connecting the AirTrain to the LIRR and sending it to Penn Station would be a logistical nightmare for LIRR trains. The alternative option of having full length LIRR cars serve JFK Airport wouldn’t be worth the cost as most trains would be empty and the track curves along the existing AirTrain are far too tight. Platform slots at Penn Station are already full and it won’t be until at least 2022 when the massive East Side Access project opens a new LIRR at Grand Central would there even be space for airport trains.

image-2824

Extension of the JFK AirTrain to Atlantic Terminal via Atlantic Ave Line.

But East Side Access will do something else; Since LIRR will now have more flexibility to terminate trains in midtown the need for the downtown Brooklyn Atlantic Terminal will be almost eliminated, save for the passengers who actually use it. While no exact plans have been put in place yet it has been speculated that the LIRR will, once East Side Access is open, reduce the Atlantic Branch to a shuttle service between Atlantic Terminal and Jamaica. If this does come to pass then this would be a perfect fit for the AirTrain which is already a glorified shuttle. While Atlantic Terminal does not reach Manhattan it is served by 11 subway lines. AirTrain riders now are forced to catch the A or the E, already packed express trains, but if it terminated at Atlantic Terminal travelers would have a buffet of subway options from which to chose. Additionally the service would still act as a shuttle to Jamaica for existing commuters. The LIRR ticketing space would be converted into a check-in facility. The existing Nostrand Ave and East New York stations would be closed to speed up the trip. All that would be needed is a new ramp connecting the existing AirTrain to the LIRR Atlantic Branch at Jamaica. Atlantic Terminal would give the city the most bang for its buck: offer a fast ride directly to the airport with connections to the most number of subway lines, offer Jamaica bound commuters an equal service replacement, and frees up space on packed A and E trains in Queens.

image-2825

Extension of the JFK AirTrain to Atlantic Terminal via Atlantic Ave Line. Connection via Jamiaca.

Politicians and the RPA would argue that the AirTrain would then need to be extended into Manhattan but I still disagree. Lower Manhattan has changed considerably in the last 15 years and is much more residential. AirBNB as well as the rise of low cost hotels around the city means that travelers have more options than ever before. Midtown transit centers like Penn Station, Times Sq, and Grand Central are already overflowing with commuters and tourists alike and Atlantic Terminal offers a place to transfer trains which is far less crowded. Express subway trains serve Atlantic Terminal which can bring travelers to midtown, east and west side, quickly. If the AirTrain went to Penn Station it would still require a complicated crosstown journey (the less confused, lost travelers at Penn Station the better). According to Google Maps it takes 48 min to get form Terminal 4 at JFK to Atlantic Terminal via the AirTrain and LIRR, by subway it takes 20 min longer. This, however, requires transferring at Atlantic Terminal and then Jamaica Station, and by subway means transferring multiple times in stations which can be hard to navigate with luggage, which all adds additional time and confusion. Extending the AirTrain to Atlantic Terminal may not save much time in terms of train speed but it would remove the burdensome transfer at Jamaica. A one seat ride would be nice, no doubt, but the cost can’t be justified so a two seat ride is still far better than a three seat ride.

LaGuardia

image-2826

Governor Cuomo’s plan for the new AirTrain

The Request For Proposal for the design of the proposed LaGuardia AirTrain was just announced which means the state and Port Authority is looking for an engineering firm to design the new structure. It’s too early to tell yet what the new AirTrain will look like but many transit activists have come out against the AirTrain. Two years ago I wrote a post which tentatively supported the AirTrain but the most obvious choice in the matter would be to extend the N/W trains to LaGuardia via 19 Av in northern Astoria. Politics being what they are the local NIMBYs won’t even get to shoot the proposal down since Gov Cuomo is picking the Port Authority to built their own line via the Grand Central Parkway. The reasoning, I assume, is that since the PA owns LaGuardia they should also provide the service to the airport and collect any revenue that goes along with it.

image-2827

IND Second System plans to extend the BMT Astoria Line into central Queens.

New York is littered with bad planning decisions that were built because a particular politician got their way. I have no doubt that the LaGuardia AirTrain will be built as an elevated shuttle between the airport and Willets Point for a transfer to the 7 and LIRR. The service will be popular enough, though I’m sure the M60 and Q70 buses will still transport just as many travelers. But I see a future for the little shuttle which may seem odd at first until you look back at the subways which were planned and never built. In 1929 the city, as part of the infamous IND Second System, proposed extending the BMT Astoria Line (today’s N/W trains) down Ditmars Blvd and Asotira Av to 112th St where it would jog south until it reached what is today the Long Island Expressway, continuing east to what today is Francis Lewis Blvd. What I am proposing is that after the AirTrain is built the MTA could buy the line and incorporate it into a larger extension of the N/W trains which would follow a similar route.

image-2828

Map showing how the LaGuardia AirTrain could be integrated with the Astoria Line extension.

When the original BMT Astoria Line extension was proposed in 1929 most of this area of Queens was still developing and was farmland; Flushing Park wouldn’t exist for another decade. The modern extension would extend the N/W from Ditmars Blvd up to 19 Av where it would veer east to 45th St where it would dive underground to a new station under LaGuardia Airport. Trains would continue east to a new portal that would connect to the AirTrain. Assuming the AirTrain is built to a location between the 7 and LIRR stations at Willets Point the new line could easily be extended east along the ROW of the long defunct Central RR of LI which was converted into the Kissena Park corridor by Robert Moses. The AirTrain terminal at Willets Point would then be expanded to be a terminal for W trains while N trains would continue east; N trains would run peak express using the third track between Queensboro Plaza and Astoria Blvd.

image-2829

Extending the Astoria Line via LaGuardia AirTrain further east through Flushing.

There are many different route and construction options available, whether built along an elevated viaduct through the park or as a cut and cover tunnel, but ideally the line would make it’s way southeast until the Long Island Expressway where it would continue until Springfield Blvd. As there is precious little land left for new train yards the park space would be perfect for a new underground yard somewhere along the route. Incorporating the LaGuardia AirTrain into a larger subway expansion would be a boon for locals and travelers alike and would actually reduce crowding on the 7 train rather than adding more travelers with their luggage onto already packed subway cars. This, however, would take the state, city and MTA all working together for a common goal, something that sadly is impossible under our current circumstances.

image-2830

Map showing proposed M train subway extension to LaGuardia Airport.

A second subway option would be to use the abandoned (i.e. never used) terminal at Roosevelt Ave to extend the M train through Jackson Heights and East Elmhurst to the airport. The Roosevelt Terminal was built for a future line to the Rockaways and was never used. The terminal itself is on the eastern end of the mezzanine at Roosevelt Ave and is an island station with tiles but no tracks. The trackway leading east connects to the Queens Blvd Line bellow and turns south at 78th St. Instead the new branch would use the trackway connections to the existing subway and turn east down 41 Av, then northeast down Baxter Ave and finally north under 83 St finally turning towards LaGuardia Central Terminal at 23 St. While this extension would be the most expensive of the lot it would also serve as a local subway line for the undeserved areas of East Elmhurst and Jackson Heights north of Roosevelt Ave. The line would be more politically acceptable as it would be a subway the whole route and do more for local residents than the other options.

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.
image-1414

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.
image-1415

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.
image-1416

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.
image-1417

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.
image-1418

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.
image-1419

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.
image-1420

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: Queens-Flushing Trunk Line

Introduction

Jackson Heights, Queens under development in 1924.
image-1266

Jackson Heights, Queens under development in 1924. The Corona Line (7 train) Subway is seen running east at the bottom.

The borough of Queens came late to rapid transit development. Even after Queens was created out of Nassau County when New York City consolidated into five boroughs it remained farmland well past World War II. Some areas did grow thanks to the introduction of railroads, the Rockaways had summer resort communities.  Some early railroads cut through Queens to serve already established towns like Flushing and Jamaica and some were built as real estate ventures that went bust, but by the turn of the 20th Century all of these had been consolidated into the Long Island Railroad or been abandoned. Queens began to develop after transportation improved with the opening of the Queensborough/59th St Bridge and the construction of the Steinway or Belmont Tunnel which allowed elevated and subway trains to be built to Astoria and Corona. A well repeated fact is that the first radio advertisement ever was for new garden apartments in Jackson Heights which were built after the Corona Subway (todays Flushing 7 Line) opened up the countryside.

Planners knew that Queens would eventually grow with development and as neighborhoods like Jackson Heights and Forest Hills began to pop up the need for improved rapid transit also grew. When the city built the IND Queens Line along Queens Boulevard it was designed to be the major trunk subway which future new lines would connect with to reach Manhattan. New connections were planned to Jamaica and Far Rockaway. A new subway was also being considered along Horace Harding Boulevard which would run through central and eastern Queens. Because much of the area was still farmland the subways could be built cheaper than waiting until the area was developed.

After World War II development shifted along with new transportation technologies, the car and the truck. With developers no longer needing to wait for subways to build their homes the farmlands of Queens filled up quickly. Robert Moses famously built his highways to exclude mass transit. The subways planned along Horace Harding Boulevard and Van Wyck Boulevard instead became the Long Island Expressway and the Van Wyck Expressway. Instead of a dense urban development pattern seen in the Bronx or Brooklyn, Queens embodied the new suburban sprawl development that was quickly changing the fabric of the entire metropolis.

Many of the proposals I’ve talked about previously in this series have looked at subway expansion along existing lines or new subways to replace older, out dated service. Because Queens developed around the car and not the train the new subways through Queens will have to be designed differently than in older areas of the city. I’ve already talked about the Myrtle Ave/Union Turnpike Subway which would service central Queens, and I’ve also talked about expanding the Second Ave Subway into southern Queens and Jamaica. Now I want to look at the last section of Queens, northern Queens and Flushing where a third and final new trunk line subway will knit the farthest reaches of the borough into the subway network.

Queens Plaza

Flushing Trunk Line through Queens Plaza and Sunnyside Yards.
image-1267

Flushing Trunk Line through Queens Plaza and Sunnyside Yards.

The Flushing Trunk Line begins in Long Island City. In the last post I talked about a new Manhattan crosstown subway which would run into Long Island City and connect with the existing IND Crosstown G Line. Because the existing Queens Blvd Subway is already at capacity a new 4 track subway, the Flushing Trunk Line, would be built parallel to Queens Plaza with 2 tracks serving Manhattan trains and 2 tracks serving a rerouted IND Crosstown G Line. The actual subway would be constructed inside the Sunnyside railroad yards which is owned by the MTA. A second station would be built at Queens Plaza serving the Flushing Trunk Line with a free transfer to the Queens Blvd Line.

Just past Queens Plaza a new connection will be built to allow trains using the 63rd St tunnel to access the new subway. On the map to the right there is a station inside the Sunnyside Yards. Over the years there have been many plans floated for air rights development over the yards (much like the Hudson Yards and Atlantic_Yards) but ultimately nothing has ever been built. This station may be built as a shell at first in anticipation for future development. At the end of the yards the subway will split with 4 tracks running under Northern Boulevard and 2 tracks running under 37th Ave. The tracks under 37th Ave will be the first section of a super-express subway out to the Rockaways and will go as far as Broadway-Roosevelt Ave. After Roosevelt Ave the super-express line will head south along 78th St until it reaches the Long Island Railroad tracks at which point it will surface and run to the Rockaways along the abandoned LIRR Rockaways Line (see my previous post about a Second Ave Subway super-express subway).

Northern Boulevard and Alternatives

Flushing Trunk Line along Northern Boulevard and alternatives.
image-1268

Flushing Trunk Line along Northern Boulevard and alternatives.

Northern Boulevard is a major highway through northern Queens (it runs out along the north shore of Long Island as NY25 all the way to the tip of the north fork at Orient Point). Because it cuts through such a substantial section of city and is wider than other avenues in Queens it makes the perfect route for a new subway. The Flushing Trunk Line would make a straight shot down Northern Blvd with one express station at Junction Blvd (this station would be specially designed for travelers transferring to shuttles to La Guardia Airport). The subway would snake south at 114th St where it would meet up with the existing station at Willets Point Blvd serving Citi Field, Flushing Meadows Park, and the National Tennis Center. Here will be a major transfer station as it also serves the LIRRs Port Washington Line. After this point the subway splits into two branches.

Though Northern Boulevard would be the preferable alignment there are two other options which would serve other parts of central Queens which at present the subways only skirt.  Central Corona used to have two commuter rail stations on the LIRR Port Washington Branch but these were taken out of service decades ago (Corona Station in 1963 and Elmhurst Station in 1985).

A Port Washington Alignment would run a branch of the Flushing Trunk Line along the Port Washington Branch right-of-way, splitting from the trunk line in the Sunnyside Yards so that it would run through Woodside before turning east into Corona.  Another branch would run along Northern Boulevard and at Willets Point Blvd both branches would meet up before splitting again in Flushing.  The right-of-way along the Port Washington Branch would not be wide enough for subway and commuter rail tracks.  Either eminent domain would be needed to take buildings along the tracks or the Port Washington LIRR Branch would have to be totally converted to rapid transit (neither are preferable options).

The southern most alignment would run along 57th Ave.  This alignment would go further in reaching under served areas of Queens but would have to contend with tight, winding, narrow streets.  Transit planners knew that this area would require mass transit at some point and began studying ideas for extending subway lines along Horace Harding Blvd as early as 1929.  Horace Harding Blvd was expanded by Robert Moses in the 1950s and 1960s to create the Long Island Expressway.  He ignored the cries of planners when he neglected to provide room along the median of the expressway for a future subway line.  The 57th Ave alignment would serve this same area but would be better integrated into the fabric of the city.  Subways built along highways are less expensive but require pedestrians to traverse a rather inhospitable landscape to reach them.  A subway built under 57th Ave would be better for pedestrians and businesses along the avenue and would not require taking a travel lane out of the Long Island Expressway (either permanently or during construction).

Flushing and College Point

Flushing Trunk Line into Flushing with branch alternatives to College Point.
image-1269

Flushing Trunk Line into Flushing with branch alternatives to College Point.

The Flushing Trunk Line splits after Willets Point Blvd and becomes two, 2 track subways, one north to College Point and one south to Auburndale and Oakland Gardens along the Kissena Park corridor. The Flushing Trunk Line proposal also calls for the extension of the 7 Line east to Bayside. This extension has been proposed as far back as 1929 and also included a branch to College Point (I’ve incorporated this branch into the new trunk line).

College Point and Whitestone once had a rail connection to Long Island City with a branch off the LIRR Port Washington Branch just past Willets Point (a great write up about the Whitestone Branch over at ForgottenNY).  The old line ran up to College Point near 130th St, turning east along 11th Ave to the docks in Whitestone.  The line was abandoned in 1932.  The city at one point tried to buy the right-of-way for rapid transit conversion but no deal was ever finalized and the right-of-way was eventually sold and built over.

The modern College Point subway would continue down Northern Boulevard to 154th St where it would make a 90 degree turn north up to 14th Ave in Whitestone where it would make another 90 degree turn back west, creating a giant “hook” shape, out to 127th St in College Point.  This is pretty close to the original proposal by the city in the 1930s.  This alignment would serve more residential areas than the original, western alignment which would run along or through the old Flushing Airport (closed in 1982), now mostly soggy abandoned marshland.  A third alternative would be to run the subway along the Whitestone Expressway at grade.  While this alignment would not serve as many neighborhoods as the 154th St Alignment, it would be less costly and would have the space for large parking facilities along the highway.  It would also allow for possible extension of the subway across the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge, something I talk about in the next section.

Flushing Trunk Line branches through Bayside and eastern Flushing.
image-1270

Flushing Trunk Line branches through Bayside and eastern Flushing.

The 7 Train extension west would be a 2 track subway under Roosevelt Ave to the point where it reaches Northern Boulevard.  Here the subway has three alternatives, the first would be to continue under Northern Boulevard to Crocheron Ave and continue west under 35th Ave to Bell Blvd in Bayside.  The second would be to have the subway, after Northern Boulevard, run at grade along the Port Washington LIRR Branch out to Bell Blvd (where the existing Bayside LIRR station is).  The final alignment would have the subway run entirely under Northern Boulevard out to Bell Blvd.

The second branch of the Flushing Trunk Line would make a quick turn southeast after Willets Point Blvd.  Like College Point, this area too once had a railroad running through it that was eventually abandoned, the Central Railroad of Long Island, the right-of-way for which was redeveloped as the Kissena Park corridor.  The southern branch of the Flushing Trunk Line would follow closely this alignment.  The subway would run under the park making construction much cheaper and less disruptive.  An important feature of this proposal are large underground parking garages.  Eastern Queens is much more suburban than other parts of the city and any subway expansion into Queens needs to take this into account.  This part of the city did not develop around walking, elevated trains, or streetcars like much of Manhattan, Brooklyn, or the Bronx, and because of this it wouldn’t work to build a subway without adequate parking.  The park space is perfect because when construction is complete the park will be restored and no buildings would need to be taken.  The eastern end of the branch would run along the Long Island Expressway to Bell Blvd.

An alternative to the Kissena Park corridor would be to run the subway under Parsons Blvd to 46th Ave to Hollis Court Blvd.  This alignment would run through residential and smaller commercial areas and would not serve drivers with large parking garages like the park plan would.  Both alternatives could also be extended south along the Clearview Expressway to meet up with the Union Turnpike Subway which I proposed in a previous post.

Long Island Sound Bridges

Subways between the Bronx and Queens via the Long Island Sound Bridges.
image-1271

Subways between the Bronx and Queens via the Long Island Sound Bridges.

Like his highway, Robert Moses left no room on his bridges for mass transit.  When we was planning his bridges between Queens and the Bronx planners begged him to provide space for mass transit but he refused.  Because of his hard-headed short sightedness the only way to get between eastern Queens and the Bronx is by driving, taking a bus which is caught in the bridge traffic, or by taking the subway into Manhattan and back out.

At first it might not make much sense to connect the Bronx and eastern Queens, an expensive option since neither places are large employment centers with central business districts with their own traffic patterns.  But a subway connection would offer an alternative and faster ride into the city for residents of the eastern Bronx.  Presently there is only one subway, the congested 6 train and 6 express, at rush hour, serving this large area.  Express buses pick up the slack but are forced to sit in rush hour traffic.  The most congested sections of the NYC Subway are along the Lexington Ave Line to the eastern Bronx.  Even with a Second Ave Subway, residents of the eastern Bronx won’t have much of an improved commute (the current plan for the Second Ave Subway does not even extend into the Bronx).

A subway over one of the East River/Long Island Sound bridges would be a great improvement for commuters.  Large parking garages could be built along the highway or under interchanges where today there is just vacant land or parking lots.  Trains would collect commuters who might otherwise be stuck on the Bruckner or Cross Bronx Expressways and whisk them into midtown Manhattan via Flushing and Long Island City.  This would take considerable pressure off the Triboro/RFK Bridge and FDR Drive as well as the Lexington Ave Subway.  An added benefit to such a connection would be that travelers headed to La Guardia Airport would have a better mass transit option than driving through Manhattan or in Queens.

The two options for a bridge alignment would be as a branch of the Flushing Trunk Line (which would be faster into the city with fewer express stations) or an extension of the 7 Train (slower with rush hour-only express trains).  Either bridge, the Bronx-Whitestone or the Throgs Neck, would need to be retrofitted or replaced for this to be possible.  It is this fact which makes subway expansion over the bridges less attractive.  However, at some point in the future these bridges will need to be replaced.  Knowing this, I am not proposing that the city actively plan on extending subway service over these bridges now but only prepare for the eventuality and correct the mistake Moses forced on the city when he built the bridges.  Much like the planned replacement Tappan-Zee Bridge across the Hudson, space would be provided on a new bridge for mass transit (bus, light rail, heavy rail, or commuter rail).

Astoria Line Extension

Extension of the BMT Astoria Line to La Guardia Airport.
image-1272

Extension of the BMT Astoria Line to La Guardia Airport.

An extension of the elevated BMT Astoria Line (N/Q trains) east is much less far fetched as it sounds.  In the original 1929 IND Second System plan the Astoria Line was to turn east at Ditmars Blvd (the current terminal) and wind its way through Elmhurst to Horace Harding Blvd (now Long Island Expressway).  The area at the time was still largely undeveloped (see the picture of Jackson Heights at the top of this post) so an elevated line extension would not have caused much of an uproar (on the contrary, land owners at the time were fighting for improved transportation).  Like the rest of the Second System this extension never came to fruition.

As recent as the late 1990s, however, the idea was floated again as a way to reach La Guardia Airport.  At the time the city was looking at ways to connect mass transit to JFK and La Guardia Airports.  Many ideas were floated, an automated light rail system was proposed to connect both airports with subways and commuter rail (but was only built out for JFK as the AirTrain), an extension of commuter rail from JFK into downtown Manhattan, and an extension of the BMT Astoria to La Guardia.

The Astoria Line extension proposal had the elevated subway extended north along 31st St to 19th Ave (which is not an actual intersection because this land is owned by ConEdison and is not a street), turning right along 19th Ave where it would travel to a new terminal located near the La Guardia Marine Air Terminal.  This alignment would have avoided most of the residential areas and run through a mostly industrial neighborhood to reach the airport.    The proposal, which was very seriously considered, was shot down by residents who didn’t want the elevated trains running though any more of their neighborhood.

The map at the right shows a slightly altered proposal for extension, one that is closer to the original 1929 plan.  Here the Astoria Line would turn at Ditmars Blvd and run down to the Grand Central Parkway.  It follows the parkway, elevated, up to the La Guardia Terminals with stations at Steinway, Hazen, and 82nd streets (the 1990s MTA proposal had no additional stations besides the La Guardia terminal).  The subway could be extended further east to terminate at the Willets Point-CitiField station so that travelers coming from Long Island could have a mass transit option when going to La Guardia Airport.

Conclusion

Northern Queens is the best served section of Queens in terms of rapid transit today (which isn’t really saying much).  But the few subways which run through it are filled to capacity with no space left for extensions further east.  Most of the borough is miles from any subway and if there are going to be any more subway extensions to serve Queens then a new trunk line will be necessary.  Queens is growing in population and if New York City is to be able to take in an addition 1 million residents in the next 20 years then Queens will have to grow denser than it is today.  The only way this will be sustainable is if mass transit is extended out to reach all sections of the borough.

The Flushing Trunk Line is my proposal to address these issues in northern Queens.  It would take pressure off of the 7 Line and the Queens Blvd Line at the same time as serving large sections of the city.  With the growth of Long Island City as a residential and commercial neighborhood the congestion along the existing subways will just get worse.  New capacity is the only sustainable answer to address transportation issues in Queens.  This will require new zoning as well and the Queens of the future will be much less suburban than it is today, but then this was always going to be the case.  Like when the elevated trains came to the farmlands of old Queens, new transportation will go hand and hand with future transformation.  New subways will allow for a denser, more sustainable Queens and could even be a model for how other suburbs around the nation adapt to rising old prices and congestion.

Subway Diagram

Subway diagram showing Flushing Trunk Line

Subway diagram showing Flushing Trunk Line



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: Post War Expansion

Introduction

NYC Subway Expansion plans from 1951
image-820

NYC Subway Expansion plans from 1951

In my last post I outlined the ambitious plan to massively expand the New York City subway system. For various reasons (the Great Depression, World War II, rise of suburbia, etc) the plans were, for the most part, never realized. After World War II many plans were scrapped as limited resources were diverted to building new highways. Plans for the Second Ave subway stayed on the table but were cut back again and again as the years went on (this will be covered further in my next two posts). Some minor expansion took place but the system also lost many miles of track as older elevated lines were removed.

In 1968 the city developed a new, much less ambitious, plan to expand subway service and rebuild aging infrastructure. In an unfortunate case of history repeating itself the city immediately faced a financial crisis causing the plans to be scrapped and subway service to be cut. For the next 20 years the city planned, for the first time ever, to decrease in size and services. It wasn’t until the 1990s, when the population stabilized and the economy of the city began to grow, when serious plans for expansion were brought back.

But just as things were looking up for the city the terrible events of September 11th caused many to fear that these gains were to be temporary and that the city would continue its former population exodus. Due to the resolve of the people of New York and strong political leadership the exact opposite has happened; Today the city has a larger population than at any point in its history and for the first time in decades it is needing to plan for expansion of services and infrastructure. The Second Ave subway, which had broken ground twice in its 80 year history, finally has funding and is well under construction. The same for an extension of the 7 Line to the Far West Side of Manhattan, and the long awaited East Side Access project to bring Long Island Railroad cars into Grand Central Terminal.

Chrystie Street Connection

Chrystie St Connection: Before and After
image-821

Chrystie St Connection: Before and After. Click for animation.

The Chrystie Street connection was a small but very significant expansion project that more than any other after World War II changed how the New York City subway was operated and, due to foresight, left the door open for connections to Brooklyn from a still-to-be-built Second Ave subway.

To understand the implications of such a project you need to see what the system looked like before 1967. When the BMT first built it’s subway into downtown Manhattan it did so in 3 parts. The section known as the Broadway line which, as the name suggests, runs under Broadway and then under Church St, runs through the Financial District where it dives under the East River to downtown Brooklyn (today’s R,W line). The second part was via the Williamsburg Bridge, a connection already established when the bridge was completed, with a new subway under Delancey and Centre Streets to a major terminal at Chambers St (today’s J,Z line). With the construction of the Manhattan Bridge, with a capacity of 4 subway lines, the BMT was able to connect the previous two subways with a third over the bridge. One line would use the bridge and head north via Broadway (today’s N,Q line) while the other would use the bridge to head south via Centre St. A new subway under Nassau St would then allow trains to loop from the Manhattan Bridge, through downtown, and back into Brooklyn via the tunnel (this was known at the time as the Nassau Loop).

1951 plans for the Second Ave subway and connection to Brooklyn
image-822

1951 plans for the Second Ave subway and connection to Brooklyn

Due to the growth of midtown Manhattan in the middle of the 20th Century, the Nassau Loop soon began to lose ridership and was eventually cut back to part-time service. Planners saw the need to increase service to midtown and saw the tracks on the Manhattan Bridge as underutilized. Elsewhere in the system was a section of subway that was able to increase in capacity, the IND 6th Ave line, recently outfitted with an express track from West 4th St to 34th St. As outlined in the Second System plan, this express track was to be used for trains to Williamsburg but that subway was never constructed. Seeing an inexpensive way to improve service from Brooklyn to midtown Manhattan, the new Transit Authority developed plans to connect the 6th Ave subway to both the Manhattan Bridge and the Williamsburg Bridge with a new subway under Chrystie St in the Lower East Side. A very forward-thinking benefit to this short subway is that it allows further connection to the Second Ave subway so that trains can connect directly to Brooklyn via the Manhattan Bridge. A new station at Grand St is said to have been built to allow 2 additional tracks to be built on the outsides of the platforms when the Second Ave subway is constructed. This new connection allowed for more trains to travel from southern Brooklyn to midtown and also allowed for direct service from northern Brooklyn to midtown. The latter service, known at the time as the “K” train, was only used for a few years due to rapid depopulation in neighborhoods in northern Brooklyn (I talk about the possibility of bringing this service back in an earlier post).

63rd St Tunnel and Archer Ave Subway

Transit Authority plan for mass transit expansion.
image-823

Transit Authority plan for mass transit expansion.

The 63rd St tunnel (today’s F Line to Queens) and Archer Ave subway (E,J in Jamaica) were planned as part of a much larger project to build a super-express subway from Jamaica, Queens to midtown Manhattan. As Queens grew in population after World War II new subway service lagged far behind. To address this, a new subway line to run parallel to the Long Island Railroad Mainline through Queens was to be built with connections to Jamaica and Far Rockaway. Many different plans bounced back and forth for years (the 63rd St tunnel was planned as far north as 76th St and as far south as 59th St). In 1963 a patchwork of various plans were brought together to connect midtown Manhattan to Queens with a super-express subway and to connect the Long Island Railroad into Grand Central Terminal with a new 4 track tunnel under the East River.

The first part was a new tunnel into Manhattan that would connect with the BMT Brodaway Line, IND 6th Ave Line, and a commuter rail connection to Grand Central. Starting construction in 1969 this project is actually still under construction! The line terminated at Queensbridge until December 2001 when it was finally extended to connect with the Queens Blvd line. The tunnels and new stations (Lexington-63rd St, Roosevelt Island, Queensbridge-21st St) were opened in 1989, 20 years after construction started due to many delays and funding problems. Today the only train running along the line is the F Line to Queens. A connection to the BMT Broadway Line was constructed from 57th St-7th Ave to 63rd St-Lexington Ave and is only used for storing Q Line trains which terminate at 57th St.

Track map showing 63rd St tunnel
image-824

Track map showing 63rd St tunnel and unused tracks. Map by Peter Dougherty.

The station at 63rd St-Lexington Ave has a false wall, behind which is an unfinished platform and tracks that are only open to MTA employees. This non-revenue service track is planned to be connected to the first phase of the Second Ave subway, at which point the unused platform will be opened to the public. If you go to 63rd St station, on the platform, look through the holes in the black doors along the wall and you will see the unused platform, maybe even a train too.

At the same time a second set of tracks were constructed below the subway tracks with the intent to connect the Long Island Railroad with Grand Central Terminal. Though the tracks through the tunnel were built, no connections with either railroad were ever completed. It was only in 2006 when the first new tunnel contract was awarded. Construction has continued and can be viewed by passengers along the N/W line after Queensboro Plaza and a new terminal is being carved out below Grand Central Terminal. Service plans have not been finalized but this project goes a long way towards completing the next phase of the original project, a super-express line through Queens.

East Side Access map
image-825

East Side Access map. New connections to bring the LIRR into Grand Central.

While a super-express subway was planned to connect with other lines, not as a commuter rail, soon riders from Queens will have a quicker route into midtown Manhattan. The original super-express line was to connect to the 63rd St tunnel in Long Island City and a new subway in Jamaica along Archer Ave. With this subway in place the MTA could have converted some of the Long Island Railroad right-of-ways from commuter rail (or abandonment) into subway service. Routes planned included out to the Rockaways through central Queens and through Locust Manor, along the Main line to Queens Village, and possibly out to St. Albans along the Hempstead line.

None of these plans (save for the Archer Ave subway) ever got out of the planning stages and central and southern Queens still remain lacking in broader subway service. As built the Archer Ave subway connects subways headed to Brooklyn and downtown Manhattan to subways headed to Queens and midtown Manhattan into one terminal. A bi-level tunnel was built, which interestingly does not allow for direct train connections between the two subways, along with 3 new stations.

Planned Queens Super-Express Line
image-826

Planned Queens Super-Express Line. Click for animation

The connection to the Queens Blvd line used an unused stub of track that had been planned for a never built subway under Van Wyck Blvd. The connection the BMT Jamaica line allowed for the elevated tracks running though downtown Jamaica to be torn down. The new tunnels and stations allow for further extension into Jamaica but no serious plans have come forth to do so.

7 Line Extension

Map of 7 Line extension from Times Sq to Hudson Yards
image-827

Map of 7 Line extension from Times Sq to Hudson Yards (pink square)

The 7 Line extension from Times Sq-42nd St to 34th St and 11th Ave is living proof that subway expansion is possible when there is enough political will. The project as originally planned would extend the line under 41st St with a station at 10th Ave, turning south at 11th Ave with a station at 34th St, and layup tracks as far south as 25th St. The extension was proposed as part of the Hudson Yards redevelopment site, the Long Island Railroad train yards past Penn Station. Original proposals for redevelopment included a new Jets football stadium and a new stadium for the New York City 2012 Olympic Games (which went to London instead). After this, the MTA accepted bids for commercial redevelopment over the yards similar to the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn. Eventually a bid was accepted from the Related Companies, however due to the economic recession no work has been done.

Construction on the subway extension has been continuing during this time. Due to lack of funding the station at 10th Ave-41st St was dropped from the final plans, although support for finding funding for the station has begun to build. The extension is rather short but brings up an interesting anecdote about the subway system. In order to build the extension the MTA had to demolish an abandoned subway platform underneath Times Sq. When the IND was building their subway under 8th Ave they built the Times Sq station with three platforms, the two that are in use today, and a third below these. The peculiar thing about it was that there didn’t ever seem to be a reason for the extra platform. The IND built many parts of its system that it intended to build out later (see the previous post on the Second System) but this platform wasn’t one of them. Due to the track configuration the only trains that could enter this extra station were trains coming from Queens which could just as easily stop at the upper platforms (like they do today). The platform was used briefly to shuttle passengers out to the Aqueduct racetrack in Queens but hasn’t seen service since the 1980s. There is an urban legend about this platform, however, from NYCSubway.org:

An oft-repeated story offers this as a reason the lower level was built: The Independent subway was being built by the city to compete directly with routes owned by the IRT and BMT companies. The #7 crosstown IRT line terminates at Times Square; it is said that the bumper blocks of the #7 are directly against or very close to the eastern wall of the lower level of the 42nd St. IND station. The construction of the lower level therefore blocked any potential extension of the #7 line to the west side of Manhattan. If this is true, it would have been done only in the spirit of crushing the competition, for the IND had no plans to construct a competing crosstown line.

This is likely not the case, though the IND did build lines in direct competition to the other systems. Today the superfluous third platform has been demolished and the 7 train will one day soon be extended to the Far West Side of Manhattan, hopefully to help spur development since there isn’t anything there now.

More Information
If you are looking for more information on these projects here are some links that will help you.


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