Posts Tagged ‘mta’
futureNYCSubway v3 [PDF]
After posting the second version of my futureNYCSubway plan last week I received a lot of great feedback, especially on Second Ave Sagas. I never claimed to have all the best ideas so getting constructive criticism is fantastic. I did a quick look through my ideas verses what others proposed and I decided to do one last version which I think is actually more in keeping with the original methodology of finding a more affordable way to expand the system. I will break them down by highest priority to lowest.
2nd Ave Subway from 125th to Houston St.
While I am still adamant that the 2nd Ave Subway should be built with an express track I’ll base my plans on the fact that Phase 3 will most likely be built with only 2 tracks. This limits the line to two branches without compromising headways. Phase 4 could be scrapped entirely and instead the 2nd Ave Subway can be integrated into the BMT Jamaica Line with one branch heading downtown via the Centre St Subway (and on into Brooklyn via the Montague St Tunnel) and the other to Brooklyn Junction via the Williamsburg Bridge. The BMT Jamaica Line is lightly used (and in fact half the subway is abandoned). The rerouting of the M train has shown what improved access to midtown Manhattan can do for ridership and I feel that a similar routing for 2nd Ave trains will increase ridership out to Broadway Junction. This new routing combined with the wave of gentrification moving east through Bushwick would mean a rapid rise in ridership along the line. 2nd Ave trains will actually terminate at Atlantic Ave on the L line using an unused connection between the BMT Jamaica and Canarsie Lines that was once in service when there were more elevated lines in Brooklyn.
On the north side of the 2nd Ave Subway someone suggested that the Q train, instead of heading west to Broadway, should in fact be routed up to Dyre Ave to take over the 5 train. This seems brilliant to me since it would provide Bronx residents a quicker one seat ride to Times Sq where a routing of the T train would still require a transfer. The T train would then extend under 125th St to Broadway as a crosstown line.
Queens Superexpress and Rockaway Branch Service
The Queens Superexpress remains a top priority due to the congestion along the Queens Boulevard Subway. I’ve simplified the design of the route in a way that accomplishes what I originally had in mind but with much less construction. Originally I had two connections, one to the 63rd St Tunnel and the other at Court Sq. This routing would have required a second Queens Plaza station. If, however, the connection at Court Sq is removed and instead moved just north of Queens Plaza you could route just as many trains but with less new construction. The F and M trains would switch so that Queens Boulevard local service (M) would split off after 36 St and use the 63rd St Tunnel to Manhattan while F trains would again use the 53rd St Tunnel. R trains coming from the 60th St Tunnel would branch off after Queens Plaza and connect to the Superexpress. This would simplify switching at Queens Plaza and free up space so that IND Crosstown G trains could again run to Forest Hills. Local riders would still get into Manhattan just as quickly as before and R train riders can transfer at Queens Plaza for the local G.
Coming off the 63rd St Tunnel 2nd Ave trains would then run express out to Howard Beach via the former LIRR Rockaway Branch and M trains would branch off at 63rd Dr and head to Howard Beach. The Woodhaven Boulevard station would be converted to an express station. R trains would connect back to the main Queens Boulevard Subway at Forest Hills and run out to Jamaica-179th as local with F trains running express.
Crosstown Line and Franklin Ave Connection
Creating a one seat ride from Brighton Beach to Queens Plaza via the IND Crosstown Line seems strange at first but doing so would create a new crosstown connection that would better serve half of the borough of Brooklyn which today has only a long bus ride available to them. Any commuter living east of Ocean Parkway has no direct access to the IND Crosstown Line and if they want to get to northern Brooklyn or Queens must make a long commute through downtown Brooklyn and lower Manhattan before changing for trains to Williamsburg or Queens. This 1.45 mile connection would shave a significant amount of time off of some commutes. The idea is not that far fetched since right now the MTA is planning a Select Bus Service for Nostrand Ave from Sheepshead Bay to Williamsburg. This bus will still have to deal with traversing almost the entire borough via street traffic. With a new crosstown connection many commuters would only have to take a short bus ride to the Brighton Beach Line. The new subway line would bypass all street traffic. With new office and residential development booming along the G train today this connection would also open up these new job centers to neighborhoods that currently have no direct access to them.
Many people have asked why I have not included the Triboro RX in my plans. Besides the point that if it was ever built it would use commuter rail technology and not subway technology, I also feel that it would cost much more than estimated and not serve the city as well as planners hope. I honestly feel that for the money the Franklin Ave Connection would be much more affordable and serve more commuters than the Triboro RX. With just one transfer you would be able to get from Long Island City to any subway line in Brooklyn using almost all existing subway lines (as a side note I would also recommend that on the BMT Jamaica Line Hewes and Lorimer St stations be truncated into a Union Ave station with free transfer to the IND Crosstown Line). That is the promise of the Triboro RX but one which would cost vastly more than the Franklin Ave Connection.
Nostrand Ave and Utica Ave Lines
The biggest issue most people had with my previous plan was a lack of an IRT Nostrand Ave extension. A few people brought up the fact that the IRT in Brooklyn is still below capacity and building a Utica Ave Subway with IND specs would be overkill. I was originally against a Nostrand Ave extension due to the lack of express service but I realized that this could be overcome by implementing rush hour skip-stop service with the two trains that currently run there. The Nostrand Ave Subway could be extended south to Avenue Z with 5 new stations and skip-stop service would half the amount of time it would take to get to Eastern Parkway.
A Utica Ave line as well would best be served by IRT as well since new stations could be planned further apart. Additionally I still feel that the Utica Ave Subway can be built as an elevated line running through custom built buildings like a modern day High Line rather than elevated above the street to both save on construction costs and create a new source of income. The trains would run through the second story of these block long buildings with commercial space on the ground floor. As demand grows new buildings can be constructed above the tracks.
10th Ave Subway
I’ve removed the 86th St Crosstown line from the 10th Ave Subway proposal but a 2 track line, extending the L train at 14th St and 8th Ave to 72nd St and Amsterdam Ave, will still be required after 20 years of development throughout the west side of Manhattan overloads the 2/3 and 7 trains currently at capacity.
Astoria Line Extension to LaGuardia
Politicians made such a stink last time it was proposed due to a short elevated track extension but their shortsightedness will only make traveling to LaGuardia a pain for years to come. The only way to build out the current system is by building elevated trains in the outer boroughs. A one stop extension of the N train to LaGuardia which would run through an industrial no-mans land will hardly affect anyone and give travelers a one seat ride from the hotels of midtown to LaGuardia Airport.
This line could then be extended east through Flushing as originally envisioned in the 1929 Second System plan. Instead of running along the LIE the elevated line would connect to the Flushing Line at Willets Point and run along the Kissena Park Corridor out to Francis Lewis Blvd along a landscaped elevated track. Rush hour trains running out to Flushing would use the express track through Astoria and the W train could be brought back as a local train to LaGuardia.
Extending the Hillside Ave and Archer Ave subways in Jamaica should be included in any long range plan. Any subway extension this far out would have to be at grade (along the LIRR) or elevated to make it financially viable. The Hillside Ave Subway would be extended some distance east as a 2 track subway where it meets a portal and continues out to Springfield Boulevard as a 2 track elevated line. Local service would terminate at Jamaica-179th St and express at Springfield Boulevard. The Archer Ave Subway would be built with upper level or Queens Boulevard trains running along the LIRR Atlantic Branch to Rosedale and lower level or BMT Jamaica trains running out to Belmont Park along the LIRR Main Line.
In central Queens extending the BMT Myrtle Ave Line through Middle Village to Roosevelt Ave would create a much needed interborough subway connection but one that would be lighter in use than the IND Crosstown Line. It would open up Middle Village to subway service and allow Bushwick and Bed Sty residents access to jobs in Jackson Heights and Flushing. The extension itself would run along an existing freight railroad ROW and would run below grade. This would paralell a route used by the proposed Triboro RX but only for this short distance. Trains at night and weekend would run as a shuttle service between Roosevelt Ave and Essex St in Manhattan.
IRT Flushing 7 Train Extensions
As in my previous plan the 7 train would be extended as a 2 track subway further east under Roosevelt Ave to Northern Blvd at 157th St. I’ve combined the College Point Subway with the Flushing Line as a new branch leaving the main line after Main St-Flushing. The College Point branch would run north under Linden Place to 28th Ave where it would come to the surface and run at grade to a terminal at 20th Ave. These two small branches will move bus transfers back outside the congested downtown Flushing business district as well as allow for more efficient termination of trains in Flushing. Service may be split between a 7 and 8 train or running the line as branches.
Triple Track Jamaica Line
If extending 2nd Ave trains along the BMT Jamaica Line becomes successful I can foresee the need to triple track the rest of the Jamaica elevated track between Broadway Junction and 121st St. The line was built as 2 tracks with space for a third. This would require the rebuilding of stations along the way as some stations exist within the ROW of the third track and others will need to be rebuilt to accommodate express service. This may also be built in conjunction with the extension of the Archer Ave Subway out to Belmont Park. This is a low priority but one that could be built as a cheaper alternative to extending the IND Fulton St Subway. It’s also a case of the chicken and the egg; which comes first, better transportation or growth in ridership? Extending 2nd Ave trains as a first step should be done to test if the ridership changes.
I’ve never known why the 1 train had never been extended north to the border of Yonkers but when someone asked about Riverdale I realized that the 1 train could use an extension. I’ve also brought back the 9 train for rush hour skip-stop service since I believe that once the Hudson Yards and World Trade Center are both built and open the need for better service on the west side will warrant additional local service (9).
Extending the IND Concourse Line east to Coop City would kill two birds with one stone as it would finally bring a subway to Coop City and also create a de facto crosstown subway which would allow commuters to bypass congested parts of the Lexington Ave Subway and its Bronx branches.
Staten Island Subway
While many advocate a subway to Staten Island I feel that the best use of funds would be to restore the North Shore Branch of the Staten Island Railroad and possibly extend it to Newark with through running to Penn Station. While this trip would be a round about way to get from Staten Island to Manhattan it would be a one seat ride to midtown and acknowledge that not everyone who lives on Staten Island works in Manhattan.
If a subway is to be built I maintain that the best course of action would be to finally quadruple track the 4th Ave Subway through Bay Ridge and extend a 2 track subway to Fort Wadsworth. From here an elevated line would run out to Victory Blvd and south to the Staten Island Mall. If a subway was built along the northern alternative route, under 68th St in Bay Ridge to St George Terminal, the tunnel under the harbor would be twice as long and would require a subway through all of Staten Island (as opposed to an elevated track along a highway) and be vastly more expensive. It would also duplicate service rather than expand new service to areas not served by the SIRR.
Although this is a quick and dirty rewrite of my last plan I feel that this is probably the closest thing to what New York leaders should be aiming towards in terms of subway expansion. Obviously this is just one part to the transit network throughout the region and I have neglected to touch on commuter rail, ferry, bus, or light rail expansion. Those will be for another day. I want to thank everyone for their feedback and I look forward to hearing more after seeing this new update.
The real test is how to build such a network. It’s going to take a strong political force to build anything in NYC; It always has. The current lot of mayoral contenders don’t seem to have much of a plan for transit expansion. Such a vast expansion plan will take a revolutionary funding source and I wouldn’t know where to begin with devising one; Congestion pricing could work if it wasn’t politically unpopular. So we wait and the subways we have get more crowded by the day. Hopefully I can inspire someone who knows how the game works and one day these will be more than lines on a computer screen.
futureNYCSubway v2 System Map | Click for PDF
The first futureNYCSubway was more a look at what had been proposed and various alternatives rather than a realistic plan. It was basically a thought experiment about all the different ways the system could be expanded. When I finished the project in 2010 I was pretty exhausted with the New York subway. Over the next couple of years as I explored more of the city and saw the actual needs of the system clearer I began to gradually come back the system expansion plans I developed. The first FNYCS plan was what could be possible with money as no issue. Back in the real world where it is basically the only issue I realized I needed to distill out more realistic ideas that could use existing infrastructure better and develop lines that served the growing areas of the city while better connecting the outer boroughs. As traffic to the CBDs of Manhattan plateaus and a ring of neighborhoods along the East River waterfront develop from Long Island City, Williamsburg, and to Downtown Brooklyn I realized that inter-outerboro service needed to be looked at closer. Projects like the Triboro RX which have sat on the drawing boards for years are a good start but I realized that strategically extending certain lines with extra capacity could do the same job while at the same time commanding higher ridership numbers and creating one or two seat rides (with very simple transfers) to these growing new centers.
At the same time the subway now sees its highest ridership levels ever and capacity has been reached on many lines. Improved signal systems allow for more trains but this will only be a band-aid in some places like Long Island City and Williamsburg where gentrification has exploded over the last decade and will only continue to do so. The legacy of Mayor Michael Bloomberg is being debated in the waning days of his administration but the fact is that as the city becomes safer and more popular than ever there will continue to be growth.
The MTA recently put out a document outlining issues it sees coming up in the next 20 years and to no surprise the subway tunnels connecting Queens and Brooklyn to Manhattan will be maxed out. Even today at the Bedford Ave station on the BMT L line one must wait for multiple trains to pass before there is space. New lines were planned generations ago but the financial realities of an aging system with terrible funding sources gives way to little improvement where it is needed. Small actions like extending the M train from Ridgewood to midtown Manhattan have shown the value of increased transit options as the population of northern Brooklyn grows in part because of improved subway access. But how long until what these small fixes aren’t enough?
The futureNYCSubway v2 aims to take a closer look at the issues the system is facing while taking into consideration the limitations to subway expansion today.
2nd Ave Subway
2nd Ave Subway Showing 4 Track Line with Queens Tunnel Connections
As of this writing the opening of the first phase of the 2nd Ave Subway (SAS) is 3-4 years away. This segment will take the BMT Broadway Express (Q) train and run it up to 96th St at 2nd Ave. Already local politicians are starting to make noise about finding funding for the second phase which should be less expensive and less intrusive as much of the tunnels from 96th St to 125th St were dug in the 1970s and have sat vacant ever since.
The issue after Phase 2 is built is how to find funding for Phase 3 and 4 which would extend the line south from 63rd St to Hanover Sq in the Financial District, creating a new T train. Phase 3 and 4, as planned, would be almost three times as long as Phase 1, cost vastly more money and take years longer. The glaring issue that I’ve had with the SAS all along is that there is no express track. Not even a third track, like many elevated lines have, which would allow rerouting trains when the line gets backed up. If one train goes down the entire SAS is stuck.
Phase 3 is an opportunity to right this wrong by building a 4 track subway from 57th St to East Houston St. North of 57th St the line would connect to the existing SAS to 125th and to the existing 63rd St Tunnel to Queens. The additional tracks would then be connected to the 60th St Tunnel which is used by the N and R trains for local service to Astoria and Forest Hills, respectfully. Ridership along the BMT Astoria Line has increased dramatically and adding a direct connection to the SAS would take major pressure off the 59th St/Lexington Ave station on the 4/5/6 as a transfer point. Not building an express track would mean that, when the need inevitably arises, the costs of building one after the fact would be prohibitive. It’s going to be expensive to build Phase 3 no matter what so let’s just get it right.
At the southern end of Phase 3 the SAS would be woven into the IND 6th Ave and BMT Jamaica Lines as originally envisioned by modifying the Chrystie St Cut. SAS trains would terminate at Grand St (Phase 4 would continue south from Grand St to Hanover Sq), connect to the Williamburg Bridge at Essex/Delancey St, and head to Williamsburg via a new tunnel under the East River which would also connect to the IND 6th Ave line at 2nd Ave (a provision built for the IND Second System).
South 4th Subway
South 4th Subway
The bulk of SAS traffic coming from Brooklyn should come from northern Brooklyn as opposed to southern Brooklyn. By this I mean it would be very easy to connect the SAS to the Manhattan Bridge and divert trains from Brighton Beach or Coney Island through 2nd Ave. But this would only move existing service around and leave northern Brooklyn still choked with just the L train. Any new capacity in Manhattan should be used to address traffic coming from northern Brooklyn. It’s time to build the South 4th Subway.
A 4 track subway from East Houston St under the East River to South 4th St and Havermeyer St. At Havermeyer St the line would merge with a new connection to the tracks running over the Williamsburg Bridge via a portal built on the Brooklyn side of the bridge. A South 4th Subway would be the opportunity to relocate the elevated tracks of the BMT Jamaica Line from Marcy Ave to Lormier St. This new trunk line would run from Havermeyer St to Union Ave/Broadway Station (using the built but never used shell station) and under Sternberg Park to Boreum St. The tracks would then split with local tracks running to Bushwick Ave at Boerum St and express tracks straight under private property to Bushwick Ave at Flushing Ave. Local tracks would branch off so that 6th Ave trains can connect to the BMT Canarise Line and run to Myrtle-Wyckoff St while SAS trains connect back with the trunk line at Broadway. Just south of the intersection of Bushwick and Flushing Aves the subway would split with 3 tracks rising to the surface to connect with the existing elevated line just west of Myrtle-Broadway station and 4 tracks continuing to Stuyvesant Ave.
This complicated interchange would allow Jamaica bound trains to merge with Myrtle Ave, Utica Ave, and Canarsie bound trains and allow for simple transfers with express trains bypassing Bushwick and local trains taking pressure off of Bedford Ave. The growth of Williamsburg and Bushwick has put the L train beyond capacity. Connecting 6th Ave trains to the eastern section of the BMT Canarsie Line (serving the quickly growing stations of Morgan, Jefferson, DeKalb, and Myrtle-Wyckoff) would take the pressure off trains when they get to Lorimer and Bedford. This new service would also have a direct connection to the IND Crosstown G train and siphon off transfers at Metropolitan Av, reducing loads on the L further.
Relocating the western end of the BMT Jamaica Line would speed up service and allow for a variety of routing options as the Centre St Subway in Manhattan is lightly used. The demolition of the elevated track would raise property values in an already growing neighborhood and the new South 4th Subway would finally give the area the transit capacity to afford such growth. Already today the M train has allowed a one-seat ride from Bushwick to Midtown Manhattan. A South 4th Subway would allow for ever more growth and take pressure off of the packed L trains.
Utica Ave Subway
Utica Ave Subway
The original plan for the Utica Ave Subway used a four track subway out to Flatbush connecting to the IND 6th and 8th Ave Subways in Manhattan. Plans for the line have evolved over the years including the original IRT plan to extend the IRT from Utica Ave at Eastern Parkway to Kings Highway. In the outline above for the South 4th Subway I end the line at Broadway and Stuyvesant Ave as a 4 track station. From this point the line would continue south to Utica Ave as a 3 track line with rush hour express service. This 3 track subway would have SAS trains running express and 14th St-Crosstown trains, a new branch off the BMT Canarsie Line, running local.
South of Church Ave much of Utica Ave is lined with 1 or 2 story commercial buildings (“tax payers” goes back to when land speculators would buy land and put up a cheap commercial development that would cover property tax while they waited for the value of the land to increase). What I would propose as a more affordable solution is to buy up these properties and build a continuous structure from some point south of Church Ave to Flatbush Ave which would be 2 or 3 stories tall and have the trains running along the roofs while allowing for commercial development below. This way the line could be built for significantly cheaper than a subway but remove the blight that comes with traditional elevated trains. An added bonus is that the ROW then becomes an income stream with space for retail and commercial businesses.
Bronx IND Concourse Extension and 2nd Ave Dyre Ave
Extending the SAS into the Bronx will be limited to one train service due to the fact that the first and second phases of the SAS are being built with only 2 local tracks. Because of this limitation the most affordable option for SAS Bronx service and the one that would have the greatest impact on easing traffic on the IRT Lexington Ave Line would be to build an at-grade superexpress line from 125th St to Hunts Point along the Metro North ROW through the South Bronx and Port Morris up to the East 180th St IRT station using the abandoned platforms. The SAS service would then take over the Dyre Ave Line currently used by the 5 train as originally envisioned by transit planners when the old New York, Westchester & Boston Railroad line was added to the subway system in 1941. This would allow for transfers at 180th and Hunts Point with express service bypassing the South Bronx thus reducing the amount of commuters on the 5 and 6 trains through Lexington Ave.
The success of the Select Bus Service from Inwood to Coop City in the Bronx has shown the need for improved cross-Bronx service. With this in mind the IND Concourse Line (B/D trains), which terminates at 205th-Norwood, should be extended east as originally planned under Burke Ave running to East Gun Hill Road to Coop City. This 2 track extension would finally give Coop City a subway connection and allow for transfers along the IRT White Planes Line (2/5) and the Dyre Ave Line (outlined above). Currently the 2 train is the only train that connects the eastern Bronx with the west side of Manhattan. Extending the Concourse Line east would give commuters a quicker and redundant way to reach the west Bronx and west side of Manhattan.
Queens Superexpress, Rockaway Branch and IND Queens Blvd Line Extensions
The Queens Boulevard Subway has seen the most consistent grown as a whole over the last couple decades. New immigrants have settled in central Queens and new luxury developments have sprouted in Long Island City. All of this growth has put a strain on not just one subway line but all four East River tunnels headed into midtown. This growth in western and central Queens poses a unique problem in terms of service because eastern Queens remains woefully undeserved by the subway; how can we extend service into new areas without compromising service in the east.
The first solution would be to complete the Queens Superexpress Line. The Superexpress was planned as far back as the 1950s. Between Woodside and Rego Park there exists 2 fallow track beds along the Main Line of the LIRR. By building a 2 track subway line along this route (which would require moving tracks for the LIRR Port Washington Line) the IND Queens Blvd Line suddenly goes from 4 tracks to 6. The 63rd St Tunnel was originally built for the Superexpress Line but funding ran out. The tunnel was eventually connected to the IND Queens Blvd Line instead (the F train makes this run today). This partial solution has not helped much and one can argue that it has made things worse since now Crosstown (G) trains no longer run out to Forest Hills but instead require a long transfer at Court Sq.
Planned Queens Super-Express Line.
The Superexpress would have four parts to it:
- A connection to the 53rd St Tunnel at Court Sq (with the E/M platform being converted into a 4 track station) and a connection to the 63rd St Tunnel (F train and future SAS trains).
- A trunk line which would run along the LIRR Main Line with a station at Woodside to Forest Hills. Under Yellowstone Blvd the line would merge with the existing IND Queens Blvd Line before 71st Ave-Forest Hills Station.
- At Rego Park the line would split with a branch running south to the Rockaways along the abandoned LIRR Rockaway Line. The Rockaway branch would also have a connection to the IND Queens Blvd Line Local tracks using the provisions built into the existing tunnels when the IND Queens Blvd Line was originally constructed. This connection would allow the reactivated Rockaway Branch to have two trains, one running local via Queens Blvd and the other running express to midtown via the Superexpress. As Rockaway Branch trains would, in this plan, use the 53rd St Tunnel the spacing of these trains could be staged so that service to Ozone Park and the Rockaways would have regular headways while not over taxing the capacity of the 53rd St Tunnel.
- The connection at Forest Hills would allow a third express train to run east of Forest Hills to Jamaica. The original routing of the E and F trains under Hillside Ave could be restored and the Hillside Ave subway could then be extended further east as either a subway or elevated track. The Superexpress train could then be sent through the Archer Ave subway in downtown Jamaica and further extended to Rosedale along the LIRR Atlantic Branch as originally envisioned.
Another possible extension of the IND Queens Blvd Line using existing tunnels would be to extend the local train (R) from Forest Hills through the Jamaica Yards and into a new tunnel under 73rd Ave out to Francis Lewis Blvd.
Additionally, the Archer Ave Line which is used by BMT Jamaica (J/Z) trains could then be extended east to Belmont Park with similar skip-stop service.
10th Ave Subway and 86th St Crosstown Line
Midtown Manhattan showing 10th Ave Subway with 86th St Crosstown Route.
In the recent MTA 20 year outlook for congestion issues the IRT 7th Ave-Broadway Line between 72nd St and Penn Station is predicted to see the most congestion on the west side. As the Hudson Yards brings more and more development to the west side of Manhattan over the next 20 years the current infrastructure will become strained. The IRT Flushing 7 Train extension will help for only so long. Hells Kitchen and the Upper West Side will see a boom in commuters headed for the Hudson Yards and eventually a new subway will be needed. A 10th Ave extension of the BMT 14th St-Canarsie Line will be the best option. In the original futureNYCSubway plan I envisioned the line going up 10th Ave to some point in midtown and making its way over to Long Island City.
This new alignment adds another element to the plan. Moving the line up to 72nd St to take traffic away from the congestion parts of the IRT 7th Ave-Broadway Line and then crossing over to the east side up at 86th St creates a crosstown line for the Upper East and West sides. From here the subway would head to Astoria and run under Broadway to Northern Boulevard. While the subway itself would be 2 tracks, a third track at 72nd St/Broadway and 86th St/2nd Ave would allow for a crosstown shuttle service should the need arise.
Besides the benefit of a crosstown subway at 86th St the new subway to Astoria will act as a bypass for commuters around the soon to be congested areas of Long Island City and the East River tunnels at 53rd, 60th, and 63rd Streets. A transfer at Northern Boulevard station on the IND Queens Blvd Line will siphon off commuters from Corona, Forest Hills, and Jamaica and allow them a ride around midtown.
Northern Blvd Line to LaGuardia
The trunk section of the Northern Boulevard Subway will run from Broadway to 108th St as a 4 track line. At Northern Boulevard Station two sets of tracks will combine; the first from the 10th Ave-86th St Crosstown Line outlined above and the second from a new connection to the IND Crosstown Line (G) at Court Sq in Long Island City. The G train extension will have a stop at Queens Plaza, a new station built next to the existing Queens Plaza Station, and then run express to Broadway/Northern Boulevard. The 10th Ave trains will run express to Mets-Willets Point while IND Crosstown trains will run local to LaGuardia Airport.
Queens Expansion showing Northern Blvd Trunk Line to LaGuardia Airport and IRT Flushing Line Exentions
The Northern Boulevard Line will branch off at 108th St and express trains will then run up to College Point along Linden Place as mostly elevated to 20th Ave. The way the tracks are to be laid out would allow for a shuttle train to run from Mets-Willets Point to LaGuardia Airport much like the AirTrain except this would be a free transfer.
The IRT Flushing 7 Line will also see two extensions. The current terminal at Main St-Flushing was never built as a proper terminus as the line was always intended to be extended east. A subway under Roosevelt Ave to Northern Boulevard would allow the the construction of a proper terminal for trains and move bus transfers back outside of the congested central Flushing shopping district.
Using the non-revenue service tracks leading from 111th St to the train yards between Roosevelt Ave and Arthur Ashe Stadium a new branch line would be created and extended as an elevated line running through the Kissena Park Corridor to Francis Lewis Boulevard. A 2 track elevated line would have longer spacing between stations would better serve the suburban area of Queens without running above the streets creating blight. Running the line through the park would allow for landscaping that would minimize the visual and noise aspects of the line.
Brooklyn-Queens Interboro Connections and the Triboro RX
Franklin Ave Shuttle Extension from Fulton St to Lafayette Ave.
One of the major drawbacks of the subway system in New York City is that it’s Manhattan-centric. While this is based on the fact that most of the traffic is headed into and out of Manhattan there is still a need, a growing need, for better interboro connections. The Triboro Rx plan has been making the rounds lately (thanks in part to my outline of the line in the first futureNYCSubway proposal) but I do not feel that the line is worth the cost. There are two small connections which I feel would have the biggest impact for the least cost.
The main problem with the Triboro Rx Line is that it won’t be anywhere near as cheap and easy to build as people think. For one the ROW is in many places narrow and goes along the backyards of many residential communities. Expanding the ROW would turn many neighborhoods against the plan. The rail line currently there is not a subway line but a freight line and by US law you cannot run subways on freight lines. This means that if the line was to be run as a subway it would require a complete new build from one end to the other, thus negating the affordability aspect of the plan. The other problem is that the line itself doesn’t connect any places within the city where people want to go. As such the line, if built, would end up being a commuter rail shuttle service with awkward transfers and that would never justify the costs.
The alternatives I propose are much more surgical in nature. The first would be to use the existing Franklin Ave Shuttle which connects the BMT Brighton Beach Line to the IND Fulton St Line (formerly connecting to the Fulton St elevated line and before that a steam railroad from Atlantic Ave to Brighton Beach) and rebuild the line as a subway, extending it north through Clinton Hill to Lafayette Ave and connect it to the IND Crosstown Line using the provisions for such a connection at the Bedford-Nostrand Station.
This connection may seem trivial at first but if you consider that the Crosstown Line is the only subway that runs from southern Brooklyn to norther Brooklyn. You can only transfer to this line if you are coming from southwestern Broonlyn and west of Ocean Parkway. That leaves a large section of Brooklyn, Flatbush, Sheepshead Bay, Brownsville, Crown Heights, and much of Bedford-Stuyvesant with no connection at all to the one train which runs to northern Brooklyn and Queens. Commuters are forced to take a slow bus through the entire run of Brooklyn. The connection under Franklin Ave would mean that a local train could run from Brighton Beach to Long Island City with no transfers. Passengers that would normally have to take a long bus trip from southeastern Brooklyn can now take a quick bus ride to the BMT Brighton Beach Line, or transfer from the IND Fulton St or IRT Eastern Parkway Lines, and get to northern Brooklyn and LIC in half the time. This small connection would revolutionize how people in Brooklyn could get around the city.
The second connection would be to extend the BMT Myrtle Ave elevated line (M) from Metropolitan Ave to Roosevelt Ave in Jackson Heights along the freight ROW through Middle Village. This connection would use the built-but-never-used terminal at Roosevelt Ave (an abandoned section of the Second System) and allow commuters from central Queens a way to bypass LIC and midtown Manhattan when traveling to norther Brooklyn, the LES, lower Manhattan or even downtown Brooklyn. As such the extension would take pressure off the East River tunnels from Queens to midtown.
Staten Island RR North Shore
N Train Extension to Staten Island
The most obvious and affordable option for Staten Island is to reactive the North Shore Branch of the Staten Island Railroad. I outline the idea further in my original post for the futureNYCSubway.
Other options would be to extend the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail over the Bayonne Bridge to serve northwestern Staten Island. Another would be to extend reactivated North Shore trains to Newark, NJ as a way to give islanders another option to get off the island and as a way to acknowledge that many trips off Staten Island are headed to New Jersey and not into Manhattan.
When the BMT 4th Ave Subway was built there were two provisions left for a future tunnel to Staten Island. Just south of 59th St Station there is purported to be bell mouths left for a tunnel under 67th St to St George. The second provision is that while the 4th Ave Subway has only 2 tracks between 59th St and 95th St the tunnel itself was designed to be expanded to 4 tracks should the need arise. While this second option may be more disruptive to Bay Ridge I feel that an expansion of the 4th Ave Subway and extending it under the Narrows to Staten Island would be more of a benefit to Bay Ridge as this would extend express service to 86th St.
The tunnel option I prefer would run parallel to the Verrazonno-Narrows Bridge from the southern tip of Bay Ridge to Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island. The route the line would then take would run along the Staten Island Expressway in either a subway along the frontage roads or along an elevated track along the median. The line would run out to Richmond Ave where it would then swing south to terminate at the Staten Island Mall. This central routing would be better at serving the Island due to the suburban development patterns it has and would act as a de facto commuter rail line (more like Washington DC or BART in the San Francisco area).
The idea for the second version of my futureNYCSubway series was to take a more realistic look at where the subway system is today and where it should go. Obviously money is a major issue facing the system and it will take a visionary and powerful force to get even the smallest expansion built. But that isn’t impossible. These ideas that I’ve built out of past plans and by looking at current problems; some proposals I think are stronger than others: 4 track 2nd Ave Subway, Franklin Ave connection, Superexpress Lines. Others are nice to have but will take time. Northern Brooklyn continues to gentrify and even reactivating the Chrystie St Cut for 6th Ave service out to Metropolitan Ave will only go so far.
The other thing I wanted to do was to present my ideas in a much more visually relatable way. The maps I used in the first series were of my own creations but I immediately saw the downside of this. If I had used the current map and expanded out from there, as I did with my futureMBTA project, then I feel like my ideas would have spread faster as people would recognize instantly the new routes I proposed. Unfortunately the current map the MTA uses is a mess, abstracted and distorted with no order, and would have required me to redraw the entire thing anyway. The solution was to use the updated Vignelli map, the 2008 version of the historic 1972 map which was much less accessible and deemed a failure. The 2008 update is everything a transit map should be; clean, clear, easy to navigate, and downright pretty to look at. I realized that this was the only map that I could use to express my plans in a way that people would be comfortable seeing. The MTA uses the new Vignelli map for its online Weekender service updates because it is much easier to see how each line is affected by changes. With my plans I needed to show how each line could interact with the whole system and how an extension here could affect another line elsewhere. I didn’t use the map with permission from Vignelli Asc. but I do credit them. The map I’ve created is for educational purposes only and not for sale. I thank them for their brilliant work and my expansion map is a testament to their brilliant work.
futureNYCSubway v2 System Map | Click for PDF
- IND Second System
- Post War Expansion
- The Second Ave Subway: History
- The Second Ave Subway: To The Bronx and the Nassau Line
- Brooklyn: Bushwick Trunk Line
- Manhattan: West Side and Hudson Crossings
- Queens: Flushing Trunk Line
- Staten Island: The Last Frontier
- TriboroRX and Atlantic Ave Super-Express
- Conclusion: the vanshnookenraggen plan
I’ve just launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to print these posters! Donate $25 and get a poster of your choice!
The NYC Subway Diagram set is a new series of posters which show the lines of the subway as they are geographically. Each line is geographically to scale to itself (meaning no two posters are at the same scale) and not abstracted. The lines themselves are taken out of their context and set against a sold color background, the color of the line, and beautifully contrasted. All stations are show; single stations as an open circle and transfer stations as a solid circle. The the tops is the name of the trunk line and each branch line as well as the famous “bullets” with each train. At the bottom is a short description with some history as well as statistics about how each line compares to the entire system.
In the drop down menu at the top of this site there is a new link for the futureNYCSubway series. When you click on it you will be brought to a giant map of New York City with the current subway and proposed extensions. Everything which is on that map I’ve explained in previous posts and I hope to soon ad a feature where you can click on the map to visit a description of the line I propose.
I started doing research for this series about 5 years ago after completing my futureMBTA project. I made a few maps but I soon realized just how ambitious it would be to come up with a plan since New York’s subway system is so impressive and has such a byzantine history.
Many people, when I’ve shown them my ideas, usually express similar feelings: this is great but this will never happen. I don’t make plans with the idea that this is something that will happen, more that these are ideas that could, maybe even should happen, but ultimately these are ideas to inspire others of what might actually be possible. Of course there are so many factors which contribute to a project of this size, one look at the history of the Second Ave Subway tells the tale perfectly.
Too many people see these plans in the present context of the way things work in New York (city and state) and how the MTA runs the system. The MTA is a man made structure and is imperfect. This should not dissuade others from trying to push for something better. If subway expansion can not happen in the current political climate then how do we create a climate in which such expansion could be feasible?
Another perceived issue which comes up to thwart expansion is the seemingly immovable object known as the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard). While it is true that much of the current system was built when the city was still farmland, this doesn’t mean that it is now impossible to build a subway. New highways in cities are much more disruptive than a subway or even a light rail line. While no one can deny that construction is a nuisance, it is a small inconvenience in the big picture (and these inconveniences can be mitigated with diligent public outreach).
My modus operendi for all subway expansion plans I have laid out in this plan is real estate development. Remember, while the subways were built to address crowding on the former elevated and streetcar lines in the city, the main goal was to open up new areas of the city for development. Much of the land which was opened up was owned by the very companies which were building the lines as a way of making once cheap, undesirable land closer to the city (commuting time), thus increasing the land’s value. The problem today is that there are no longer vast tracts of farm land open for development inside the reach of subways.
But, while we can no longer keep going out, we can keep going up. In the last decade New York City has seen an increase in population such that the city now has a higher population than ever before; this is something no other post-industrial city which saw massive population drain after World War II can say. Planners expect an increase in population of a million people in the next 20 years. Even with this current economic slump these numbers seem plausible. While the mayor has spent millions on making the city more livable, he has only laid a small foundation when it comes to preparing the city’s transportation infrastructure for 1 million new residents.
This isn’t to say Mayor Bloomberg hasn’t done anything, in fact he has one of the most impressive records in terms of transportation improvements in generations. The Second Ave Subway, the 7 Line Extension, the East Side Access project, and the new Hudson River rail tunnel are quite a staggering list of projects to start in 8 years and he is to be commended. But a closer look at these projects reveals a lack of foresight in these projects which may leave the transportation infrastructure bottlenecked in the not too distant future.
The 7 Line Extension does not contain space for a station at 41st St and 10th Ave, an area of the city which has seen extreme gentrification and massive new residential towers grow in the last decade. The Second Ave Subway is not being built with space for an express track system which, if it is ever fully built out, will leave the East Side of Manhattan (and presumably parts of the South Bronx) with less than adequate coverage (to compensate for the all-local subway planners have spaced stations further apart, creating a lose-lose situation for people living on the east side of Manhattan.)
What impressed me when I first read about the IND Second System (even the first system, too) was how ambitious and far-sighted it was. Money wasn’t as much of a factor in the design because it was more important to serve as much of the city as possible (which isn’t to say money was no factor at all; in fact the stark modernist stations with little decoration was the city’s way of cutting cost). Today subway plans are continually cut back or castrated due to cost to the point where they can cause overcrowding problems on trains or, conversely, stunt growth in areas where stations were cut for budgetary reasons. The Second Ave Subway is a perfect example of this lack of foresight.
Many words have been written over the last decade about the lack of ambitious, large scale transportation plans. We look to the other side of the world and see how China is building whole subway and train systems from scratch in the time it takes for out paperwork to get through the labyrinth of our bureaucracy. This, or course, is due mostly to the fact that after World War II cities let the bulldozers loose for one large, often Federally funded, project after another in the name of progress. These projects, housing projects, highways, and everything else under the banner of Urban Renewal, shocked the populous who rightfully fought back. But now we see that swinging the pendulum to the other side, away from centralized large scale developments, can create a quagmire in which nothing can get done, even projects with widespread support. The irony is that many of the protesters who fought against Robert Moses and the highway builders wanted more mass transit, but the outcome of this fight was that the very powers which were needed to build more mass transit have been retarded.
Unfortunately I am not here to try and fix these problems. In fact I don’t think I should, as an individual, try. The political system we have is by nature a bottom-up one (as opposed to China’s top-down). I truly feel that the bottom up approach is, ultimately, the better one. The problem is that it takes a long time for change to occur as it takes a long time for a seed to grow into a tree. Changing society to the point where large mass transit projects like the ones I’ve looked at throughout this series are possible will take a generation or two. That may even be a good thing since by then the growth and traffic (as well as other unforeseen problems) will probably reach a tipping point where new subway expansion becomes the only option. The worry is that by that time we don’t know if the power and resources will be available to save us.
I write that last bit with slight trepidation since it is important to keep in mind that every time a new transit project is proposed it’s proponents point to the terrible problems that will occur if the project is not built. All projects are cast in this light, it seems, so I don’t want this series to come off as some sort of high-minded cure for some future dystopia. Many, if not most, of the projects outlined here will never see the light of day and some probably shouldn’t. The city is ever changing and a project which looks great today might not be as beneficial in 25 years.
One last thing I need to address is that throughout this series I haven’t brought up the numbers; what will these expansion plans actually cost? I’m not an engineer and I haven’t the foggiest idea what the raw numbers would be. Much of the cost overruns from projects like the Second Ave Subway or Boston’s Big Dig came from relocating existing utilities, many of which were not on existing maps. Another major factor is that because these projects take so long to complete the cost of materials will fluctuate during construction. Inflation is another major factor, but one which needs to be taken into consideration especially when comparing a new project to a subway which was built 60 years ago. When factoring in inflation the billions it would cost to build the Second Ave Subway are not far off from original estimates from long ago.
Since I’m also not an economist I am not going to try to devise a solution to the numbers problem. Like I said, the point of this series was not to devise a plan which would get built but rather try to create a plan which would inspire those in power, those with the technical knowledge, to find solutions to the problems of building such a system. In the past we seemed to have understood how to do great things but today we can hardly balance a budget and keep roads paved. The Vanshnookenraggen Plan for the Future of the New York City Subway is a vision of what is possible when we put petty politics aside and work for the greater good.
the vanshnookenraggen plan
I’ve explained in detail all the different plans in past posts so now I want to tie them together into a comprehensive plan. If you are unfamiliar with an extension plan you can link back to the post. I have numbered the different plans in order of which ones could/should be built first.
- The Second Ave Subway
2nd Ave subway alternatives in lower Manhattan.
The most obvious place to start since it is currently under construction, the Second Ave Subway project is today, as it is designed, short sighted. The full subway needs to be built with an express track with connections to the Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges; a 2 track subway under Water St to connect with the IND Fulton St subway in downtown Brooklyn, a connection with the IND Queens Blvd Line, and three branches in the Bronx with a third express track.
The Second Ave Subway is the most important expansion project the city could undertake. The subway is needed to relieve not only the IRT Lexington Ave Line but also relieve pressure from Queens and downtown Brooklyn. Connections to Brooklyn would allow existing trains to be diverted to Second Ave while allowing BMT Broadway and IND 6th Ave trains to run with more frequency.
As part of the Second Ave Subway the IND Fulton St Subway in southern Queens should be extended as a 4 track subway from Gates Ave under Linden Blvd to the border with Nassau County. A new connection to the Rockaways would be built and the existing elevated tracks through Ozone Park would be demolished.
Another key part of the Second Ave Subway would be a new crosstown subway under 125th St as an extension of the Q Train (which in the current plan would terminate at 125th-Lexington Ave). A 125th Crosstown Line was proposed in passing by the former CEO of the MTA as a future extension. This extension, to Broadway on the west side, has just as much potential as the rest of the Second Ave project and should be seriously considered in future plans.
- Flushing Trunk Line
Flushing Trunk Line through Queens Plaza and Sunnyside Yards.
The fastest growing section of New York City in the last 20 years has been northwester Queens: Astoria, Elmhurst, Corona, Jackson Heights, and Flushing. This area is home to dense immigrant neighborhoods which are more transit dependent than other groups in the city. The area has very good housing stock but is under served by just the IRT Flushing Line 7 train and the IND Queens Blvd Line which swings south after Jackson Heights.
A new subway, built with 2 local tracks at first but with provisions for a second pair of express tracks, could be one of the best mass transit investments in the nation in terms of dollars per rider. After the IRT Lexington Ave Line the lines which converge at Long Island City are the most congested in the entire system and with the continued population growth in Queens it is projected that these lines will become only more congested.
The Flushing Trunk Line should be built to provide future expansion into College Point and eastern Queens as well as a future connection to a new crosstown subway in Manhattan. As part of this project the existing IRT Flushing Line 7 Train should be extended east to Bayside, Queens.
- Bushwick Trunk Line
Bushwick Trunk Line track map.
It is difficult to recommend the Bushwick Trunk Line as just one entity since it is really six (6!) subways in one. In any other city a proposal of this size and scope would probably be all the city would ever need in terms of subways. Even cities in China which seemingly put up new subway systems overnight would see the Bushwick Trunk Line as a challenge. I’ll break it down into how I think the line should go about being built.
- Phase 1
A 6 track “shell” subway (a subway built so that new tracks can be added later) should be built from the Williamsburg Bridge under South 4 St to Union Ave to where there is an existing shell of a station. From here the 6 track “shell” subway would be built out to Myrtle Ave. For the time being only 4 tracks would be activated, a local and an express. The existing Broadway elevated tracks would be demolished from the bridge to Myrtle Ave. After Myrtle Ave the tracks would ascend to the surface and continue along the existing tracks along Myrtle Ave and Broadway.
- Phase 2
Extend 4 tracks from Myrtle Ave & Broadway under Myrtle Ave out to Fresh Pond Rd in Ridgewood. For the time being only 2 tracks would be used and the existing Myrtle Ave elevated tracks would be demolished (a connection to the Fresh Pond train yards would be constructed along the existing train tracks through Fresh Pond).
Bushwick Trunk Line with alternative routings.
- Phase 3
Construct what is known as the Utica Ave Subway. Branching off the BMT Canarsie Line a 2 track subway under Bushwick Ave would connect with the lower level of the station at Myrtle Ave & Broadway. Past Myrtle Ave a 4 track subway would turn south along Reid Ave to Fulton St and then on to Eastern Parkway.
After Eastern Parkway the subway would be extended south along Utica Ave to a point in Flatlands, Brooklyn (such as Flatbush Ave). At some point a new connection between Manhattan and Williamsburg would be needed to accommodate service along the Utica Ave Line. A subway under East Broadway or a branch off of the IND 6th Ave Line under East Houston St would travel under the East River to connect with the 6 track subway at South 4th St.
- Phase 4
Construct a branch off of the IND Crosstown Line (G Train) which would continue east along Lafayette St to Broadway where it would turn north to connect with the Myrtle Ave Subway. From Fresh Pond Rd the 4 track subway would be extended out to Queens Blvd in Kew Gardens, Queens and eventually further east along Union Turnpike. As traffic demands, the line would be extended further east to the border with Nassau County.
- Phase 5
Add a second tunnel under the East River and build out a 4 track subway under Bushwick Ave to Broadway Junction which would replace the existing Broadway elevated tracks.
- Crosstown Manhattan & Trans-Hudson Lines
10th Ave Subway and Crosstown alternatives.
Currently the IRT Flushing Line (7 Train) is being extended west from Times Sq to 10th Ave and south to 34th St but like the Second Ave Subway project this extension is being built in a way which will hurt the city in the future. A station at 10th Ave was discarded due to budget cuts and is an example of the totally backwards (e.g. suburban) way that transit planners/city officials are thinking about this project. A new station is being built in an area where no development will get off the grown for years to come but a station was cut for an area with an existing commuter base and massive new developments already under construction or open.
I am placing a new crosstown subway this low on the priority list because development on the Far West Side will take so long. A new subway under 50th St from 10th Ave to Long Island City will take pressure off of existing subways in Long Island City and bring commuters directly into the midtown Central Business District. A similar line was planned in the 1960s and 70s but budget problems killed the project. Eventually this line should be connected with the BMT 14th St-Canarsie Line to create a loop through the Far West Side, but this is dependent on new traffic from developments like the Hudson Yards which are years away.
As for new subway lines crossing the Hudson River into New Jersey, these are complicated by jurisdictional problems. If these can be overcome them the best options for new trans-Hudson subway service would be along the George Washington Bridge and an extension of the IRT Flushing Line into Hoboken and Jersey City, NJ.
- Staten Island Subway
Brooklyn connections to a subway to Staten Island
While it would be faster to build a new line either under the harbor or through Bayone, NJ, it would ultimately be cheaper to build an extension of the BMT 4th Ave Line or of the IND Culver Line. A branch of the Culver Line was proposed in the IND Second System and would be the best option in terms of cost and capacity. The Culver Line has an unused express track which could be activated so that commuters could quickly travel from Staten Island to downtown Brooklyn and midtown Manhattan. A direct route from Staten Island to downtown Manhattan would bypass a potential employment destination in downtown Brooklyn (which today is most easily reached by car). A Culver Line extension would also allow for easy transfers to 8th Ave trains at Jay St and would allow the most flexibility in terms of routing.
On Staten Island itself I would recommend building a new subway through the center of the northern side of the island. Some plans have called for converting the Staten Island Railroad to subway clearances but I feel like it (the SIRR) works fine as it is now and that a new subway, perhaps along Victory Blvd or Forest Ave. This, however, would not be needed for some time to come and a subway terminal around St. Georges Ferry Terminal would suffice until commuting patterns justify an extension.
Besides a new subway, the North Shore of the Staten Island Railroad should be reactivated, either with existing rolling stock or with light rail.
- TriboroRX and Atlantic Ave Super-Express
The Atlantic Ave Super-Express through Broadway Junction.
The Triboro Rx travels against established commuting patterns to the point where ridership would be so low that a better investment would be to build an at grade road along the line for buses and trucks. However, I have included a complete Triboro Rx in my final plans since at some time in the future such a line may be needed and so the right-of-way should be kept up since it is too invaluable as a transit corridor not to consider. Because the line cuts through so many different parts of the city it could, conceivably, be built in sections where traffic demands (such as a crosstown shuttle in the south Bronx).
The Atlantic Ave Super-Express Line would be a better project since it runs along established commuting patters but it would also cut back LIRR capacity and run parallel existing subway service. The benefit to such a line would be for better expansion of subway service into Jamaica since existing lines would make such a commute painfully long. The Atlantic Ave Super-Express would also allow for the existing elevated tracks through eastern Brooklyn to be demolished and replaced with faster service, both local and express, into the city.
- IND Second System
- Post War Expansion
- The Second Ave Subway: History
- The Second Ave Subway: To The Bronx and the Nassau Line
- Brooklyn: Bushwick Trunk Line
- Manhattan: West Side and Hudson Crossings
- Queens: Flushing Trunk Line
- Staten Island: The Last Frontier
- TriboroRX and Atlantic Ave Super-Express
- Conclusion: the vanshnookenraggen plan
The futureNYCSubway Introduction
The last four posts have all been about the history of subway expansion in New York City. The remaining posts will focus on the future of subway expansion as I envision it. Many of the expansion plans I have incorporated into this expansion, not just an expanded Second Ave subway but system wide, have been based on many historical plans for expansion, hence all the history. Some of my plans are new, especially plans for Queens which developed after World War II and around the car rather than mass transit. When I’ve show my final map to friends they found it hard to visualize the changes I’ve made which is why I am going to go through each expansion plan and describe what’s new, what some alternatives are, and how it fits into the system today and the system of my dreams.
The Second Ave Subway: Full Build
Second Ave subway phase map
The map to the right is from the MTAs website showing the current phased plan for 2nd Ave subway construction. The red section is currently under construction containing stations at 72nd, 86th, and 96th streets. The blue section above that is Phase 2 running north to 125th St where provisions would be made for further extension under 125th St and north into the Bronx. Stations here are placed at 106th, 116th, and 125th streets (the dashed section of the map indicated sections of tunnel already constructed from the 1970s.) Phase 3 is the yellow section running south from 63rd St to Houston St. Stations are planned at 55th, 42nd, 34th, 23rd, 14th, and Houston streets. The final phase is the green section running from Houston St under south to Hanover Sq in the Financial District. Stations are planned at Grand (which is already there), Chatham Sq, Seaport (at about Fulton and Pearl Sts), and Hanover Sq. The current plan is a stripped down version of the 1968 plan which itself is a stripped down version of the original plan. As built the 2nd Ave subway will be only two tracks running from 125th St to Hanover Sq with only one local train, the T, from Hanover Sq to 63rd st and two local trains, the T and the Q, up to 125th St. Construction on Phase 1 has been pushed back to 2016. After that there are no solid plans for the other phases.
Manhattan Trunk Line
I advocate that the only way for the 2nd Ave subway to really put a dent into curbing congestion along the east side of Manhattan AND to allow for expanded service into the other boroughs that a second set of tracks be constructed for express service from 125th St to Houston St. Given that the majority of this route has not been constructed it would still be possible to build at a lower cost than building a second set of tracks below the tracks being constructed now. The MTA already shaved down the 72nd St station from 3 tracks to 2 (a third track would have aided in trains switching from the 2nd Ave subway into the 63rd St subway). At the very least they could design the new line to allow for future expansion to 4 tracks (as they did when building the 6th Ave line whose express tracks weren’t built for another 20 years after the local tracks.)
As it is designed now the 2nd Ave subway will only carry 2 local trains from 125th St to 63rd St. Below at 63rd St there will be a connection to the Queens Blvd line (F train) and though no plans have been released to indicate what kind of service will run here this means that potentially there will also be two local trains running from 63rd St to Hanover Sq. An express track would only be necessary when service is extended north into the Bronx but not allowing for an express track will only make that future expansion all the more expensive.
In addition to not having an express track, the stations along the line are spaced further apart than many of the other subways in Manhattan. For instance on the Lexington Ave line there are stations at 59th, 68th, 77th, and 86th streets while on the 2nd Ave line stations are further apart, at 55th, 72nd, and 86th streets. Further south there is no station at St Marks between 14th St and Houston St. St Marks is THE main street of the East Village and a major area of nightlife activity. Omitting a station here is a terrible idea. The reasons for spacing stations so far apart is due to the lack of express service; making local service faster (from fewer stations) is a cheaper alternative but one that ends up hurting the East Side. I advocate for adding two stations and relocating a third; move 55th St to 57th St and add an additional station at 50th or 49th St in Turtle Bay and add a station at St Marks.
Lower Manhattan and Downtown Brooklyn
2nd Ave subway alternatives in lower Manhattan.
- Ave C Spur
The first extension alternative is one proposed by the TransportPolitic which would serve one of the few areas of Manhattan that would still not have rapid transit even after the 2nd Ave subway is completed. On the east side of Manhattan there is a large bulge south of 23rd street; the Lower East Side, East Village, and Alphabet City (so named because of the Avenues A, B, C, and D). Because of this bulge east side residents have to walk the furthest of all Manhattanites to reach subways. The area is bordered on the north, south, and west by ample subway service but the heart of the area, home to some of the poorest residents in the borough, is still a very long walk away. This proposal creates a spur line that branches off the 2nd Ave trunk line at 14th St and then heads south along Ave B or Ave C. In the TransportPolitic plan there would be stops at Tompkins Sq and Delancey (under the Williamsburg Bridge) and connections to the L and F trains at 14th St and East Broadway, respectively. This plan is not without precedent as the former 2nd Ave elevated line, which ran up 2nd Ave until 1940, actually made a similar jog in its route when at 23rd St it would turn off 2nd Ave and move over to 1st Ave to better serve the very dense Lower East Side.
- 8th Ave Subway Connection
One of the original proposals for the 2nd Ave subway back in the 1920s was, when reaching downtown, to have the line loop back north via a connection with the 8th Ave subway. A second proposal from that time had a spur of the 8th Ave subway branch off at Worth St that would travel up East Broadway and into Williamsburg. As a hybrid of these two proposals, the Ave C alignment would run under East Broadway and continue along Park Row and Chambers St where it would connect with the 8th Ave subway. This connects express service from the Lower East Side to downtown and express service on the West Side, acting as a default cross town connection. This would better connect the Lower East Side to virtually every other part of Manhattan as well as lines into Brooklyn. The 8th Ave local (E) already terminates at World Trade Center and could easily be routed back north as a second 2nd Ave local service to 63rd St, creating in a way a starting at Queens Plaza, running along the West Side to downtown, then returning to Queens via the 2nd Ave subway.
- Williamsburg Bridge Connection
1951 plans for the Second Ave subway showing connections to the Williamsburg and Manhattan Bridges and the Centre St subway.
Taking a proposal from the 1950s, this would effectively terminate the 2nd Ave subway at Houston St (where Phase 3 is planned to end anyway) and connect it directly to existing subway tracks to Williamsburg via the Chystie St Cut. In this proposal service would replace the M train to Metropolitan Ave-Middle Village but service could also be extended to Broadway Junction, Canarsie, or Jamaica.
- Manhattan Bridge Connection
Ending the 2nd Ave subway at Houston St would also allow connection to the Manhattan Bridge via Grand St. When Grand St station was constructed it was designed to allow future 2nd Ave service to be built around it (by this I mean the walls on each platform would be demolished and an outside set of tracks from the 2nd Ave subway would surround the station creating two island platforms.) As service along 2nd Ave in the Upper East Side will be provided by the Q train, which runs over the Manhattan Bridge, it is possible to continue the 2nd Ave service along the Brighton Beach line (todays B train) or even along the 4th Ave subway in Brooklyn out to Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, or Coney Island. These two connections would be a good alternative if construction costs rise so much that Phase 4 of the 2nd Ave subway is postponed.
- Broad St Connection
One proposal looked at for Phase 4 of the 2nd Ave subway was to connect it directly to the Centre/Broad St subways (J/Z). The proposal looked at had the connection made at Delancey St which may necessitate the destruction of the Bowery station (or the destruction of the half of the station which is currently unused). The reason that such a connection was weighed is that there is a second set of tracks along this section of subway which have been unused since the completion of the Chystie St Cut. These tracks once connected Chambers St with the Manhattan Bridge. This proposal slightly alters this route by making the connection further south, after Grand St, to the unused tracks that run from the Bowery under Canal St to Centre St (click here to see a tack map of the area showing the unused tracks I am referring to). Service to Williamsburg would terminate at Chambers St and the 2nd Ave line would continue through Broad St to Whitehall-South Ferry and on into Brooklyn where it could easily pick up service out to Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, Coney Island, or Brighton Beach.
- New East River Tunnel
Phase 4 extends the 2nd Ave subway from Houston St to Hanover Sq. The final alternative would be a new tunnel under the East River (2 tracks) which would connect the 2nd Ave subway from Hanover Sq to the Court St station (now used as the NY Transit Museum but would at this time be converted to revenue service.) Since Court St station was originally a real subway station it connects to Hoyt-Schermerhorn station along the set of tracks into the outer most platforms at Hoyt-Schermerhorn. If you go to Hoyt-Schermerhorn station you will notice a platform on each side that is closed and covered in dirt, these were for trains heading to Court St and were shut after Court St was closed (click here for a tack map showing the unused tracks and platforms). This would allow 2nd Ave service to run straight through central Brooklyn and into southern Queens, also connecting Midtown East and Downtown to JFK Airport. As proposed, the 2nd Ave subway does not make a connection to the 8th Ave line so this would allow wuick transfers to be made for commuters from central Brooklyn to the east side of Manhattan.
Harlem and the Bronx
2nd Ave subway alternatives in Harlem and the South Bronx.
- 125th St Crosstown Line
The current Phase 2 of the 2nd Ave subway is planned to terminate at 125th St-Lexington Ave with connections to the 4/5/6 trains and MetroNorth. There has been speculation that this would inevitably lead to an extension of the line from Lexington Ave to Broadway under 125th St, thus creating a crosstown subway line. 125th is the main street of Harlem and as anyone who has ever tried to take a bus crosstown on 125th street can attest to it is very congested. Commuters on the west side would no longer have to take crosstown buses or travel down to 42nd St to travel to the east side. A crosstown line would also siphon off riders from the other major trunk subways (Broadway, 8th Ave, Lenox Ave, and Lexington Ave) from the Bronx over to the east side thereby reducing congestion along all of upper Manhattan. The TransportPolitic also has a good write up about advantages of a 125th St-Crosstown line and why it should have priority over a fully built 2nd Ave subway.
- 3rd Ave/MetroNorth Alignment
Manhattan was once lined north to south with elevated trains and the east side had two, the 3rd Ave el and the 2nd Ave el. At 129th street in Harlem the two lines merged and headed into the Bronx along a route between Alexander Ave and Willis Ave north to 149th St where they split, one branch heading east to West Farms (todays 2/5 trains) and another heading north to Fordham and Norwood where at Gun Hill Road the lines once again merged to finally terminate at 242st St in Wakefield. The line that headed north ran along 3rd Ave in the central Bronx, home to thriving Italian first and second generation families escaping the tenement districts along the east side of Manhattan. The 3rd Ave el in Manhattan was torn down in 1955 but the section from 149th St to Gun Hill Rd remained. From the 1960s on this section of the Bronx saw the worst of white flight and urban decay. Many of the famous sights from that time of graffiti covered elevated trains rumbling through an urban wasteland were of the 3rd Ave el. When the MTA had the subway lines renamed in 1960s the 3rd Ave el was known as the 8 train (as it was part of the IRT system). The line was eventually torn down in 1973. Since then this major section of the Bronx has had no direct subway service into Manhattan.
The 3rd Ave alignment would build a 4 track subway from the Harlem River up under 3rd Ave to 161st street in Melrose. From here the line would split; to the east are lines to Co-op City and Throgs Neck while heading north under 3rd Ave would be a three track subway to Fordham. A possibly cheaper alternative would be to run the 3rd Ave line up along the MetroNorth railroad right-of-way. This was proposed as a replacement for the 3rd Ave el back in 1968 and was one of the reasons the elevated tracks were torn down. Since the alignment is only a few blocks away from 3rd Ave this makes it a more attractive alternative but would not directly serve major retail and commercial corridors or St. Barnabas Hospital.
In addition to this alignment, the Grand Concourse line (B/D) would be extended one station further to Gun Hill Road to connect with the 3rd Ave subway and allow 2nd Ave subway trains to access the train yards on Jerome Ave to the west.
- South Bronx Bypass
2nd Ave subway alternative in the Bronx.
I call this the South Bronx Bypass because unlike the 3rd Ave alignment which would directly serve major commercial sections of the South Bronx and connect with the 2/4/5/6 lines at major transfer stations like The Hub, the bypass would pass all of the South Bronx by traveling along a railroad right-of-way along the Bronx Kills to Port Morris, then along the New Haven/Northeast Corridor rail line through Hunts Point and on into the eastern Bronx. This would have the effect of serving undeserved areas of the Bronx with a quicker connection to Manhattan but would, as stated, bypass major commercial neighborhoods and transfer stations. While this is an attractive option due to cost, when taking into consideration the economic benefits lost by a bypass it looks much less attractive. In order for mass transit to be effective it needs to serve large centers of activity. Bypassing around the South Bronx seems like a very suburban way to plan a subway line and a suburban line in one of the most urban places in the world just won’t work.
- Co-op City Line
Branching off the 2nd Ave subway at 3rd Ave OR continuing north from the South Bronx Bypass, the Co-op City line would run along the right-of-way of the New Haven/Northeast Corridor rail line. This is one of the oldest railroads cutting through the Bronx and much of the eastern section of the borough developed along the railroad which once had a number of stations. Today there are no stations (plans have been floated to add MetroNorth stations at Hunts Point, Parkchester, and Co-op City) but there is ample room for a 2 track local subway service running along side. When the line reaches the Hutchinson River Parkway it would swing north and travel elevated along the New England Thruway (I-95) to Co-op City at 222nd St. Since its construction beginning in 1968, Co-op City has relied on express bus service to Manhattan. The development is cut off from the rest of the city by the Thruway and building a subway line to it would help knit it into the fabric of the city as well as finally serve areas where trains now only run through, not stop.
- Throgs Neck Line
1929-1939 IND Bronx Lines. The addition of the Dyre Ave line killed plans for a subway under Morris Park Ave.
Part of both the original IND Second System from 1929 and the updated plans a decade later was a line to Throgs Neck though Hunts Point and Unionport. The area was mostly developed after World War II and is today the poorest congressional area in the nation. Surrounded by highways and the only subway running almost a mile away, these neighborhoods are highly transit dependent but completely undeserved. Splitting off the 2nd Ave trunk line at 161st street in Melrose, the initial four track line would run due east under 163rd St before splitting at Hunts Point Ave. Originally the plan was to run the Throgs Neck line under Lafayette Ave but an alternative would be to have the line swing south a bit to directly serve Hunts Point before continuing under Lafayette Ave. The line would be 2 track, local service.
- Eastchester Line Conversion
Since the city acquired the Eastchester/Dyre Ave line (5) from the defunct New York, Westchester and Boston Railroad in 1940 there have been plans to incorporate the line into the 2nd Ave system. For many years the Eastchester line was merely a shuttle from 180th St to Dyre Ave as it awaited connections to a subway which was never built. Eventually a direct connection was created between the line and the White Plains (2/5) line for direct connection to Manhattan. When the stations were upgraded from railroad stops to subway stations they were built with temporary platform extensions to allow for IRT trains to run (IRT, numbered, trains are narrower than BMT and IND, lettered, trains). The alternative to the Co-op City line would follow the old New York, Westchester and Boston line right-of-way from where it merged with the New Haven/Northeast Corridor line at 174th St. This conversion may or may not end up being a more affordable alternative since it would disrupt service to a major section of the Bronx while conversion took place and not serve any additional areas.
An hybrid plan that would satisfy both issues of congestion and under served areas would be to build the Co-op City line along the New Haven/Northeast Corridor line but with an additional set of tracks; one set for the Co-op City line and and another set that would connect the Pelham Bay line (6 train) to 180th St station along the old New York, Westchester and Boston line right-of-way. This service would take over from the 5 train which would then permanently run at the White Plains line. The new service would be called the 8 train.
2nd Ave alternatives in northern Queens.
- Queens Boulevard Express
Because of the direct connection between the 2nd Ave subway and the Queens Blvd line via the 63rd St tunnel, 2nd Ave service can easily be routed along the Queens Blvd line. Currently the only train that passes through the 63rd St subway is the F train. Because of this there are two alternatives for 2nd Ave-Queens service: Queens Blvd local which would bypass Queens Plaza station making all local stops after, or Queens Blvd express service which would parallel the F train out to Jamaica, making all express stops only. Local service would mean that Queens Blvd riders would have and express and local set of trains that head into midtown via the 53rd st tunnel (E/M) and an express and local set of trains that head into the 63rd St tunnel. This would balance the headways for each tunnel. The downside to this approach is that there would be 3 local trains and headways would be cut back on all three to accommodate the additional train line. The second service option would be to have express service only. Because any 2nd Ave service would share tracks with Queens Blvd express (F train), the headways of that train could be cut back in such a way that both express trains could run at the same headways of a single line. The problem with either routing is that having 5 different train lines on 4 tracks means that some of the trains get cut back to make room. This wouldn’t be a problem if all the trains kept to the same line but then don’t. When they enter Manhattan they all switch to different subways which will affect headways there too (the ripple effect of adding a new train in one section of subway).
- Super-express Line
Planned Queens Super-Express Line. Click for animation
An alternative to balancing headways would be to revive the 1960s plan of building a super-express line parallel to the Queens Blvd line along the LIRR Main line. The advantage to such a line would be a much quicker trip for commuters coming from further out in Queens. Any expansion into eastern Queens needs to deal with the long distance from Manhattan. As it is now an express train from Forest Hills takes 40 min to get into Midtown. Imagine if you are coming from as far out as Queens Village! A super-express allows for tight headways along the local route (Queens Blvd) by providing a high-speed route bypassing all switches and stations. The early plans for a super-express line had it following the LIRR Main line into Jamaica Center but with the express track on the Queens Blvd line after Forest Hills not in use a much cheaper connection could be made at Forest Hills. 2nd Ave service would then run from Queensbridge to Forest Hills-71st St uninterrupted and on eastward to Jamaica.
- Long Island Expressway Alignment
Early plans for expanded Queens service from the 1920s and 1930s called for service along Horace Harding Blvd, a wide and important road that ran through the heart of eastern Queens. This thoroughfare was so important that decades later Robert Moses used it to construct the Long Island Expressway to the Queens-Midtown Tunnel, opening up a quick automobile route from New York to Long Island. In typical Moses fashion he left no room for possible rapid transit along his highway (to the chagrin of transit planners). Still, planners thought that such a wide right-of-way would prove useful. An elevated line could be constructed along the median which would not do any more harm to the neighborhoods through which it runs (as opposed to building an elevated line along a quite residential street). Planers in the 1960s proposed several LIE subway alternatives, one connecting to the planned super-express line (unbuilt) and one connecting to the Queens Blvd line.
The AirTrain which runs from Jamaica Center to JFK Airport runs on a smaller version of an elevated structure along the median of the Van Wyck Expressway (click here for a Streetview Google Map of what this elevated train looks like). A similar arrangement could work here providing fast subway service from Manhattan to the major residential and commercial centers in central Queens. Park-and-ride facilities could also be constructed above sunken sections of the highway to allow for better integration into the mostly suburban, auto centric development of eastern Queens.
- Rockaway Cutoff Alignmnet
2nd Ave alternatives in southern Queens.
Subway service to the Rockaways had been a priority for the city from the early days of the Independent subway of the 1920s. Early plans called for various ways to connect the far off peninsula to the system; one connected the Rockaways via both the Queens Blvd line at Roosevelt Ave and a new trunk line through northern Brooklyn, a later plan called for express service from the Rockaways to connect to the Queens Blvd line at Forest Hills. This version would branch off from the super-express line at Rego Park and follow the abandoned right-of-way south through Forest Hills, Parkside, and Woodhaven where it would connect to the existing subway service to the Rockaways. This connection would slash the time it takes for riders to get to Midtown by bypassing downtown Brooklyn and downtown Manhattan.
- Fulton St Subway Extension
Built as the main Brooklyn trunk line as part of the IND system in the 1930s, the Fulton St subway replaced the Fulton St elevated line which ran from downtown Brooklyn to Broadway Junction. As a more affordable option to expanding subway service to southern Queens the city connected the Fulton St subway to the Liberty Ave elevated line in Ozone Park. In the 1950s the city captured the Rockaways branch right-of-way and connected it to the Fulton St subway as well. Because of these connections the A train now has three different terminals, at Lefferts Blvd, Rockaway Park, and Far Rockaway.
To better serve areas of southern Queens that have developed after World War II, the Fulton St subway should be extended from Euclid Ave along Pitkin Ave to Linden Blvd as a 4 track subway. Where the extension meets the Rockaways branch a new connection will be built so that express trains from the Fulton St subway can run to the Rockaways. The Fulton St Extension will continue east under Linden Blvd as 3 tracks for rush hour express service out to 235th St and Cross Island Parkway. The existing Liberty Ave elevated structure will then be torn down. 2nd Ave service would then run along the Fulton St subway and extension into either the Rockaways or further east to South Jamaica.
2nd Ave alternatives in Jamaica.
- Far Rockaway Branch Conversion
The Far Rockaway Branch of the LIRR (not to be confused with the abandoned Rockaways branch I wrote about above) has been proposed to be converted from LIRR service to subway service as far back as the 1960s. When the Archer Ave subway through Jamaica Center was being planned, planners envisioned that an affordable solution to providing southeastern Queens with subway service would be to build along LIRR right-of-ways, thereby allowing LIRR trains faster through service and providing subway service to areas that were once bypassed by LIRR trains.
Lack of funding killed this dream but it is still on the minds of many planners. Here, the Far Rockaway Branch would be converted to subway service with Queens Blvd trains connecting to the aforementioned Fulton St subway extension, thereby creating a “loop” service which would begin at Cross Island Parkway, travel along the Queens Blvd line into Manhattan, down 8th Ave, though Brooklyn along the Fulton St subway, and terminate again at Cross Island Parkway. This service could also run along the 2nd Ave and 6th Ave subways.
A converted Far Rocakway Branch would not cut off LIRR service to Far Rockaway. Not a mile to the east runs the West Heampstead Branch with only one station at St Albans. Far Rockaway trains could easily run along this track allowing for more local subway stations on the converted right-of-way. I will be coming back to this alignment in a future post.
- Hillside Ave Subway Extension
The final option for expanded 2nd Ave service would be to run the 2nd Ave-Queens Blvd Line out along Hillside Ave, currently where the F train terminates. The subway was planned to be expanded eastward as development occurred in the area after World War II but the subway only made it one more station. The area is now densely populated and home to many transit dependent commuters. A 2 track extension from 179th St along Hillside Ave to Springfield Blvd in Queens Village is one of the better plans for subway expansion. At Springfield Blvd the line could continue along Hillside Ave to the border with Nassau County or could turn south along Braddock Ave, terminating at Jamaica Ave in Bellerose.
Second Ave Subway Conclusions
The Second Ave subway is not just a subway built to relieve congestion along the east side of Manhattan but it is the ground work for a much bolder vision; it is a new backbone for subway service throughout New York City. A fully expanded system connecting to existing lines and new areas will reduce congestion on not only the Lexington Ave subway but many other subways that service the city. The worry is that the MTA will try and build the cheapest subway it can which would end up haunting the city for generations. The Second Ave subway system I’ve laid out here adds almost 50 miles of new subway lines to the city and could be incorporated into existing lines so that existing trains could be used for improved service elsewhere (e.g. running the 2nd Ave line to Brighton Beach would allow the B train to potential be used for express service along the Culver Line to Coney Island through Park Slope.) The reason I chose the Second Ave Subway as the launching off point for this series is not because it is the most famous of all proposed subway lines but because it is the most important. Almost every other subway expansion project I talk about would only be adding more stress to the current system without the Second Ave Subway. This subway is crucial to the continued economic development and population growth of New York City and the region. The current NYC subway is now seeing ridership levels it hasn’t seen in 60 years, except 60 years ago there was 30 miles of more track to service those riders. The subways slimmed down over the ensuing decades due to financial hardships and population loss, but the city is rebounding and a fully built Second Ave subway system will be key to this continued growth.
futureNYCSubway diagram showing fully built out Second Ave subway system (PDF)
- IND Second System
- Post War Expansion
- The Second Ave Subway: History
- The Second Ave Subway: To The Bronx and the Nassau Line
- Brooklyn: Bushwick Trunk Line
- Manhattan: West Side and Hudson Crossings
- Queens: Flushing Trunk Line
- Staten Island: The Last Frontier
- TriboroRX and Atlantic Ave Super-Express
- Conclusion: the vanshnookenraggen plan