vanshnookenraggen

Posts Tagged ‘second ave subway’

The futureNYCSubway: the vanshnookenraggen plan

The Map

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.

An Explanation

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.

  1. The Second Ave Subway
    2nd Ave subway alternatives in lower Manhattan.

    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.

  2. Flushing Trunk Line
    Flushing Trunk Line through Queens Plaza and Sunnyside Yards.

    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.

  3. Bushwick Trunk Line
    Bushwick Trunk Line track map.

    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.

      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.

  4. Crosstown Manhattan & Trans-Hudson Lines
    10th Ave Subway and Crosstown alternatives.

    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.

  5. Staten Island Subway
    Brooklyn connections to a subway to Staten Island

    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.

  6. TriboroRX and Atlantic Ave Super-Express
    The Atlantic Ave Super-Express through Broadway Junction.

    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.


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: Manhattan’s West Side

Introduction

Elevated Train, 9th Ave, 1940 by Andreas Feininger

Elevated Train, 9th Ave, 1940 by Andreas Feininger

Manhattan is the only borough of New York City where major subway expansion is actually taking place. The Second Ave Subway and the 7 Line extension are the first major subway expansion projects in almost 40 years. I’ve covered both in previous posts so I want to look further into what might be possible for expanded service in Manhattan. The areas along the west side of the island are still far away from subway service (elevated trains once rumbled up 9th Ave but were replaced in the 1930s by the 8th Ave Subway). The 7 Line extension, as it is currently being built, will not include a station at 10th Ave/41st St which will mean that trains will bypass a large residential section of town, Hells Kitchen and Clinton, in order to serve a neighborhood which is not even built yet, the Far West Side and Hudson Yards.

While over on the west side let’s look across the Hudson River and realize that there are many commuters who pour into New York from New Jersey every day through the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels and over the George Washington Bridge, the most heavily trafficked bridge in the world. There are also rail connection between New York and New Jersey via the PATH system and New Jersey Transit into Penn Station. Construction of a new 2 track tube under the river from New Jersey to Penn Station has recently begun which will double capacity along the Northeast Corridor (check out the ARC Tunnel). The PATH system went through an identity change in the 1970s when the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey took over the defunct Hudson & Manhattan Railroad which was built to shuttle passengers from various train terminals in Hoboken and Jersey City into downtown and midtown Manhattan. As service grows between the two states and as capacity along the automobile lanes is stretched to capacity, new rail connections seem inevitable.

Another inevitability is that Manhattan will need a new crosstown subway line soon. Planners have seen this as an issue for over 70 years as crosstown subways have been proposed from 57th St to 23rd St. Any new subway lines into Queens will have to enter Manhattan at some point and even with a completed Second Ave Subway there will be little extra capacity on existing East River tunnels. A new crosstown subway in midtown Manhattan would be ideal for adding the additional capacity needed and could be extended out into Queens.

Flushing Line 7 Train Extensions

7 Line extensions into the Far West Side of Manhattan.

7 Line extensions into the Far West Side of Manhattan.

Currently under construction from 8th Ave/41st St to 11th Ave/34th St with layup tracks extending south to 11th Ave/25th St, I covered the history of the 7 Line extension in a previous post. Now I want to look at some past proposals for extension and some future possibilities.

  • High Line and West Side Highway

    Before the High Line was a park it was just another abandoned railroad line though a major city which most people didn’t even know about (you can see my pictures from before the park was built on my“A Walk on the High Line” post). In the 1980s and 90s when the West Side Highway was being torn down and replaced by the Hudson River Park and a landscaped boulevard, many transit advocates called for using this opportunity to build a new transit line along the west side to the World Trade Center. A transit option had been proposed as an alternative to the plans for the Westway, a massive highway tunnel system along the Hudson River to replace the decaying West Side Highway. When the Westway was killed in 1985 it was hoped that the new replacement would have space from transit of some kind, be it a subway, elevated rail, or bus lanes.

    The proposal to extend the 7 Line south along the west side would have brought the 7 Line west from Times Sq down to the Hudson Yards where it would have connected to the High Line at the point where the High Line tracks enter the ground along 34th St at 11th Ave. From here the 7 Line would have looped around the train yards and made its way through the middle of the block along the High Line. Since the High Line was built only for freight trains it never had stations (though each building through which it ran did have loading platforms for freight). New stations would have meant that many warehouses and residential buildings would have needed to be demolished. The High Line had originally run south to West Houston St where it terminated in a large meat packing facility. The portion of the High Line from Gansevoort St to West Houston St was demolished in the 1990s for new housing development. Had this section not been removed then it could have been extended along an elevated structure from West Houston south along the West Side Highway to a new terminal at the World Trade Center.

    History has written a different story. Though the West Side Highway was replaced by a landscaped boulevard and park system, no space for transit was made available. The High Line was in danger of being demolished entirely but was saved by creative community activists and a new mayor.

    Please note: I am not in favor of replacing the High Line Park with active rail transit. This was merely an historical proposal.

  • 23rd St Crosstown
    7 Line extension into Hoboken and Jersey City.

    7 Line extension into Hoboken and Jersey City.

    The current extension of the 7 Line will end at West 25th St at 11th Ave. Since 11th Ave starts/ends at West 22nd St there are only two options for where the line could be extended from here.

    The first option would be to turn the line back east at 23rd St and create a new crosstown subway. Crossing the East River at 23rd St the line would be pointing directly to Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The 7 Line could possibly be extended southeast into North Brooklyn or could be sent northeasterly back into the southern tip of Long Island City to connect back with the 7 Line to Flushing thereby creating a large loop through midtown Manhattan.

  • Hoboken and Jersey City

    The second option for extending the 7 Line past 25th St would be to send it west under the Hudson River into Hoboken, New Jersey. There are jurisdictional and bureaucratic issues with building anything across the Hudson River since it is a state boundary. The Port Authority was set up to build and maintain all interstate crossings inside a 25 mile radius area from the Statue of Liberty. Knowing this it is easy to understand why the New York City Subway has never crossed the Hudson River, but this does not mean the need does still not exist.

    The subway extension would leave Manhattan at 23rd St and head straight across the river to Hoboken at 12th St. The subway would curve south at Main St and head down to the Hoboken Terminal. Here there would be a transfer point for the PATH, Hudson-Bergen Light Rail, and New Jersey Transit. After Hoboken Terminal the subway would run parallel to the PATH down to Pavonia/Newport station, then down to 6th St where it would turn west. Jersey City was once covered in train tracks as it was the eastern most place trains could travel before they hit the mighty Hudson River. Jersey City was the home of many terminal buildings which allowed people and freight to transfer to barges headed to Manhattan. Because of this there are more than a few ruins left over from the railroad days. Like the High Line, Jersey City has a large abandoned railroad embankment running through the old residential neighborhood between 6th and 5th St. The 7 Line subway would ascend to the surface along 6th St here and run elevated along the embankment. The right-of-way leads directly to Journal Sq which is where the 7 Line extension would terminate, along side the PATH station.

  • Union City and the Upper West Side
    7 Line extension into Clinton, Union City, and the Upper West Side.

    7 Line extension into Clinton, Union City, and the Upper West Side.

    Back in Manhattan, instead of continuing the existing 7 Line south, an alternative would be to turn the 7 Line north into the Clinton/Hells Kitchen neighborhood along 10th Ave. On 10th Ave the 7 Line would run north to 72nd St where it would merge with the existing 7th Ave Subway at Broadway. From here north the 7 train would run along side the 1 train as a local service up to the Bronx. 10th Ave is interesting in this case since just west of 10th Ave, running through the block, is the depressed Amtrak right-of-way built at the same time as the High Line. This below grade rail line runs up the west side of Manhattan under Riverside Park and by Inwood before skirting the coast of the Hudson River up to Albany. This would allow for the 7 Line to act as a super-express subway for the west side of Manhattan up to Inwood. An actual current proposal for a similar transit expansion would have MetroNorth trains use this right-of-way with stations at 66th St, 125th St, and Dyckman St. MetroNorth trains would require no new tracks like a subway would so this is a much preferable and economical option.

    Alternatively the 7 Line could jump the Hudson River at 55th St and head into Union City, New Jersey. There is currently a train tunnel through the high cliffs on top of which Union City is built. The tunnel is currently being used for the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail. If these tracks were converted to subway service the 7 Line would have a ready to use tunnel into New Jersey. At the portal to the tunnel there could be built a large park and ride station which would attract commuters who might normally drive into Manhattan.

10th Ave and Crosstown Subways

10th Ave Subway and Crosstown alternatives.

10th Ave Subway and Crosstown alternatives.

As I stated above planners have seen the need for new crosstown subways for decades. In the 1960s an underground people-mover system was envisioned that would connect Grand Central Terminal with Rockefeller Center. Because the Midtown Central Business District (CBD) is so important to the economy of the region it is crucial that it is served well by transit. Since there is no more room for cars in this dense area the best option at the moment is mass transit. Currently there are crosstown subway lines at 59th St (N/Q/R trains), 53rd St (E), and 42nd St (7/Shuttle).

A new, 2 track, crosstown subway would serve an additional purpose, that of new capacity. Even if the 2nd Ave Subway is fully built out there will new capacity on existing lines in Manhattan but no new capacity in Queens. In my next post I will talk more about new subways in Queens but for these to be possible they need a place to go. A new crosstown subway in midtown Manhattan would be the perfect connection for a new subway to Queens. The 63rd St tunnel was built for this very reason but due to lack of funding no new capacity was constructed in Queens and the current 63rd St tunnel is operating under capacity because of this (read more about the history of the 63rd St tunnel here.)

The two best options for a new crosstown subway would be at 57th St or at 50th St. The 57th St alignment would connect with Columbus Circle, major express subway stations, and the hotel areas above midtown but the 50th St alignment would directly serve the CBD and still connect with major subway lines. A benefit to the 50th St alignment would be that an underground pedestrian mall could be constructed and connected into the existing concourse at Rockefeller Center. An underground concourse connecting Times Sq, the Midtown CBD, and Grand Central Terminal would reduce pedestrian traffic on the streets and allow for substantial retail which could help pay for the subway.

A cheaper alignment may be along 53rd St where the existing IND subway runs. The problem with this alternative is while the tunnel segment from 8th Ave to 6th Ave is 4 tracks, the tunnel from 6th Ave to the East River is only 2 tracks. Queens bound trains would have to be cut back to allow for an additional train, though an additional crosstown train at 53rd St would have the benefit of being able to directly connect to the 8th Ave Subway and add additional express service along the west side of Manhattan to downtown.

Crosstown subways from midtown Manhattan entering Long Island City.

Crosstown subways from midtown Manhattan entering Long Island City.

Where ever the crosstown subway is built it will have end up somewhere. Like the existing 14th St-Canarsie Line it could terminate at 8th Ave but because there is a large residential neighborhood just west of 8th Ave (Hells Kitchen/Clinton) it would make more sense to extend the subway over to 10th Ave and run it south to 14th St to connect with the 14th St-Canarsie Line. This would mean trains could enter from Brooklyn and unload passengers heading south, then swing north to serve the proposed Hudson Yards development and the Hells Kitchen neighborhood, then turn back east into midtown and on into Queens. Due to the commuting habits at rush hour it is foreseeable that there would be three different trains running on this subway: an all local train running from Brooklyn to Queens via 10th Ave, a Brooklyn only train at 14th St which would terminate at 10th Ave, and a Queens only train at 50th St (or another alignment) which would also terminate at 10th Ave. Off peak hours could run one or two all local trains from Brooklyn to Queens.

On the Queens side of the East River the new 10th Ave-Crosstown subway would need a place to enter Long Island City, a growing mixed use neighborhood. This fact has more to do with affecting the location of the new subway in Manhattan than anything else. Because existing subways in Long Island City are at capacity a new 4 track subway would need to be built. Currently the IND Crosstown G Line is cut back to Court Sq instead of connecting to the Queens Blvd Line and running to Forest Hills. Because of the ridership demand for midtown Manhattan service G train riders must transfer to the E/M trains to get to Queens Plaza. A new tunnel under the East River servicing a 10th Ave-Crosstown train would allow for the G train to finally get a proper terminal.

Depending on the alignment, a new 2 track tunnel under the East River would enter Long Island City and head towards Queens Plaza. A more southern alignment, like the one at 50th St, would meet up with the IND Crosstown G Line before Court Sq, thereby allowing a new tunnel and station to be built which would combine the two subways into a 4 track trunk line built parallel to the Queens Blvd Line to Queens Plaza. The new subway would be built inside the Sunnyside Rail Yards so no buildings would need to be demolished for this expansion to take place. A new 4 track terminal station would be built adjacent to the existing Queens Plaza station for transfers.

Morningside Ave Line

Proposals for a super-express subway to Morningside Heights.

Proposals for a super-express subway to Morningside Heights.

One of the more peculiar proposed subway lines from the original IND Second System was for a super-express subway under the west side of Central Park to Morningside Heights that would terminate at 145th St. The subway would have only had stations from 110th St to 145th St and would have connected with the BMT Broadway Line at 57th St. Early BMT subway maps actually show a small stud aimed this way at 57th St. While a new subway line through the Upper West Side was very much needed around this time, the peculiar thing is that this subway was still being proposed well after the 8th Ave Line opened, serving this same are.

My theory, and I have nothing to base this on, was that a Morningside Ave super-express subway was planned to compliment a pair of super-express tracks which were planned for the 2nd Ave Subway. Originally the 2nd Ave Subway was planned with 6 tracks through the Upper East Side, 2 local, 2 express, and 2 super-express with no stops until the line reached the Bronx. The subways through the Upper West Side were older, the original NYC Subway ran up Broadway, had two express stations at 72nd and 96th Sts, and only a third track for rush hour express trains after 103rd St. The areas around Morningside Heights, meanwhile, were rapidly developing at this time because of the improved transportation the new subways were bringing; in a sense the subways were too popular too handle the growing demand. A super-express subway would have taken considerable stress/directly competed with the IRT (keep in mind that the subways were still operated by three different companies at this time).

Today the shortcomings of the early subway designs are as evident as ever (for instance there is no express station at 125th St at Broadway). Already I’ve suggested three options for a super-express subway through the Upper West Side: a 7 Line extension along the Amtrak Hudson River tracks, a MetroNorth alternative along the same way, and a subway up Amsterdam Ave which would be an extension of the 14th St-Canarsie Line up 10th Ave.

Let’s add the original proposal into the mix, a branch off the BMT Broadway Line along Central Park. This would be the least disruptive option of them all since it would only require digging through the park. At the north end of the park the subway could swing west, like originally proposed, and run under Morningside Ave and Convent Ave to 145th St. Here the subway could terminate or merge with the IND 8th Ave Line and add super-express service directly to the IND Grand Concourse (B/D) Line in the Bronx. Alternatively, the subway could run under Lenox Ave in Harlem to 148th St (the IRT 7th Ave 3 train terminal) or connect to the IND Grand Concourse Line at Yankee Stadium.

George Washington Bridge Subway

George Washington Bridge with subway connection.

George Washington Bridge with subway connection.

The George Washington Bridge (GWB) is notable for many reasons, but one that is almost never mentioned is that it was the first major bridge built in New York City which was not built with a mass transit connection. The Brooklyn (1883), Williamsburg (1903), Queensboro/59th St (1909), and Manhattan (1909) bridges all were built with some form of mass transit but the GWB (1931), completed almost 30 years after the Manhattan Bridge, did not. What has been noted many times was that it was overbuilt (the original design called for a skin of brick and granite) and space was left over for a second deck which would have allowed for mass transit. A second deck was added in the 1960s but no mass transit option was built, not even a bus lane which could have served the busy bus terminal on the Manhattan side of the bridge. Because the bridge spans the Hudson River the bridge is owned and operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey there are legal, jurisdictional, and bureaucratic issues that need to be dealt with if mass transit is to be a reality on the GWB.

There are two ways that mass transit could operate on the GWB, both of which would require the removal of a travel lane in each direction. This may seem counter productive since the GWB is the most heavily trafficed bridge in the world but mass transit would only cut down on the amount of space for cars; many more people could cross the bridge if mass transit was added.

  • Bus Lanes

    A bus-only lane along the top deck would better serve the bus terminal on the Manhattan side. The GWB Bus Terminal is a strategic part of the region’s transportation network which diverts traffic away from the main Port Authority Bus Terminal at 42nd St. A bus-only lane would also allow charter buses, which would normally cross along at one of the tunnels further south, a quicker way into Manhattan.

  • Subway

    An extension of the IND 8th Ave Line from 168th St (the current terminus for 8th Ave local trains) across the lower deck of the bridge to a new transportation facility/relocated bus terminal in Fort Lee, NJ. There exists, underground, a train yard under Broadway at 174th St to serve 8th Ave trains. The tracks connecting the yard to the 8th Ave Subway could be extended up Broadway a few blocks and curved west to run along the lower deck of the bridge (see map). On the New Jersey side a large new bus terminal and park-and-ride facility would be built where commuters would transfer to express trains to Manhattan. The facility would be built above the existing highway when space is freed up from the removal of the tool booth plazas (which would be replaced by automated license plate readers currently being installed on other bridges). The air-rights on the New Jersey side and the air-rights from the removal of the existing GWB Bus Terminal in Manhattan would be a way to finance the subway.

Conclusion

The unfortunate fact about all the subway expansion going on in New York City right now is that when it is all finished the Far West Side, Clinton, and Hells Kitchen neighborhoods won’t be that much better off. New subway connections which would extend existing lines through these neighborhoods are needed when the planned developments (and current developments along W42nd St) start to bring thousands more people into this area. This being the case it only makes sense to look at these transportation needs in a broader context. Subways in Manhattan are already close to (and in some places surpassing) their designed capacity. If other boroughs of the city are to grow (an additional 1 million people are expected to move into the city within the next 20 years) they will need a way to get around. New subways are the only desirable answer.

I’ve talked about new crosstown connections into Queens and in my next post I will discuss just where those new subways will lead to: the Flushing Trunk Line.

Subway Diagram

Subway diagram showing 10th Ave Subway, 7 Line to Hoboken, Bushwick Trunk Line, and Second Ave Subway systems.

Subway diagram showing 10th Ave Subway, 7 Line to Hoboken, Bushwick Trunk Line, and Second Ave Subway systems.


The futureNYCSubway

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

The futureNYCSubway: 2nd Ave Subway Future

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

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.

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 and connection to Brooklyn

    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.

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.

The Bronx

  • 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.

    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

    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.

Northern Queens

2nd Ave alternatives in northern Queens.

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

    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.

    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.

Southern Queens

  • 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.

Jamaica Extensions

2nd Ave alternatives in 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.

Subway Diagram

futureNYCSubway diagram showing fully built out Second Ave subway system [PDF]

futureNYCSubway diagram showing fully built out Second Ave subway system (PDF)


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: 2nd Avenue Subway History

The Second Ave Subway: An Introduction

Ask an old time New Yorker about the many great myths about the city and you’ll hear the standard ones about alligators in the sewers, rats the size of cats, and up until a few years ago even a subway that the city built under 2nd Ave but boarded up. The Second Ave subway was for a very long time vaporware (a computer term for software that is always talked about but never seems to become a reality.) I’ve touched on some of the history of the Second Ave subway in previous posts and much has been written about the subway over time. From my previous post:

The most famous, or infamous, part of the Second System was a 4 to 6 track trunk subway running from the Harlem River to Pine St in downtown. It may seem obvious for the need for a second subway line through the east side of Manhattan today but at the time there were actually 3 lines, the Lexington Ave subway and two elevated trains running up 3rd and 2nd Aves. The reason that the Second Ave subway was put off for so long was because the east side was already well served until the 1940s and 1950s when the elevated lines were torn down.

Because plans for the Second Ave line have been around for so long they have been subject to much change. Originally the line was to be a two track subway from Downtown until Houston St where a second set of tracks joined until 61st St where a planned connection to the 6th Ave line was to come in on another set of tracks, bringing the total tracks through to Harlem to six. Here the line would continue on to the Bronx as 4 tracks. The idea was for a super-express line that would connect to the 6th Ave line. It is interesting to note that in the original plans there were no connections from Queens.

The line was first proposed back in 1929, weeks before the stock market crashed and sent the nation into the Great Depression. Construction started twice on the line over the years, most recently in 2007. That’s a long time of waiting and dashed hopes. Lets put that into some perspective:

Timeline of the Second Ave subway relative to World History.

A more detailed timeline can be found over at SecondAveSagas.com, a blog set up originally to track progress on the line but now deals with all things MTA (one of the best blogs on the subject IMHO).

The First Second Ave Subway

1939_IND_manhattan

1939 IND Second System plan showing Second Ave subway.

The need for a subway under 2nd Ave seems obvious today but one of main reasons that subways under 8th and 6th Aves were constructed first was due to the fact that at the time (1920-30s) mass transit in Manhattan was lopsided in favor of the East Side. A number of elevated lines ran up through Manhattan, on 9th Ave, 6th Ave, 3rd Ave and 2nd Ave. The 6th Ave elevated line combined with the 9th Ave at 53rd St meaning that residents of the West Side only had one elevated line while residents on the East Side had two. This is one reason the original subway (in 1904) ran through the Upper West Side, not the Upper East (until the Lexington Ave subway was opened in 1918). Two decades of residential growth along the Upper West Side meant that the city, when planning their Independent (IND) subway, focused on the West Side over the East.

But the point of building a subway wasn’t just to alleviate congestion, it was also primarily to allow for the destruction of the much hated elevated lines that darkened streets, threw dirt and trash on pedestrians below, made living near one a painful and dangerous experience, and kept real estate values down (this being New York that last one was a major factor.) Because two elevated lines ran through the East Side the city soon set its sights on transforming this half of the city like it had done on the West Side. So in 1929 the city announced plans for a major subway expansion that focused on a new trunk line running under 2nd Ave that would alleviate congestion and allow for the elevated lines to come down.

The original proposal called for a subway with four tracks (express and local) from the Harlem River to 125th St, six tracks from 125th St to 61st St (for super-express service), four tracks from 61st St to Chambers St, and finally two tracks from Chambers St to Wall St. Back at 61st St the additional set of tracks for super-express would cut off to the west to 6th Ave where they would connect to the 6th Ave line (a rare section of the Second Ave subway which was eventually constructed and is todays F Line). At the Harlem River the four track subway would head into the South Bronx up to Melrose where the line would split into two, two track lines, one which would run to Throgs Neck and the other which would run to Eastchester (click here to see the full description). It should be noted that at this time there were no plans to connect the line to any Brooklyn or Queens lines.

Due to the Great Depression the line was shelved but ten years later the plans were dusted off and reproposed. In the 1939 plan the line would be simpler, a four track line from Throgs Neck to Melrose, Bronx, then south to 2nd Ave in Manhattan to just south of Hanover Sq in Downtown where it would make a sharp turn east and head into Brooklyn under the East River to connect with the IND Fulton St subway at Hoyt-Schermerhorn (or more acuaratly, at Court St which is today the New York Transit Museum, but was at the time an active subway station). The plans at the time show the IND Fulton St subway (A,C) continuing further into South Jamaica and connecting to the Rockaways so one assumes that these extensions may have connected to the Second Ave subway. An interesting note about the 1939 plan is that the 61st St connection between the 6th Ave and 2nd Ave subways is no longer a direct connection, instead there would be a second East River tunnel at about 72nd St which would connect the 6th Ave subway with the Queens Blvd subway in Long Island City. This connection was eventually constructed, but further south at 63rd St.

The Post War Subway Plans

1951 plans for the Second Ave subway and connection to Brooklyn

1951 plans for the Second Ave subway and connection to Brooklyn

With the nation coming out of the Great Depression and World War II winding down, New York City was, arguably, at the zenith of its might and prestige. Over the next decade the city threw itself into transforming itself into a new world capital and city of the future. It says something about American culture that throughout the government spending of the 1930s New Deal and the post War urban renewal/highway building boom that not a mile of new subway was constructed. Many books have been written about how Americans at this time drove out of cities for new government subsidized suburbs. It seems like this was a time when city planners were only focused on the car and the subdivision but this was not entirely the case.

After the war the plans for a subway under 2nd Ave were again dusted off. The need for a subway was even greater now that the 2nd Ave El had been torn down in 1940 and the 3rd Ave El was to be torn down in 1955, both because city officials thought the subway was about to be constructed. The plans ranging from 1944 to 1955 called for a six track subway from 125th St to 57th St with a connection east to the 6th Ave subway and, added later, a spur to Queens. South of 57th St the line ran four tracks to a giant new interchange south of Houston St which would connect the 6th Ave subway with the 2nd Ave subway to the Williamsburg Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge. Some plans called for an additional two tracks running south to Wall St, though plans for this subway were dropped. More details on this large interchange, which was eventually constructed, are in my last post on the Chrystie Street Connection.

These plans came very close to coming to construction. In 1951 a $500M bond was passed by voters to build the subway, order new cars, and fix the crumbling system. So confident were Transit Authority officials that brand new state of the art subway cars, the R11 dubbed the “million dollar train” due to the cost, were ordered (this train can be viewed at the Transit Museum). However, much like the last two times the subway was slated for construction, an international crisis, the Korean War, drove material costs sky high and in 1957, the year construction was supposed to commence, from SecondAveSagas.com:

Transit Authority Chairman Charles L. Patterson used most of the $500M bond issue for improvements to the current system, leaving only $112M for the Second Ave. subway. The New York Times reported on Jan 17, 1957 (page 1): “It is highly improbable that the Second Ave. subway will ever materialize.”

Second Ave Subways Second Act

Gov Rockefeller and Mayor Lindsay break ground in 1972

Governor Rockefeller and Mayor Lindsay break ground for the Second Ave subway in 1972. Source: New York Times

The primary reason that after World War II that the United States built so many highways throughout the nation was that in 1956 President Eisenhower signed the National Defense Highway Act which promised states that the Federal government would pay the states 90 cents on the dollar for the cost of building them, which were normally high and through cities especially high. If they wanted to build a mass transit line the Feds would pay nothing.

Second Ave Subway map showing previously completed sections.

Second Ave Subway map showing previously completed sections. Source: New York Times

In 1964 this changed. Throughout the 1950s and 60s many people were coming to realize just how destructive building highways were to cities. Not only were neighborhoods often destroyed but, instead of connecting the cities to their suburbs, these new roads were draining cities of the middle and upper classes, on whom cities relied for taxes to pay for the majority of services. In 1950 many cities had all time highs in population but ten years later almost all major industrial cities had lost large percentages of population and future trends pointed to continued loss. In 1964 progressive Democrats were swept into Congress and Lyndon B. Johnson was elected President. President Johnson proposed a wave a new progressive legislation aimed at fighting poverty and building up education, health, and cultural infrastructure, known as the Great Society. One aspect of the Great Society was the Urban Mass Transit Act which promised states 50 cents on the dollar to build mass transit systems. Many aging systems benefited from this act including San Francisco and Washington D.C. which built entirely new systems (BART, Metro).

New York saw an opportunity to finally find financing for the Second Ave subway and in 1967 voters passed a $2.5B bond measure with $600M allotted for the Second Ave subway. The next year the newly formed Metropolitan Transit Authority released its Program for Action in which the agency outlined a massive overhaul of the aging system by upgrading older lines, eliminated the 3rd Ave elevated line which still ran in the Bronx (fun fact: this line was known as the 8 train), capturing Long Island Railroad right-of-ways for new subway lines, and building a scaled down version of the Second Ave subway. The new version would only be a two track line, with Phase 1 running from 126th St to 34th St, connecting to a new crosstown Queens tunnel at 63rd St, and a Phase 2 running from 34th St to Broad St. Future connections would then be made to the Bronx along a rehabilitated Pelham Bay line (6 train) and a new subway along the Metro North right-of-way to Fordham.

In 1972 ground was broken and construction began on small sections at 99th and 105th, 110th and 120th Sts, and between Chatham Sq and Canal St (this section was supposedly destroyed with the construction of Confucius Plaza.) Three years later yet another financial crisis, this time of the city of New York, stopped progress.

A fantastic video from a PBS program in 1975 covers the debate of the day.

Shut off from the world, the only section eventually opened was that of the 63rd St tunnel to Queens. The other small sections were sealed for decades with a politician now and then proposing uses for them. Due to the population decline of the city during the next 20 years and the fragile financial situation of the city and MTA no serious plans were ever brought forth to construct the Second Ave subway.

“The Second Avenue subway is to all intense and purposes dead.” -Carl H. Abraham, New York City Transportation Admin. 1975

Third Time’s A Charm

Second Ave subway proposed route.

Second Ave subway proposed route.

After a generation of decline the city began a rebound in the 1990s. Crime began to drop and the population drain of the previous 30 years began to slow and in some places populations grew with new waves of immigrants. With the future of the city finally looking bright planners once again started looking at ways to improve traffic on the East Side of Manhattan. Some saw a subway as still too expensive, light rail and Bus Rapid Transit were both proposed, but residents demanded that a full subway be constructed. Too much time and money had been wasted and congestion along the Lexington Ave subway was only going to get worse.

In 2001 a plan was put forth to build the subway in phases: Phase 1 would go from 63rd St/Lexington Ave to 96th St/2nd Ave and connect with the Broadway Line (Q train). Phase 2 would continue the subway north to 125th St with future connections available to the Bronx and a cross-Harlem subway under 125th St (though this later proposal was not looked at for immediate planning). Phase 3 would run south from 63rd St, with a connection to Queens, to Houston St. It is presumable that this section of subway would then feed into the Chrystie St Connection to the Manhattan Bridge as the Grand St station (along this section of subway) had, theoretically, been built to allow for easy connection to a future Second Ave subway. Phase 4 would extend the subway south to the Financial District terminating at Hanover Sq. There was a second proposal for Phase 4 which would have connect to the Centre St subway (J,Z) and allow for a simple extension of the subway into Brooklyn, but this was eventually passed on.

Construction began again in 2007, months before yet ANOTHER financial crisis hit the nation. History seemed to want to repeat itself but this time funding for the first phase was already in place (as opposed to pay-as-you-go as with past attempts.) When fully complete the new subway will be called the “T” line, the color a light blue. It will get a letter because it is part of the IND legacy (which has more to do with the size of subway train than it does for nostalgia) which has lettered trains unlike the IRT which uses numbers.

Due to financial reasons (costs have skyrocketed over the years) the current version of the Second Ave subway will only be two track, local service the entire route. For all the foresight subway planners might posses, this seems to me a grave mistake that will come to haunt the city for generations to come. The timeline for the current construction on Phase 1 was supposed to end in 2014 but has now been bumped back to 2016 and will most likely not make that mark. Originally Phase 1 was to include a third track to allow for better switching from the 2nd Ave line to the 63rd St tunnel but this was dropped due to cost.

The Future Second Ave Subway

Given the pace at which the Second Ave subway has progressed it is no wonder that the city and MTA are not planning expanding the system into the Bronx or Brooklyn anytime soon. Up until now this series has been looking back at the expansion plans of the past. From here on out, however, I will be presenting my plan for expanding the system. My next post will look at what a future 2nd Ave subway might look like, where and how it could connect to the other boroughs to create a new backbone for the subway network.

More Information


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-Expre
  11. Conclusion: the vanshnookenraggen plan

The futureNYCSubway: The IND Second System

Prologue

NYC Subway IND System 1939

NYC Subway IND System 1939 via nycsubway.org

The problem with trying to lay out an entire system-wide plan for subway expansion is that the history of New York City’s subway is so complex that, in order to fully understand why certain lines go where they do, you must understand the whole history of the system. There are many many books and websites written about the subway, how it started with 2 companies and then the city built their own line, then combined into the Transit Authority in the late 40s, the creation of the MTA in 1968, the decline of the subway in the 70s and 80s, and how it has came back. There is far too much to have to write about here of the history of the system. Because of this I am going to be jumping right into the first major “future” system plan first dating from 1929, but if you would like some context then there is only one place you need to go:

http://www.nycsubway.org/

This here is the single greatest website on the subject of the NYC subway anywhere on the internet. Everything you would like to know is on there in more detail than you could imagine. For my futureMBTA website I needed to write little histories of each line first but NYC isn’t Boston, there are plenty of transit nerds out there than have written at length about the subway so I’m not going to cover well worn territory.

I realize that many of the neighborhoods and streets covered in this post may not be familiar to even life-long New Yorkers. To help you follow along, if you have Google Earth you can download a version of these maps I made along with my original “New York City subways with other transit”.

The Independent Subway: A Brief Introduction

For a full history of the Independent Subway, see NYC Subway.org

NYC Subway IND Animation

NYC Subway IND (Click for animation)

Before the Independent Subway (IND) there were two transit companies that ran the subways in NYC; the Interborough Rapid Transit Co (IRT) and the Brooklyn-Manhattan Rapid Transit Co (BMT). The MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority) phased out these names long ago but old timers still call each line by their original names: The IRT Lexington Ave Line (4,5,6), the IRT 7th Ave Line (1,2,3) and the IRT Flushing Line (7), the BMT Broadway Line (N,Q,R,W), the BMT Canarsie Line (L), the BMT Jamaica Line (J,Z), and the BMT West End, Seabeach and Brighton Beach Lines, among others.

These dueling systems (one had to pay extra to transfer to a different company’s line) were the lifeblood of the city but were not properly serving large sections of the fast growing metropolis. The citizens had a love/hate relationship with the companies and after years of overcrowding the city decided to step in and fund their own, independently run subway system, the Independent (IND).

The IND today is best known as the 8th Ave Line (A,C,E), the 6th Ave Line (B,D,F,V), the Fulton St Line (Brooklyn A,C), the South Brooklyn or Culver Line (F), the Queens Blvd Line (E,F,R,V), and the Crosstown Line (G). Two subways proposed originally in 1922 but never built were a line from Bay Ridge to Staten Island and an extension of the BMT Broadway Line from 7th Ave/59th St to Harlem (both will be discussed here).

From NYC Subway:

John F. Hylan was Mayor for two terms from 1918 to 1925. Legend has it that, as a young locomotive engineer for the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company (BRT, predecessor to the BMT), he was fired because he exceeded the posted speed operating his train around a curve. He was studying for the bar exam while employed at the BRT. Once he was mayor, he was in a position of power to get even. He regularly made it difficult for the IRT and BRT to expand their lines or obtain funding (the 5 cent fare was a losing proposition and could not be changed without city approval). To get even with the private operators, he wanted a subway run by the city “independent of the traction interests”. In fact, many of the lines the Independent opened were in direct competition with existing lines of the time, and those existing lines ended up being torn down in favor of the Independent lines.

The IND was an instant hit and even inspired the Billy Strayhorn/Duke Ellington hit “Take the A Train”. First proposed in 1922 and opened beginning in 1932, the IND was a modern marvel in terms of planning and design; the stations were larger and were built with express and local stops designed to eliminate the bottlenecks that older express stations had created. While it would be decades until the original IND system was complete, the city early on saw the new system as a huge success and immediately began planning a second system that would reach areas of the city still unserved by the current subways. This plan was known as the IND Second System.

The IND Second System

  • Second Ave Trunk Line (Manhattan)
    1939_IND_manhattan

    1939 IND Second System plan showing Second Ave subway and Morningside Ave line.

    The most famous, or infamous, part of the Second System was a 4 to 6 track trunk subway running from the Harlem River to Pine St in downtown. It may seem obvious for the need for a second subway line through the east side of Manhattan today but at the time there were actually 3 lines, the Lexington Ave subway and two elevated trains running up 3rd and 2nd Aves. The reason that the Second Ave subway was put off for so long was because the east side was already well served until the 1940s and 1950s when the elevated lines were torn down.

    Because plans for the Second Ave line have been around for so long they have been subject to the most change. Originally the line was to be a 2 track subway from Downtown until Houston St where a second set of tracks joined until 61st St where a planned connection to the 6th Ave line was to come in on another set of tracks, bringing the total tracks through to Harlem to 6. Here the line would continue on to the Bronx as 4 tracks. The idea was for a super-express line that would connect to the 6th Ave line. It is interesting to note that in the original plans there were no connections from Queens. I will cover more of this in my post about the Second Ave Subway (coming soon).

    Two connections that were planned as part of the Second Ave subway were the 61st St line (mentioned above) and a spur at Houston St that would connect with the 6th Ave line as it headed into Williamsburg (to be explained below). Updated proposals for the next 30 years moved this tunnel further north with a connection to Queens and was eventually the only major section constructed. The 61st St tunnel proposal eventually morphed into the 63rd St tunnel which connects the F line to Queens, opened in 2001. When this tunnel was built there were provisions made to connect the 63rd St tunnel to a future Second Ave subway and to connect the Second Ave subway to the tunnel to Queens.

  • Morningside Ave Line (Manhattan)

    Details on this are sketchy but it seems that plans for a line branching off the BMT Broadway Line at 57th St to run into Harlem were proposed even back when the Broadway Line was under construction. In early BMT maps there is shown a small stub past 57th St which represented the actual stub end of the express tracks terminating past the station. The plans called for a 2 track tunnel to run north under Central Park (the park, not Central Park West) and then swing west somewhere in the West 80s. From here the line would head north under, presumably, Columbus Ave and into Morningside Park along Morningside Ave. From here the line would presumably run north along Convent Ave until terminating at 155th St. What is peculiar is that plans for this line were included in the original IND system, dropped in the 1929 plan, but then added again in the 1939 plan.The stub end tracks at 57th St were eventually rerouted so they now link up with the 63rd St tunnel (F) as so to allow Broadway trains to run on the Second Ave line when constructed. More about this in my upcoming Second Ave Subway post.

  • Utica Ave and Rockaway Lines (Brooklyn)
    1929_IND_inset

    1929 IND Second System plans with Manhattan connections to the Utica Ave and Rockaway Lines.

    One of the most impressive proposals from the Second System was for a massive 4 to 8 track subway line through Williamsburg with two 4 track spurs branching out into unserved parts of Brooklyn and Queens. The first part of the line was the Utica Ave line which branched off from the 6th Ave line in Manhattan at 2nd Ave and traveled along East Houston and under the East River to Grand Ave in Williamsburg. South of this was the Rockaway Line which branched off the 8th Ave line in Manhattan and swung east under Worth Ave and along East Broadway, under the East River and under Broadway in Williamsburg. These two lines then met up under South 4th St and traveled to Union Ave in an, at one point 4 track and then expanded to 6 track, trunk line. These lines then connected to the Crosstown Line (G) in a massive 4 platform station which was actually built and remains abandoned under the streets of Williamsburg! (Click here for more information)

    From here 8 tracks were planned to run under a new street parallel to Broadway to Beaver St, Bushwick Ave and Myrtle Ave. At Myrtle Ave the two lines branched off in two, 4 track lines; the Utica Ave line tunning south along Utica Ave through Bedford-Stuyvesant, Crown Heights, and East Flatbush, and the Rockaway line traveling east under Myrtle and Central Aves through Glendale, turning south after Woodhaven Blvd along the LIRR right-of-way to connect to the Rockaways. The Utica Ave line, when it reached Ave S in Flatbush, turned west to connect with an extension of the IRT Flatbush Line (2,5) under Nostrand Ave and together these lines ran to Voorhese Ave in Sheepshead Bay. At one point an additonal tunnel was proposed to branch off here and travel to Queens under Flushing Ave.

    1929_IND_rockaway

    1929 IND Second System plan for Rockaways connections. Note that it was assumed that Jamaica Bay would have been built up as a seaport.

    Later plans also included a connection to the Williamsburg Bridge to replace the BMT Jamaica Line (J,M,Z) and added a subway from the Myrtle Ave junction along Bushwick Ave to Broadway Junction. Additional plans included a subway branching off the Crosstown Line (G) under Lafayette Ave which would connect to the Rockaway Line under Myrtle Ave.

    As mentioned, a shell station was actually constructed at the Broadway stop on the Crosstown Line (G). A partial shell station was also constructed at the Utica Ave station on the IND Fulton Ave line (A,C) to service connections to the Utica Ave line. Eventually a subway connection was created to the Rockaways but instead of running into Queens it was truncated back to the Fulton Ave (A,C) line in Ozone Park.

  • The Bronx

    The Bronx was and still is one of the better served areas of the city in terms of subways but the eastern portion, which at that time had not developed as fast as the western Bronx, was still under served. To address this the Second System proposed a 4 track trunk line into the eastern Bronx. Continuing from the Second Ave subway at the Harlem River, a 4 track subway would have snaked its way north under Alexander Ave and Melrose Ave to 163rd St where the line would split. One branch would head due east under 163rd St to Unionport where it would run under Lafayette Ave to East Tremont St in Throggs Neck.

    1929-1939 IND Bronx

    1929-1939 IND Bronx Lines. The addition of the Dyre Ave line killed plans for a subway under Morris Park Ave.

    The other branch would run north under Boston Post Road to the IRT yards at 180th St. Here the line would run east under Morris Park Ave until about Seminole Ave where it would turn north and run under Wilson Ave to Boston Post Road, turning east to finally terminate at Baychester Ave. However right before the line turned onto Boston Post Road it would connect with an extension of the Concourse Line (B,D) which was to be extended from its terminal at 205th St under Burke Ave to Boston Post Road.

    If you look at the map of the subway today it would seem peculiar to extend the subway into an area that is already covered by the IRT Dyre Ave line (5). What you don’t realize is that the Dyre Ave line (5) wasn’t part of the subway at all at that point and was actually a section of the New York, Westchester, and Boston Railroad. This right-of-way was “captured” by the city after the railroad went bankrupt in 1935. Because of this addition the plans for a subway through this area were dropped and are not found on the updated 1939 map.

  • Northern Queens
    1939_IND_astoria

    1939 IND Second System plan for Long Island City

    Keep in mind that most of Queens was developed after World War 2. This means that even before the IND had built its first line Queens was only served by two subway lines, a few commuter railroads, and a number of streetcar lines (as opposed to the innumerable lines that served Manhattan and Brooklyn). The only lines the original IND built were the Queens Boulevard line (E,F,G,R,V) and its extension down Hillside Ave (F), and these stuck close to the LIRR ROW which was already developed. So knowing that Queens was the next place where development was going to occur, the IND proposed extending already built lines out into northern Queens.

    The two subways already there were jointly operated by the IRT and the BMT per agreement in the Dual Contracts (the two contracts the city gave to these competing transit companies in 1913 to stop them from building redundant and competing subways.) The Astoria line (N,W) and the Corona (7), todays Flushing line went through some pretty barren territory but by the 1920s people were streaming out the packed tenement districts into new garden apartments and single family homes in Queens. The IND Second System, which at this point had no control over these two companies, proposed extending both lines further out into northern Queens.

    The Astoria line, which terminated (and still does) at Ditmars Blvd, would have been extended down Ditmars Blvd to Astoria Blvd where it was go from 2 to 4 tracks. It would run down Astoria Blvd through East Corona, elevated, to 112th St where it would turn south and then east across the Flushing River. At this point Flushing Meadow Park was nothing more than a marsh and dumping ground (Robert Moses built the park for the 1939 Worlds Fair). From here it would travel along Horace Harding Blvd, which today is the Long Island Expressway, to Nassau Blvd, todays Francis Lewis Blvd. Later these plans were altered so that instead of extending the elevated line, a new subway would run from Queensboro Plaza under 21st St in Long Island City, then following this same path as a subway but continuing under Horace Harding Blvd to Marathon Parkway.

    The other line, the Corona line, originally terminated at 111th St but had been extended to Flushing/Main St. In the Second System plan it was to be continued parallel to the LIRR Port Washington commuter rail branch out to Bayside, 221st St. Before that, at 149th St, a branch north to Whitestone and College Point was planned. There had at one point been a steam railroad that branched off from the Port Washington track before Flushing and traveled north to College Point and east to Whitestone. The city had debated buying the line after trains were discontinued but in the end nothing came of it. The proposed right-of way would have served more people as it traveled through level ground rather than wetlands. These plans were kept in updated plans but the area soon developed without the expanded subways.

  • Jamaica and Eastern Queens
    1939_IND_queens

    1939 IND Second System plan for eastern Queens.

    The first IND system terminated its only Queens line in Jamaica which, like Flushing, was once a separate town until Queens County was consolidated into greater New York City in 1898. Jamaica had a long history of development with improved transportation as the first railroad in the city connected it to Brooklyn in 1834. Because the city knew that the farms surrounding Jamaica would soon turn into housing the IND built the Queens Blvd line with the expectation that it would be extended in the future. The Hillside Ave branch is 4 tracks until it terminates at 179th St, unusual until you understand that the subway was intended to be extended out to Little Neck Road. There was also a set of tracks that dead-ended before Hillside Ave, originally these were intended for a subway south under Van Wyck Blvd to Rockaway Blvd. These plans were kept even with the building of Idlewild (JFK) Airport but were not shelved until Robert Moses built the Van Wyck Expressway down the same right-of-way and, ignoring the pleas from city planners, intentionally left no room for a subway along the median of the highway (Chicago had done this successfully with a subway extension out to O’Hare Airport). These extra tracks were eventually used when the MTA built the Archer Ave subway to replace the elevated tracks through Jamaica Center.

    Southern Jamaica was sparsely settled but growing quickly at this time. The only section served by rapid transit up until then was the end of the Liberty Ave elevated line which ran through Ozone Park to 119th St. The IND, which had built its Fulton Ave subway (A,C) in direct competition to the elevated Fulton Ave and Liberty Ave lines, was keen on “capturing” the Liberty Ave elevated line and incorporating it into the Fulton Ave subway (which it did). The Second System then planned to extend the line, elevated, down Liberty Ave to Sutphin Blvd where it would snake its way south and then east along 110th Ave to 180th St. Here the line would split, with one branch running along the LIRR right-of-way north and then doubling-back west to terminate at the Jamaica Center LIRR station, while the other branch continued east along Brinkerhoff Ave to Hollis Blvd, finally terminating at Springfield Blvd. This was a rather serpentine route and the plans were eventually altered so that the extension of the Fulton St subway would run east under Linden Blvd to 229th St instead.

  • The Winfield Spur and 120th St
    1929_IND_winspur

    1929 IND Second System plan for the Winfield Spur to the Rockaways.

    The subway known as the Winfield Spur is one of the more peculiar instances of transit planning in New York City. It is peculiar for two reasons, the first being its serpentine, meandering path through central Queens, and the second is that an actual station complete with tile tile work was constructed for the line. The concept was to kill two birds with one stone; to provide subway service to areas of central Queens such as Maspeth, Middle Village, and Glendale while also connecting the Rockaways to downtown and midtown via subway service. The area of central Queens through which the line was to run is home to many large cemeteries and because of this planners had to route the line around the cemeteries while trying to service the most number of people.

    From NYCSubway.org:

    It would have been a two track line arising from the Roosevelt Avenue station (the never-used upper level station, but also would have track connections to the main line), and curving southeasterly between 78th and 79th Sts. to Queens Blvd., then along the LIRR ROW into Garfield Avenue to 65th Place, then along 65th Place to Fresh Pond Road, and then along Fresh Pond Rd and Cypress Hills Avenue to a connection with the Central Avenue line outlined above. The line would be 2 tracks, and would be subway to 45th Avenue, then elevated to Fresh Pond Road, then subway again to Central Avenue. In looking at the map, the rationale for the circuitous route becomes a little more apparent, since it appears to skirt some large cemeteries, thus staying in the residential/commercial areas.

    Note the part about the never-used upper level station. At Roosevelt Ave on the Queens Blvd line there is a part of the station that is out of reach to regular people that is actually a single platform station for trains to terminate from the Rockaways. Additional tracks would have connected the line to the Queens Blvd line. Work on these extra tracks was completed up to 78th St and land that was taken for construction of the line was eventually turned into Frank O’Connor playground.

    After connecting up with the proposed Rockaways subway under Central Ave, the line would turn south past Woodhaven Blvd along the LIRR right-of-way. Tracks would continue to the Rockaways so that passengers could go downtown via South 4th St in Williamsburg or into midtown via the Winfield Spur. At 120th St in South Ozone Park, 2 tracks would branch east to serve southern Jamaica and Cambria Heights. The line would have cut a new road though a sparsely settled area to Linden Blvd but would have meant that now southeastern Queens had evenly spaced subway service to downtown and midtown.

    Sometime in the 1930s it was decided that the Winfield Spur was just about too ridiculous and a better connection was drawn up which would branch off the Queens Blvd line after 63rd St rather than Roosevelt Ave. The branch would head due south until it reached the LIRR junction at Rego Park. Here it would continue on to the Rockaways using the same LIRR Rockaways right-of-way. Plans for the 120th St subway were dropped at this point.

  • Ft Hamilton subway and Staten Island
    1939_IND_staten

    1939 IND Second System plans for Ft Hamilton subway and tunnel to Staten Island.

    The South Brooklyn line (F,G) of the first IND system ended short after weaving its way through South Brooklyn, Park Slope, and Windsor Terrace. The line is built with 4 tracks so presumably it was expected to be extended southernly. Since it was built right up to the BMT Culver Line it was no surprise that the IND “captured” the elevated line and combined the two. But the elevated Culver line is only 3 tracks while the IND South Brooklyn is 4. This leaves the room for another branch and in the Second System the IND decided to reach out to the only borough not serviced by a subway, Staten Island.

    The Ft Hamilton/Staten Island line would have branched off from the South Brooklyn line after the Ft Hamilton Parkway stop and continue in a 4 track tunnel to Bay Ridge Ave where one branch would continue south to 86th St and the other would head west under Bay Ridge Ave, under New York harbor, to St George on Staten Island. Here the line would split and some trains would head north along the Staten Island Railroad North Shore Branch while the other would head south along the main line. The plans for this connection were not in the 1929 plan, though a proposed vehicular tunnel was present, but added in the 1939 plan. In fact plans for a train/vehicular tunnel had been proposed as far back as at least 1910! I wish I knew more about what happened to the plans for these lines as it was 30 years later that Robert Moses finally did built a connection between Staten Island and Brooklyn via the Verrazano-Narrows bridge. But true to form he left no room for rapid transit.

Conclusion
The purpose of this post was to give some context and prep your mind for the proposals to come. Much has been written about the IND Second System and I was elated when I first discovered the plans. I have to give thanks where they are due and most of my information came from these sources:

Also, for you maps lovers out there, you can see the full versions of the 1929 and 1939 plans below. The super-big versions of these maps are located here.

1929_IND_Second_System

1929 IND Second System

1939_IND_Second_System

1939 IND Second System


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