New York Subway: Wikis


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New York City Subway
MTA New York City Subway logo.svg
NYC Subway R142 on the 4 R160A on the M.jpg
Top: A number 4 train made up of R142 cars enters Fordham Road.
Bottom: An M train made up of R160A cars enters Hewes Street.
Locale New York City
Transit type Rapid transit
Number of lines 26
Number of stations 468
Daily ridership averaged 5,225,675 per weekday in 2008[1]
Began operation first section of subway: October 27, 1904

first elevated operation: July 3, 1868

first railroad operation: October 9, 1863[2]
Operator(s) New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA)
System length 229 mi (369 km) route length
656 mi (1,056 km) track length (revenue)
842 mi (1,355 km) track length (total)
Track gauge 4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) Standard gauge
Route map
NYC subway-4D.svg

The New York City Subway is a rapid transit system owned by the City of New York and leased to the New York City Transit Authority,[3] a subsidiary agency of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and also known as MTA New York City Transit. It is one of the oldest and most extensive public transportation systems in the world, with 468 stations in operation (421 if stations connected by transfers are counted as a single station);[1] 229 miles (369 km) of routes,[4] translating into 656 miles (1,056 km) of revenue track; and a total of 842 miles (1,355 km) including non-revenue trackage.[5] In 2008, the subway delivered over 1.623 billion rides, averaging over five million on weekdays, 2.9 million on Saturdays, and 2.3 million on Sundays.[1]

The New York City Subway trails only the metro systems of Tokyo, Moscow and Seoul in annual ridership and carries more passengers than all other rail mass transit systems in the United States combined. It is one of the four systems, with PATH, parts of the Chicago 'L', and PATCO to offer service 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.[6]



Subway stations are located throughout the New York City boroughs of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx. All services pass through Manhattan, except for the Franklin Avenue Shuttle in Brooklyn, the Rockaway Park Shuttle in Queens, and the Brooklyn–Queens Crosstown Local connecting Brooklyn and Queens only. All but two of the 468 stations of the subway are served 24 hours a day.[7] This is very rare globally; the only other United States rapid transit systems that share this distinction are the PATH (connecting northern New Jersey with Manhattan), the PATCO Speedline (linking Philadelphia with southern New Jersey), and two lines of the Chicago 'L'.[6]

An entrance to the Times Square–42nd Street station, the busiest station of the New York City Subway.[8]

In 2005, the New York City Subway hit a 50-year record in usage, with ridership of 1.45 billion.[9] The trend toward higher ridership continued into 2008; MTA released figures that subway use was up 6.8 percent for January and February as higher gasoline prices encouraged riders to use mass transit over automobiles.[10]

According to the United States Department of Energy, energy expenditure on the New York City Subway rail service was 3492 BTU/passenger mile (2289 kJ/passenger km) in 1995. This compares to 3702 BTU/passenger mile (2427 kJ/passenger km) for automobile travel.[11] However, the figure for automobiles is averaged over the entire United States. Driving a car in New York City is significantly less efficient due to the highly urbanized environment.[12]

Many lines and stations have both express and local service. These lines have three or four tracks: normally, the outer two are used for local trains, and the inner one or two are used for express trains. Stations served by express trains are typically major transfer points or destinations. The BMT Jamaica Line uses skip-stop service on portions, whereby two services operate over the line during rush hours and certain stations are only served by one of the two.


Map of the 1906 IRT system in Manhattan
Political cartoon critical of the service of the IRT in 1905. The IRT is labeled as the "Interborough Rattled Transit".

A demonstration for an underground transit system in New York City was first built by Alfred Ely Beach in 1869. His Beach Pneumatic Transit only extended 312 feet (95 m) under Broadway in Lower Manhattan and exhibited his idea for a subway propelled by pneumatic tube technology. The tunnel was never extended for political and financial reasons, although extensions had been planned to take the tunnel southward to The Battery and northwards towards the Harlem River.[13] The Beach subway was demolished when the BMT Broadway Line was built in the 1910s; thus, it was not integrated into the New York City Subway system.

The first underground line of the subway opened on October 27, 1904, almost 35 years after the opening of the first elevated line in New York City, which became the IRT Ninth Avenue Line. The heavy 1888 snowstorm helped illustrate the benefits of an underground transportation system. The oldest structure still in use today opened in 1885 as part of the Lexington Avenue Line, and is now part of the BMT Jamaica Line in Brooklyn. The oldest right-of-way, that of the BMT West End Line, was in use in 1863 as a steam railroad called the Brooklyn, Bath and Coney Island Rail Road. The Staten Island Railway, which opened in 1860, currently utilizes R44 subway cars, but it has no links to the rest of the system and is not usually considered part of the subway proper.

By the time the first subway opened, the lines had been consolidated into two privately owned systems, Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company (BRT, later Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit Corporation, BMT) and Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT). The city was closely involved: all lines built for the IRT and most other lines built or improved for the BRT after 1913 were built by the city and leased to the companies. The first line of the city-owned and operated Independent Subway System (IND) opened in 1932; this system was intended to compete with the private systems and allow some of the elevated railways to be torn down, but was kept within the core of the City due to the low amount of startup capital provided to the municipal Board Of Transportation, the later MTA, by the state.[3] This required it to be run 'at cost', necessitating fares up to double the five cent fare popular at the time.[14]

In 1940, the two private systems were bought by the city; some elevated lines closed immediately, and others closed soon after. Integration was slow, but several connections were built between the IND and BMT, and they now operate as one division called the B Division. Since the IRT tunnel segments are too small and stations are too narrow to accommodate B Division cars, and contain curves too sharp for B Division cars, the IRT remains its own division, A Division.

The New York City Transit Authority was created in 1953 to take over subway, bus, and streetcar operations from the city, and was placed under control of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in 1968.

In 1934, the BRT, IRT, and IND transit workers unionized into Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union. Since then, there have been three union strikes. In 1966, transit workers went on strike for 12 days, and again in 1980 for 11 days. On December 20, 2005, transit workers again went on strike over disputes with MTA regarding salary, pensions, retirement age, and health insurance costs. That strike lasted just under three days.


Construction methods

When the IRT subway debuted in 1904, typical tunnel construction was the cut-and cover method. The street was torn up to dig the tunnel below, then the street was rebuilt above. This method worked well for digging soft dirt and gravel near the street surface. However, tunnel boring machines were required for thicker sections made of bedrock, such as the Harlem and East River tunnels, which used cast-iron tube, and the segments between 33rd and 42nd streets under Park Avenue, between 116th Street and 120th Street under Broadway, and between 157th Street and Fort George under Broadway and Eleventh Avenue, all of which used either rock or concrete-lined tunnels.[15]

About 40% of the "subway" actually runs on surface or elevated tracks including steel or cast iron elevated structures, concrete viaducts, embankments, open cuts and surface routes. All of these construction methods are completely grade-separated from road and pedestrian crossings, and most crossings of two subway tracks are grade-separated with flying junctions.

Lines and routes

Late night subway service map

Many rapid transit systems run relatively static routings, so that a train "line" is more or less synonymous with a train "route". In New York, routings change often as new connections are opened or service patterns change. The "line" describes the physical railroad track or series of tracks that a train "route" uses on its way from one terminal to another.

On older subway cars, such as the R32's, roll signs indicate its northern terminus first on top, and the trains southern terminus is displayed on the lower part of the roll sign.

"Routes" (also called "services") are distinguished by a letter or a number. "Lines" have names. (Notwithstanding the subtleties, in popular usage, lettered or numbered services are often referred to as "lines". They are also designations for trains, as exemplified in the Billy Strayhorn song Take the "A" Train.) This terminology is also used to a loose extent in the Taipei Rapid Transit System.

There are 26 train services in the subway system, including three short shuttles. Each route has its own color designation, representing the Manhattan trunk line of the particular service, and is labeled as local or express. A separate color is exclusively assigned to the Crosstown Line route, since it operates entirely outside Manhattan; the shuttles are all assigned dark gray. Each service is also named after its Manhattan (or crosstown) trunk line. For these reasons, the New York Subway is perhaps the most complex metro system in the world.

Two 1 Trains, one going uptown and one downtown through Harlem.

Though all but two subway stations are served on a 24-hour basis, some of the designated routes do not run during the late night hours or use a different routing during those hours. In addition to these regularly scheduled changes, because there is no nightly system shutdown for maintenance, tracks and stations must be maintained while the system is operating. In order to accommodate such work, services are sometimes re-routed during the overnight hours or on weekends.

The current color system depicted on official subway maps was proposed by R. Raleigh D'Adamo, a lawyer who entered a contest sponsored by the Transit Authority in 1964. D'Adamo proposed replacing a map that used only three colors (representing the three operating entities of the subway network) with a map that used a different color for each line. D'Adamo's contest entry shared first place with two others and led the Transit Authority to adopt a multi-colored scheme. (D'Adamo subsequently earned a master's degree in transportation planning and engineering from Polytechnic University and worked for transit authorities, including a stint at the MTA, and was responsible for organizing and building what today is the Westchester County Bee-Line bus system.)[16] However, the lines are not referred to by color (e.g., Blue line or Green line), although the colors are often assigned through their groups.

A Division (IRT) consists of:
Route Line
NYCS-bull-trans-1.svg Broadway – Seventh Avenue Local
NYCS-bull-trans-2.svg Seventh Avenue Express
NYCS-bull-trans-3.svg Seventh Avenue Express
NYCS-bull-trans-4.svg Lexington Avenue Express
NYCS-bull-trans-5.svg Lexington Avenue Express
NYCS-bull-trans-6.svg NYCS-bull-trans-6d.svg Lexington Avenue Local/Express
NYCS-bull-trans-7.svg NYCS-bull-trans-7d.svg Flushing Local/Express
NYCS-bull-trans-S.svg 42nd Street Shuttle

B Division (BMT/IND) consists of:

Route Line Route Line
NYCS-bull-trans-A.svg Eighth Avenue Express NYCS-bull-trans-M.svg Nassau Street Local
NYCS-bull-trans-B.svg Sixth Avenue Express NYCS-bull-trans-N.svg Broadway Express
NYCS-bull-trans-C.svg Eighth Avenue Local NYCS-bull-trans-Q.svg Broadway Express
NYCS-bull-trans-D.svg Sixth Avenue Express NYCS-bull-trans-R.svg Broadway Local
NYCS-bull-trans-E.svg Eighth Avenue Local NYCS-bull-trans-S.svg Franklin Avenue Shuttle
NYCS-bull-trans-F.svg Sixth Avenue Local NYCS-bull-trans-S.svg Rockaway Park Shuttle
NYCS-bull-trans-G.svg Crosstown Local NYCS-bull-trans-V.svg Sixth Avenue Local
NYCS-bull-trans-J.svg Nassau Street Express NYCS-bull-trans-W.svg Broadway Local
NYCS-bull-trans-L.svg Canarsie Local NYCS-bull-trans-Z.svg Nassau Street Express

Projected B Division service:

Route Line
NYCS-bull-trans-T.svg Second Avenue Subway (under construction as of 2009; will not be used until the line opens south of 72nd Street)

Subway map

The current official transit maps of the New York City Subway are based on a 1979 design by Michael Hertz Associates. The maps are relatively (though not entirely) geographically accurate, with the major exception of Staten Island, the size of which has been greatly reduced. This causes them to appear, in the eyes of some observers, as unnecessarily cluttered and unwieldy compared to the more traditional type of plan used for most urban rail and metro maps; a schematic, or diagram. The map is recognized, however, with helping tourists navigate the city, as major city streets are shown alongside the subway stations serving them.

Part of the reason for the current incarnation is that earlier diagrams of NYC Subway (the first being produced in 1958), while perhaps being more aesthetically pleasing, had the perception of being geographically inaccurate. The design of the subway map by Massimo Vignelli, published by the MTA between 1974–1979, has since become recognized in design circles as a modern classic; however, the MTA deemed the map was flawed due to its placement of geographical elements.[17][18]

There are several privately produced schematics which are available online or in published form, such as those by Hagstrom Map.

Stations facilities and amenities

Entrance to Broad Street station with its red lamps
7train arriving.ogg
7 train arriving at Vernon Boulevard–Jackson Avenue station (43s)

Station and concourse

A typical subway station has waiting platforms ranging from 500 to 600 feet (150 to 180 m) long to accommodate large numbers of people. Passengers enter a subway station through stairs towards station booths and vending machines to buy their fare, which is currently stored in a MetroCard. After swiping the card at a turnstile, customers continue to the platforms. Some subway lines in the outer boroughs and northern Manhattan have elevated tracks with stations to which passengers climb up via stairs, escalator, or elevator.

Globe lamps

At the top of most of the system's subway stations sits a lamppost or two bearing a colored spherical lamp. Before the introduction of the MetroCard in 1994, these lights indicated the station's availability. A green lamp meant that the station was open and running 24 hours a day, a yellow lamp meant that it was open only during the day, while a red lamp meant that it was an exit only. The yellow lamp was eventually phased out, being replaced by red lamps. Today, this color system uses green lamps to indicate 24 hour entrances and red lamps to indicate non 24-hour entrances.[19]


Due to the large number of transit lines, one platform or set of platforms often serves more than one service (unlike other rapid transit systems, including the Paris Metro but like some lines on the London Underground). A passenger needs to look at the signs hung at the platform entrance steps and over each track to see which trains stop there and when, and at the arriving train to see which train it is.

There are a number of platform configurations possible. On a 2-track line, a station may have one center platform used for trains in both directions, or 2 side platforms, one for a train in each direction. For a 3-track or 4-track line, local stops will have side platforms and the middle one or two tracks will not stop at the station.

An entrance to the elevated IRT Flushing Line in Jackson Heights, Queens

For most 3- or 4-track express stops, there will be two island platforms, one for the local and express in one direction, and another for the local and express in the other direction. In a 3-track configuration, the center track can be used toward the center of the city in the morning and away from the center in the evening, though not every 3-track line has that express service.

In a few cases, a 4-track station has an island platform for the center express tracks and two side platforms for the outside local tracks. This occurs only at three stations near major railway stations where the next station along the line is also an express station with the more common platform configuration. The purpose of splitting the platforms is to prevent through riders from adding to the station's crowding by transferring from local to express or from express to local. This occurs at Atlantic Avenue on the 2/3/4/5 Lines with adjacent express station Nevins Street, and 34th St.-Penn Station on both the 1/2/3 Lines and A/C/E Lines, with adjacent express stations at 42nd Street. This does not occur at Grand Central on the 4/5/6 Lines, which has no adjacent express station. Almost everywhere expresses run, they run on the inner one (of 3) or two (of 4) tracks, and locals run on the outer two tracks. There is one notable 6-track station, DeKalb Avenue, where trains to or from the Manhattan Bridge either stop at the outer tracks of one of the island platforms ("local tracks"), or pass through the station on the middle tracks ("super express tracks"). Trains to or from the Montague Street Tunnel stop across the platform from the respective outer track ("express tracks").


Many stations are decorated with intricate ceramic tile work, some of it dating back to 1904 when the subway first opened for business. The subway tile artwork tradition continues today. The "Arts for Transit" program oversees art in the subway system.[20] Permanent installations, such as sculpture, mosaics, and murals; photographs displayed in lightboxes, and musicians performing in stations encourage people to use mass transit. In addition, commissioned art displayed in stations and "art cards", some displaying poetry, are in many of the trains themselves in unused advertisement fixture slots. Some of the art is by internationally-known artists such as Elizabeth Murray's Blooming, displayed at Lexington Avenue/59th Street station.[21]


The Crown Heights – Utica Avenue station is one of a group of stations that became accessible after station reconstruction.

Since the majority of the system was built before 1990, the year the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) went into effect, New York City Subway stations were not designed to be handicapped-accessible. Since then, elevators have been built in newly constructed stations to comply with the ADA. (Most grade-level stations required little modification to ADA standards.) In addition, the MTA identified "key stations," high-traffic and/or geographically important stations, which must conform to the ADA when they are extensively renovated.[22] As of August 2009, there are 82 currently accessible stations.[23]


A typical scene of musicians performing on the platform of the Broadway-Lafayette station

Since 1987, MTA has sponsored the Music Under New York program in which street musicians enter a competitive contest to be assigned the preferred high traffic locations, example - 42nd Street station. Each year applications are reviewed and approximately 70 eligible performers are selected and contacted to participate in live auditions, held for one day.

At present, more than 100 soloists and groups participate in MUNY providing over 150 weekly performances at 25 locations throughout the transit system.

In addition, any musician/entertainer may perform in subway mezzanines and platforms. On platforms there can be no amplification. This is a First Amendment right, and is part of the MTA policies: The New York City Transit (NYCT) is a subdivision of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) that operates the city's subways and buses. The NYCT authorizes these types of free expression in subway stations: "Public speaking; distribution of written materials; solicitation for charitable, religious or political causes; and artist performances, including the acceptance of donations."

Performers must not be within 25' of a token booth, or 50' from a MTA office/tower; blocking access to an escalator, stairwell, or elevator; interfereing with transit services or passenger movement; or in an area where construction is occurring. In addition, performance is prohibited during public service announcements, and may be no louder than 85 dBA at 5 feet away or 70 dBa at 2 feet from a token booth. Performance is prohibited in subway cars.[citation needed]


Restrooms are rare in the subway system. Most establishments built in the past have since been closed to the public and have been converted to storage spaces or for employee use only. However, there are a few major stations that have operating restrooms, including on the concourse of the 42nd Street – Port Authority Bus Terminal station, Chambers Street, 57th Street / 7th Avenue, Lexington Avenue/59th Street. The 125th Street in Manhattan restroom was closed due to repeated destruction of facilities. Restrooms also exist in Brooklyn at 36th Street, Atlantic Avenue – Pacific Street, Church Avenue, DeKalb Avenue, Kings Highway, Sheepshead Bay, and Coney Island – Stillwell Avenue. In Queens, they can be found at Jamaica – 179th Street, Jamaica Center – Parsons/Archer, Roosevelt Avenue/74th Street, Astoria – Ditmars Boulevard and Flushing – Main Street.[24] The East 180th Street station in The Bronx also has public restrooms available, as does the Woodlawn station and the 161st Street – Yankee Stadium station.


Newspaper stands are occasionally found on some platforms, selling all manner of items including newspapers and food. The MTA has also installed retail spaces within paid areas in selected stations, including the station concourses of the Times Square complex and the Sixth Avenue concourse at 42nd Street – Bryant Park.


Rapid transit and rail connections are available at designated stations to Amtrak, Long Island Rail Road, AirTrain JFK, Metro-North Railroad, New Jersey Transit and PATH. Connections to the Staten Island Ferry and privately-operated ferries such as NY Waterway and New York Water Taxi, as well as intercity and commuter bus lines at the Port Authority Bus Terminal and George Washington Bridge Bus Terminal, are also available.

Car types and details

A digital sign on the side of an R142 4 train.
A Vaktrak track vacuuming train
Driver's cab of a R160B series car on the N line.

The NYC subway uses two sizes of cars—the A division, listed above, uses narrower cars that have three sets of doors on each side, used in consists of up to 11; the B division, listed above, uses wider cars that have four sets of doors on each side, in consists of up to 10.

Trains are marked by the service label in either black or white (for appropriate contrast) on a field in the color of its mainline. The field is enclosed in a circle for most services, or a diamond for special services, such as rush-hour only expresses on a route that ordinarily runs local. Rollsigns and digital side signs also typically include the service names and terminals.

Newer cars starting with the R142 feature recorded announcements for station information, closing doors, and other general messages in lieu of conductor announcements, although live conductor announcements can still be made. The recordings began in the late 1990s and featured Bloomberg Radio on-air speakers, who volunteered at the request of their employer and future city mayor Michael Bloomberg. Voices include Jessica Gottesman (now at 1010 WINS radio), Charlie Pellett, and Catherine Cowdery. With regards to why certain messages are voiced by males and others by females, MTA spokesperson Gene Sansone said in 2006 that, "Most of the orders are given by a male voice, while informational messages come from females. Even though this happened by accident, it is a lucky thing because a lot of psychologists agree that people are more receptive to orders from men and information from women".[25] For example, a Bronx-bound 4 train stopping at 86th Street would broadcast, "This is a Bronx-bound 4 express train. The next stop is 125 Street," with a female voice. Before the doors close, a male recording would then announce, "Stand clear of the closing doors, please!" General messages played include safety messages (e.g.: Reporting suspicious activity), train status announcements (Train delay), and courtesy messages (Disposing of litter in trash receptacles), usually in the male voice.

Rolling stock

As of January 2010, the New York City subway has 6,378 cars on the roster.[26] A typical New York City Subway train consists of 8 to 11 cars, although shuttles can have as few as two, and the train can range from 150 to 600 feet (46 to 180 m) long.[citation needed]

The system maintains two separate fleets of cars, one for the IRT lines, another for the BMT/IND lines. All BMT/IND equipment is about 10 feet (3.0 m) wide and either 60 feet 6 inches (18.44 m) or 75 feet (23 m) long whereas IRT equipment is approximately 8 feet 9 inches (2.67 m) wide and 51 feet 4 inches (15.65 m) long. There is also a special fleet of BMT/IND cars that is used for operation in the BMT Eastern Division, consisting of R42 married pairs, R143 4-car sets and R160A 4-car sets. 75-foot (23 m) long cars, like the R44, R46, R68 and R68A are not permitted on BMT Eastern Division trackage.

Cars purchased by the City of New York since the inception of the IND and for the other divisions beginning in 1948 are identified by the letter "R" followed by a number; e.g.: R32. This number is the contract number under which the cars were purchased. Cars with nearby contract numbers (e.g.: R1 through R9, or R21 through R36 WF, or R143 through R160B) may be virtually identical, simply being purchased under different contracts.

The MTA has been incorporating newer subway cars into its stock in the past decade. Since 1999, the R142, R142A, R143, R160A, and R160B have been added into service.[27][28]


An NYCTA token from the mid-20th century
The current Metrocard design

Token and change

From the inauguration of IRT subway services in 1904[29] until the unified system of 1948 (including predecessor BMT and IND subway services), the fare for a ride on the subway of any length was 5 cents. On July 1, 1948, the fare was increased to 10 cents, and since then has steadily risen. When the New York City Transit Authority was created in July 1953, the fare was raised to 15 cents and a token issued. Until April 13, 2003, riders paid the fare with tokens purchased from a station attendant. The tokens were changed periodically as prices changed. For the 75th anniversary of the subway in 1979 (also called the Diamond Jubilee), a special token with a small off-center diamond cutout and engraved images of a 1904 subway car and kiosk were issued. Many were purchased for keepsakes and were not used for rides. The last iteration of tokens featured a hole in the middle, and after they were phased out, many became featured in home made jewelry. Old tokens may be redeemed for a refund by sending them to the MTA's Treasury Business Office or in person.

Token sucking

It was once a common scam to circumvent the payment of fares by jamming the token slot in an entrance gate with paper. A passenger would insert a token into the turnstile, be frustrated when it did not open the gate, and have to spend another token to enter at another gate. A token thief would then suck the token from the jammed slot with their mouth. This could be repeated many times as long as no police officers spotted the activity. Often token booth attendants would coat the token slots with soap to discourage "token sucking".[30]

Token War with Connecticut

There was some controversy in the early 1980s when enterprising transit riders discovered that tokens purchased for use in the Connecticut Turnpike toll booths were of the same size and weight as New York City subway tokens. Since they cost less than one third as much, they began showing up in subway collection boxes regularly.[31] Connecticut authorities initially agreed to change the size of their tokens,[32] but later reneged, and the problem went unsolved until 1985, when Connecticut discontinued the tolls on its turnpike.[33] At that time, the MTA was paid 17.5 cents for each of more than two million tokens that had been collected during the three year "token war."[33]


In 1994, the subway system introduced a fare system called the MetroCard, which allows riders to use cards that store the value equal to the amount paid to a station booth clerk or to a vending machine. The MetroCard was enhanced in 1997 to allow passengers to make free transfers between subways and buses within two hours; several MetroCard-only transfers between subways were also added. With the addition of unlimited-ride MetroCards in 1998 (for 7-day and 30-day periods, later 1-day "Fun Pass" and 14-day periods), the New York City Transit system was the last major transit system in the United States to introduce passes for unlimited bus and rapid transit travel.[34] The token was phased out in 2003. On May 4 of the same year, the MTA raised the basic fare to $2 amid protests from passenger and advocacy groups such as the Straphangers Campaign. On June 28, 2009, the base fare was raised to $2.25, as part of a two-tiered fare hike.

Future plans

The subway is currently undergoing renovation and expansion. Current expansion projects include the Second Avenue Subway on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, the 7 Subway Extension to the west side of Manhattan and the Fulton Street Transit Center. Construction of the South Ferry Terminal was completed in May 2009.[35]


Pending legislation would merge the subway operations of MTA New York City Transit with Staten Island Railway to form a single entity called MTA Subways.[citation needed] The Staten Island Railway operates with R44 subway cars on a fully grade-separated right-of-way, but is typically not considered part of the subway, and is connected only via the free, city-operated Staten Island Ferry.

In the early 21st century, plans resurfaced for a major expansion, the Second Avenue Subway. This line had been planned as early as the 1920s but has been delayed several times since. Construction was started in the 1970s, but discontinued due to the city's fiscal crisis. Some small portions remain intact in Chinatown, the East Village, and the Upper East Side, but they are each quite short and thus remain unused.[36]


In August 2006, the MTA revealed that all future subway stations, including ones built for the Second Avenue Subway, the 7 line extension, and the new South Ferry station, will have platforms outfitted with air-cooling systems.


New train arrival signs on the BMT Canarsie Line
RFID trial on the IRT Lexington Avenue Line

Train arrival times

In 2003, the MTA signed a $160 million contract with Siemens Transportation Systems to install digital next-train arrival message boards, called Public Address/Customer Information Screens (PA/CIS) at 158 of its IRT (numbered line) stations.[37] These signs were to be different from the current LED signs that display the current date and time. However, many problems arose with the software used in Siemens programming, and the MTA stopped payment to the company in May 2006.[38] The MTA threatened to drop Siemens, but about a month later Siemens announced they had fixed the problem. The signs were scheduled to begin operation in late 2007.[39]

A different system was eventually developed, tested, and installed successfully on the L train.[40] In 2008, system-wide roll-out was pushed back to 2011, with the MTA citing technical problems.[41] However, in December 2009 an initial trial was implemented at three stations along the IRT Pelham Line (6 Train) in the Bronx.[42] The announcements are voiced by radio traffic reporter Bernie Wagenblast.

Paypass trial

The MTA also signed a deal with Mastercard in the first few months of 2006 to test out a new RFID card payment scheme.[43] Customers had to sign up at a special Mastercard website and had to use a Mastercard PayPass credit or debit card/tag to participate. Participating stations included:[44]

Originally scheduled to end in December 2006, the MTA extended the trial due to "overwhelming positive response".[45]


In the mid-2000s, the MTA began a 20-year process of automating the subway. Beginning with the BMT Canarsie Line (L train) and the IRT Flushing Line (7 <7> trains),[46] the MTA has plans to eventually automate a much larger portion, using One Person Train Operation (OPTO) in conjunction with Communication-Based Train Control (CBTC). Siemens Transportation Systems is building the CBTC system. (A 1959 experiment in automating the 42nd Street Shuttle (S train) in New York City ended with a fire at Grand Central on April 24, 1964.) In late winter of 2008, the MTA embarked on a 5-week renovation and upgrade project on the 7 train between Flushing – Main Street and Woodside – 61st Street to upgrade signaling and tracks for CBTC. On February 27, 2008, the MTA issued an Accelerated Capital Program to continue funding the completion of CBTC for the 7 train and continue onto the Queens Boulevard Line (E F G R V trains). The proposed plan is estimated to cost US $1.4 million.[47](p. 15-16)

Safety and security

Crime, train accidents, suicides and threat of terrorism all impact the subway system.

Train accidents

Including the predecessors of the New York City Subway, at least 55 train accidents have been recorded since 1918, when a train bound for South Ferry smashed into two trains halted near Jackson Avenue on the IRT White Plains Road Line in the Bronx.[48] The deadliest accident, the Malbone Street Wreck, happened November 1, 1918 beneath the intersection of Flatbush Avenue, Ocean Avenue, and Malbone Street near the Prospect Park station of the then-BRT Brighton Line in Brooklyn, killing 93. [49]

Passenger safety


The subway carries to 1.5 billion passengers a year. Crime rates have shown variations over time, with a drop starting in the '90s, continuing till today.

In order to fight crime, various approaches have been used. In the '60s, for example, Mayor Wagner ordered an increase in the Transit Police force from 1,219 to 3,100 officers. During the hours at which crimes most frequently occurred (between 8:00pm and 4:00 am), the officers went on patrol in all stations and trains. In response, crime rates decreased, as was extensively reported by the press.[50]

In July 1985 however, the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City published a study showing riders abandoned the subway in droves, fearing the frequent robberies and generally bad circumstances.[51]

To counter these developments, policy that was rooted in the late 1980s and early 1990s was implemented.[52][53] In line with this Fixing Broken Windows philosophy, the New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA) began a five-year program to eradicate graffiti from subway trains in 1984.

In 1989 the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, asked the transit police (then located within the NYCTA) to focus on minor offenses such as fare evasion. In the early nineties, the NYCTA adopted similar policing methods for Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal.

In 1993, Republican Mayor Rudy Giuliani took office and with Howard Safir police commissioner the strategy was more widely deployed in New York, under the rubrics of "zero tolerance" and "quality of life". Crime rates in the subway and city dropped,[54] prompting New York Magazine to declare "The End of Crime as We Know It" on the cover of its August 14, 1995 edition.

Giuliani's campaign credited the success to the zero tolerance policy.[55] The extent to which his policies deserve the credit is disputed.[56]

New York City Police Department Commissioner Bill Bratton and author of Fixing Broken Windows George L. Kelling however, stated the police played an 'important, even central, role' in the declining crime rates.[57] The trend continued and Giuliani's successor, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, stated in a November 2004 press release that "Today, the subway system is safer than it has been at any time since we started tabulating subway crime statistics nearly 40 years ago."[58]


A portion of subway-related deaths in New York consists of suicides committed by jumping in front of an oncoming train. Exact numbers are not always available, as the cause of death is listed as "unknown" in cases where no witness was present and no suicide note found.

In the period between 1990 and 2003, 343 subway-related suicides have been registered out of a citywide total of 7,394 suicides (4.6%). Over the 13-year period, subway-related suicides have increased by 30%, despite a decline in overall suicide numbers. [59]

Several planned stations in the New York City Subway may possibly feature platform screen doors. This includes the 7 line extension,[60] and the Second Avenue Subway.[61] Although these doors are designed to improve airflow in stations, they also prevent people from falling or jumping onto the tracks.[62]


After the September 11th attacks in New York, the MTA was extremely wary of anyone taking photographs or recording video inside the system. The MTA proposed banning all photography and recording in a meeting around June 2004.[63] However, due to strong response from both the public and from civil rights groups, the rule of conduct was dropped. In November 2004, the MTA again put this rule up for approval, but was again denied.[64] However, some police officers and transit workers still confronted people who were not authorized personnel.[65]

On April 3, 2009, the NYPD issued a directive to officers stating that it is legal to take pictures within the subway system so long as it is not accompanied with suspicious activity.[66]

Currently, the MTA Rules of Conduct, Restricted Areas and Activities section states that anyone may take pictures or record video, provided that they do not violate MTA regulations:

Section 1050.9 Restricted areas and activities.
Photography, filming or video recording in any facility or conveyance is permitted except that ancillary equipment such as lights, reflectors or tripods may not be used. Members of the press holding valid identification issued by the New York City Police Department are hereby authorized to use necessary ancillary equipment. All photographic activity must be conducted in accordance with the provisions of this Part. Full section


On July 22, 2005, in response to bombings in London, the New York City Transit Police introduced a new policy of randomly searching passengers' bags as they approached turnstiles. The NYPD claimed that no form of racial profiling would be conducted when these searches actually took place. The NYPD has come under fire from some groups that claim purely random searches without any form of threat assessment would be ineffectual. "This NYPD bag search policy is unprecedented, unlawful and ineffective," said Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the NYCLU. "It is essential that police be aggressive in maintaining security in public transportation. But our very real concerns about terrorism do not justify the NYPD subjecting millions of innocent people to suspicionless searches in a way that does not identify any person seeking to engage in terrorist activity and is unlikely to have any meaningful deterrent effect on terrorist activity."[67] The searches were upheld by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in MacWade v. Kelly.

On April 11, 2008, MTA received a Ferrara Fire Apparatus Hazardous Materials Response Truck, which went into service on April 14. It will be used in the case of a chemical or bioterrorist attack.[68]


2009 budget cuts

The MTA is facing a budget deficit in 2009, a projected US$1.2 billion shortfall. The proposed new fare and service reductions will balance the city budget deficit. The MTA is also planning to eliminate student metrocards by making students pay half of the fare in 2010, then eliminate student metros completely.[69][70]

Proposed reduced staff and service cuts

The MTA listed the following proposed budgetary/service cuts in January 2010:[71]

  • Increase weekend headways on the 1, 7, A, D, E, F, G, J, L, (M–>V), N, Q and R trains for ongoing construction work.
  • Truncate G train crosstown service so it terminates at Long Island City-Court Square, Queens, at all times; through service is currently provided to Forest Hills, Queens-71st Avenue on evenings, nights and weekends only.
  • Continue to operate the Z train during rush hours as it does now.
  • Eliminate all M train service; replacing with extended V train service from 71st Ave, Queens via the currently unused Chrystie Street Connection to Metropolitan Ave, Queens. The V would no longer stop at 2nd Avenue. V trains are to be shortened from 600 feet to 480 feet due to shorter platforms on the former M service.
  • The re-routed V trains would continue to provide shuttle service on weekends from Metropolitan Avenue to Myrtle Ave as the M train does now.
  • Eliminate the W train. The Q train would be extended from its current terminus at 57th Street to Ditmars Boulevard on weekdays to replace the W in Astoria. Other times, the Q would continue to terminate at 57th Street.
  • Operate N trains local in Manhattan north of Canal Street with R trains to replace W trains.
  • Continue to operate the N train via the Montague Street Tunnel when the R train is not running.

Capacity constraints

The interior of an F train during morning rush hour

Several subway lines have reached their operational limits in terms of train frequency and passengers, according to data released by the Transit Authority. All but one of the "A" Division Lines, and the E and L trains are at capacity; crowding on the Lexington Avenue trains exceeds design limits.[72] Crowding on subway lines results in delays and if congestion-based pricing for automobile travel to Manhattan is implemented, subway crowding is predicted to worsen. The Second Avenue Subway will begin to relieve pressure on the Lexington Avenue line (4/5/6) when its first segment begins operating in 2015, but no such relief is planned for other crowded lines. However, the Long Island Railroad East Side Access project is expected to bring many many more commuters to the Lexington Avenue Line at about the same time, further overwhelming its capacity. Because new subway construction can require years to plan and complete, the Transit Authority can only turn to increased bus service to manage demand in the short run, until automation of the subways using CBTC allows trains to run with less headway.

Subway flooding

Service on the subway system is occasionally disrupted by flooding from both major and minor rainstorms. Rainwater can disrupt signals underground and can require the electrified third rail to be shut off. Since 1992, $357 million has been used to improve 269 pump rooms. As of August 2007, $115 million has been earmarked to upgrade the remaining 18 pump rooms. The project is expected to be completed in 2010.[73] Despite these improvements, the transit system continues to experience flooding problems.

Rain from drainage pipes comes into a subway car

On August 8, 2007, after slightly more than 3 inches (76 mm) of rain fell within an hour, the subway system flooded, causing every line to either be disabled or seriously disrupted and effectively halting the morning rush. (An incident of similar magnitude occurred in September 2004.) This was the third incident in 2007 in which rain disrupted service. The system was disrupted on this occasion because the pumps and drainage system can handle only a rainfall rate of 1.75 inches (44 mm) per hour; the incident's severity was aggravated by the scant warning as to the severity of the storm.[74] (p. 10) In late August 2007, MTA Engineer Phil Kollin announced new plans to create a system that would pump water away from the third rail. This new pumping system is scheduled to be in place by 2009.

In addition, as part of a $130 million and an estimated 18 month project, the MTA began installing new subway grates in September 2008 in an attempt to prevent rain from overflowing into the subway system. The metallic structures, designed with the help of architectural firms and meant as a piece of public art, are placed atop existing grates but with a 3-to-4-inch (76 to 100 mm) sleeve to prevent debris and rain from flooding the subway. The racks will at first be installed in the three most flood-prone areas as determined by hydrologists and include Jamaica, TriBeCa and the Upper West Side. Each neighborhood is scheduled to have its own distinct design, some featuring a wave-like deck which increases in height and features seating (Jamaica), others with a flatter deck that includes seating and a bike rack.[75][76]


The New York City Subway system is infamously infested with rats.[77] They are commonly seen from the platform out in the open, foraging through garbage thrown onto the tracks. At many stations, the rats will roam the platforms themselves during low-traffic hours[78] and, though never confirmed, some have claimed to see them actually board cars late at night.[79]

Decades of efforts to eradicate or simply thin the rat population in the system have been unsuccessful. In March 2009, the Transit Authority announced a series of changes to its vermin control strategy, including new poison formulas and experimental trap designs.[80]

Public relations

The Board of Transportation and then New York City Transit Authority (MTA New York City Transit) has had numerous events that promote increased ridership of their transit system.

Miss Subways

From 1941 to 1976, the Board of Transportation/New York City Transit Authority sponsored the brainchild of advertising firm J. Walter Thompson Company, the "Miss Subways" publicity campaign. In the musical 'On the Town', character Miss Turnstiles (played by Sono Osato) is based on the Miss Subways campaign.[81][82] In one scene, the musical shows three sailors taking an uptown train at Times Square.

The campaign was resurrected in 2004, for one year, as "Ms. Subways" as part of the 100th anniversary celebrations. Featuring young models, entertainers and others, the monthly campaign, which included the winners' photos and biographical blurbs on placards in subway cards, featured such winners as actress Mona Freeman, and prominent New York City restaurateur Ellen Goodman.

Subway Series

Subway Series is a term attributed to any World Series contest between New York City teams, called thus as opposing teams can travel to compete merely by using the subway system along with the fact that subways are adjacent and visible to their respective stadiums. Subway Series is a term long used in New York, going back to series between the Brooklyn Dodgers or New York Giants and the New York Yankees in the 1940s and '50s. Today, the term is used to describe the rivalry between the Yankees and the New York Mets. During the 2000 World Series, cars on the 4 train (which stopped at Yankee Stadium) were colored white with blue pinstripes, while cars on the 7 train (which stopped at Shea Stadium) were colored orange and blue, the Mets' team colors.

See also


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