Home Subway History Turning Columbus Circle into an IRT express stop

Turning Columbus Circle into an IRT express stop

by Benjamin Kabak

When the New York City subway system was built in the early 1900s and later expanded throughout the 1930s, the route planners had a difficult task at hand. Using the city as they knew it then and the city as projected later, they had to extrapolate routes based on need. It’s tough to know in 1904 which stops should be served by an express train and which shouldn’t in 2010.

Nowhere in the system is this problem more evident than along the West Side IRT — known familiarly as the 1, 2 and 3 trains — at 72nd St. and 59th St./Columbus Circle. With its too-narrow platforms and mid-avenue stationhouses, the 72nd St. station has been a mysterious express stop nearly since day one. It’s not at a major above-ground landmark, and it’s not a fork in the system as 96th St. is. There, the express trains head east and toward the Bronx while the 1 continues north under Broadway. At 72nd St., the stop simply serves as a way point between the run from 42nd St. to 96th St.

Meanwhile, 13 blocks to the south sits Columbus Circle. In 1904, it served as the entryway to Central Park, but today, it is a bustling hub of people with commercial and office space to the west and tourists to the east. As a major transfer point between the 6th Ave. and 8th Ave. IND routes and the West Side IRT, Columbus Circle is the seventh busiest subway station in the system. In 2008, over 20 million straphangers passed through the station. Despite the obvious popularity, it is not an express stop.

Those who frequent the Columbus Circle station have long wondered about the lack of an express stop, and the perfect storm of conditions in the mid-1950s nearly turned 59th St. into an express service. Let’s jump into the archives to relive that bit of subway history. In 1954, Robert Moses, then head of the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, oversaw the construction of the New York Coliseum at Columbus Circle. Despite his lukewarm support of and outright hostility transit throughout much of his career, this time, he wanted something from the subways and asked the Transit Authority to consider turning 59th St. into an express stop. He nearly got his way.

In August 1954, as construction commenced on the Coliseum, the TA supported a $172 million work plan for 1955. In that plan included an $11.6 million project that would have turned Columbus Circle from a local-only stop into an express station along the IRT. The work would have been massive. The two local tracks would have been pushed out with the platforms remaining in place, and an express bulb in the middle of the two express tracks would have been constructed there. The track layout would have resembled the current design of Penn Station along the IRT. Meanwhile, the express platforms at 72nd St. would have been walled off, and that station would have become a local-only stop.

The plans themselves though never made it off the drawing room floor. The TA approved a contract for the work in March 1955 after the Board of Estimate had approved the plan the previous December. By 1956, though, as work hadn’t yet begun, TA head Charles Patterson had already come out against the plan. He wanted to simply lengthen the five-car platforms at 59th St. and believed that to be adequate to serve the ridership growth anticipated by the opening of the Coliseum.

That lengthening was, of course, how this story ends. The IRT platforms were lengthened in the 1950s to accommodate longer train cars, and 59th St. was no exception. The express plans were discarded. Every few decades, a civic group calls upon the MTA to explore adding an express stop to 59th St. In 1997, the American Institute of Architects passed a resolution with detailed plans — available here as a PDF — calling for that express stop modification. It went nowhere.

Now, Columbus Circle is amidst a massive renovation that won’t bring express service to it along the IRT but will make the station nicer and easier to navigate. For now, we’ll just have to watch as those express trains zoom past a logical stopping point, and we’ll blame August Belmont for his lack of foresight. Mostly, he was right about where to place those IRT stops, but at 59th St., the future proved him wrong.

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Alon Levy February 16, 2010 - 1:26 am

There used to be plans to convert 59th to an express stop and 72nd to a local stop, but they didn’t go anywhere. Nor should they – the 1 is a good local, unlike the B or C or R/W or V. Plus, 72nd is a fairly busy stop – not as busy as 59th, but busier than 96th.

The IRT’s even spacing of express stops is a feature, not a bug. It ensures that the local/express transfers work well. The IND insistence on having the express trains run like express buses, making most stops at the ends and in the CBD but running absurdly long interstations in between, is one of the reasons why its local lines are so bad.

Andrew February 16, 2010 - 7:25 am

I agree (although I don’t see what makes those other locals “bad”).

Moving the express stop to 59th would have severely overburdened the local, with four very busy stations between express stops. With an island platform for the express, 59th wouldn’t even be a useful transfer point between the local and the express, so everybody going to 72nd, 79th, and 86th would jam onto the local at 42nd, along with those going to 50th and 66th. True, not as many would get on at 59th, with some opting for the express, but I think this change would only make things worse.

72nd is a major commercial hub and a very busy station. It warrants its status as an express stop.

AK February 16, 2010 - 8:58 am

Concur, for what that’s worth 🙂

Alon Levy February 17, 2010 - 2:01 am

The IND locals are built to just serve short trips within certain neighborhoods. As a result, they suck in the sense that they mostly serve unimportant destinations like Central Park West, and have low frequency. The C comes every 10 minutes. The 1 comes every 3 minutes at rush hour.

Andrew February 17, 2010 - 8:10 am

Frequencies are determined by levels of loading.

The B and C combined run about every 5 minutes, and the trains are larger than on the 1.

And Central Park West only draws people from the west; Broadway draws people from the west and east. So one would expect ridership to be higher on Broadway, especially near express stops (which serve as even more of a draw).

Alon Levy February 18, 2010 - 1:29 am

The frequencies to each destination suck – interlining is only useful for people traveling entirely on shared track.

Andrew February 18, 2010 - 7:20 am

From what I’ve seen on the line, most people take the first train that comes and transfer at 59th St. if necessary, where there’s a lot more service available (A and D and 1). It’s not like 6th and 7th and 8th Avenues are miles apart.

Coming back the other way, of course you have to pick a trunk line first. But, again, if the A or D comes first, people take that to 59th St. and wait there for the local, which at that point runs every 5 minutes.

Seats may be a bit harder to come by, but I don’t think most local passengers mind standing for a few stops.

The only people who would wait specifically for the C along CPW are those going to 50th St. and I suppose to local stops in Brooklyn.

Benjamin Kabak February 18, 2010 - 10:48 am

I completely disagree with that. Having watched people at Columbus Circle before, unless they’re bound for W. 4th St., they’ll wait for a specific train. That’s just as anecdotal as your claim, but I don’t know too many people who would rather take the first train and walk from 8th to 6th Ave. instead of waiting 3-5 more minutes for a train that gets them a lot closer to their destination.

Andrew February 18, 2010 - 8:27 pm

Sorry, what I wrote was unclear – I think I must have edited out part of a sentence by accident, and the result is incomprehensible. Here’s what my first paragraph should have said:

“From what I’ve seen on the line, most people take the first train that comes and transfer at 59th St. if necessary, where there’s a lot more service available (A and D and 1). Some might even stay on the train the whole way – it’s not like 6th and 7th and 8th Avenues are miles apart.”

My point is that local passengers aren’t tied to only the B or only the C. They’ll take whichever one comes first, and if it’s not the one they want, they’ll get off at Columbus Circle, where the A and D and 1 are also available. Those people count for much of the transfer flow at Columbus Circle.

As for the people who will take either line and not transfer, I’m not thinking so much of people who work on 6th or 8th themselves – I’m thinking more of people who work in between, around 7th, for whom the two lines are basically equidistant, and it’s probably not worth getting off and waiting for the 1 to save a one-block walk. For people going to 23rd and 14th, the breaking point would be even further east, since the B and D don’t serve those stops directly; somebody who arrives at Columbus Circle on a C is still two transfers away from the appropriate 6th Ave. station.

Lawrence Velazquez February 16, 2010 - 11:40 am

I would also like to know what makes the IND locals “bad”.

Vanshnookenraggen February 16, 2010 - 1:49 am

Heads up, the link to the PDF doesn’t work.


Like Ben said, the IRT had to predict what the city was going to look like. The reason there are 2 express stops on the Upper West Side was because that area was developing the fastest at the time and wasn’t was well served by transit as the east side. The express stops at 72nd and 96th served the area well and got workers downtown quickly.

20 years later when these areas were already developed the IND had to solve the same problem but this time the developing areas were much further out. It only made sense to have longer and longer express routes. In fact an early plan for the Second Ave subway had 6 tracks for a super-express line. The neighborhoods that were bypassed by the express lines already had local AND express stops so why slow down those commuting from further out?

Alon Levy February 16, 2010 - 3:23 am

The answer to your question is, the local stations have a purpose – they get people to where they want to go. The express run from 125th to 59th doesn’t really save time over an IRT-style express spacing; on the other hand, it makes the local trains worse by making the express transfers bad. Compare the usefulness of the 1 to this of the B/C, or the local 7 trains to the R/V.

Mike February 16, 2010 - 3:04 pm

Actually, the stretch on CPW between 125 and 59 used to be extremely fast for the express. In fact, it was TOO fast and safety was questioned and as a result they decided to install timers on that stretch, resulting in the slog of today.

Benjamin Kabak February 16, 2010 - 9:05 am

PDF link is now fixed! Sorry about that.

Wilson July 18, 2017 - 2:08 pm

Hey man I know its been a couple of years but the link is broken again.
Would appreciate if it was fixed.

Glenn February 16, 2010 - 6:32 am

I was tired of the expresses passing be by at 96th and CPW so when my wife and I started looking for a place, I think the draw of the super Express line at 125th was huge.

But the 2/3 doesn’t need to stop at 59th street to be useful. Many, Many people commute from UWS to Lower Manhattan and love blowing by 59th Street (maybe as much as I love blowing by my old 96th street stop) and only having a handful of stations between them and their destination.

Andrew February 16, 2010 - 7:19 am

The draw may be huge, but how much time do you think you really save? 20 minutes? 15 minutes? Now check the schedules and compare, or ride back and forth a few times on the local and the express and keep running time records.

Scott E February 16, 2010 - 8:21 am

The original post says the configuration would be similar to the one at Penn Station. Did the identical transformation happen there (although this time, get completed)? If I’ve got my history correct, the 34th St. IRT stop was pretty insignificant before Penn Station was built. Plus, it seems odd to have two consecutive express stops (34th and 42nd), and as Andrew says above, it’s a horrible design for a local-express transfer. Fortunately, in the midtown case, 42nd can serve as that transfer.

Kid Twist February 16, 2010 - 9:48 am

Pennsylvania Station opened before the subway. It was always an express stop.

It’s Times Square that you’re thinking of. That was a local-only stop on the original 1904 subway.

Benjamin Kabak February 16, 2010 - 9:55 am

Times Square was a local-only stop only while the city finished construction on the West Side line south of 42nd St. Those stations — with a four-track, two-island express stop at 42nd St. — opened in 1918 but were a part of the original system plans.

For those with access to the Times archives, check out this story on the opening of the current IRT platforms at 42nd and 34th Sts.

Scott E February 16, 2010 - 10:07 am

I stand corrected about Penn Station. I never knew Times Square was local-only, though — that means the closest cross-platform transfers were at 14th and 72nd Streets? Quite a distance, and you wouldn’t know it by the current track and passageway layout.

Kid Twist February 16, 2010 - 12:33 pm

The subway followed a different route back then: up the East Side from City Hall to Grand Central, then across 42nd Street, and then up Broadway. So the nearest express stop was Grand Central. Around the time of World War I, the eastern leg was extended up Lexington Avenue and the western portion was sent down Seventh. The segment in between became the Times Square-Grand Central shuttle. The shuttle stop at Times Square was the original station, with the side plaforms only.

PBK February 16, 2010 - 1:00 pm

As others have said, the subway came after the railroad. For a time, I believe, the PRR even contemplated building its own subway. A great book that covers all this is “Conquering Gotham”, which is about the PRR’s effort to build the station and the Hudson and East River tunnels.

Jonathan February 16, 2010 - 9:39 am

Ben, great post, and a welcome diversion from the present crisis situation.

In my opinion, the present configuration, with an easy transfer between the IND express and IRT local, allows IRT local riders to use 59th St as a local-express interchange. Local riders from 137th St (for instance) can either switch to the IRT express at 96th (convenient for changing to the BMT Broadway line at Times Square) or to the IND express at 59th St (convenient for downtown Manhattan or Brooklyn trips).

If 59th St were an IRT express stop, the platforms would be crowded with intra-IRT transfers as well as cross-system transfers. In my mind, this is a feature similar to the separated platforms at 34th St (A and 123), which discourage intra-line transfers at stations with heavy boarding traffic.

Riders who use the 2 from the Bronx Zoo line (whatever it’s called) and who need to get to A train stops in Brooklyn or Queens can transfer at Broadway-Nassau.

Edward February 16, 2010 - 9:44 am

The IRT express stop at Penn Station was opened as an express/local stop (Penn Station was already completed when the line opened). The unusual configuration is actually meant to discourage tranfers from local to express, but rather is an express stop because so many commuters use the stop to get to Penn Station. The cross-platform transfers at 14th St and 42nd St suffice.

NYC Transit had the same problem at 59th and Lex as it does at Columbus Circle. The Lex Ave IRT station at 59th/Lex was local only until 1959, when a platform was built in the express tunnel under the local track. This was done to facilitate transfers from the new BMT Queens Blvd connection that opened a few years earlier, and to the IRT local. No new trackage or wall moving was necessary, just a new platform in the rounded-off tunnel.

Tacony Palmyra February 16, 2010 - 11:11 am

Why would they want to discourage transfers from local to express? Is the idea that people crowding into the train from the other side of the platform slows things down? The train has to stop and open its doors to let people in and out anyway. This is strange to me. Wouldn’t you want to encourage transfers to be spread among different stations instead of forcing a heavy load into 42nd?

I hate the stations that don’t offer cross-platform transfers. They’re especially important late at night when I’ll take the first train that comes but want to switch to the express if it comes through/is even running. It’s one of the reasons I’d never live on the UES– no cross-platform transfers anywhere between 42nd and 125th. People stand in the stairwell between the two levels at 86th Street every day.

And if one is traveling from Penn Station to Times Square, why should they have to pick between the 1 local or the 2/3 express? It’s a major design flaw.

AK February 16, 2010 - 11:18 am

I’ve railed against countdown clocks in this space many times, but here I must offer a pro-clock thought, which is that the presence of the clocks on the Lex Ave line will essentially eliminate the problem Tacony properly defined.

Scott E February 16, 2010 - 5:11 pm

AK- Ask and ye shall receive!

Duke87 February 16, 2010 - 8:21 pm

Or even just the more basic thing that they already have at 59th and Lex: a display at the top of the stairs on the local platform that, when an express train is coming, buzzes and flashes a message indicating such. I know there’s a similar device in the mezzanine at 125th. Not sure about 86th…

Lawrence Velazquez February 16, 2010 - 11:37 am

If one is traveling from Penn Station to Times Square, one should probably walk.


Scott E February 16, 2010 - 11:56 am

Unless the ultimate destination is Shea Stadium (oops—Citi Field!). If one is swiping in the system anyway, might as well take the one stop on the 1/2/3 and transfer. Otherwise, I’d be inclined to agree with you.

Aaron February 16, 2010 - 12:07 pm

If you’re at NYP and going uptown on the Broadway BMT or to Queens on the 7, there’s no reason to leave NYP to walk 8 blocks, only to re-enter MTA at 42nd Street. The BMT problem may be solved by ARC (I’ve read conflicting information on whether or not ARC will create a connection to Herald Square), but if you want the 7, you’re always going to take that 1-stop trip.

Alon Levy February 17, 2010 - 2:04 am

There’s already a connection to Herald Square – it’s just closed.

Scott E February 17, 2010 - 8:36 am

Isn’t it awful to see unused facilities like that? Think of all the pour souls leaving Gimbel’s trying to get to the 9 train. They’re lost in a dead-end corridor…

Tacony Palmyra February 16, 2010 - 12:14 pm

With luggage and in bad weather? I’ve done it many times and I think others do too.

Kid Twist February 16, 2010 - 12:37 pm

They proably wanted to discourage transfers at Penn Station because they figured the platforms would already be crowded with people coming from the Pennsylvania Railroad and the LIRR.

Kris Datta February 16, 2010 - 2:57 pm

They didn’t want to create a cross-platform transfer as that would make transferring between the local and the express easier and more desirable. This would ultimately lead to overcrowding on the express line while the local remains relatively empty. The current setup balances crowds on both lines.

Andrew February 16, 2010 - 11:55 pm

Sorry, that makes no sense. Anybody who wants to transfer between local and express can do so one stop away. Reducing opportunities to transfer between local and express would overload the local, not the express, as people traveling between an express stop and a local stop would all take the local the whole way rather than starting on the express and transferring to the local, as many do now.

petey February 16, 2010 - 12:01 pm

“The Lex Ave IRT station at 59th/Lex was local only until 1959, when a platform was built in the express tunnel under the local track. This was done to facilitate transfers from the new BMT Queens Blvd connection that opened a few years earlier, and to the IRT local.”

thx, i never knew!

Edward February 16, 2010 - 1:15 pm

You’re welcome! I didn’t know either, but nycsubway.org has great history of all subway lines, and they explained it. If you look at the express station on IRT at 59th/Lex, you can see that it’s just a tunnel with a platform added. This explains why it’s so far down, and why accessing it is so tricky.

Andrew February 16, 2010 - 11:53 pm

That’s the reason that’s usually given, but I’m not convinced.

Most express stations with easy local-express transfers have a mezzanine one level below ground and the tracks and platforms a second level down. At Penn Station, the railroad tracks get in the way of a second level. So the tracks and platforms have to be one level down, and there need to be platforms on the sides to provide street access.

Alon Levy February 17, 2010 - 2:05 am

No, that’s the actual reason – they did the same at Atlantic Avenue, and then at Penn Station on the IND.

Street access can be provided one level down even with double island platforms, for example at 96th on the IRT.

Andrew February 17, 2010 - 7:23 am

How do you know it’s the “actual reason”?

Atlantic Avenue was originally the terminal. It was modified into the configuration you see today.

34th St on the IND is subject to the same constraints as 34th St on the IRT! It has a full mezzanine underneath the tracks, because it’s entirely north of the railroad tracks, but the subway tracks themselves obviously continue south, passing directly above the railroad tracks. Again, no room for a standard mezzanine above the platforms.

I think access to 96th St was immediately recognized as a problem. Certainly once locals stopped serving the side platforms.

Marc Shepherd February 16, 2010 - 10:38 am

The IRT’s even spacing of express stops is a feature, not a bug. It ensures that the local/express transfers work well.

This comment reflects a fundamental misunderstanding. The IRT’s choice of express/local stops reflected predictions at the time of where those stations would likely be useful. They didn’t do a bad job, but naturally some of those predictions turned out to be faulty.

That 72nd Street is an express stop and 59th Street a local stop is one of those faulty predictions. No sensible person, had they known how the rest of the system would turn out, would have made that choice. To put it differently, if the IRT were being built today, would you advise that express trains ought to skip the 7th-busiest station in the system? Of course not.

Having said that, reconfiguring the station now would be prohibitively expensive. There are better ways of spending the money.

Alon Levy February 17, 2010 - 2:08 am

If the IRT were built today, it would have no express stops. Instead, trains would stop every 15 blocks instead of every 7 blocks. This is how SAS is slated to be built. The original stop spacing was built for a geographically smaller city than New York is now.

AlexB February 16, 2010 - 11:03 am

I think the real reason Columbus Circle should be an express stop is to minimize transfers and maximize system clarity, not ridership at 72nd vs. 60th St. Remember, the 1 and the 2/3 have a different set of destinations outside Manhattan. The B/D don’t connect with the 2/3 anywhere in Manhattan. The A/C connect at Times Sq and WTC, but Times Sq is a long walk and WTC is far from Midtown. The F/V have no convenient connections with the 2/3 anywhere (14th St/6th Ave is inconvenient) and connecting the B/D to the 2/3 would have secondary benefits for F/V users. During rush hour when everything is running well, the current situation is not a big deal, but when there are service changes and/or it’s late at night, having two transfers instead of one can add 20 minutes to a trip.

Also, converting the Bleecker stop to express and providing an additional transfer to the Bway Local at Prince from Bway/Lafayette would be extremely useful and could make that stop more critical as a transfer point than 59th/Lex or even Union Sq. When the A/C and F are switched on the weekends, this would really help the swarms of humanity that speed-walk up the ramp from the A/C to the 4/5 at Fulton. For this same reason and others, the J/M should always terminate at Broad St instead of Chambers. Stopping the J one station shy of the A/C and 2/3 when nothing is keeping it from going all the way to Broad St is just inconceivable to me.

Unfortunately, Columbus Circle and Bway/Lafayette/Bleecker are both being renovated right now and aren’t going to be re-renovated anytime soon. Even though the changes I’m writing about seem costly and would add 30-60 seconds of time to many people’s commutes, if they were to happen, in five years, no one would want to switch it back. It would shave minutes off some people’s commutes and seriously reduce headaches on the weekends.

Andrew February 17, 2010 - 12:00 am

I don’t have a problem with an express stop at Columbus Circle, but I do think that locals would be overloaded if there were no express stop between there and 96th St.

Late at night, everything or nearly everything should run local, so the point is largely moot.

I agree that the J should go to Broad on weekends (especially if the A/C and F are switching routes), but I think we’re going to have to wait until after the era of service cuts has passed before we see it.

PBK February 16, 2010 - 12:54 pm

This piece is really an example of putting provision in for the future, something Belmont rarely did. Any modifications to the IRT were always expensive, etc.

The IND on the other hand, was built with a ton of provisions for expansion, even if ironically, many remain just that.

The hole in the mezzanine at Second Avenue is just one example of the stuff for the IND Second System.

This also goes directly to the lack of even a provision for the 10th Avenue stop on the #7 extension, which Ben has so well covered, as well as some other cases I’ve written about in my blog, Inklake.

Aaron February 16, 2010 - 1:32 pm

I surmise that the IND was built with the benefit of hindsight – at the time the IRT was constructed, I suspect they were on the leading edge of that kind of engineering (obviously, the Tube is older, and the T is slightly older, although the Tremont St tunnel isn’t exactly a high-capacity subway). I don’t know the history of it intimately, but that’s certainly what I suspect – the folks who built the IND had the benefit of the post-IRT Monday morning QB. The original IRT is really to be commended for having been so prescient as to the City’s development, although it’s likely that it’s the location of rail transit also drove development.

At the end of the day, I’m not sure that the issue is such a big deal. Most subways don’t have express service at all – taking a cross-platform transfer at 72nd or 42nd doesn’t make a commute particularly unbearable. Certainly, it’s not ideal, but given the complexity of it all, nothing to get worked up over.

Peter February 16, 2010 - 7:56 pm

Hi Aaron,
The IND did have the benefit of experience, but it also had the benefit of being owned by the city. The IRT (and BMT) were built by private enterprise, and the city limited the franchises as to cost recovery.

The city essentially drove them out of business, and in fact, most people feel the IND deliberately competed with the privately-owned systems. (The lower level of the 8th Avenue 42nd Street subway station, seems to have been built for no other reason but to block the westward expansion of the #7 line).

Still, the IND dreamed big from the get-go. It’s the only one of the 3 that never had to lengthen platforms, and stations like West 4th Street were built, knowing there would be big things coming.

In fact, “West 4th” is named that peculiar way, because a “South 4th” mega-station was planned for Brooklyn, and the designers didn’t want to confuse riders.

Andrew February 17, 2010 - 12:06 am

Yet look at the mess the IND made of Downtown Brooklyn – it doesn’t meet up with any of the IND or BMT stations (the one pair of stations that makes for a feasible transfer, Jay/Lawrence, is being built now), and its closest station to a major railroad terminus – which is not particularly close – isn’t even an express stop.

And a bit south of there, the F crosses the 4th Ave BMT at a local stop.

It’s not just Brooklyn – the one and only IND transfer point in the Bronx is a local stop too!

Alon Levy February 17, 2010 - 2:11 am

Yes, the IND was built to be maximally incompatible with the IRT and BMT, in order to compete with them and drive them out of business. Ironically, the city planned the merger in advance, and still chose to build Queens Plaza away from Queensboro Plaza and the G away from any non-IND connection.

Andrew February 17, 2010 - 7:26 am

The IND runs along Jackson Ave/Northern Blvd. Queens Plaza is as close to Queensboro Plaza as possible without veering off course.

Alon Levy February 18, 2010 - 1:32 am

It takes a complete idiot to decide to build a station away from the useful transfer just to avoid veering off course.

pete February 18, 2010 - 3:48 pm

So what about the idiots who made the 63rd street tunnel? No IRT (Lex), no Queens BMT/IRT (Queensboro Plaza), no Queens IND (Queens Plaza).

PBK February 16, 2010 - 1:01 pm

I think I remember reading somewhere that the 59th Street stop on the IRT was not originally an express stop, but those platforms were built later. Can someone confirm?

Edward February 16, 2010 - 1:17 pm

Lex Ave IRT or Broadway line? Lex Ave express platform was added in late 1950’s; Broadway line has no express stop at 59th St (see above).

Kai B February 16, 2010 - 2:34 pm

What’s the cool site out there with all the old subway leaflets? I can’t recall. It has a poster promoting the new 59th Street Express station from 1959ish.

Jerrold February 16, 2010 - 3:19 pm

Are you sure that the express platforms at 59th and Lex were added in 1959?
You know, like they say, what you learn as a child you remember for the rest of your life. I have distinct, detailed memories of the 1961 subway map. On that map, the Lexington Ave. expresses did not have any stops between Grand Central and 86th St.
So 59th St. was a local station.

Also, I remember how there was NO free transferring between the IND and the 14th St.-Canarsie line at Sixth Ave./14th St.
The two stairways that now allow that transferring must have been added sometime in the 1960’s.

Benjamin Kabak February 16, 2010 - 3:22 pm

Jerrold, one commenting request: Can you please use the reply button when replying to comments? Just click on the word and type your comment. It’ll show up under the comment to which you’re replying and makes it far easier for all to follow the conversation.

Anyway, the Lexington Ave. express stop at 59th St. was approved in early 1959 and opened in late 1962. Your memory does not deceive you.

PBK February 16, 2010 - 4:22 pm

Thanks Ben. That Times piece is great. Interesting how it mentions businesses like Chemical Bank, the Lighthouse, and Dry Dock savings bank. Institutions that have moved, merged, or are gone.

I remember as a kid seeing/hearing ads that used to say that neighborhood was “Dry Dock” country, and it taking me along time to know what they meant.

I also wonder, if because the express station was built as an afterthought, it’s what accounts for the terrible water/drainage problems down there. Even int the dead of winter, it smells like a malarial swamp.

Peter Inklake

Edward February 16, 2010 - 4:32 pm

Yes, it was 1962, not ’59. My bad. Not sure about transfer from IRT to BMT Canarsie Line at 14th St. Stairs look like they were squeezed in sometime after both stations opened, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they are a relatively recent addition.

Jerrold February 16, 2010 - 5:59 pm

The Lighthouse and Bloomingdales, both mentioned in that article, ARE still there.

Peter February 16, 2010 - 7:50 pm

Thanks Jerrold. Yes of course, on Bloomingdales, and my bad re the Lighthouse. I guess I had in my head the Lighthouse at Woodhaven Boulevard that moved.

In a previous life, I used to be a messenger, and got out-and-about more. 🙂

Jerrold February 16, 2010 - 6:01 pm

Ben, I tried to take your advice.
I posted my last comment as a reply to PBK,
but it came out looking like a reply to Edward.

Urbanis October 25, 2010 - 3:52 pm

As someone who lives in northern Manhattan, served by the 1 and A trains, my public transit wishlist is (cited in order of feasibility):

* Return the 1 train to express service along the West Side and into Brooklyn and make the 3 train local in those places
* Close very closely spaced stations–do we really need stations at 18th St and 28th St when we have them at 14th, 23rd, and 34th? How about 103rd, 116th, and 163rd St? Alon Levy’s idea of using 15 block spacing is an even more radical approach, which might work well outside of the CBD and, one hopes, speed up service while decreasing costs (fewer stations to maintain).
* Make Columbus Circle an IRT express stop
* Create an uptown connection between the Lexington Avenue lines and the west side lines (travel between Inwood and the UES by subway is currently a real drag, generally involving a trip along the west side and a hike across Central Park)

Adding an IRT express stop: The story of 59th St. :: Second Ave. Sagas November 23, 2010 - 1:46 am

[…] plan, he endorsed converting 59th St. at Columbus Circle into an express stop — a plan that never came to fruition — but “report[ed] adversely upon the application to convert the 59th Street Station of […]


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