Home Second Avenue Subway FAQ (and T): Answering your questions on the 2nd Ave. subway

FAQ (and T): Answering your questions on the 2nd Ave. subway

by Benjamin Kabak

All over the city, veteran New Yorkers old enough to remember the 1940s or even the 1970s wondered to themseves, “Can it really be? Is the city really getting ready to build the Second Ave. subway?” The answer seems to be yes, but there’s a lot about this project the public doesn’t know.

Couched in pages upon pages of environmental impact studies and technical engineering documents are the secrets behind the Second Ave. subway line. The Q extension and the T train (Awwww, it’s the QT train!) are still a few years away, but the folks out there are clamoring for more information. So in what I’m sure will become something of a frequent post topic (especially once I really delve into the environmental impact statements and property displacement plans), I present to you the FAQ (and T): Frequently Asked Questions on the Second Ave. Subway. It’s all you ever wanted to know about the Second Ave. subway project and then some.

(If your patience for long posts doesn’t extend to discussions on the subway staging and phasing, skim the bold headlines and pick the ones that you like. If I didn’t answer your question, feel free to let me know in the comments section or by e-mailing secondavesagas (a) gmail dot com.)

I live on 86th St. and 2nd Ave. When can I take the T train down to my office at Hanover Square?

To this, I say, woe there, Tiger. You may very well be retired before you can take the T train down the entire length of the proposed route. One day — 2020 to be inexact — the T train will start at 125th St. and Lexington Ave., curve around to 2nd Ave., and make 15 stops along Manhattan’s East Side before reaching its Hanover Street terminal. But this project will be done in four phases.

Phase one, pictured above, doesn’t even include the T train. Instead, it is a three-station extension of existing tunnels from 57th St. on the Q to 63rd and Lexington and then around to Second Ave. with stops at 72nd, 86th and 96th Streets and a tunnel to 105th St. The Q will continue southbound along the current Broadway express tracks to Brooklyn. This is due for completion in 2013. And since we’re talking about MTA time, I’m thinking 2014 optimistically. (Remember how the Cortlandt St. subway should have been open in 2006? Yeah.)

Phase two, set for completion in 2018, still won’t include your T train, Upper East Siders. This extension will go north of 96th St. to stops at 106th St., 116th St. and 125th St. and Lexington. Phase two will also rely on tunnels abandoned during previous attempts to build this subway line.

With the arrival of phase three, you will finally finally get your turquoise T train. Phase three, also set for completion in 2018, will head south of 72nd St. all the way to Houston St. where the T will terminate at the current F/V stop at Second Ave. Stops include 55th, 42nd (with one very long tunnel to Grand Central), 34th, 23rd, 14th, and Houston Streets. The T will run down Second Ave. while the Q will, after 72nd St., branch off down Broadway.

Phase four, set for an end date of 2020, will carry the T down the rest of Manhattan. Grand St., Chatham Square, Seaport and a final terminal at Hanover Square will mark the end of this ambitious project. The Q will keep on doing its thing.

For more on construction phasing, check out the MTA’s page on construction phasing on Second Ave.

Is this really going to be wrapped up in 2020?

Honestly, I have no idea. I’ve read around the Internet that the MTA should institute penalties in the construction contracts it awards if the firms don’t meet hard deadlines. That’s a great idea which means it won’t be implemented. But considering the track record of the MTA in finishing minor projects on time, I would be surprised if this were finished by 2020. We’ll see how much patience New Yorkers really have for 13+ years of construction down the length of Manhattan.

Are they building two tracks or four? Why aren’t they giving Second Ave. express service?

As far as I can tell, the MTA is building the Second Ave. subway as a dual-track system. That means no option for express service that bypasses stations a la the vast majority of the subways in New York. The T line will instead resemble the L in Brooklyn.

For many, this move seems shortsighted. Shouldn’t the MTA provide express service to all of its customers? One reason for this we will get to next. The other reason — and this is conjecture on my part — focuses around the nature of New York City and the monetary concerns here. Because Second Ave. is so developed and not nearly as wide as Broadway, the city would have to stack express tracks as they did on Lexington on the Upper East Side. This project, already very expensive, would become even more so with express service. Plus, as I’ll show you next, the express service isn’t really necessary.

Yesterday, commenter Tobias asked: I’ve noticed that the East Village won’t get any additional stations out of this — both stations in the area are being added to existing stations (L at 14th, F at Houston). Has there been any discussion of adding a station at 7th or 8th Street?

Last week, commenter The Cro posed a similar query: Was there ever any thought or consideration given to placing a stop somewhere between 86th & 72nd Streets? A 14 Block “gap” in one of the most densely populated portions of the Upper East Side seems a little bit much, don’t you think?

Once upon a time, the subway extension plans looked like this (Click for a larger view):

But plans have changed, and I understand where Tobias and The Cro are coming from; it’s the IRT-centric view of the Upper East and West Sides. Long used to short, ten-car IRT trains that only take up about a block and a half underground, we’re used to local stops every eight to ten blocks. But the Q and the T will be a part of the BMT stock. The cars are much longer than the IRT cars, and even with eight-car trains, the subway stations can extend three blocks.

As the environmental study plans note, the southern exit for the 86th St. stop will be at 83rd St. That means there’s only an 11-block gap between stations. The same can be said for the 14th St. station. So the trains, without the presence of an express, will make fewer stops as they head up Manhattan, and while, numerically, the stops seem far apart, in reality, the long trains mean a five- or six-block wait at most for people riding the trains.

Phew. That’s enough for now. Feel free to leave any questions you may have for me to tackle in future editions of FAQ (and T).

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FAQ (and T): Answering your questions on the 2nd Ave. subway « Second Ave. Sagas March 13, 2007 - 12:52 am

[…] headlines and pick the ones that you like. If I didn’t answer your question, feel free to let me know in the comments section or by e-mailing secondavesagas (a) gmail dot […]

Marsha March 13, 2007 - 8:15 am

Re: the express question–does that mean that there will be multiple exits for the new stops? As you mentioned above, the longer trains means fewer blocks between stops but that only works if exits are built at both ends.

SUBWAYblogger.com » Blog Archive » Everything you could possibly want to know about the Second Ave subway March 13, 2007 - 10:28 am

[…] out the Second Avenue Saga’s FAQ section.  It is probably more than you would ever think you’d need to know about the new line.  […]

a.v. March 13, 2007 - 10:44 am

My understanding is that there will be an entrance to the 72nd street stop at 68th street, and I suspect that exits a few blocks away is the case with most of the stations.

I think they have spread stations out in order to compensate for the lack of express service, and I’m not sure it has anything to do with the length of the trains. R142 cars (the new ones on the 2,3,4,5,6 lines with the blue seats) are 50 feet long x 10 cars = 500 feet. R160 cars, which will presumably be used on the T, are 60 feet long x 10 cars = 600 feet. The system’s largest cars, which are 75 feet (the R68 cars which are often used on the current Q) are used in 8-car trains = 600 feet. So BMT trains are at most 100 feet longer than IRT train, about one-third of a NYC block.

Mike March 14, 2007 - 12:06 pm

Good job but a coule of points:

That map is not a plan for subway extensions. It shows the Second Avenue Elevated (torn down in the ’40s) and the Third Avenue El (torn down in Manhattan in 1955, in the Bronx in 1973). Note that some Second Avenue El trains crossed the Queensboro Bridge. Those tracks are obviously now gone, too.

Second Avenue is more than wide enough for four side-by-side tracks. There will be no express tracks because of the expense of doubling the size of the tunnel to accommodate four tracks. (In the ’20s, plans called for part of the proposed Second Avenue IND subway to have six tracks).

It would be nice to have express service but trains today accelerate and brake much faster than they did when the original subway was built. A Second Avenue local train today can probably make the entire run fast enough to satisfy most riders, especially since there will be no old-fashioned sharp curves on this line to slow the trains. Also, building stations farther apart allows trains to operate at higher speeds.

Cute joke about the Q/T line. There was actually a QT train before the massive service change of 1967. The QT ran in Brooklyn as a Brighton local (hence the double letters–all locals used to have two letters) and reached Manhattan via the Montague Street Tunnel. There was another Brighton service that used the Manhattan Bridge so it was called QB. And Brighton trains that ran through to Jamaica were signed QJ.

Benjamin Kabak March 14, 2007 - 12:10 pm


Thanks for the corrections. I could have sworn that was a map of the planned 2nd Ave. line. I’ll have to go track down another accurate one for a later post.

As for the four-track/six-track/two-track debate, the MTA’s environmental impact statement mentions concerns over the stability of the densely-built buildings on Second Ave. if they were to build four tracks instead of two. They could stack them as they’ve done on Lexington Ave. north of 42nd St., but as you mentioned, the express service is hardly necessary with faster trains and stations built further apart.

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[…] the Q will make all the same stops as the T. In fact, as I noted in March, the Q train extension will constitute Phase 1 of the construction. The T won’t exist until the entire line is […]

Myrna Cruz November 19, 2007 - 1:24 pm

What companies will be working on this project? I am interested in identifying them to seek employment.

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[…] “Lee” Sander. During his talk on the state of the MTA finances, he boastfully mentioned Phase 1 of the project, currently underway along Second […]

Ivan Rodriguez March 26, 2008 - 10:24 pm

I just don’t understand why the 2nd and 3rd Avenue els were taken down before a replacement was implemented. At least one of these els should have been left in service until the Second Avenue Subway was completed, then we would not be experiencing the problems were having! I mean the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens & Staten Island have els! What makes Manhattan better and too good for els!

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STEVEN CONGER December 3, 2016 - 9:03 am

Ive been hearing about the 2nd Ave line since the 1960″s – all they have is 3 stops on the upper East side one in the 60’s , and one on 72nd st. and one on 92nd st. – how is that a Second Ave. line – 3 stops only in the most affluent district – what about harlem – what about Murry Hill – what about the east Village – what about the Lower East side – Come on – maybe the Politicians should ask the Chinese to build it , if we really want a Second Ave. subway Line


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