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).