At 12 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon, after decades of frustration and months of waiting, the transfer between the uptown 6 train at Bleecker St. and the B/D/F/M trains at Broadway/Lafayette St. will finally open. For thousands of riders, this transfer will cut down on travel times and improve one of the oddities of the system. The project may be months late and millions over budget, but it’s welcome nonetheless.
In The Times today, Matt Flegenheimer tried to get to the root of the transfer’s history. Why weren’t the north and south platforms at Bleecker St. aligned? Even though the BMT station opened 30 years after Bleecker St., it took transit planners another 70 years to correct the problem. “There’s no real documentation” concerning the origins of this decision, a Transit spokesman said.
I’ve heard various theories over the years. Some have said that the streets weren’t wide enough to accomodate two platforms and four tracks all in parallel while others have pointed to real estate costs, the curvature of the streets or the political reality aboveground at the time the IRT was laid out and constructed. Ultimately, the historical why of it isn’t really important. It’s been corrected, and anyone who takes the subway for the first time on Tuesday afternoon won’t know any better.
With this saga behind us — although I still think a public accounting for the delays and cost overruns would be appropriate — I took a look at the subway map to assess a few other spots that could use similar treatment or at least a free transfer. In no particular order, I’ve laid out my top choices. Here we go:
1. Junius St. (3) and Livonia Ave. (L)
The 7th Ave. IRT and the L train meet once in Manhattan, and that’s it. Meanwhile, the 3 train crosses over the L as the former nears Junius St. and the latter Livonia Ave. While these two stops are in a neighborhood miles removed from the Chelsea station, such a transfer would provide a streamlined ride for those heading to Canarsie or through Bushwich and into Williamsburg. A walkway overpass leads from one end of Junius St. to the L platform at Livonia Ave. over the Bay Ridge Branch for the LIRR, and the area has long clamored for a free transfer.
2. Hewes St. (J/M/Z) and Broadway (G)
Here, we again have a spot in Brooklyn where an elevated line crosses over another, and yet, there is no free transfer in place. The Hewes St. station has a shuttered entrance that leads to, well, Hewes St., two short blocks away from the G train. Building an in-system transfer here would be fairly costly and possibly challenging with the South 4th St. shell in the way, but an out-of-system transfer would easily connect G train riders with a two-seat ride into Midtown or Lower Manhattan. At some point soon, Transit is going to have to assess how it treats the G train, and putting in place a free transfer at this spot in South Williamsburg would be a good start.
3. Jay St./Metrotech (A/C/F/R) and Borough Hall (2/3/4/5/R)
That the R stops at both of these stations is a strong argument against such a transfer. Costs, predicted to be steep, is the other. Still, once in Brooklyn the A, C and F don’t intersect with the IRT lines, and a transfer could better deliver straphangers to the Fulton and Culver Lines. Still, Fulton St. is only a few stops away, and all of these lines, less the F, meet up there.
4. Fulton St. (G) and Atlantic Ave.-Barclays Center (2/3/4/5/B/D/N/Q/R)
Here, an underground tunnel would be far too long, far too costly and far too complicated to engineer. It would to skirt BAM and the LIRR’s Atlantic Terminal, and it would probably require some serious reengineering of the underground space to improve passenger flow. The station’s main passageways are on the other side of the B/Q tracks. Still, an out-of-system free transfer would help traverse the 600 feet or so between the lonely G train and this major hub. As it stands now, the G connects with trains to Manhattan at isolated points, but it never runs into the IRT lines or the BMT lines. Such a transfer would correct this problem.
Beyond these four, it’s hard to spot too many other places on the map where adding a free out-of-system transfer or creating new in-system transfers would make much sense. Maybe one could make an argument for a 2/3 stop at 103rd and a transfer to the B/C station there, but it’s likely more cost and trouble than it’s worth. Still, in a few spots the system could be more passenger-friendly, and with Bleecker Street’s quirk resolved, it’s time to look at a few others.