Home Subway Maps A history of future subway systems

A history of future subway systems

by Benjamin Kabak

A glimpse at a dream of a future New York City subway system. (Map via Vanshnookenraggen)

As Christine Quinn’s staff members taught us during this year’s mayoral race, it’s really easy to draw some lines on a map and call it a transit route. That’s what she did with her zany Triboro RX Select Bus Service proposal, and in doing so, she joined the legions of online denizens with access to a subway map and an illustrator application who love to create fantasy subway maps.

The idea behind a fantasy map is pretty self-explanatory. What would the subway look like if money were no obstacle? How would routing be enhanced and improved? How can we connect disconnected parts of the city? The best ones — you can find them buried in the archives on SubChat or the NYC Transit Forums — feature realistic routing and lead to that “ah ha!” moment when it becomes clear how much better the subways can be.

The most comprehensive set of fantasy maps belongs to Andrew Lynch, better known as the creator of Vanshnookenraggen. A few years ago, he put together an insanely well researched and thorough 11-part series on the history of the subway system that wasn’t. Start with the introduction and read about the IND Second System, ambitious plans for the Second Ave. Subway, Hudson River crossings and the Triboro RX line, among others. It re-imagines the regional transportation network in ways few politicians seem willing or able to do so.

Earlier this week, Lynch released a revised version of his future subway system. The post comes complete with a PDF version of his Vignelli-inspired subway diagram and a length explanation of the various new routes. It’s a sight to behold, and although I’m not convinced every route is a worthwhile, efficient or necessary one, the vast majority of them are. A system such as Lynch’s would lead to a very different New York indeed.

Basing his new future system, in part, on the MTA’s next twenty years document, Lynch introduces it: “The first FNYCS plan was what could be possible with money as no issue. Back in the real world where it is basically the only issue I realized I needed to distill out more realistic ideas that could use existing infrastructure better and develop lines that served the growing areas of the city while better connecting the outer boroughs. As traffic to the CBDs of Manhattan plateaus and a ring of neighborhoods along the East River waterfront develop from Long Island City, Williamsburg, and to Downtown Brooklyn I realized that inter-outerboro service needed to be looked at closer.”

A South 4th Street subway could be more than just a remnant of another era. (Map via Vanshnookenraggen)

So what does Lynch propose? He calls for a Second Ave. Subway with three lines at parts. Such a plan involves four-tracking Phases 3 and 4, sending the T to the Bronx, the revived V train to Brooklyn via South 4th St. and Utica Ave. and a new Y train through Bushwick to Jackson Heights. In the Bronx, the D train shoots east across the borough to Co-Op City while in Queens various trains go to La Guardia Airport, College Point, Kissena and Cunningham Parks and Murray Hill. In Brooklyn, the Franklin Ave. Shuttle is extended to meet up with the G train while the N heads west to Staten Island. In Manhattan, the L heads north up 10th Ave. and then east across 86th St.

We could debate the ins and outs of Lynch’s routings for ages. There is, for instance, no Triboro RX and I’m not sure how useful the Y line or his massive L train extension would be though I do love a crosstown subway running via 86th St. By and large though, these routes adhere to a few maxims of subway planning: They exist in conjunction with the street grid and, absent a sharp curve from the 7 line toward La Guardia, they don’t feature too many curves that would slow down the trains.

Of course, a subway system that looks like this would have required foresight years ago and tens, if not hundreds, of billions of dollars today. Still, we can’t just shrug it off as fantasy. Rather, it’s part of something New York should aspire to. We should have politicians discussing ways to build out subway lines quicker and cheaper than the Second Ave. Subway. We should embrace the idea of future subway systems and hope that we live to see but a sliver of these routes become a reality.

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Stephen Smith August 30, 2013 - 12:52 am

I have some quibbles with Van Schnook’s map (where’s the Nostrand extension??), but he put real time and thought into it. Not fair to compare it to what Quinn(‘s staff) did.

Which reminds me: what’s so ridiculous about Quinn’s Triboro bus line is that it follows exactly the rail line. TriboroRX would be a good project, but it’s not where I’d draw an outer radial line if there were no preexisting tracks. And since there are no preexisting grade-separated bus lanes, why would she follow TriboroRX?

vanshnookenraggen August 30, 2013 - 2:11 am

I’m skeptical of a Nostrand Ave extension. If there was an affordable way to build an express track under the existing set of tracks there now then it would make the trek worth it but I don’t like the idea of that long an all local line when you could build out Utica Ave or Franklin Ave connection for less. I’m more focused on other areas with no transit. Southern Brooklyn is well served, if not perfectly served.

Quinn knowns nothing about transit (I won’t say I expect her to be an expert or anything) so she just found some project and said “Let’s do that but with buses because they’ll be cheaper!” Cute.

lawhawk August 30, 2013 - 9:33 am

Outstanding effort, and I’m sure lots of people will find stuff to quibble about. It’s a thought exercise worth doing, because some of these ideas should be taken more seriously and the next mayor (or city council members should finally restore city funding to the MTA to help develop the MTA’s capital plan for the subway system and expanding into areas that are underserved).

Anything that can highlight expanding mass transit to the airports and new developing hubs around the city outside Manhattan is key and none of the current batch of mayoral candidates appears to have the slightest interest in thinking big and standing behind even the most modest of your suggestions (like the LGA connections).

For one, I like the fact that you’re expanding service into Southeastern Brooklyn, but I would have thought expanding service from the Junction (Flatbush and Nostrand) to Kings Plaza would have been a logical routing considering this is a backbone route, it’s a more direct route to Manhattan, and bus service is inadequate. I see how you’ve extended the Utica Ave service to that terminus instead. All in all, thanks for doing all this work.

Steve August 31, 2013 - 2:15 pm

How about running the 5 down to Sheepshead Bay with longer runs between stops than is typical to the rest of the IRT and running the 2 along Flatbush Avenue to hook up with those Utica Avenue Trains at Kings Plaza?

It would be nice too if the 5 went express from President Street to Church to Brooklyn College, too.

I’m surprised not to see the Triboro RX line.

Also, I wonder why not run the J through the Montague tunnel and then down 4th Avenue, as a local, keeping the D express, then diverting it along the proposed T route to Coney Island?

It’s too bad the 7-train is IRT, else — in this fantasy world — it could be run down the West Side to the BMT crosstown line on 14th Street, then be diverted south with the T at 2nd Avenue, terminating at Hanover Square.

Express service along the Culver Line would be amazing … isn’t there a third track? Why not run the G express during rush hours, or something?

Finally, I’ve always wondered what it might be like if they criss-crossed the 2- and 5-trains along the Grand Central Shuttle route.

Nyland8 August 31, 2013 - 2:56 pm

“I’m surprised not to see the Triboro RX line.”

Indeed. The Jackson Heights to Myrtle/B’way was a nod to TRx, but falls far short of becoming a true bypass. As do the plans for the G Line – another likely candidate.

And apparently, there’s no “future” in New Jersey, and very little in Richmond.

From the standpoint of tunneling, once the TBM is mobilized, it makes relatively little difference if it’s tunneling deep under your roadway, or deep under a waterway. If not the TRx, the Bronx should have at least one connection to the outer boroughs without having to go through Manhattan. But the Triboro is, fundamentally, a sound plan – & the St. Marys over to Yankee Stadium would at least be a start of inter-borough, inter-subway connectivity. It has the potential to do a lot for very little – relatively speaking.

sonicboy678 February 27, 2014 - 11:13 pm

Unless you do some considerable reconfiguration at Flatbush Avenue, that 2/5 split will be impossible.

Actually, the only thing I can actually find feasible with the 2 and 5 is an express 5; however, they would have to tunnel somewhere underneath the existing tracks.

Stephen Smith August 30, 2013 - 1:45 pm

I see where you’re coming from – the IRT in general has stops that are way too close together – but there is HUGE ridership potential on Nostrand south of the Junction. It wouldn’t be a nice trip for those of us used to 30-minute rides into midtown, but people are already sitting on the bus (and dollar van!) in traffic to transfer to the local…it’d be a significant speed-up for them.

Kevin P. September 1, 2013 - 2:30 pm

Express service is overrated. Extra tracks are more valuable from a capacity standpoint and for routing around outages. Taking the B instead of the Q from Brighton Beach to DeKalb Avenue saves only 6 minutes. You could argue that it adds up for the long-term commuter, but on a day-to-day basis it’s not a big deal.

sonicboy678 February 27, 2014 - 11:16 pm

That also depends on your destination; the way you phrased that, all destinations can be reached just as easily with either train like the A and C between Euclid Avenue and 168th Street.

pubadmin031568 September 2, 2013 - 4:56 pm

remind me again: why build the new 2nd avenue line all the way downtown, when it could link up to the underused nassau st line, replete with extra platforms at chambers st?

Paul1705 December 16, 2013 - 11:58 pm

If and when Phase IV gets into play, expect Nassau Street to become a serious alternative again. The cost savings are too large to be ignored. Also, the connection to Montague Street and Brooklyn will be another factor favoring that route.

Bolwerk August 30, 2013 - 9:37 am

Yes, it’s not the route, it’s the mode. And it also displays a misunderstanding of how different transit modes work. Even some more sensible transportation advocates need to shake the misconception that buses can replace trains.

Henry August 30, 2013 - 9:43 am

To be fairly honest, the route was also terrible. Where it followed the RX pretty faithfully, it was all twisted one-way roads. Where it didn’t, it was a pretty significant diversion north to Church Av.

The problem with the Quinn RX plan is that it tries way too hard to do way too many things. (That, and it’s also not worth the money when there’s a much faster rail line that could do the exact same job.)

Bolwerk August 30, 2013 - 11:16 am

Right, well, I meant that more generally: it makes sense to create a circumferential line taking that general course, but obviously stringing together retardedly disjointed streets won’t work. Doing a “decent” BRT would be enormously expensive, and “decent” BRT doesn’t hold a torch to a sub-par rapid transit service.

In a sense, you almost can’t be wrong about a circumferential line in the outer boroughs. There are better ones and worse ones, but almost any that passes through even low-medium density residential neighborhoods and allows transfers between subways would probably be a smashing success.

lawhawk August 30, 2013 - 9:58 am

Even some more sensible transportation advocates need to shake the misconception that buses can replace trains.

The events following the flooding of the subway tunnels after Sandy should have disabused everyone of the notion that buses could replace subways, even on a limited basis.

Buses simply lack the capacity that a subway car does. And that’s where Quinn gets things spectacularly wrong in thinking that she can solve the outer borough transit crunch by waving her hands and demanding mayoral control and instituting a bus service that makes little sense from a practical standpoint.

vanshnookenraggen August 30, 2013 - 2:02 am

I will never claim to have all the right answers. I do this to inspire others to get serious about the transportation problems that face us. The people who work at the MTA and other transit agencies know this reality first hand but we need a political force to make it real. This is for them. Are all these the best ideas possible? No. But who else is thinking about it.

Thanks, Ben, for posting this.

Walt Gekko August 30, 2013 - 2:11 am

Quite a few things I would be looking at differently here:

Most notably missing to me is the idea of rebuilding the Third Avenue El. With what is likely coming with a re-zoned Midtown East, I suspect that PLUS a full SAS are going to be necessary to handle all the new people who will be working there and also living in what are already very densely populated parts of Manhattan. Such would include (as a local branch) as 125th Street Crosstown that would join (from the suggested version) the (Q) to a terminal at 12th Avenue (with that portion elevated).

There is definitely a need for an additional line into upper Manhattan from Queens, but as I would do it, I would have that line be part of the SAS with a stop on 79th Street at York-1st Avenue before going into a lower level of the 72nd Street on the SAS and from there either able to go with the (Q) across Broadway or down 2nd Avenue with the (T). This 79th Street tunnel to Queens could possibly include a station with a transfer with the (N) in Queens before then continuing to if possible the never-opened upper level platform at Rooosevelt Avenue, then going from there possibly under the existing QB line with a stop at 63rd Drive or Woodhaven Boulevard before using the currently abandoned Rockaway branch (via the cutouts previously done) to run to Rockaway Park.

Definitely like the idea of extending the J/Z to Belmont Park, it is something I have suggested myself numerous times that can make Belmont Park a park-and-ride with the likely flexibility for now of being able to build a mini-yard underneath the massive parking lot at Belmont that really is only used a few times a year and can include a barebones station that can be used on Belmont Stakes day (and certain other big days OR if Belmont becomes a “Racino”) to transport people between the Grandstand and Parking Lot as needed.

I like the (L) going uptown, but in my version, that line would terminate under the 1/2/3 at 72nd Street where Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue meet, with provisions for future extensions on Amsterdam Avenue if warranted. The 86th Street crosstown idea seems impossible to do right now due to already having to go under too many existing lines.

I would also do a full rebuild of the Atlantic Avenue (L) station to the old six tracks and three platforms because that station can become a terminal for a shortened (L) line while a Broadway-Brooklyn line takes over the running from Atlantic to Rockaway Parkway from the (L), allowing the (L) to focus on the more heavily used portion of the line.

Just some of many things on a very interesting map.

vanshnookenraggen August 30, 2013 - 11:11 am

Thanks for the input. The L extension up 10th Ave and crosstown on 86th St are really two ideas grafted together. Given the growth of the west side from 72nd St south to 14th St I think an L train extension up to 72nd St is a solid idea by itself and one that people will begin to think seriously about once the Hudson Yards start to open.

I also like your idea for rebuilding Atlantic Ave station on the L but not for the reasons you pointed out. The M train rerouting through 6th Ave has proven very popular and I wonder if, hypothetically, that the MTA extended the C or E train out along the J/Z to Broadway Junction if the area would see even more growth. If they did the best place to terminate these trains would be at Atlantic Ave station using the connection between the BMT Jamaica and Canarsie lines.

Walt Gekko September 2, 2013 - 1:03 am

Another item from your map that I thought was interting:

Your idea of extending the Franklin Shuttle to Bedford-Nostrand is right in line with my previous idea of a Myrtle-Brighton line that would take the existing portion of Myrtle El, expand the current Franklin Shuttle line back to two tracks and AT LEAST 480′ platforms (and preferably 600′) and connect it to the Brighton line, running from Metropolitan Avenue to Coney Island as a “Black V” that would be the primary Brighton local running 24/7 (the (Q) would become the Brighton Express to Brighton Beach at all times while the (B) would be a second Brighton Local to Coney Island on weekdays).

For the connection between the Myrtle El and Franklin Shuttle/Brighton Line, the upper level of Myrtle Avenue-Broadway would be rebuilt (there also would be track connections built there to allow for emergency re-routes of the Brighton Line trains via Broadway-Brooklyn and Chrystie and from the Broadway-Brooklyn to the Brighton Line when needed) while a small part of the old Myrtle El is rebuilt with Sumner Avenue the only station from the old line rebuilt before the line headed to Bedford-Nostrand and the transfer to the (G).

I suspect this would be a very popular second Crosstown line that would absorb the Franklin Shuttle (as this Myrtle-Brighton line would run through the full Franklin Shuttle route) and eliminate the need for the late night (M) shuttle since it would run along the full route of that shuttle (though the (M) shuttle would run on weekends since it will starting next year be running to Essex Street then).

Stephen Smith August 30, 2013 - 1:50 pm

With what is likely coming with a re-zoned Midtown East, I suspect that PLUS a full SAS are going to be necessary to handle all the new people who will be working there and also living in what are already very densely populated parts of Manhattan.

You’re seriously overestimating the amount of development planned. DCP says we should expect a net increase of about 4 million square feet of new office space. To put that into perspective, that’s about 1.5 giant new towers. (In reality it’ll be more like three or four, since most of the space created will be replacing stuff that’ll be torn down…ain’t no parking lots in the Plaza District!) I think Hudson Yards is 24 million square feet of new office space (to say nothing of residential and hotel, which midtown east will have very little of).

I’d love it if we were talking about upzoning Midtown East to the point where we’d need another subway beyond the Second Avenue line (Midtown East is, after all, pretty much the only place in the city where the market can almost always support new office buildings that pay full property taxes – no small thing given the fiscal crisis the city is about to face). But unfortunately, that’s not the proposal.

Nick August 30, 2013 - 11:20 pm

What fiscal crisis are you referring to?

Steve August 31, 2013 - 2:20 pm

I’d be for taking 3rd Avenue out of automobile service, altogether, building light rail on the street surface and dedicating the outer lanes to SBS.

I think the time for elevated trains is long past. I realize this whole exercise is pure whimsy, but even in a fantasy world I can’t imagine elevated lines being built.

Nyland8 August 31, 2013 - 3:23 pm

” … but even in a fantasy world I can’t imagine elevated lines being built.”

On the contrary. I think there are still plenty of places throughout the boroughs where new elevated trains would be quite viable – even desirable, for cost and speed reasons. Most of them would be alongside, or atop, highways … paths with little or no NIMBY opposition, like the edges of parklands, like down the Mosholu, like industrially zoned areas, like along the Bronx and Pelham Pkwy, … etc.

New elevated construction should never be ruled out. It just won’t fly in a place where tens-of-thousands of residents, owners, businesses, developers, etc. feel threatened by it. In other words, all of Manhattan island.

Unless you can build them of invisible materials, nobody wants it blotting out the sun down the middle of an inner-city street – even a very wide one.

Steve August 31, 2013 - 4:39 pm

I hadn’t thought of the alongside or atop highways possibility, though I should have, having been in Los Angeles, recently. That’s a fine idea.

Still, I think putting it even along an outer borough avenue is inadvisable … just people we tend to be poorer and less heard doesn’t mean we want our streets covered. That said, I’m never opposed to putting light rail service onto the streets themselves, at the expense of cars. Drive on the next avenue, if you have to.

Steve August 31, 2013 - 4:40 pm

I’m thinking faster than I can type … I meant “just because” not “just people” … geez.

Justin Samuels September 2, 2013 - 9:14 pm

The Airtain was built in the early 2000s in the middle of the Van Wyck Expressway. So yes, its quite feasible even today to build elevated lines in the middle of expressways, where they don’t have an effect on businesses or residents (unlike being built over a street).

I agree putting it above an outer borough avenue isn’t going to happen, or on the edge of an outer borough park.

subway-buff August 30, 2013 - 7:30 am

How about extending the C to 207 and extend the A across 207/Fordham Road/Pelham Parkway to Co-Op City and to Orchard Beach which will give the MTA another line to a Beach.

Larry Littlefield August 30, 2013 - 9:29 am

So money is in fact an obstacle. What then?

I told you. Bicycles, and dynamic carpooling. Low public capital cost, no public operating cost, cheap for the user.

Here is my fantasy map(s). What is a reasonable walk to a rail station? Want to say half a mile? Now that we are in an obesity crisis, I’m not sure cutting exercise as close to zero as possible is a reasonable goal for society. So draw a map with half-mile circles around the city’s subway and commuter rail stations.

Now consider that with the same level of exercise as walking, one can travel three times as fast on a bicycle. I’m talking about riding at a very leisurely pace on a commuter bike, not the Tour de France. So now draw a map with 1 1/2 mile circles around those subway and commuter rail stations. And all it takes is bike parking.

Alon Levy August 30, 2013 - 5:23 pm

Bike parking takes up space in the volumes you’re proposing. Parking a hundred bikes is easy, parking five thousand isn’t.

Nyland8 August 31, 2013 - 8:20 am

… and bikes are not really 4 season transportation.

Phantom August 31, 2013 - 8:38 am

Manhattan streets are still very unfriendly and scary for bikes, despite all that has been done, and the big majority of people would not commute by bike even if this were not the case.

sonicboy678 February 27, 2014 - 11:19 pm

Streets in general are hectic for bikes…and with them.

Kevin Zeng August 30, 2013 - 9:57 am

I need a plan to bring back the Brown M train to Bay Parkway on the D train West End Line Station. After the Montague Tunnel reopen.

Benjamin Kabak August 30, 2013 - 10:01 am

Stop bringing this up in every single thread. That’s my last request.

Bgriff August 30, 2013 - 10:38 am

I like that this map is practical and doesn’t do some things just because they could be done (like express F service in Brooklyn, which probably just isn’t a good match for the way the Culver line is used today).

If I were going to quibble, my #1 point would be that the choice of only runt lines to serve the new LGA station is probably not the best choice–definitely should be some Manhattan-LGA direct service. I do like the idea of a JFK Airtrain-LGA shuttle, though I suspect it would be a very lightly traveled route (light rail or true BRT perhaps?).

But, that said, it’s excellent as a design piece, and sparks a lot of thinking. Now I want to see the track maps so I can play with where I would re-route things 🙂

vanshnookenraggen August 30, 2013 - 11:17 am

My god I wish I could draw this thing as a geographically accurate track map… Maybe in another 3 years 🙂

The choice the run only crosstown lines out to LaGuardia was to better segregate airport traffic. If you ran the R train out there then all along the Broadway line airport passengers would be mixed with regular commuters. The crosstown lines would soak up airport traffic from every line which would also allow for the trains to have sections for luggage (like the M60 does). That’s the theory anyway, who knows if that would actually work.

Andrew August 30, 2013 - 1:31 pm

I’m glad to see that you have a theory as to why you don’t route directly from LGA. However, not even making it possible to have a one-seat ride from Manhattan seems to limit its utility. The airport traffic will still be mixed in with regular commuters all the way across 86 St. to Juntion Blvd on this extended L train.

BUt generally, it’s a creative approach to adopting and extending from the ways that the current system provides for the possibilities of future expansion. It’s nice to see the fantasy of what could polausibly be built if we would be willing to prioritize raising money to build transit (and overcome the NIMBYist objections.) And also to imagine what it could be if the NYC subway system was designed together coherently with simple things like more easy cross-platform transfers.

Joey August 30, 2013 - 2:59 pm

I’m skeptical that airport traffic needs to be segregated. Airport stations don’t really generate more ridership than regular stations in medium to dense areas, and airport services by themselves tend to not generate much ridership on their own.

Bolwerk August 31, 2013 - 11:52 am

Agreed with Joey.

Is there even much overlap with the airport-generated and rush hour peak direction traffic? Doesn’t seem likely.

Joey August 31, 2013 - 3:55 pm

My understanding is that airport traffic peaks much less, except for there being somewhat more traffic during the day than at night. If the trains are crowded with rush-hour commuters, then airport passengers are still going to experience crowding during those hours, but if the trains have only airport passengers then they’re going to be practically empty all day.

Alon Levy August 30, 2013 - 7:16 pm

Airport services don’t need special trains (at any case passengers would be transferring to regular trains). They need a one-seat ride to where the hotels are. Somehow, the Piccadilly Line in London manages without special trains or dedicated luggage space.

Phantom August 30, 2013 - 7:38 pm

I lIke the Piccadilly Line to Heathrow, and I take that route a few times a year. I

Bgriff September 3, 2013 - 2:30 pm

Hey, thanks for the response. The thought of segregating airport traffic does have some virtue — though others note the London Piccadilly line below as an example that works fine, I would argue that it could just as easily be used to show the opposite, given the extent to which regular commuters have to put up with tourists and lots of luggage on the train all the time. And the Piccadilly line does use special trains, with fewer seats to allow more space for luggage. The RER B line in Paris is another example of making regular commuters miserable thanks to catering to airport-bound tourists.

But, not sure what the best solution to this problem is, since as others note, people are going to have to transfer to “major” lines somewhere. Something like the Hong Kong Airport Express does a good job but Hong Kong’s compactness is unique; in most cities including NY a single-seat airport-to-city-center train would go to the wrong part of the city center for many commuters, requiring out of the way routings (an express LGA-Penn Station train would poorly serve East Siders for example). In New York the best option might be to connect LGA to a relatively underused, but still Manhattan-bound, service, for example the R train. However it might be tricky to achieve that re-routing while still maintaining enough capacity on the further east parts of the Queens Boulevard local.

To respond to the comment below about the LGA-JFK Airtrain shuttle, of course that is not its only use, but the connection proposed in the map does open up that routing in a vastly more convenient way than is currently possible, so it’s a happy side effect of connecting those neighborhoods to the network. And while it does not directly benefit local commuters, there are possible benefits to New Yorkers of making JFK and LGA closer together (for example, an extension of the current AirTrain from Jamaica above the Grand Central Parkway up to LGA, and perhaps onward to connect to the N station at Astoria Blvd while staying above the highway and relatively away from NIMBYs)–both airports are short of capacity but have a lot of overlapping services, but if airlines could be convinced to use them as a more cooperative system, selling passengers on via-AirTrain connections between the two, you could reduce some of this redundancy and open up capacity for new services or congestion relief, which benefits both local NY passengers as well as those connecting through our airports.

Fbfree September 1, 2013 - 7:11 pm

“A JFK Airtrain-LGA shuttle”. I believe the idea is to make sure LGA and Flushing are well connected to Long Island and the rest of Queens via Jamaica. The MTA is going to be interested in serving local residents, not airport transfers.

aestrivex August 30, 2013 - 10:50 am

I think this map does an excellent job of hitting some of the more woefully underserved areas in eastern Brooklyn, Rosedale, LaGuardia/Elmhurst and Bayside. I think the map overprioritizes constructing new service in areas that are already modestly served compared to doing more.

For instance, while it would be fantastic to get more service into Alphabet city, I have a hard time seeing the point of rerouting the Nassau St line in Williamsburg. It exists, and now with the M does a halfway decent job of ferrying people into Manhattan. Why rebuild that, when there are so many other problems?

Also, I’m not sold on the relative importance of building a 10th avenue trunk (the walk from 11th avenue to 8th avenue in many places is a bitch, but the west side doesn’t have the same crippling problems with overcrowding as the Lexington Av line).

subway-buff August 30, 2013 - 11:02 am

At this time a 10th Avenue line would not be needed but long range studies in the MTA plan indicate that the West Side IRT will become overcrowded and more lines would be needed. a 10th Avenue line will provide relief for West Side customers. I also suggest extending the BMT Broadway under Central Park to provide another uptown Manhattan service between the Lexington Avenue lines and the IRT 1/2/3 and IND A/C/E lines

Howard August 30, 2013 - 5:36 pm

“…long range studies in the MTA plan indicate that the West Side IRT will become overcrowded and more lines would be needed.”

How much more crowded will it be?

subway-buff August 30, 2013 - 6:31 pm

MTA says around 130%-140% during mid day.

BSS August 30, 2013 - 1:38 pm

The people of Co-Op City, Greater Jamaica and SE Brooklyn appreciate your thoughtfulness. Though I was surprised you chose to use the LIRR Bay Ridge ROW in Queens and not in Brooklyn, which has two of the busiest bus lines in the city shuttling people back and forth east and west in the B6 and B35. And your connection of the N to the SIRT isn’t all that helpful; St. George is really the only suitable hub for intraborough transit on the island. Better service LES here, some better E-W coverage in South Queens there, but a great model for future expansion.

Andrew Smith August 30, 2013 - 2:59 pm

Where’s the love for PATH? If money is no object, the Newark/Hoboken-WTC line should be connected with the 4-5-6 where the 4 ends at City Hall and the Journal Sq – 33rd St. line should connect to the 1-2-3 at Christopher Street. Then the Newark side should be extended to the airport and you have a direct subway link to EWR.

Joey August 30, 2013 - 3:03 pm

It’s probably better to extend the Newark Airport APM to Newark Penn rather than PATH to the airport. This gives a direct connection to all of the trains that stop at Newark Penn plus direct access to downtown Newark.

Andrew Smith August 30, 2013 - 6:58 pm

My proposal wasn’t to expand the PATH out to the APM but to extend it to the terminals and create a one-seat ride from the terminal to all of the east side of Manhattan.

Joey August 30, 2013 - 8:42 pm

Interesting, but how would you get long, straight stations close to the terminals given the airport’s odd layout?

Robert September 1, 2013 - 5:40 pm

How about the way they do it at O’Hare; a single station with walkways connecting it with the terminals?

Joey September 1, 2013 - 8:28 pm

O’Hare is more compact than Newark Liberty (with the exception of O’Hare Terminal 5 which is not accessible from the Blue Line). It might be doable but it’s a long time to spend on the moving walkways.

As You Like It August 30, 2013 - 4:08 pm

It’s probably a typo, so I’m guessing you don’t REALLY think the #2 should be re-routed to serve 145th Street, right?

Alon Levy August 30, 2013 - 5:46 pm

First, I think it’s much better than the original futureNYCsubway.

That said, there are still a few bad ideas in here:

1. As Stephen brought up above, lack of Nostrand. In general, long local lines are a normal thing on big-city subway systems, and at any rate Nostrand has an express line on it.

2. Suboptimal use of capacity. Nobody needs the 4-track SAS – it saves a minute and a half to skip two stops, and it’s impossible to use it to full capacity anyway. The V service is really bad – it also reduces Broadway capacity. Save money, 2-track SAS, and restore the W. Likewise, the apparently four-track M/V/Y tunnel. Underwater tunnels are expensive, don’t build them if you’re not using them fully. Likewise, the four-track Northern and Utica lines – Utica can only be used at the capacity of a two-track line. It’s fine to leave lines all-local – Utica is a fast route into Midtown and has the 4 transfer.

3. Four-tracking an existing two-track line is expensive and has limited benefit. Just send the R to Staten Island, don’t bother with skipping three stops.

4. Way too much weaving and branching – does Utica really need to connect to two different Manhattan trunks?

5. No love for Jersey?

6. No love for commuter rail?

Alon Levy August 30, 2013 - 5:48 pm

Oh, and:

7. 86th is a cute idea, but it’s basically the bottom priority. 10th is completely unnecessary and ends up reducing the capacity of everything connecting to 86th. If you don’t like the L terminus, send it one stop west to 10th and 14th, or to Jersey.

Ben Guthrie September 5, 2013 - 5:12 pm

You’re missing a couple of positives about the 86th st crosstown spur.

It would enable many commuters to avoid the necessity of using the shuttle to get between the west side and the east side. I’ve always hated that.

Off hours it would generate much additional revenue just from tourists traveling between the Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of art. The connection to the east side line(s) would be an excellent bonus for the many Lincoln Center patrons.

In general, it add to the robustness of the subway system.

Nyland8 September 5, 2013 - 7:21 pm

I like the idea of running the L Line over to Jersey better than the 7 Line. Not only are the trains 9″ wider, but the platforms along the L Line have a better crowd capacity. Of course the connection to the 1/2/3 isn’t as good on the L. But the 7 link-up to the A/C/E is shitty – so it’s a tradeoff.

If the purpose of running a cross-town subway line to Lautenberg is to most efficiently distribute Jersey commuters along the Manhattan trunk lines – and it is – then the L is a better candidate. Union Square makes a nice nexus, and the SAS will most likely connect at the east end of the 3rd Ave. station.

The track maps on nycsubway.com are wrong. The L Line doesn’t terminate under the A/C/E. It actually comes in well south of those platforms – in fact, half-a-train length. If the L were extended to NJ, they might be able to realign it to run right under the A/C/E, allowing for more uniform platform loading and unloading, and for elevators between platforms.(It’s a dream, of course, because I think the problem is actually with the A/C/E alignment, which has to turn southeast before it gets directly over the L)

As it is now, the station has very high passenger volume cluttering the primary stairway down to the L, and the southernmost stairway to the A/C/E.

It’s a poor layout.

Walt Gekko September 7, 2013 - 1:44 am

I have actually suggested myself sending the (L) to New Jersey instead of the (7). That to me would work well because the (L) would allow for transfers to just about every other subway line in the system. It also I suspect would be popular with those at NYU who live in New Jersey since they would be able to take the (L) there and for those who live around NYU also being able in many cases to have a easy way to get to New Jersey as well.

That said, I still like my other idea better of having the (L) run up 10th Avenue to 72nd and Broadway, terminating under the 1/2/3 with transfers there and with provisions to allow the (L) to then continue up Amsterdam Avenue later on.

Nyland8 September 7, 2013 - 8:42 am

… OR run it to both places. If the A Train can have more than one terminus, then so can the L Line.

But I think we’d both agree that the current end of the L is a lousy station for such an important and heavily used Manhattan connection. There hasn’t been a single time that I’ve taken it westbound when it hasn’t been delayed waiting for an eastbound to leave the tracks first – and then it proceeds to crawl into the station because there are no runout tracks.

Finding a way to run the L Line out to Jersey will actually make the westbound trip to 14th St/8th Ave FASTER, both by entering stations at full speed, and never having to wait for an outbound to leave. It’s a win-win for L riders.

sonicboy678 February 27, 2014 - 11:25 pm

I would actually 3-track SAS solely for potential capacity issues. A 2-track line will have massive problems if one track goes out for some reason.

johnny culver August 30, 2013 - 8:24 pm

Simple answer. The city should encourage big businesses to lay down outside of Manhattan. A Manhattan address means little these days with telecommuting, etc.

Phantom August 31, 2013 - 8:35 am


The problem with that idea is that companies can just decide to skip the city / region and its high costs altogether, which many of them do.

Bolwerk September 1, 2013 - 12:03 pm

That’s true of any big city, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt New York to try to encourage some of the ingredients that make Midtown successful in other parts of the city. Transit access is definitely one of them.

Nyland8 August 31, 2013 - 10:20 am

Thank you very much, Vanshnookenraggen. A fun exercise … but too much a reflection of an expanded 20th century perspective, rather than a genuine 21st century vision.

I think for me, the biggest single failing of this map is that it maintains the old paradigm of being near-totally Manhattan-centic. After all is said and done, most of the commuters traveling between the outer boroughs are still jamming the Manhattan trunk lines on their way two and from work. Where are the beltways?

There are not even enough Brooklyn/Queens connections, let alone the poor old Bronx. Every single Bronx commuter who works in Brooklyn or Queens has no choice but to go through Manhattan – and vice versa. And Staten Island? Fuggedaboutit!!

While I truly appreciate the time, thought, and creative effort that goes into making such a map, I think the major premise from which it proceeds is deeply flawed – or at least painfully dated. New Yorkers live in what should be – nay, what is bound to be – a single, growing bi-state metropolitan region.

If there is to be any real future to the future map, I don’t think it can survive being all spokes and no wheels.

Nyland8 August 31, 2013 - 12:50 pm

Did I write ” … two and from” ?? Nyuk nyuk. Serves me right for giving my editor off for the Labor Day weekend.

Tower18 August 31, 2013 - 8:29 pm

After all is said and done, most of the commuters traveling between the outer boroughs are still jamming the Manhattan trunk lines on their way two and from work

Well to be fair, most of the commuters still work in Manhattan. Borough to borough commuting is on the rise, but pitiful in comparison to traffic to Manhattan. Besides, with the capacity improvements in this scheme, I’m not sure it’s worth ALSO designing ways for Bronx-Brooklyn travel without Manhattan. This should free up a lot of capacity in Manhattan, so rather than building 15 miles of track through Queens, just send ’em through Manhattan. Most of any Bronx-Brooklyn trips would be to Downtown Brooklyn anyway…anyone else would drive, let’s be honest.

Nyland8 August 31, 2013 - 11:01 pm

Well to be fair, if borough to borough commuting is, as you admit, on the rise, then the “future” map should both reflect and promote that. And no, the alleged “capacity improvements” include extensions farther into the outer boroughs – which doesn’t “free up a lot of capacity in Manhattan”. Quite the contrary, it actually tasks it further by expanding ridership.

As for “building 15 miles of track through Queens”, it is exactly that which not only spurs outer borough development, but also offers greater interconnectivity, and much shorter commutes. Ironically, there are already 20+ miles of ROW that don’t even have to be built. They are sitting there underutilized, waiting for someone to make them part of the “future history of the subway system”.

Regarding your last comment, yes – let’s be honest. What you meant to say was ” … anyone else would have their limo driver take them”.

Bolwerk September 1, 2013 - 12:27 pm

To play off Nyland8’s point and my response to Phantom above a little, you gotta wonder just how much NYC economic growth has been stunted over the past few generations by the lack of interborough connectivity. It really is a situation where the only rail connections between boroughs are between Brooklyn and Queens, and even they’re mostly incidental to feeding Manhattan.

Seems to me The Bronx would do well to have access to the relatively minor job center that is Flushing.

…anyone else would drive, let’s be honest.

Not if they don’t have a car. Or if there is a great transit alternative.

Boris August 31, 2013 - 10:48 pm

What’s missing from this great conversation is the discussion of how to make the plan a reality. In this election year especially, WE ARE the people who can make the politicians and the MTA talk about it. As long as the discussion stays in transit wonk land, the politicians won’t pay it much attention. But we know how to get their attention – outreach to the public, which should evaluate our plans and show support (or lack of support) for parts of the plan. We know how to do this. Second Avenue Sagas already has a speaker series – why not expand it to a town hall or charette meeting that presents the plan? Ben has name recognition. Or, any number of non-profits, activist organizations, and citizen groups can do the same.

What the candidates for mayor have been doing for months now is shuttling between the many special interest groups in the city to curry favor and learn about their issues. If we want to see even a small part of this plan come to fruition, we have to do the same.

Nyland8 August 31, 2013 - 11:05 pm


Larry Littlefield September 1, 2013 - 9:26 am

What are you willing to say about it? You need to say two things:

1) Resources shifted to subway construction are shifted from somewhere else. Who should have less of what? Bear in mind that New York’s tax burden and debts are already just about the highest in the country, and everyone else including (as always) the public employee unions and the seniors is screaming “more for me!”

2) Subway construction has become more expensive because those who do it (and consult around it) have become much richer relative to those who would have to pay for it, to the point where the serfs can’t afford it. What should be done to reverse that?

Bolwerk September 1, 2013 - 12:34 pm

#2 can be improved greatly by passing legislation to reduce red tape, change construction techniques, and make smaller firms more competitive. It would be good for the local economy if local construction firms could do more of the work instead of a few multinationals.

#1 is probably a harder problem to fix. Probably the easiest option would be state action to make structural changes to myriad city/state/MTA bureaucracies. For instance, the legislature could pass a law today making deciding where OPTO goes the MTA’s sole prerogative in the next contract.

Larry Littlefield September 1, 2013 - 2:29 pm

When I was working in budget for the MTA capital plan they seemed to have tried everything. More and more detailed contracts, with provisions added for every way they got screwed in the prior contract. Breaking contracts into smaller contracts. Merging different kind of contracts (signals, stations, structures) into one big “zone contract.” Contracting out. Bringing work in house. Local firms. Firms from elsewhere in the U.S.

Nothing works.

Boris September 1, 2013 - 7:55 pm

Any public presentation should include a discussion of tradeoffs, such as light rail (higher capital cost, lower operating cost) vs BRT (lower capital cost, higher operating cost). But presenting the information will by itself drive the conversation about things like the high cost of construction, benefits, etc. Once informed, members of the public will themselves ask the politicians the difficult questions. And the legislators should be the ones making the difficult choices and passing new laws, which they will be forced to do once enough noise is made about the options and potential of the transit plan.

Another option, if there is agreement that there is a “golden bullet” law that will fix everything, a special interest group can be formed with the sole intent of passing that law (such as Bolwerk’s OPTO example). But I doubt there’s a golden bullet.

Nets Cowbell Guy September 2, 2013 - 9:03 pm

Changes I would make: extend the nostrand line, build a Flatbush Ave line & also extend the 6 to old south ferry, making it a station for the 1 6 & R

Nets Cowbell Guy September 2, 2013 - 9:12 pm

Also, a line on Ocean Pkwy (maybe a lite rail on the svc rds) & a shuttle that bisects all these lines

AlexB September 3, 2013 - 1:16 pm

It’s a very well considered map, and shows a strong knowledge of the history of past subway expansion proposals and existing rights-of-way that could be used. I don’t think it shows a good understanding of the costs and benefits associated with certain segments though. Some obviously useful extensions such as along Nostrand have been left out (as noted by many other commentators), while others that would get less ridership have been included. Does it really make sense to pay to extend and branch the already overcrowded 7 to attract maybe 20 or 30 thousand riders when the 2 and 5 are not at maximum capacity and could be extended to get 50,000? The Queens extensions in total would be comparable in cost to the 2nd Ave Subway, but yield a small fraction of the ridership. Subway like frequency on the Port Washington Line, an integrated “Oyster Card” type fare system, and dedicated lanes for feeder buses to Auburndale, Baydside, etc, would solve the same problem for a fraction of the cost.

Robert September 4, 2013 - 11:17 am

Poor old Red Hook, still isolated from the rest of New York. Maybe you should indicate the “proposed” light rail running from Red Hook to Downtown Brooklyn, maybe extending it up to Greenpoint.


VLM September 4, 2013 - 11:19 am

Or maybe we shouldn’t be giving Crazy Bob more attention than he already gets for his insane ramblings.

Nyland8 September 4, 2013 - 1:26 pm

Here’s my proposal for Red Hook. The original military housing now being demolished on the cone of Governors Island ranged from 7 to 11 stories tall – all of it built on landfill.

Question: What would 20 acres of land 1 subway stop from the financial district be worth to a developer? What would 30 acres be worth? How about 40 acres and a mule? And a luxury marina for your yacht?

A Red Hook subway stop? The City of New York solicits developers who would like to build luxury housing 1 subway stop from the financial district. All they have to do is sink a couple of TBMs in the center of Governors Island, just below Division Road. Send 1 TBM toward the SAS Hanover station, and the other toward Red Hook.

* – The tunneling spoils become clean fill for the landfill project, expanding the southwesternmost reaches of Governors Island.

* – The developers get “free” land 1 stop away from the financial district, upon which they are then allowed to erect structures not to exceed 11 stories – just like the ones being torn down now.

* – Phase 4 of the SAS gets jump started from the south – and without even needing the barge facility.

* – Red Hook gets its long awaited subway connection to Manhattan across the Buttermilk Channel.

* – The money to expand the subway is funded by private investors looking to make a profit on the expansion.

* – The people of New York City turn Governors Island into a 4 season park, accessible to both Brooklyn and Manhattan via subway.

… how many acres they’re allowed to develop, and how far they tunnel to get them, are merely further details yet to be determined. There’s plenty of room in the harbor.

Bobby September 23, 2013 - 4:46 pm

I love the possibilities here but I don’t understand the T train expansion into the Bronx. How could the T travel on the 5 and 6 train tracks? I thought there were width issues there that precluded A and B division trains from traveling on the same tracks.

johndmuller October 20, 2013 - 3:29 am

That right of way was originally part of the NY, Westchester & Boston Railroad, which was a fairly extravagantly built commuter railroad. NYC acquired it from bankruptcy and originally ran it as a shuttle to the Westchester’s station adjacent to the 180th St. stop. I believe they ran it with BMT hand-me-downs (probably the same size as what the Westchester had used). Eventually, they connected it directly as a branch of the IRT and of course switched to that rolling stock. They might have done as little as adding some lumber to the platform edges to adapt to the smaller cars.

The line is actually 4 tracks wide (capable), so VanSnook could have kept the Dyre Ave. line as is and added his (T) line, running as express and sent it off to Co-op City along Gun Hill Rd., 222nd St. or Baychester Ave. instead of or as well as his (D).

John Smith January 2, 2014 - 12:07 am

•Southeast Bronx: Lafayette Avenue Elevated with a termination at East Tremont and Schurz Ave in Throgs Neck. This would better serve Hunts Point, Soundview, Castle Hill, Clason Point, Throgs Neck and Country Club.

•A Cross Bronx line. E 161st/3rd, East Tremont Avenue, Fordham Road, Gun Hill Road far eastbound as possible are all Candidates. Connections to the A and 1 trains in Manhattan.

•Third Ave El


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