The New York City Subway is a large rapid transit system in New York City, New York, United States. It is the most extensive public transportation system in the U.S. and one of the largest in the world with 468 stations and 656 miles (1056 km) of mainline track. When non-revenue trackage in shops and yards is included, the total comes to 842 miles (1355 km). The subway is operated by the New York City Transit Authority, described by its parent Metropolitan Transportation Authority as "MTA New York City Transit".
Though it is known as "the subway", implying underground operations, about forty percent of the system runs on above ground rights-of-way, including steel or (rarely) cast iron elevated structures, concrete viaducts, earthen embankments, open cuts and, occasionally, surface routes. All of these modes are completely grade-separated from highway crossings.
The subway system today
The current lines and services, color-coded by which system originally operated them, including current service labels and line names
The New York City Subway is designed for carrying large numbers of people during working days. In 2002 an average of 4.5 million passengers used the subways every weekday.
A typical subway station has waiting platforms ranging from 400 to 700 feet (122 to 213 m) long to accommodate large numbers of people. Passengers enter a subway station through stairs towards station booths and vending machines to buy their fare, currently via the MetroCard. After swiping at a turnstile, customers walk down to the waiting platforms below. Some subway lines in the outer boroughs have elevated tracks with stations that passengers climb up to. With some exceptions, subway tunnels between stations are rectangular in shape.
Many lines and stations have both express and local service. These lines have three or four tracks - the outer two for local trains, and the inner one or two for express trains. Stations served by express trains are typically major transfer points or destinations. A few lines (the Broadway-Seventh Avenue Line and Jamaica Line) use skip-stop service on portions, in which two services operate over the line during rush hours, and minor stations are only served by one of the two.
A typical subway train has from 8 to 11 cars (shuttles as short as 2); when put together the train can range from 150 to 600 feet (46 to 183 m) long. As a general rule the IRT trains are shorter and narrower than the IND/BMT trains, the result being two different divisions which cannot share trains.
Subway stations are located throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. All services pass through Manhattan, except one major route, the Brooklyn-Queens Crosstown Local (G), which directly connects Brooklyn and Queens without entering Manhattan.
In 1994 the subway system introduced a special fare-paying system called the MetroCard, which allows riders to use cards that store money paid to a token booth clerk or to a vending machine. The MetroCard was further enhanced in 1997 to allow passengers to make free transfers between subways and buses within two hours; several MetroCard-only transfers between subways were also added. The world-famous token was phased out in 2003, the same year the MTA raised the basic fare to $2, amid angry protests from passenger and advocacy groups such as the Straphangers Campaign.
The one major expansion that is being planned is the Second Avenue Line. This line has been planned since the early days of the system, and construction was started in the 1970s, but as yet no usable sections exist.
Being a rather old system, most stations are not handicapped accessible. The exceptions are new construction and "key stations", as required by the ADA. See New York City Subway accessibility for more details.
Lines and routes
- Main articles: New York City Subway line, route and station nomenclature, List of New York City Subway lines, List of New York City Subway services (including a detailed table)
Entrance to Broad Street station
Many rapid transit systems run relatively static routings, so that a train line is more or less synonymous with a train route. In New York, routings change often as new connections are opened or service patterns change. The line describes the physical railroad line or series of lines that a train route uses on its way from one terminal to another.
Routes (also called services) are distinguished by a letter or a number. Lines have names.
For example, the D Train, D Route or D Service, though colloquially called the D Line, runs over the following lines on its journey:
There are 27 train services in the subway system, including three short shuttles. Each route has a color, representing the Manhattan trunk line of the particular service; a different color is assigned to the G Brooklyn-Queens Crosstown route, since it does not operate in Manhattan, and shuttles are all colored dark gray. Each service is also named after its Manhattan (or crosstown) trunk line, and is labeled as local or express.
Trains are marked by the service label in either black or white (for appropriate contrast) on a field in the color of its mainline. The field is enclosed in a circle for most services, or a diamond for special services, such as rush-hour only expresses on a route that ordinarily runs local. Rollsigns also typically include the service names and terminals.
Division A (IRT) consists of the 1 Broadway-Seventh Avenue Local, 2 Seventh Avenue Express, 3 Seventh Avenue Express, 4 Lexington Avenue Express, 5 Lexington Avenue Express, 6 Lexington Avenue Local, 7 Flushing Local, 9 Broadway-Seventh Avenue Local and S 42nd Street Shuttle.
Division B (BMT/IND) consists of the A Eighth Avenue Express, B Sixth Avenue Express, C Eighth Avenue Local, D Sixth Avenue Express, E Eighth Avenue Local, F Sixth Avenue Local, G Brooklyn-Queens Crosstown Local, J Nassau Street Express, L 14th Street-Canarsie Local, M Nassau Street Local, N Broadway Express, Q Broadway Express, R Broadway Local, S Franklin Avenue Shuttle, S Rockaway Park Shuttle, V Sixth Avenue Local, W Broadway Local and Z Nassau Street Express.
Divison C consists of non-revenue operations, including track maintenance and yard operations.
- Main article: New York City Subway history
While the first underground line of the subway opened in 1904, the first elevated line (the Ninth Avenue Elevated) opened almost 35 years earlier. The oldest structure that is still in use (albeit reinforced) opened in 1885 as part of the Lexington Avenue Elevated, and is now part of the Jamaica Line.
The lines were eventually consolidated into two privately-owned systems, Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit (BMT) and Interborough Rapid Transit (IRT). Early city involvement included the building of the original IRT subway and later lines built or upgraded via the Dual Contracts. The first line of the city-owned and operated Independent Subway System (IND) opened in 1932.
In 1940, the two private systems were bought by the city. Integration was slow, but several connections were built between the IND and BMT, and they now operate as one division, Divison B. Due to the IRT being narrower, it has remained its own division, Division A.
- Main article: Rolling Stock of the New York City Subway
The New York City Subway has the world's largest fleet of subway cars. Over 6400 cars (as of 2002) are on the NYCT roster. Cars purchased by the City of New York since the inception of the IND and for the other divisions beginning in 1948 are identified by the letter "R" followed by a number; e.g.: R32. This number is the contract number under which the cars were purchased. Cars with nearby contract numbers (e.g.: R1 through R9) may be virtually identical, simply being purchased under different contracts. Car models were known as "R-types" to distinguish them from models built for the private operators.
- MTA New York City Transit - Subways (http://www.mta.nyc.ny.us/nyct/subway/) (official site, with detailed maps and schedules)
- NYCsubway.org (http://www.nycsubway.org/) (a very thorough treatment of the current system and history)
- rapidtransit.net (http://www.rapidtransit.net/) (the history, technology and politics of rail transit, concentrating on New York City)
- Abandoned Stations (http://www.columbia.edu/~brennan/abandoned/main.html)
- NYPIRG's Straphangers Campaign (http://www.straphangers.org) (riders' advocacy group)
- Interactive map (http://www.nonprofitmaps.org/netmaps/straps/Straphangers.asp) courtesy the Straphangers Campaign
- Hopstop (http://www.hopstop.com) (online subway directions)