NYTIP – extending the nyc subway, part 6: closing the gaps in brooklyn

UPDATE (01.15.2021): Post substantially revised with new proposals for Brooklyn subway extensions.

Welcome back to my NYTIP series! Over the last several posts, I’ve discussed ways to extend the NYC Subway’s reach to close gaps in rapid transit coverage. In this post, I’ll discuss subway extensions that will close several gaps in Brooklyn.

Note: Click any image to enlarge.

I. Southeast Brooklyn

The existing NYC Subway provides robust coverage in South Brooklyn, but significant gaps exist at the southeast end. The Utica Avenue subway closes this gap significantly, but a wide gap still exists between this line and the next-nearest line – the Brighton line; this gap is nearly 2 miles wide. To close this gap in coverage, let us consider the oft-planned – but unbuilt – Nostrand Avenue line extension.

As with many planned-but-never-built subway extensions, plans for the Nostrand Avenue extension go back many decades – in this case, to at least 1919:

[Figs. 1, 2] Proposed Nostrand Avenue line extensions from 1929 and 1939, respectively.

MTA mulled a Nostrand Avenue extension to Kings Plaza as recently as 2016, but nothing came of it.

What might this extension look like under NYTIP? Let’s consider two options – each a modified version of historical proposals.

Option 1: Extend the Nostrand Avenue line to Sheepshead Bay

[Fig. 3] Overview of Option 1, via Brand New Subway.

Option 2: Extend the Nostrand Avenue line to Kings Plaza

[Fig. 4] Overview of Option 2.

Option 1 provides a straight-shot extension to Sheepshead Bay, while Option 2 takes a curve onto Flatbush Avenue to Kings Plaza. Option 2 requires a new Flatbush Avenue – Brooklyn College station since the existing one extends to Avenue H. Under either option, the line would emerge onto an el at some point to avoid high water tables in southern Brooklyn.

Recommended path forward: Option 2. In a previous version of this post, I recommended Option 1. However, I’m changing this recommendation to Option 2 for three reasons. One, it is a shorter extension than Option 1. Two, it results in a major transit hub at Kings Plaza. Finally, it allows both the Nostrand Avenue and Utica Avenue extensions to serve a common storage and maintenance facility south of Kings Plaza; I envision a yard either on top of, or in the vicinity of, the Flatbush Avenue/Belt Parkway interchange. Alternatively, a storage and maintenance yard could be built along the LIRR Bay Ridge branch right-of-way, which both extensions cross.

II. East New York

Several subway lines serve East New York; under NYTIP, these are the 5 train on Livonia Avenue, the A and C trains on Fulton Street, the J train on Broadway and Jamaica Avenue, and the L train on Van Sinderen Avenue.

There are two sharp curves on Crescent Street that constrain J service. Notably, the curve from Fulton Street to Crescent Street is the second-sharpest curve in the entire NYC Subway system – second only to the City Hall Loop used by 6 trains to change directions in Manhattan.

[Fig. 5] J line at Crescent Street, with sharp curves circled.

In my Southeast Queens extension post, I proposed a new express track between Sutphin Boulevard – JFK and Crescent Street stations using an existing provision. However, the two Crescent Street curves would slow any express train considerably, and may still constrain overall J train service.

I thought of ways to rectify this without carving a new street through the neighborhood, as was once proposed. The easiest way to do this is to realign the el via Jamaica Avenue. However, Jamaica Avenue abuts a cemetery and a park for most of its length between Broadway Junction and Cypress Hills, so simply “shifting” the el results in a net service loss…

…except it doesn’t have to.

Potential capital investment: implement the East New York Improvement.

[Fig. 6] Overview of the East New York Improvement.

[Figs. 7, 8] East New York Improvement track maps. (Originals by vanshnookenraggen, modifications by me.)

The East New York Improvement consists of two key investments. The first is curve straightening on the J line. Rather than taking the two sharp curves on Crescent Street, the J continues westward via Jamaica Avenue; in so doing, J local trains make two fewer stops between Cypress Hills Street and Broadway Junction stations, and J express trains have two fewer merges with the J local. The result: faster, frequent service for all J riders.

For further improvement, the Woodhaven Boulevard station in Queens could become an express stop, as follows:

[Fig. 9] Woodhaven Boulevard express stop conversion with new switches for operational flexibility.

The second key investment is the 4 train extension to Cypress Hills; the 3 replaces the 4 on the Utica Avenue extension. As Figure 7 shows, the extension begins with an existing provision due east of Crown Heights – Utica Avenue station. The line runs underground via East New York Avenue to Georgia Avenue, then emerges to connect to the el on Fulton Street. Consequently, all former J train stations on Fulton Street – except Alabama Avenue – retain subway service. This requires platform widening to accommodate the narrower 4 trains, as well as a new switch near Crescent Street station for terminal operations.

(I also included a 5 train extension to Spring Creek – Gateway Center, but note that the East New York Improvement isn’t required for this extension.)

One drawback to the East New York Improvement is less service on the Nostrand Avenue branch, which only has one service (the 2 train) instead of its usual two. Future investments, such as a full-length Utica Avenue subway, can rectify this issue. Nevertheless, I think the overall improvements outweigh the drawbacks; as such, this is a recommended investment under NYTIP.

III. Red Hook

The neighborhood of Red Hook, Brooklyn contains considerable density (particularly in the Red Hook Houses), but it has no subway service. The nearest subway station, Smith-9th Streets, is technically in the neighborhood of Gowanus across the eponymous expressway that splits the neighborhoods.

In recent years, local officials discussed extending existing subways to Red Hook. One such proposal is a 1 train extension to Park Slope via Red Hook, developed by engineering firm AECOM. The proposed extension, which AECOM calls the 9 train, branches off the 1 line south of Rector Street and serves three new stations in Brooklyn:

[Fig. 10] Proposed subway extension through Red Hook to Park Slope at 4th Avenue – 9th Street station, conceived by AECOM.

(Transit trivia: the 9 train previously existed as a skip-stop variant of the 1 train, similar to the J/Z skip-stop service. MTA discontinued 9 train service in 2005 as progressively fewer riders benefitted from the pattern.)

The AECOM report is agnostic on how their proposed 9 train operates north of the split with the 1. Owing to the mini-yard north of 137th Street – City College station, the 9 could start at 137th Street and end at 4th Avenue – 9th Street station. The relatively high ridership of stations north of 137th Street may warrant additional service to The Bronx. In either case, both 1 and 9 trains would make all local stops.

Alternative option: J train extension to Park Slope via Red Hook

[Fig. 11] J train extension via Red Hook.

At present, J trains terminate at Broad Street station in Manhattan and use tail tracks to change directions. In this alternative, the tail tracks would extend to Brooklyn via a new underwater tunnel, serving the three stations contemplated by AECOM. While J trains serve only six stations in Manhattan, these stations connect to over a dozen subway lines. In contrast, the proposed 9 train offers far fewer connections unless riders travel further north.

Recommended path forward: J extension. The J extension offers connections to over a dozen subway lines a short distance away, significantly improving travel options for Red Hook residents.

In my next post, I’ll explore a dormant “transit dream” – the Staten Island Subway. Until next time!

2 thoughts on “NYTIP – extending the nyc subway, part 6: closing the gaps in brooklyn

  1. I thought I would bring back the 9 train for the Red Hook express, move the 6 down and bring back the 8 but this time put it on Lexington Avenue and help as the backup for the 1 by including the 7. For express to back the 9 train up I would bring back the 10, 11, 12, and 13.

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