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

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

Note: Click any image to enlarge.

I. Southeast Brooklyn

The existing NYC Subway network 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, NYTIP proposes another oft-planned but unbuilt line extension:

Extend the Nostrand Avenue line to Sheepshead Bay.

[Fig. 1] Overview of the Nostrand Avenue extension, via Brand New Subway.

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

[Figs. 2, 3] Proposed Nostrand Avenue line extensions from 1929 and 1939, respectively.

Moreover, variations of these plans had this line and the Utica Avenue line meeting each other, forming hubs at the proposed termini. For example, in the 1929 plan, the proposed Utica Avenue line curves westward to meet the Nostrand Avenue extension at Sheepshead Bay; later proposals called for extending the Nostrand Avenue line via Flatbush Avenue to Kings Plaza, where it would meet the Utica Avenue line.

Even now, these alternative alignments have merit. Whether via Flatbush Avenue or even via Gerritsen Avenue and/or Knapp Street, each of these extensions would serve areas of relatively high density not served by the subway.

That said, the recommended alternative is the “straight-shot” alignment shown in Figure 1. This would ensure greater subway coverage in Southeast Brooklyn.

Previous proposals called for the Nostrand Avenue extension to emerge onto an el at either Kings Highway or Avenue S. Since Nostrand Avenue widens between Kings Highway and Gerritsen Avenue (possibly as a provision for such an el), NYTIP recommends an el portal in this area to avoid complications with water tables and reduce the extension’s cost.

II. Canarsie

At present, the L train serves Canarsie by way of its Rockaway Parkway terminus. The B42 bus – one of the shortest bus routes in the city – feeds the terminal from the south. However, connecting service was once provided by a connecting trolley; the trolley right-of-way, though abandoned, still exists in parts:

[Fig. 4] Approximate location of the Canarsie trolley right-of-way.

The trolley once continued to Seaview Avenue along this private right-of-way between East 95th and East 96th Streets. Most of this right-of-way was built over and is thus no longer suitable for transit expansion. However, it is still possible to extend the L deeper into Canarsie, as follows:

[Fig. 5] Overview of the Canarsie extension.

This extension requires elevating the L line past the switches leading to Canarsie Yard, then curving it to run over Rockaway Parkway. This plan replaces the existing terminus with a new station at Flatlands Avenue, with additional entrances at Glenwood Road and direct access to Canarsie Yard for MTA employees. The Avenue L station includes additional entrances at Avenue M, and the proposed Seaview Avenue terminus includes additional entrances at Skidmore Avenue.

This is an optional investment under NYTIP. If built, it would require modifications to some bus routes in the area. I will discuss my ideas for reforming the NYC bus network in future posts.

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 on the F and G lines, is technically in the neighborhood of Gowanus across the eponymous expressway which splits the neighborhoods.

In recent years, local officials have 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. 6] 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 that still exists today. MTA discontinued 9 train service in 2005 as progressively fewer riders benefitted from the pattern.)

Let’s call this Option 1 for the Red Hook subway extension.

The AECOM report is agnostic on how their proposed 9 train operates north of the split with the 1. Owing to the mini-yard that exists north of 137th Street – City College station, NYTIP envisions a route that begins at City College and ends at 4th Avenue – 9th Street station. The relatively high ridership of stations north of City College may warrant service all the way to Van Cortlandt Park – 242nd Street station in The Bronx. In either case, both the 1 and 9 trains would make all local stops.

Option 2: J/Z train extension to Park Slope via Red Hook

Option 2 contemplates the same stations as Option 1 (Atlantic Basin, Red Hook, and 4th Avenue – 9th Street), but uses the J/Z line instead of the 1 line. At the Broad Street terminus, J/Z trains turn using switches just south of the station:

[Fig. 7] Snippet of vanshnookenraggen’s NYC Subway track map showing Broad Street station on the J/Z and switches due south.

Under Option 2, the two tracks that currently dead-end south of Broad Street would extend to Brooklyn via a new underwater tunnel, serving the three stations contemplated by AECOM. While J/Z trains serve only six stations in Manhattan, these stations connect to a dozen subway lines. In contrast, the proposed 9 train offers far fewer connections unless riders travel a significant distance north.

J/Z trains also have slightly higher capacity than the proposed 9 train (roughly 4,800 sq. ft. per J/Z train versus 4,590 sq. ft. per 9 train – actual figures slightly less after factoring in cabs for train operators and conductors). However, existing 1 train service runs much more often than J/Z service, and service increases on the latter are limited by the at-grade junction with the M near Myrtle Avenue station in Brooklyn. I’ll address this problem in a future post.

Option 3: J/Z train extension to Erie Basin

[Fig. 8] Overview of Option 3.

Unlike the AECOM proposal, Option 3 contemplates an extension to Red Hook that also connects to local destinations; Erie Basin is home to IKEA. The line also supplements the F and G lines in Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens. Readers may notice that the line uses part of the right-of-way of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway – this is intentional. The BQE is one of many derelict highways in the city worthy of complete demolition (future post!), which would free the right-of-way for more productive uses, such as this extension. The line also accomplishes the goal of serving existing residents of Red Hook and catalyzing new development (the AECOM report contemplates development of Erie Basin as well as Atlantic Basin).

Option 4: 1 train extension to Erie Basin

Owing to the inefficient design of the new South Ferry terminus on the 1 line, Option 4 extends the 1 train to Erie Basin, serving the same stations as Option 3. At Erie Basin, there is sufficient space to allow construction of switches and tail tracks, increasing the terminal’s capacity. The benefits of this option are mainly the same as those of Option 3; the drawback is fewer transfer opportunities.

Recommended path forward: Option 3. This may be controversial, but I feel that removing the BQE and using its ROW for transit reduces the subway extension cost significantly; this option also affords Red Hook residents a plethora of connections in Manhattan while also serving the local community.

Alternate recommendation: Option 4. If Red Hook residents prefer the 1 to the J/Z, then Option 4 fits the bill.

In my next post, I’ll summarize the proposed extensions and resultant service patterns. In addition, I’ll explore additional extensions that would be optional enhancements under NYTIP. 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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