Subway Consolidation Necessary (1927)

From nycsubway.org

Thanks to David J. Greenberger for the research.

The thesis of the report is that the city should not build a competing system but should rather consolidate the existing lines and build a set of new lines. It cites the report "Proposed Subway Plan for Subway Relief and Expansion" by Major Philip Mathews, published on December 24, 1926. Also included is a map of the proposed additions. Quotes from the report follow..


Borough of Brooklyn

No relief would be given by the proposed system to the people of Brooklyn who must travel on the Fourth Avenue, Sea Beach, West End of Brighton Beach subways. No relief would be given to the traveler on the 14th Street--Eastern subway. No relief would be given to the traveler on the Broadway line, on the Canarsie Division, on the Jamaica Division or Metropolitan Avenue Division. No relief would be given on the Fulton Street line from Grand Avenue to the Borough line. No relief would be given to the people using the I.R.T. lines in Brooklyn. With the proposed system in operation, therefore, there would be no reduction in the congestion which now exists in the system.

Borough of Manhattan

The Eighth Avenue branch of the new subway is already under construction and beyond change at this time. It is within the heavily congested area dependent upon existing rapid transit lines, part of whose passengers can be served with equal convenience by the new line. Congestion upon the West Side will be relieved by such diversion of traffic.

The Sixth Avenue branch is likewise within the half mile zone. It will, however, practically serve to relieve only the same West Side lines as does the Eighth Avenue branch, while the entire East Side, with greater traffic and ever-increasing congestion, will remain without relief.

Borough of the Bronx

The Concourse branch of the proposed system runs through a well developed section and would relieve the Jerome Avenue line. No relief is afforded to the Third Avenue elevated, the West Farms-White Plains, or the Hunts Point-Pelham Bay Park lines.

Borough of Queens

The proposed new Queens line will afford no relief to the present Astoria branch and very little to the Corona branch, which will become increasingly more congested when the Flushing extension is opened.


The Rapid Transit situation lends itself to a sub-division into two categories, (1) Relief, (2) Expansion.

1: Relief

The City today is at least 15 years behind in its rapid transit development and this condition must be remedied before plans for the future are put into effect. By utilizing the at present unusable capacity in existing lines, the greatest measure of relief can be obtained in the shortest time. Below are indicated the steps necessary to obtain this maximum of relief.

  1. Connect the new Eighth Avenue line with the Sea Beach, West End, Fourth Avenue and Brighton Beach lines by a link from Wall or Fulton Street to Chambers Street where a connection can be made with the at present unused B.M.T. tracks on the down stream side of Manhattan Bridge.
  2. Connect the 14th Street Eastern line with the new Eighth Avenue line by extending it from Sixth to Eighth Avenues.
  3. Build a four track trunk line on Third Avenue from City Hall to a connection with the West Farms--White Plains line and the Pelham Bay Bark--Hunts Point line, and a two track extension from City Hall to Wall Street.
  4. Continue the two track extension of the Third Avenue subway across the East River at Wall Street and thence to a connection with the six tracks of the I.R.T. system near Franklin Avenue.
  5. Give one branch of the present Queens lines to the I.R.T. and the other to the B.M.T. Cut back the platforms on the B.M.T. branch so that steel trains can be operated. Have the Second Avenue elevated come only as far as Queens Plaza, which will be a free transfer point to all lines.

Item 1 can be made effective at once and immediately upon completion of the Eighth Avenue subway now under construction, i.e., about 1930 there will be opened direct communication from Washington Heights to Coney Island and 50 per cent additional service can be operated on the South Brooklyn lines in that year. How this 50 per cent increase will be obtained can be readily understood.

South Brooklyn service is limited to the number of trains that can be operated on the Fourth Avenue subway and on the Brighton Beach line. There are four tracks in the Fourth Avenue subway which run through the DeKalb Avenue station and cross the East River to Manhattan. The Brighton Beach line consists of four tracks from Coney Island [sic] to Prospect Park where two of them diverge to connect with the Fulton Street elevated at Franklin Avenue. From Prospect Park on there are but two tracks. These two tracks run through the DeKalb Avenue station and cross over to Manhattan.

The two Brighton Beach tracks and the four Fourth Avenue tracks make a total of six tracks through DeKalb Avenue to Manhattan. Two of these six tracks cross the East River through the Montague Street Tunnel and four of them cross on the Manhattan Bridge.

Each of these tracks has a capacity of 30 trains per hour and if they were all in operations, we could send 90 trains to Manhattan and return 90 trains from Manhattan to Brooklyn each hour. As now constructed two of these six tracks go through the Montague Street Tunnel and thence north in Manhattan, constituting the local B.M.T. Broadway trakcs. Two of the four tracks on the Manhattan Bridge continue west in Manhattan to Broadway and Canal Street and turn north, forming the express tracks on the B.M.T. Broadway line. The other two tracks on Manhattan Bridge run into a terminal at Chambers Street and have no outlet for the distribution or collection of passengers.

As a result of this layout, there are only four of the six tracks available for useful work; therefore there are only 60 trains per hour from Brooklyn to Manhattan and the same number in the opposite direction. By giving these two now useless tracks on Manhattan Bridge an outlet in Manhattan for collecting and distributing passengers, we will be able to operate the full 90 trains per hour in each direction. This will be an increase of 30 trains per hour or 50 per cent.

By building the short stretch from Chambers Street to Wall Street or Fulton, these new tracks will be continued north as the express tracks of the new Eighth Avenue subway and will take passengers from all the South Brooklyn lines through the downtown financial district through the theatrical district and up through Washington Heights to Overlook Terrace.

Item 2 can be made effective sooner than Item 1 for the Eighth Avenue contracts have already been awarded below 14th Street. This short link from Sixth to Eighth Avenues if constructed would afford direct connection from East New York and Brownsville through the garment and fur center and the Pennsylvania Station area, the theatrical district and Washington Heights. This connection would relieve the congestion at the Union Square station of the B.M.T. line where a heavy transfer takes place between the 14th Street-Eastern and the Broadway-B.M.T. lines.

The trunk line would permit the East Side express trains on the West Farms branch to be run down Third Avenue. This would give the Jerome Avenue branch all the present Lexington Avenue expresses, and would make possible a 100 per cent increase in subway service. The additional trains could be run on the center track as through expresses, and the present service, combined subway and Sixth Avenue elevated, remain as at present on the local tracks. It would likewise permit half of the Third Avenue subway service to operate over the Hunts Point-Pelham Bay line which is now served only by Lexington Avenue locals. This Pelham Bay section, if provided with express service, will develop as rapidly as have the other Bronx sections where express service has been available.

An additional reason for the Third Avenue trunk is that such a line will tend to spread the axial rapid transit area which now is mainly concentrated west of Fifth Avenue, and give an opportunity for equal development on the East Side.

Item 4. By continuing the express tracks of the Third Avenue subway across the East River to Franklin Avenue in Brooklyn where a connection will be made with the six tracks of the Interborough system, we will increase the carrying capacity of the Interborough lines in Brooklyn 50 per cent and at the same time provide a two way traffic for the new Third Avenue trunk line.

The cost of the five items outlined above is estimated at $284,550,000 inclusive of yards, shops, real estate and overhead.

2: Expansion

While the relief construction is under way, plans should be completed for an expansion program which should include:

  1. A four track Brooklyn-Queens crosstown trunk line designed for extension into Richmond and The Bronx.
  2. A Queens Borough trunk line from Jamaica to Eighth Avenue, Manhattan, so that a transfer may be made to the Brooklyn Crosstown line and to all north and south lines in Manhattan.

Items 1 and 2 should be trunk lines. ... This trunk line would spread the axial rapid transitarea which is now confined entirely to Manhattan and would provide the facilities for the expanding of the downtown Brooklyn and the Long Island City business districts in a direction parallel to the business development on Manhattan. Numerous cross lines now connect Manhattan with the area through which the new trunk line would run and rapid inter-communication would bring these two districts as close together as the persent Wall Street and 42nd Street areas.

The Queens trunk line should be designed to permit of extension as a four track trunk line from Jamaica to the city limits.

To have any two track feeder lines built at the outer extermities of a subway, in the light of present rapid transit experience, is wrong. Only trunk lines should be built and the feeder lines should be bus lines, operated by the subway company. In this way, the subway affords equal opportunity for land development along its route and does not call for large expenditures in feeder lines, which always proves unsatisfactory when the area has attained its growth. The Bronx is an example of this very feature of past subway planning. Today with over 1,000,000 inhabitants, there is no express service in that entire Borough. Feeder lines tend to slow up the service and in some cases to reduce the track capacity. In a City like New York, extending over an area of 600 square miles the prime essential is speed and speed is needed more for the parts distant from the business section than in the business section. This is not the case on any of our existing lines. This mistake should not be repeated in the future.

The fact that there are two independent companies operating City built rapid transit lines today has created a situation which only needs to be recognized to be condemned. All the people of the city regardless of where they live, pay for teh construction of rapid transit lines, regardless of where the lines are built. It is only right, therefore, that any lines built shall be available to all the people for a single rate of fare. To make some citizens pay tow fares in order to use City built traction lines while other citizens pay only one is discrimination of the worst kind. To make the great bulk of the people of New York City, namely, those of South Brooklyn, East Side of Manhattan, all of Central and East Bronx and the most heavily settled section of Queens, pay for the construction of a city transit line which they can only use by paying a double fare is unjust and imposes on them a financial burden from which they get no return in either increased property values or transit service.

In submitting this report, I wish to call to your attention the fact that New York City has had over twenty years experience in rapid transit operation and much valuable information is available for study with a view to increasing the flexibility of train movements. In this connection, the use of "by-pass" switches on local tracks should be investigated as a means of increasing both speed and capacity. Also provision might be made for the short sections of storage track at several points along the line, where it is known that congestion will occur, in order that empty trains can be put into service at these points when the traffic, from any cause, becomes exceptionally heavy.

The time to make a system flexible is when it is being constructed and I recommend that your Transit Committee study this question.

Respectfully submitted, (Signed) Philip Mathews. HMM

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