Subway FAQ: Subway Terminology Glossary

From nycsubway.org

'A' Car
Even numbered cars on R44/R46 equipment which contains operating positions, compressor and converter. Also, in general refers to cars with motorman operating positions.
'A' Division
The numbered lines of the New York subway, formerly known as the IRT.
Abandoned interval due to no available train or no crew.
Absolute Block
A section of track upon which a train is NOT permitted to enter upon while it is occupied by another train. Used most often in single-track operations.
Americans with Disabilities Act. Federal law requiring handicapped access to all public spaces, including subways and buses.
Assistant Train Dispatcher.
Additional Vacation Allowance. When a holiday falls on a workday and you have to work, you can either get paid for the holiday and your normal workday pay or you can save the holiday- meaning no extra pay but you get a day off of your choice later subject to approval.
'B' Car
Odd numbered cars on R44/R46 equipment. These cars are only trailers - they have no operating position. Also, in general refers to cars with no motorman operating position.
'B' Division
The lettered lines of the New York subway, formerly known as the BMT and IND.
Brakes in Emergency. Refers to an unwanted application of the train's emergency air brakes.
Brake Cylinder Cut-out. Used to vent the brake cylinder air in a car to prevent an application of brakes.
Blower - Compressor - Overhead Heat. The order in which HVAC circuit breakers are to be turned on in order to ensure proper operation.
Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers.
Block Ticket
A block ticket is issued by the TA in event of an unplanned service disruption. It is on the same type of stock as the old paper bus transfers and the same size. The date is punched showing when it was issued. The block ticket reads: "This ticket is issued because of a block. It will be accepted for one fare at all rapid transit lines and on all local TA, MABSTOA, Command Bus Lines, Green Bus Lines, Jamaica Bus, Queens Surface Transit and Triboro Coach buses within 48 hrs. after issue. It carries the same privileges as a cash fare. This ticket is not transferable or redeemable. Only valid within 2 days of date punched."
Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit. Successor to the BRT and one of two private companies taken over by New York City in 1940 during the subway consolidation.
Board of Transportation. The City agency charged with operating the subways from consolidation to the mid 50s. Predecessor to the NYCTA.
Booth Audit
The process where a supervisor comes to a token booth and counts the board to verify funds in the booth. This is mandatory in cases of computer crashes and where discrepancy in revenue is over or under by greater than $50.00. It is also mandatory if station staff cannot get readings from the computer and/or cannot get manual readings from the fluorescent displays on the turnstile.
Brooklyn Rapid Transit. The holding company that operated almost all Brooklyn transit prior to the Dual Contracts, at which time its name changed to BMT.
The funds in a booth consisting of tokens, cash, and MetroCards. Counting the board is the act of counting and recording the amount of funds in the booth.
Brighton line
Now better known as the B & Q line in Brooklyn. The el - open cut - subway running from Stillwell Ave to Atlantic Ave via E.15th St and Flatbush Ave. Replaced the original Brooklyn, Flatbush & Coney Island Railroad, which ran along a similiar alignment.
Collecting Agent. An employee working for the Revenue Division ("Revenue") and is reasponsible for delivery of tokens and farecards and the routine refilling of MVMs. C/As also empty the booth safe in the presence of the station agent. C/As travel in groups. In many stations a uniformed transit bureau police officer accompanies the C/As.
Call letters
The unique identifying symbol for each train in revenue service, listing its interval, line, startpoint and end point. Example: 1004 November Ditmars - Stillwell.
Central Business District. The area in Manhattan south of 59th St, river to river.
Chrystie St. connection
Section of trackage that connects the north tracks of the Manhattan Bridge to Grand St. and the 6th Ave line. Opened in November 1967, this connection severed the Nassau St. Loop and allowed for combinations of former BMT and IND routes.
Clark St. Tunnels
East River crossing connecting Wall St. to Clark St. on the IRT 7th Avenue line. (2/3 trains)
Cranberry St. Tunnels
East River crossing connecting Fulton St. and High St. on the 8th Ave line. (A/C trains).
C/R or CR
Cleaner-TA. The station cleaners.
Chicago Transit Authority
Culver Line
Now better known as the "F" line in Brooklyn. The el running from Stillwell Ave to Ditmas Ave via McDonald Ave and the (former) shuttle from Ditmas Ave to 9th Ave. Originally the Prospect Park and Coney Island Railroad.
Continuous Welded Rail. In the subway, these are ten 39' rail sections welded together. CWR results in a smoother ride and a reduction in the "click-clack" noise
Department of Car Equipment. The people responsible for the good repair and operability of subway cars.
Station platform Columns - 15 feet apart; Wall and overhead columns - 5 feet apart; Signal plate numbers - IRT - drop last digit from each plate number, subtract one from the other and add two zeroes. Ex. A-4264 and A4224 are 400 feet apart (26-22 = 4 (00). BMT/IND - subtract one from the other and add two zeroes. Ex. A4 - 264 and A4 -224 are 4000 feet apart (264 - 224 = 40(00)
When a train is sent across a switch to a track other than the one it normally operates on.
Dwell time
The amount of time a train spends in the station with its doors open.
Dyre Ave line
The "5" line in the northern Bronx; The open cut running from E.180th St to Dyre Ave. Originally, this ROW belonged to the NYW & B.
Emergency Booth Communications System. The alarm and communications system found at the token booths, used to broadcast announcements to one or more booths or platform areas. Used to broadcast information such as service disruptions, but also for fire alarms, etc.
Emergency Brake Valve. The correct terminology for the pull-cord at each end of a subway car, as well as in each cab, that will activate the train's emergency brakes.
End Door Light
The blue light mounted on the carbody of all 75' subway cars. When lit, they indicate that one of the end doors is open on that car.
Facing Point
When the points of a switch are facing the train, enabling the train to be switched to another track.
Fault Light
The red light mounted next to each door panel on the interior of a subway car. When lit, it indicates that that door panel is not properly closed and locked.
Federal Railroad Administration. The oversight agency for all freight and commuter train lines- but not necessarily subways. The New York City subway is not subject to FRA regulation. The SIRT and PATH systems are, however, because of their (current or former) interconnections with mainline railroad systems.
Federal Transit Administration. The oversight and financing agency for all transportation receiving federal funding.
Gap Station
A station where supervision can hold a train for schedule adjustments or connections, turn trains back to their origin or re-route them to a different end point.
Grand Central Terminal. The Manhattan terminal for Metro-North. Sometimes refered to as Grand Central Station, which is actually the Post Office next door.
General Order. Document issued by RTO to authorize work to be done on the tracks and infrastructure of the subway. Its primary purpose is to notify operating personnel of changes to the operation of the subway.
G.O. Ticket
A paper ticket resembling the paper bus transfers issued by bus operators or station agents where train service is disrupted in both directions due to a G.O. These tickets are not valid on private lines or next day, and must be used at a designated location only. As an example: 1 service is suspended between 96 and 137. G.O. tickets would be issued for the shuttle bus at 96 and 137 and would be received at the stations at the other end. The color changes four times a year and differs between subway and bus. These differ from block tickets in that these are issued for planned disruptions rather than unplanned. If an unplanned disruption occurs and NYCT decides to start shuttle bus service then they would stop issuing block tickets and start issuing G.O. tickets.
General Overhaul. A procedure of mid-life overhaul on subway car equipment. Recently, new "State of Good Repair" programs have reduced the need for newer cars to undergo GOH.
Grade Time. A signal used to enforce a predetermined speed on downgrades
Guard Light
A red light mounted on the outside of the carbody, as well as each end of the interior. When lit, it indicates that at least one door panel in that car is not properly closed and locked.
Coupler type on all revenue trains except R44/R46.
Coupler type on R44/R46 equipment.
H & M
Hudson and Manhattan Railroad. Built the cross-Hudson River tunnels now operated under the name "PATH". Also referred to as the Hudson Tubes.
High wheel/High turnstile
A "turnstile" similar to a revolving door, also sometimes called "iron maidens". Until recently most of these were exit-only (called a "high exit turnstile" or HET). Newer ones have Metrocard readers on the outside to provide unattended entrance. These are called the "high entrance/exit turnstile", or HEET.
Holding Lights
3 amber lights found at gap stations. When lit, they inform the Conductor to hold the train in the station with the doors open.
Insulated Joint. A rail joint where fibre pads have been placed between the butt ends of the rails to ensure there is no current flow across the joint. They exist only on the signal rail and are located near each signal. When the train has a wheel on each side of the IJ, the associated signal turns red.
The Independent System. The lines built by the city with public money along 8th Ave, 6th Ave, Queens Blvd, the Grand Concourse, Fulton St and the B'klyn - Queens Crosstown line.
Interborough Rapid Transit. The original subway company, operator of the lines built by August Belmont. These are now the numbered lines of A Division.
Iron maiden
See high wheel.
Joralemon St Tunnels
River crossing connecting Bowling Green to Borough Hall on the Lexington Ave. line. (4/5 trains)
Passing a red signal purposefully with the permission of the Command Desk, usually because the signal is malfunctioning. This is most often accomplished by bridging an IJ with the train's front wheel and proceeding when the stop arm has gone down or operating a lever on the signal which will let the stop arm go down.
A covered subway entrance formerly used on the IRT. A restored kiosk can be seen at the uptown entrance to the Astor Place Station on the #6 line.
Long Island Railroad. The commuter service connecting Nassau and Suffolk counties with Manhattan's Penn Station and Brooklyn's Flatbush Terminal via Jamaica Station. Official site.
L/R, LR, Lunch Relief
Each booth has an assigned thirty minute lunch break. A lunch relief station agent goes from booth to booth so the regular agent can take his/her lunch. The lunch relief agent also delivers mail, opens/closes part time gates and serves as escorts to/from part-time booths (often with the addition of a police officer). Some lunch jobs open a part-time booth for several hours. NLR is Night Lunch Relief. Lunch reliefs can be "pulled" (told by supervision to go to a booth and take over the booth or to go to a station not on the normal schedule). If a lunch relief is pulled, the supervisor will call agents losing their lunch and pay them a half-hour overtime for lunch.

Master Door Control. The active door controls found at the Conductor's operating position.
Metro-North Commuter Railroad. The commuter service connecting Westchester, Putnam, Duchess, Rockland and Orange counties as well as parts of Conneticut with Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan. Now known simply as Metro-North Railroad. Official site.
Mobile Wash
A team of cleaners using high pressure hoses to wash a station's platform and walls (wall platforms only). Track and Tile Cleaners wash side walls for island platforms.
Montague St Tunnel
East River crossing used by Broadway and Nassau St lines, connecting lowest Manhattan with downtown Brooklyn. (N/R/M trains).
Multiple Unit. A system of train control in which the motors and/or doors of the entire train can be operated in unison from a single point.
Multiple Unit Door Control. Elevated cars which were converted to have door control operated from a single point.
The fastest speed position of the Master Controller in subway cars.
Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The parent agency for most mass transit in lower New York State. In charge of: NYCT Subways, NYCT Surface (Bus), LIRR, MNCR, Long Island Bus, Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, and the Staten Island Railway. Official site.
Murphy Tower
The master tower in 38th St Yard that controls the 4th Ave line from south of 59th St to Pacific St.
MetroCard Vending Machine.
Nassau St. Loop
Severed by the Christie St connection in 1967, the Nassau St Loop allowed trains to leave DeKalb Ave via the Montague St Tunnel, run up Nassau St in Manhattan and go back to DeKalb Ave. via the south tracks of the Manhattan Bridge.
National Transportation Safety Board. Federal group responsible for investigating major transportation disasters such as plane crashes and train derailments.
NY & A
New York and Atlantic. The railroad that provides freight service over the trackage of the LIRR.
NY & H
New York and Harlem. One of the predecessors of MNCR. Its trackage is now known as the Harlem Line.
New York Central and Hudson River. One of the predecessors of MNCR. Its trackage is now known as the Hudson Line.
New York Cross Harbor Rail Road. Supplies interchange services for NY & A and NYCT with railroads in NJ via carfloat in Brooklyn.
New York City Transit Authority. Agency responsible for mass transit in New York City. Now called NYCT.
NY, NH & H
New York, New Haven and Hartford. One of the predecessors of MNCR. Its trackage is now known as the New Haven Line.
New York, Westchester and Boston Railroad. A joint operation/subsidiary of the NY, NH & H. The trackage in New York City was acquired in 1940 by the city and is now operated as the Dyre Ave. subway line.
The side of the train where the train operator isn't, ie the left side when facing the direction of movement.
The side of the train where the train operator is, ie the right side when facing the direction of movement.
Out of Service.
One Person Train Operation. The idea of having a Train Operator who not only operates the train but also the doors, with no Conductor.
Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Operator of PATH, the the major area airports, the World Trade Center. and other facilities.
Port Authority Trans Hudson Railway. The train service that connects Midtown and the World Trade Center with Hoboken, Jersey City, and Newark. Formerly the H & M. Official site.
President's Conference Committee. A group of transit company presidents who designed by committee a 'standard' trolley car, which now bears the PCC name. Also, any transit vehicle (trolley or rapid transit) built with technology patented by the Committee.
Propulsion Fault Light
Amber light mounted on carbody of all subway cars. When lit, it indicates a dead motor on that car. If more than one third are lit on a train, the train MUST go out of service.
Pull the wheels
Station-agent-speak for emptying the turnstiles of tokens and recording the number of entries.
Road Car Inspector.
Regular Day(s) Off.
Revenue Equipment Maintainer. An employee of the CES (Centralized Elctronics Shop, located in Woodside, Queens) responsible for servicing and troubleshooting of turnstiles, booth computer, station controller and MVMs. These employees also make any needed upgrades to computer equipment for AFC.
Tool used to select direction of train movement.
River Crossings
Starting from Northern Manhattan and working clockwise:
  • Spuyten Duyvil - used by AmTrak for Empire State Service to upstate NY.
  • Broadway Bridge - used by B'way Local. Connects Inwood, Manhattan to Marble Hill, Manhattan.
  • 155th St. Tunnels - used by 6th Ave Express. Connects Harlem to High Bridge.
  • 149th St. Tunnels - used by 7th Ave Express. Connects Lenox Ave. to White Plains Rd.
  • Park Ave Bridge - used by MNCR for service on Harlem, Hudson and New Haven branches.
  • Lexington Ave. Tunnels - used by Lexington Ave trains, Express and Local, to connect to the Bronx.
  • 63rd St. Tunnels - Connects Queensbridge to Manhattan via Roosevelt Island. Service subject to change until completion of 63rd St Connection sometime in 2001.
  • 60th St. Tunnels - Used by Broadway (BMT) service to connect to Astoria and Queens Blvd.
  • 53rd St Tunnels - Used by Queens Blvd. Express service to connect with 6th and 8th Ave services.
  • Steinway Tunnels - Used by Flushing service.
  • East River Tunnels - Used by LIRR. Connects Penn Station and Jamaica Station via Sunnyside Yards.
  • 14th St. Tunnels - Used by Canarsie line service.
  • Williamsburg Bridge - Used by Broadway (Brooklyn) (BMT) to connect with Manhattan.
  • Rutgers St. Tunnels - Used by 6th Ave Local/Culver service.
  • Manhattan Bridge North - Used by Brighton and West End lines to connect with 6th Ave via Grand St.
  • Manhattan Bridge South - Used by Brooklyn 4th Ave service to connect with Broadway. Currently not in use.
  • Cranberry St. Tunnels - Used by 8th Ave service to connect with Fulton St, Brooklyn.
  • Clark St. Tunnels - Used by 7th Ave IRT service.
  • Montague St. Tunnels - Used by Broadway (BMT) and Nassau St. services to connect with Brooklyn. Alternative to Manhattan Bridge South for Broadway service.
  • Joralemon St. Tunnels - Used by Lexington Ave service between Lowest Manhattan and Brooklyn.
  • PATH Tubes South - Used by PATH between World Trade Center, NY and Newark Penn Station.
  • PATH Tubes North - Used by PATH between Herald Sq., NY and Hoboken Terminal or Newark Penn Station.
  • North River Tunnels - Used by NJT and AmTrak between Penn Station, NY and Newark Penn Station
Right of Way.
Rapid Transit Operations. The division charged with the running and safe operation of the NY subways.
Run the tokens
Station-agent-speak for counting the day's tokens using a mechanical coin counter.
Rutgers St. Tunnels
East River crossing connecting East Broadway and York St used by the 6th Ave local/Culver line. (F train)
Station Agent.
Station supervisor.
South Brooklyn Railway. The wholely owned freight subsidiary of NYCT. Its trackage once ran from Coney Island Yard at street level along the Culver to line and shuttle to 38th St Yard and then onto the waterfront. This street level trackage was paved over in the 1980's.
School Car
Any train being used for training purposes or the training period of new-to-title RTO employees.
Sea Beach
The open cut from Stillwell Ave to 59th St/4th Ave. Originally the New York and Sea Beach.
The slowest of the two operating positions of the Master Controller in subway cars.
Staten Island Railway. The train line in Staten Island that runs from St. George Ferry Terminal to Tottenville. Originally built and operated by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.
Staten Island Rapid Transit. The former name of the SIR.
Straight-air Motor Car Electro-pneumatic Emergency. A type of train braking system. SMEE uses electrical signals to rapidly equalize braking effort in a train. It also allows each car in the train to draw compressed air for braking from its own supply, rather then depending on that from the car where the operator is located.
"State of the Art Cars." A type of subway car developed by the FTA and run in various cities around the country in an effort to design a standard rapid transit vehicle. The two and only cars built are now in the Seashore Trolley Museum collection.
South Ferry
Southern terminal of the Broadway local, it is a short (5 car) station with gap fillers because of its sharp curve.
Station Time. A signal used to permit a train to close in upon another train standing in or moving out of a station.
Starting Light
3 green lights found at terminal stations. When lit, they tell the Conductor to close the doors of the train and proceed in service.
Station service booth
New name for "token booth", de-emphasizing token sales in favor of customer service in the role of the station agents.
Steinway Tunnels
East River crossing used by the Flushing line. (#7 train).
The slowest speed on the Master Controller, used for short or slow speed movements such as coupling.
Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority. Operator of all intra-city toll bridges and tunnels.
T/O or TO
Train Operator. Formerly known as the Motorman.
Track types
NYCT uses four types of track:
  • Type I - Running rails on hardwood ties over stone ballast.
  • Type II - Two concrete ridges on either side of a concrete trough into which wood half ties are placed as a base for running rails.
  • Type III - Wood ties resting on wood stringers. Used on elevated structures.
  • Type VIII - Two concrete ridges on either side of a concrete trough onto which the running rails are laid with rubber padding between concrete and rails.

Trailing point
When the points of a switch face away from an approaching train.
Train Order Lights
Two small red lights mounted above two small white lights found mostly at stations before river tubes. When the red lights are lit, it tells the Train Operator to call the tower for information. When the white lights are lit, the train may proceed as per other signals.
Train Service Supervisor. Management found on the road, supposedly capable of dealing with emergencies.
Tower Operator.
Wheel Detector. Part of a system to enforce speed limits during diverging moves over selected switches. Wheel detectors time each axle of a passing train and will operate an automatic stop underneath the train if overspeed is detected.
West End line
The elevated line from Stillwell Ave to 36th St/ 4th Ave via 86th St and New Utrecht Ave.
Williamsburg Bridge. The J, M and Z use this bridge to get into Manhattan from Brooklyn.

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