Independent Subway System

Independent Subway System

A New York Transit Museum set of Arnines, the original series of cars that were operated by the IND
Owner City of New York
Operator(s) New York City Transit Authority
Depot(s) Concourse Yard, Jamaica Yard, Pitkin Yard, 207th Street Yard
Rolling stock R32, R42, R46, R68, R68A, R160
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Route map
The sections of the IND and the date each was opened.

The Independent Subway System (IND or ISS), formerly known as the Independent City-Owned Subway System (ICOS) or the Independent City-Owned Rapid Transit Railroad,[1] was a rapid transit rail system in New York City that is now part of the New York City Subway.[2] It was first constructed as the "Eighth Avenue Line" in Manhattan in 1932.[3]

One of three rail networks that became part of the modern New York City subway, the IND was intended to be fully owned and operated by the municipal government, in contrast to the privately operated or jointly-funded Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT) and Brooklyn–Manhattan Transit Corporation (BMT) companies. It was merged with these two networks in 1940.[1]

The original IND service lines are the modern subway's A, B, C, D, E, F and G services. In addition, the BMT's M and R now run partly on IND trackage. The Rockaway Park Shuttle supplements the A service. For operational purposes, the IND and BMT lines and services are referred to jointly as the B Division.[1]


Independent Subway mosaics sign at 14th Street station on the Sixth Avenue Line, before V train service at this station was replaced by M train service

Until 1940, it was known as the Independent City-Owned Subway System (ICOS), Independent Subway System (ISS), or Independent City-Owned Rapid Transit Railroad. It became known as the IND after unification of the subway lines in 1940; the name IND was assigned to match the three-letter acronyms that the IRT and BMT used.[1]

The first IND line was the Eighth Avenue Line in Manhattan, opened on September 10, 1932; for a while the whole system was colloquially known as the Eighth Avenue Subway. The original IND system was entirely underground in the four boroughs that it served, with the exception of a short section of the IND Culver Line containing two stations spanning the Gowanus Canal in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn.[1]


In the early 1920s, Mayor John Hylan proposed a complex series of city-owned and operated rapid transit lines to compete with the BMT and IRT, especially their elevated lines.[4][5] The New York City Transit Commission was formed in 1921 to develop a plan to reduce overcrowding on the subways. The original plans included:[1]

These lines were completely built as planned. All but a short portion of the Culver Line (over the Gowanus Canal) are underground.[1]

On March 14, 1925 the groundbreaking of the Eighth Avenue subway took place at 123rd Street and St. Nicholas Avenue.[1]

On July 8, 1931 the first train of R1s left Coney Island at 11:35am and ran via the BMT Sea Beach Line to Times Square. The trip took 42 minutes.[1]

Opening and progress through 1933

First Manhattan trunk line, 1932

On September 10, 1932, the Eighth Avenue Line opened from 207th Street to Chambers Street, inaugurating the IND. In February 1933 the Cranberry Street Tunnel opened, along with the Eighth Avenue Line from Chambers Street to Jay Street–Borough Hall. On the northern end of the construction, in the Bronx, the connecting Concourse Line opened on July 1, 1933 from 205th Street to 145th Street.[3] On the IND's opening day, it had a relatively small subway car fleet of 300 cars, while the IRT had 2,281 subway and 1,694 elevated cars, and the BMT had 2,472 cars.[1]

The new IND Eighth Avenue Line was built using 1,000,000 cubic yards (27,000,000 cu ft) of concrete and 150,000 short tons (140,000,000 kg) of steel. The roadbed of the new subway was expected to last 30 years.[1] At the time of the line's opening, other portions of the Independent Subway System were under construction, including five underwater tunnels:[1]

There was some vandalism on the IND Eighth Avenue Line's opening day, as some of the uptown stations were broken into by people who clogged turnstile slots with gum and other objects. Two months after the IND opened for business, three exits from the 96th Street and 103rd Street stations – at 95th and 97th Streets and at 105th Street, respectively – were closed due to theft.[1]

First branch lines

The Queens Boulevard Line, also referred to as the Long Island City−Jamaica Line, Fifty-third Street−Jamaica Line, and Queens Boulevard−Jamaica Line prior to opening,[6][7][8] was of the original lines of the city-owned Independent Subway System (IND), planned to stretch between the IND Eighth Avenue Line in Manhattan and 178th Street and Hillside Avenue in Jamaica, Queens.[6][8][9]

The first section of the line, west from Roosevelt Avenue to 50th Street, opened on August 19, 1933.[10] E trains ran local to Hudson Terminal (today's World Trade Center) in Manhattan, while the GG (predecessor to current G service) ran as a shuttle service between Queens Plaza and Nassau Avenue on the IND Crosstown Line, which opened on the same day.[11][12][13][14][15][16]

The Cranberry Street Tunnel, extending the Eighth Avenue express tracks east under Fulton Street to Jay Street–Borough Hall in Brooklyn, was opened for the morning rush hour on February 1, 1933.[17] Until June 24, 1933, High Street is skipped.[1]

The first short section of the IND Culver Line opened on March 20, 1933, taking Eighth Avenue Express A trains (and for about a month from July to August C trains) south from Jay Street to Bergen Street.[18][19] The rest of the line opened on October 7, 1933 to the "temporary" terminal at Church Avenue,[18][20] three blocks away from the Culver elevated at Ditmas Avenue.[21][22] In 1936, the A was rerouted to the IND Fulton Street Line and E trains from the Queens Boulevard Line replaced them.[18]

Second Manhattan trunk line, 1936–1940

The first part of the IND Sixth Avenue Line, or what was then known as the Houston–Essex Street Line, began operations at noon on January 1, 1936 with two local tracks from a junction with the Washington Heights, Eighth Avenue and Church Street Line (Eighth Avenue Line) south of West Fourth Street–Washington Square east under Houston Street and south under Essex Street to a temporary terminal at East Broadway. E trains, which ran from Jackson Heights, Queens to Hudson Terminal, were shifted to the new line to East Broadway.[23] Two express tracks were built on the portion under Houston Street until Essex Street-Avenue A; the tracks were intended to travel under the East River and connect with the never-built IND Worth Street Line in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.[24][25][26][27]

Just after midnight on April 9, 1936, trains began running under the East River via the Rutgers Street Tunnel, which connected the Houston-Essex Street Line with the north end of the Jay–Smith–Ninth Street Line at a junction with the Eighth Avenue Line north of Jay Street–Borough Hall. E trains were sent through the connection to Church Avenue. Simultaneously, the Fulton Street Line was opened to Rockaway Avenue and the A and C trains, which had used Smith Street, were rerouted to Fulton Street.[28][29]

During construction, streetcar service along Sixth Avenue was terminated. The city had the choice of either restoring it upon the completion of construction or abandoning it immediately. As the city wanted to tear down the IRT Sixth Avenue Line right away and save on the costs of shoring it up while construction proceeded underneath it, the IRT Sixth Avenue Line was purchased for $12.5 million and terminated by the city on December 5, 1938, with the steel from the el sold to Japan.[1]

On December 15, 1940, local subway service began on Sixth Avenue from the West Fourth Street subway station to the 47-50th Street subway station with track connections to the IND 53rd Street Line.[30] The Sixth Avenue Line's construction cost $59,500,000. The following routes were added with the opening of service:

Express service wasn't begun until 1968, after the Chrystie Street Connection opened.[1]

More branch lines open

The Fulton Street Line was opened from Jay Street to Rockaway Avenue on April 9, 1936, including the stub terminal at Court Street. A shuttle was operated between Court Street and Hoyt–Schermerhorn Streets.[28][31]

On December 31, 1936, the Queens Boulevard Line was extended from Roosevelt Avenue to Kew Gardens–Union Turnpike.[32][33][34][10]

The Queens Boulevard Line was extended to Hillside Avenue and 178th Street, with a terminal station at 169th Street on April 24, 1937.[11][33][35][36] That day, express service began on the Queens Boulevard Line during rush hours, with E trains running express west of 71st–Continental Avenues, and GG trains taking over the local during rush hours.[37][38] The initial headway for express service was between three and five minutes.[39]

The entire Crosstown Line was completed and connected to the IND Culver Line on July 1, 1937, whereupon the GG was extended in both directions to Smith–Ninth Streets and Forest Hills–71st Avenue.[1][40]

From April 30, 1939 to October 28, 1940, the Queens Boulevard Line served the 1939 New York World's Fair via the World's Fair Railroad. The World's Fair line ran via a connection through the Jamaica Yard and through Flushing Meadows–Corona Park along the current right-of-way of the Van Wyck Expressway.[12][33][41] After calls from public officials such as Queens Borough President George Harvey to make the line a permanent connection to Flushing and northern Queens, the line was demolished in 1941.[12]

Proposed expansion

Mayor John Hylan proposed some never-built lines in 1922 even before the first leg of the IND was completed. These lines included:[1]

A major expansion of the IND was first planned in 1929.[42] It would have added over 100 miles of new routes in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx, merging with, intersecting or extending the existing IND rights-of way. It was claimed that this expansion, combined with the operating IRT, BMT, and IND lines, would provide subway service within a half mile of anyone's doorstep within these four boroughs.[42] Pricing—excluding acquisition and equipment costs—was estimated at US$438 million; the entire first phase had only cost US$338 million (including acquisition and equipment costs). Not long after these plans were unveiled, the Wall Street Crash of 1929 occurred and the Great Depression was ushered in, and the plans essentially became history overnight.[42] Various forms of the expansion resurfaced in 1939,[1] 1940,[43] 1951,[44] 1968,[45][46] and 1998[47] but were never realized. This was the time when the IND had planned widespread elevated construction.[1]

The Second Avenue Subway, one of the main parts of the plan, is under construction between 63rd and 105th Streets as of November 2016.[48]


The Court Street station on the IND Fulton Street Line was closed on June 1, 1946 due to low ridership.[49][50][51] After World War II ended, workers and materials became available for public use again. The badly needed extension to the more efficient terminal at Broadway − East New York (the current Broadway Junction station) opened on December 30, 1946.[52][53] The extension of the Fulton Street Line, the completion of which had been delayed due to war priorities, was finished by funds obtained by Mayor William O'Dwyer and was placed in operation on November 28, 1948, running along Pennsylvania Avenue and Pitkin Avenue to Euclid Avenue near the Queens border. Forty additional R10 cars were placed into service for the extension. The cost of the extension was about $46,500,000. It included the construction of the new Pitkin Avenue Storage Yard, which could accommodate 585 subway cars on 40 storage tracks.[52][54][55][56][57]

The existing 169th Street station provided an unsatisfactory terminal setup for a four track line, and this required the turning of F trains at Parsons Boulevard, and no storage facilities were provided at the station. Therefore, the line was going to be extended to 184th Place with a station at 179th Street with two island platforms, sufficient entrances and exits, and storage for four ten-car trains. The facilities would allow for the operation of express and local service to the station.[58][59] Construction on the extension started in 1946, and was projected to be completed in 1949.[59] The extension was completed later than expected and opened on December 11, 1950.[60] This extension was delayed due to the Great Depression and World War II. Both E and F trains were extended to the new station.[60][61]

During the 1950s, the IND was extended over two pieces of elevated line that were disconnected from the original BMT system: the BMT Culver Line in 1954, and the Liberty Avenue extension of the BMT Fulton Street Line in 1956.[1] On October 30, 1954 the Culver Ramp opened, connecting the IND Culver Line to the BMT Culver Line at Ditmas Avenue. IND trains begin operating over the BMT Culver Line to Coney Island–Stillwell Avenue.[1] On April 29, 1956, the Liberty Avenue Elevated, the easternmost section of the former BMT Fulton Street Line, was connected to the IND Fulton Street Line. IND service was extended from Euclid Avenue out to Lefferts Boulevard via a new station at Grant Avenue.[1]

On June 28, 1956, service on the IND Rockaway Line began between Euclid Avenue and Rockaway Park at 6:38 PM and between Euclid Avenue and Wavecrest at 6:48 PM.[62][63][64][65][66][67] A new station at Far Rockaway–Mott Avenue opened on January 16, 1958, completing the Rockaway Line.[68]

On November 26, 1967, the first part of the Chrystie Street Connection opened and Sixth Avenue Line express tracks opened from 34th Street–Herald Square to West Fourth Street–Washington Square. With the opening of the connection to the Manhattan Bridge, BB service was renamed B and it was extended via the new express tracks and the connection to the West End Line in Brooklyn. D service was routed via the connection and onto the Brighton Line instead of via the Culver Line. It only ran express during rush hours. F service was extended from Broadway–Lafayette Street during rush hours, and from 34th Street during other times to Coney Island via the Culver Line.[52][69][70] On July 1, 1968, the 57th Street station opened and the portion of the Chrystie Street Connection connecting the line with the Williamsburg Bridge was opened. Service on the KK was inaugurated, running from 57th Street to 168th Street on the BMT Jamaica Line. B service was extended during non-rush hours from West Fourth Street to 57th Street. D trains began running express via the Sixth Avenue Line at all times.[71]

On December 11, 1988 the IND Archer Avenue Line opens from Jamaica Center–Parsons/Archer to Jamaica–Van Wyck.[72][73]

A month shy of twenty years after construction began, the IND 63rd Street Line went into service on October 29, 1989, after an expenditure of $898 million,[74] extending service from 57th Street with new stations at Lexington Avenue, Roosevelt Island, and 21st Street at 41st Avenue in Queens. The IND line was served by Q trains on weekdays and B trains on weekends. The 1,500-foot connector to the Queens Boulevard Line had not yet started construction.[75] The BMT line was not in use at that time. It was built for future service options, including a connection to the Second Avenue Subway for service from the Upper East Side to Lower Manhattan.

Planning for the connection to the IND Queens Boulevard Line began in December 1990, with the final design contract awarded in December 1992. Construction began on September 22, 1994.[76][77][78][79][80] The remaining section from 21st Street to the Queens Boulevard Line cost $645 million. In December 2000, the 63rd Street Connector was opened for construction reroutes.[81] The Connector came into regular use on December 16, 2001 with the rerouting of F service at all times to 63rd Street. The construction project also extended the lower level LIRR tunnel and involved a number of other elements, including the integration of ventilation plants, lowering a sewer siphon 50 feet, rehabilitation of elements of the existing line, mitigating ground water, diverting trains which continued to run through the project area and widening of the entry point to the Queens Boulevard Line to six tracks. This new tunnel connection allowed rerouting the Queens Boulevard Line F trains via the 63rd Street Tunnel, which increased capacity on the heavily-travelled Queens Boulevard Line. It also allowed a new local service, the V train, to run along the Sixth Avenue and Queens Boulevard lines; this service has since been discontinued and replaced with an extension of the M train.[74]

As built

Service patterns of the IND c.1940

The Bronx and Manhattan

East River Crossings

Brooklyn and Queens

Extensions after 1940

The following extra extensions and connections were built after unification in 1940:

The following extension is under construction:

Line planning

Many IND lines were designed to be parallel to existing IRT and BMT subway lines in order to compete with them.

Additionally, some never-built lines were also to serve this purpose.

Service letters

As originally designed, the IND train identification scheme was based on three things: the Manhattan trunk line served (8th Avenue or 6th Avenue), the northern branch line served (Washington Heights, Grand Concourse/Bronx, or Queens Boulevard), and the service level (Express or Local). The 8th Avenue routes were A, C, and E, while the 6th Avenue routes were B, D, and F. The A and B served Washington Heights, the C and D served the Grand Concourse, and the E and F served Queens Boulevard via the 53rd Street Tunnel. A single letter indicated express service, while a double letter indicated local service. In addition, G was used for Brooklyn-Queens "Crosstown" service, and H was used for any service on the extended Fulton Street (Brooklyn) line that did not originate in Manhattan.[82]

The first designations were as follows:

AAAEighth Avenue – Washington Heights
BBSixth Avenue – Washington Heights
CCCEighth Avenue – Concourse
D Sixth Avenue – Concourse
E Eighth Avenue – Queens Boulevard
F Sixth Avenue – Queens Boulevard
GGGBrooklyn-Queens Crosstown
HHFulton Street
S Special

Virtually all possibilities were used at one time or another, either in regular service or as brief special routes.[1] The "G" single-letter service was used for G service to World's Fair Station in 1939.

The final pre-Chrystie Street Connection service is shown here; for more details, see the individual service pages. Terminals shown are the furthest the service reached.[82]

Line Routing Notes
AWashington Heights Express207th StreetLefferts Boulevard or Far Rockaway or Rockaway Park (via Eighth Avenue)still in use
AAWashington Heights Local168th StreetHudson Terminal (via Eighth Avenue)became K (no longer operated)
BBWashington Heights Local168th Street34th Street (via Sixth Avenue)became B (now goes from Bedford Park Boulevard to Brighton Beach)
CBronx Concourse Express205th StreetUtica Avenue (via Eighth Avenue)no longer operated; combined into A and D trains
CCBronx Concourse LocalBedford Park BoulevardHudson Terminal (via Eighth Avenue)became C (now goes from 168th Street to Euclid Avenue)
DBronx Concourse Express205th StreetConey Island (via Sixth Avenue and Culver Line)still in use, though trains now use the West End Line
EQueens–Manhattan Express179th StreetRockaway Park or Hudson Terminal (via Eighth Avenue and Houston Street)still in use, though all trains go from Jamaica Center to Hudson Terminal (now called World Trade Center)
FQueens–Manhattan Express179th StreetHudson Terminal or Coney Island (via Sixth Avenue)still in use, though all trains go to Coney Island or Kings Highway
GGQueens Brooklyn LocalForest HillsChurch Avenue (via Crosstown Line)became G, though all trains short turn at Court Square
HHCourt Street ShuttleCourt StreetHoyt–Schermerhorn Streetsno longer operated, but the trackage is used for moving trains in and out of the New York Transit Museum, located in the Court Street station
HHRockaway LocalEuclid AvenueRockaway Park or Far Rockawaybecame H, then S, though now, all trains only go to Rockaway Park

After the Chrystie Street Connection opened, the original IND Service Letter scheme was gradually abandoned. All lines, whether local or express, now use a single letter, and only the 8th Avenue/6th Avenue distinction (A, C, E vs. B, D, F) has been maintained.[1]

Platform lengths

The IND was built with longer platforms than those of the IRT or BMT. Initial plans called for stations to be built with 660 feet (200 m) long platforms to accommodate trains of eleven 60 feet (18 m) cars. However, these lengths were shortened, as stations on the IND Eighth Avenue Line between 72nd Street and 163rd Street – Amsterdam Avenue have lengths of exactly 600 feet (180 m). There were two exceptions: 96th Street was 615 feet (187 m) on both levels, as that was the standard length of platforms built for the IND after the 1940s. The 81st Street–Museum of Natural History station had an uptown platform that was 630 feet (190 m) long, and a downtown platform that was 615 feet (187 m). Platforms of exactly 600 feet (180 m) length can also be found on the IND Queens Boulevard Line between Elmhurst Avenue and 67th Avenue.[1]

Some of the IND Sixth Avenue Line stations, on the other hand, have much greater platform lengths. In 34th Street–Herald Square, the uptown platform was originally 745 feet (227 m) (long enough to hold a 12-car train of 60 feet (18 m) cars), and the downtown platform was originally 685 feet (209 m). Both platforms of the 23rd Street station are 670 feet (200 m), and 47th–50th Streets–Rockefeller Center has platforms that are 665 feet (203 m).[1]

In the IND Second System, planned stations would have been 700 feet (210 m) to 720 feet (220 m) long and tile work would have been more "modern".[1]


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