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Program for Action

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Subject: History of the New York City Subway, New York City Subway, Second Avenue Subway, History of transportation in New York City, New York City Subway map
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Program for Action

The Lexington Avenue – 63rd Street station platform, with a subway track on the left, beige platform tiles, and an orange false wall on the right
The Lexington Avenue – 63rd Street station, one of six ultimately built as part of the Program for Action, prior to its 2013 renovation

The Program for Action was a proposal in the mid-1960s for a large expansion of mass transit in New York City, created under then-Mayor John Lindsay. It was one of the most ambitious expansion plans in the history of the New York City Subway, with 40 miles (64 km) of track miles to be added to the New York City Subway within Queens alone. The $2.9 billion plan also called for improvements to other modes of mass transit, such as the present-day Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad, and further integration between mass transit and the New York City-area airport system.

Transport improvements built under the Program for Action were supposed to relieve overcrowding on existing transit modes in the New York City area. However, even though many of the lines and transport connections proposed in the Program for Action were approved, New York City nearly went bankrupt in 1975, causing all but two of these projects to be canceled due to a lack of funds. The remaining projects, the 63rd Street and Archer Avenue lines, were both dramatically truncated from their original lengths, and both lines opened much later than originally projected. In total, only six stations and 15 miles (24 km) of tracks were added under the Program for Action.


  • Context 1
  • Phase I 2
    • Queens lines 2.1
      • 63rd Street–Southeast Queens line 2.1.1
      • Long Island Expressway branch and other Queens lines 2.1.2
    • Second Avenue Subway lines 2.2
    • Other lines 2.3
    • Non-subway extensions 2.4
  • Phase II 3
  • Progress 4
    • 1968–1975: Finalization of plans 4.1
    • 1975–1989: Fiscal crisis, delays, and plan reduction 4.2
      • 63rd Street Subway 4.2.1
      • 63rd Street LIRR line 4.2.2
      • Archer Avenue Subway 4.2.3
      • Second Avenue Subway 4.2.4
  • Notes 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


An empty subway platform at the 57th Street station in Manhattan
The 57th Street station of the Chrystie Street Connection, which predated the Program for Action

In the 1960s, the New York metropolitan area region had 18 million residents across 13,000 square miles (34,000 km2), and the area's population was expanding greatly at the time, especially in the suburbs, to where many city residents relocated.[1] In 1965, the Metropolitan Commuter Transportation Authority (MCTA) was created by New York State Legislature to operate the bankrupt Long Island Railroad. In 1968, the MCTA absorbed the New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA or TA) of New York City, and began a long-term lease of several lines of the Penn Central that would become the Metro-North Railroad.[2] That year, US$600,000,000 (equivalent to $4,069,000,000 in 2016[1]) was made available to the MCTA (now the MTA), as part of a $2.5 billion (equivalent to $16,955,000,000 in 2016[1]) bond for transportation passed by New York State legislature. That same year, the MCTA published a 56-page report for New York Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller, and in it, proposed several subway and railroad improvements under the name "Metropolitan Transportation, a Program for Action."[1][3][4][5][6] Executives involved with the proposal included New York baseball executive William Shea.[1] The Program for Action was put forward simultaneously with other development and transportation plans under the administration of Mayor John Lindsay. This included Lindsay's Linear City plan for housing and educational facilities, and the projected construction of several Interstate Highways, many of which were originally proposed by Robert Moses.[7][8][9]

In its rationale for the Program for Action, the MCTA stated, "By 1985, this region will have 25 million people. … The prospects, based upon the best available projections, are that the population growth will take place principally in the suburbs. New York City is not expected to grow much by 1985. Its dwelling population will redistribute somewhat, however, with the outer areas of the city — Staten Island, Queens, parts of Brooklyn and the Bronx — growing, while the older areas closer to the core remain relatively stable in population." The city was expected to gain 2.5 million jobs in these two decades, and the 8.6-square-mile (22 km2) Manhattan central business district already had 7.8 million employees.[1]

The two-phase Program for Action would cost $2.9 billion (equivalent to $19,667,000,000 in 2016[1]) in total.[10] As part of the Program for Action, existing elevated structures considered obsolete or dilapidated were to be replaced with new subways, in part to encourage development in those neighborhoods. The eastern end of the BMT Jamaica Line in the Jamaica, Queens business district was to be replaced with the BMT Archer Avenue Line, while the remainder of the IRT Third Avenue Line in the Bronx was to be torn down in favor of a new subway line running adjacent to the Metro-North Harlem Line tracks under Park Avenue.[1][11][12][13] New subway lines across the city would provide transit access to areas previously underserved by public transport, while railroad improvements would improve Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road service.[11] Stations at Grand Street and 57th Street on the IND Sixth Avenue Line, completed in 1967–1968 as part of the Chrystie Street Connection—the precursor project to the Program for Action—were to be tied into lines built under the new program.[1][4][14] A subway map was also drawn up to illustrate planned service patterns upon the program's completion.[15]

Phase I

Phase I consisted of new subway lines to supplement the IND Queens Boulevard Line and the IRT Lexington Avenue Line, as well as new interlockings and modernized station termini to increase train capacity. It would also comprise the renovation of deteriorating transit routes.[1] Originally, Phase I was to cost $961 million,[1] but costs went up to $1.6 billion. Phase I would be completed over the span of a decade.[11]

Queens lines

63rd Street–Southeast Queens line

Phase I's flagship project was the 63rd Street–Southeast Queens line, which would stretch from the existing 57th Street subway station in Midtown Manhattan to the existing Laurelton LIRR station in Springfield Gardens.[11][14][16][17][18] The westernmost part of the line entailed aggressive completion of the 63rd Street Tunnel, as well as the connections from the tunnel to the IND Sixth Avenue Line and the BMT Broadway Line. The 63rd Street portion of the line would reduce overcrowding on the IND Queens Boulevard Line, on the IRT Flushing Line, and on the 60th Street Tunnel's services.[11][14][16][17][18] The 63rd Street tunnel would facilitate service between the Queens Boulevard Line and the Second Avenue Subway, via bellmouths west of Roosevelt Island which turn south towards Midtown and Lower Manhattan (these turnouts may be used for the third and fourth phases of the Second Avenue Subway).[19][20][21]

Four parallel railroad tracks on the Long Island Rail Road's Main Line in Rego Park, New York. Two outer trackways can clearly be seen, and run parallel to the four railroad tracks.
The super-express bypass would have used the outermost trackways of the Long Island Rail Road's Main Line (shown). LIRR service would use the four tracks shown here, which would have been the inner tracks of the bypass.

East of Northern Boulevard, where there would be a track junction with the Queens Boulevard Line, the 63rd Street–Southeast Queens line would become a "super-express" bypass of the Queens Boulevard line.[14][16][17][19] This bypass, which was proposed due to the overall congestion of the line during peak hours,[16][22][23] was originally a single "high speed express track", with no intermediate stops, in order to allow trains to travel at speeds of up to 70 miles per hour (110 km/h). The bypass would have used one of the two trackways parallel to, and surrounding, the four-track LIRR Sunnyside Yards.[25][27] The IND Queens Boulevard Line was to be reverse-signaled as well to further increase capacity.[11][28]

The Southeast Queens portion of the line would split from the IND Queens Boulevard Line at Briarwood, would go to Springfield Boulevard in southeastern Queens using the LIRR Atlantic Branch, with a transfer to the LIRR at Jamaica. This Southeast Queens extension, which would use the upper level of the planned bi-level Archer Avenue subway, was the most important of several proposed lines along LIRR branches; it was originally intended to extend to the Laurelton LIRR station.[11][14][16][17][18] While the upper level of the Archer Avenue subway would serve Queens Boulevard trains to Southeast Queens, the lower level for the BMT, which was to be built as part of Phase 2, would extend under Archer Avenue to 188th Street in Hollis.[11][14][16][17][18] Both lines were only built to Jamaica Center; a LIRR extension would have necessitated the construction of new stations or the conversion of existing facilities along the right-of-way, as well as added additional capacity on which to run trains.[14][18][29]

Long Island Expressway branch and other Queens lines

Another less publicized plan, which was also separate from the 63rd Street–Southeast Queens Line, was for a new double-tracked subway line, which would diverge from the IND Queens Boulevard Line west of Woodhaven Boulevard and go to Kissena Boulevard via a right-of-way parallel and adjacent to the Long Island Expressway (LIE; part of Interstate 495).[11][19] In Phase I, it would go to Kissena Boulevard at Queens College, and in Phase II, to Fresh Meadows and Bayside.[11][14] This "Northeastern Queens" line would have been built in conjunction with the planned widening of the expressway. The subway tracks would have been placed under the expressway or its service roads, or in the median of a widened LIE in a similar manner to the Blue Line of the Chicago "L".[14][15][18][19][26][30] It had been previously proposed to run the line from the 63rd Street tunnel under Northern Boulevard to Flushing (near the current Main Street station), then south under Kissena and Parsons Boulevards to meet with the LIE at Queens College.[30] A similar line along the corridor had been proposed in the 1929 and 1939 IND Second System plans as an extension of the BMT Broadway Line east of the 60th Street Tunnel, when the LIE was called Nassau Boulevard and later Horace Harding Boulevard prior to the construction of the expressway.[14][31][32]

A connection to the defunct LIRR Rockaway Beach Branch, not part of the main project, was proposed in 1967, as were branches along other LIRR lines to outer Queens areas without rapid transit service.[14][33][30] An alternate to the Southeast Queens line was also proposed as an extension of the IND Fulton Street Line, east from Euclid Avenue under Pitkin Avenue and Linden Boulevard, or east from Lefferts Boulevard under Liberty Avenue. Both options would continue east to Jamaica, then turn south under Merrick Boulevard to Springfield Boulevard.[30] The Rockaway extension and both Fulton Line extensions were previously proposed as part of the 1929 and 1939 IND Second System plans, and were ultimately not incorporated into the main Program For Action plan.[14][30]

Second Avenue Subway lines

A newly built, round subway tunnel without any infrastructure or track, being built as part of the Second Avenue Subway
One of the tunnels from the BMT 63rd Street Line to the Second Avenue Subway

The Second Avenue Subway (SAS), a planned line going back to the late 1910s,[14] was to be constructed from 34th Street to the Bronx, with connections to the 63rd Street Tunnel. The SAS was prioritized due to overcrowding on the IRT Lexington Avenue Line, which was the only remaining rapid transit service on the east side in Midtown and Upper Manhattan. The Upper Manhattan portion of the Second Avenue line, from 63rd Street in Manhattan to 138th Street in the Bronx (near the current Third Avenue – 138th Street station), would be built as two tracks.[1][11] Stops for the SAS were proposed at Broad, Houston, 34th, 48th, 57th, 86th, 106th, and 125th Streets.[34] Originally, Upper East Side residents complained about the lack of stations at 72nd and 96th Streets; while the 72nd Street station was later inserted into the SAS's construction plan, the 96th Street station did not get added.[14]

To provide service in the Bronx, the IRT Pelham Line and IRT Dyre Avenue Line, served by Lexington Avenue trains, would be converted to B Division standards and connected to the Second Avenue line. IND Second Avenue Line trains would run east under 138th Street, then along the right-of-way of Amtrak's Northeast Corridor from 138th Street to a point near the Bruckner Expressway and Westchester Avenue as an express bypass of the Pelham line, after which the line would split into a Pelham branch and a Dyre Avenue branch.[35]

The Brook Avenue station just east of Third Avenue – 138th Street on the IRT Pelham Line would be reconstructed to allow a cross-platform interchange.[1][11][35] Further north, there would be a connection with the IRT Pelham Line near Westchester Avenue at the Whitlock Avenue station, and station platforms north to Pelham Bay Park would be narrowed and lengthened to accommodate the longer and wider B Division trains from the Second Avenue Subway. IRT local service on the Pelham Line would terminate at Hunts Point Avenue one stop south.[1][11][35]

The Dyre Avenue Branch, meanwhile, would continue north along the former New York, Westchester and Boston Railway (NYW&B)'s right-of-way to Dyre Avenue. The stations along the IRT Dyre Avenue Line, the only portion of the NYW&B to be reactivated for subway service, would also be shaved back, as the platforms had been widened to accommodate the narrower A Division trains on that line.[1][11][35] The junction north of East 180th Street between the Dyre and White Plains Road Lines, including the latter's approach to the station, would be rebuilt to eliminate the sharp curves at the station approach; the station itself would be reconfigured to allow cross-platform interchanges.[1][11] Related to the Second Avenue Line, the sharp curves connecting the Lexington Avenue and White Plains Road Lines at 149th Street – Grand Concourse would also be removed.[1][11]

Other lines

The BMT Canarsie Line and the Bay Ridge Branch in Brooklyn, New York, after a snowstorm
The BMT Canarsie Line, at left, would have been shifted west to a new structure along the Bay Ridge Branch, at right, under the Program for Action.

In Manhattan, a "cup handle" branch of the IND Sixth Avenue Line would diverge east of the Second Avenue station under Houston Street, turn north under Avenue C with an intermediate stop at Eighth Street, turn west at 14th Street, and merge with the BMT 14th Street–Canarsie Line to Eighth Avenue. This branch would have served Alphabet City, a neighborhood that was underserved by public transit.[11][15][24] This "Avenue C Cuphandle" was proposed because many of the Alphabet City's residents were working-class poor, and the SAS would not come close enough to serve the residents of Alphabet City.[34]

In Brooklyn, several extensions were proposed to serve the then-burgeoning areas of Mill Basin and Spring Creek.[1] The Rogers Junction on the IRT Eastern Parkway Line was a serious traffic bottleneck during the rush hours due to the IRT Nostrand Avenue Line tracks' at-grade junctions with the bi-level IRT Eastern Parkway Line.[1][11][36] The Rogers Junction would have to be reconstructed with flying junctions to increase capacity for several extensions. The IRT Nostrand Avenue Line would be extended past Flatbush Avenue – Brooklyn College along Flatbush Avenue to Avenue U at Kings Plaza. Other plans had the line extended along Nostrand Avenue to Sheepshead Bay at Avenue W or Voorhies Avenue;[1][11][37] this second plan had been proposed as part of the line's original construction.[14] The Eastern Parkway line was also proposed to be extended to Flatbush Avenue and Avenue U via Utica Avenue, which was also a long-planned extension.[14][26][37][38][39] The IRT New Lots Line in East New York, meanwhile, would be extended southerly through the Livonia Yard to Flatlands Avenue; this line would run at ground level.[1][11]

Also in Brooklyn, the BMT Canarsie Line would gain an eastern branch to Spring Creek, serving Starrett City (now Spring Creek Towers). The mainline would also be lengthened from its southern terminus at Rockaway Parkway to a new terminus in Midwood and Flatlands near the existing Flatbush Avenue – Brooklyn College IRT station.[1][11][26][38] Later plans suggested extending the line as far west as McDonald Avenue near the Avenue I station of the IND Culver Line, creating crosstown service through central Brooklyn.[40] It was also proposed to relocate the Canarsie Line west of its current right-of-way south of Broadway Junction, along the parallel LIRR Bay Ridge Branch (currently a freight-only branch) or in the median of the proposed Queens Interboro Expressway and Cross Brooklyn Expressway, which would have been built along both the LIRR branch and Linden Boulevard. The re-alignment would have facilitated both extensions.[1][11][26][38][40][7]

The MCTA would buy 500 high-speed air-conditioned subway cars to operate on the new lines. New and expanded train depots would be built for the new lines and the enlarged subway fleet. The purchase of an additional 500 subway cars was covered in Phase II.[1][11]

Non-subway extensions

A Staten Island Railway train composed R44 subway cars on the Staten Island Railway. This image, taken in 1973, shows the cars with a since-removed blue stripe toward the bottom of the car body. The train is arriving at a platform to the left; the photo is taken from another platform to the right and in the foreground. The station is in a right-of-way below street level, and a covered footbridge connecting the two platforms is located to the right.
The Staten Island Railway in 1973, operated with then-new R44 cars

The Staten Island Railway would be fully rehabilitated and would also get new rolling stock through Phases I and II.[1][11]

A new "Metropolitan Transportation Center" at 48th Street and Third Avenue would be built to provide a terminal for the new LIRR line, feeding into the lower of the two decks in the 63rd Street Tunnel. It would also have a terminal for a proposed new high-speed spur to John F. Kennedy International Airport that would run via Jamaica.[1] It would be a transfer point to Grand Central – 42nd Street. Access to Grand Central Terminal would be provided through a new north end access point. Construction costs would be offset by building office space above the transportation center. There would be a mezzanine above the four island platforms and eight tracks, which were split evenly across two levels. (This would later be the East Side Access project.)[1][11] The LIRR would also be electrified to Pinelawn Station on the Ronkonkoma Branch and to Northport Station on the Port Jefferson Branch. The LIRR would get 350 "new high-speed" electric multiple units (EMUs), signal improvements, junction modernizations, high-level platforms, and renovated railcars in addition to the other improvements, because at the time, much of the LIRR was not electrified, nor did its stations have platforms ascending to the height of the train.[1]

The report also called for three commuter rail modernizations. The New Haven Railroad commuter service would get 144 EMUs, as well as signal improvements, high-level platforms, and renovated cars. The Penn Central Railroad would get 130 EMUs, high-level platforms, and electrified trackage north to the Brewster station. The Erie Lackawanna Railroad in New York State would get new equipment, and a study would be conducted to determine whether the ELRR could go to Pennsylvania Station.[1] All of these improvements were to extend into Phase II of the project.[1]

Further away from New York City proper, the MCTA proposed transport hubs at Tarrytown and White Plains in Westchester County; Republic Airport in Suffolk County; and Pearl River, Orangeburg, and Spring Valley in Rockland County. The MCTA also proposed an airport in Westchester.[1]

Phase II

An elevated subway ramp for the BMT Jamaica Line above 130th Street in Richmond Hill, New York. The ramp descends into a tunnel portal to the left and ascends over a street to the right.
The connection from the elevated BMT Jamaica Line to the underground BMT Archer Avenue Line, built as part of the Program for Action

Phase II would be constructed after Phase I and cost $1.3 billion. Phase II was composed of mostly extensions of existing lines and Phase I-built lines.[1][11]

Phase II entailed completion of the Second Avenue Subway. The line would go south from 34th Street to the Financial District, going along Second Avenue, Bowery, and Water Street until it reached Whitehall Street at South Ferry. At the Grand Street of the Chrystie Street Connection, which had just opened in 1967, the station would be widened to provide cross-platform interchange between Second and Sixth Avenue trains. There was also the possibility of track interchanges, allowing SAS service to go across the Manhattan Bridge to Coney Island.[4][11] There would also be lines of a new people mover system, called the "Central Business District distribution system", installed under 57th, 48th, 42nd, and 33rd Streets to link transit stations, offices, and attractions in the Midtown CBD.[1][11]

The lower level of the Archer Avenue Subway would be extended parallel to the LIRR Main Line to 188th Street in Hollis, Queens; the Jamaica El east of 121st Street would be demolished because it was redundant to the new subway. The Northeast Queens LIE line would be lengthened to Springfield Boulevard in Bayside.[1][11][35][16][17]

The segment of the Third Avenue El in the Bronx would be demolished and replaced with a new subway line under Park Avenue, parallel to the New Haven Line Metro-North tracks. The Park Avenue Subway would connect with the Second Avenue trunk line in the South Bronx, where trains from Park Avenue would merge onto the same tracks as trains from the Dyre Avenue and Pelham spurs.[1][11][35] In the same borough, the MCTA would also extend the now-IND Pelham Line to Co-op City. It would also lengthen the IND Concourse Line to White Plains Road, with a connection to the IRT White Plains Road Line at either Burke Avenue or Gun Hill Road.[1][11]

New York City railroads would also receive more improvements. One proposed project entailed extending the LIRR Atlantic Branch from Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn into a new lower Manhattan terminal.[1][11] A new railroad station at 149th Street in the Bronx, south of the current Yankees – East 153rd Street station, would be built to interchange with subway service.[1][11] The MCTA would continue to upgrade Penn Central, as well as more airports within Long Island and Dutchess County. Transportation centers would be built in Hicksville, Pine Aire, and Ronkonkoma on Long Island; Brewster in Putnam County; Beacon in Dutchess County; New City and Suffern in Rockland County; and Goshen in Orange County.[1][35]


1968–1975: Finalization of plans

The Lexington Avenue – 63rd Street station undergoing renovation, with a blue construction wall on its right side, new tiling and platform treads on the platform, and a new wall next to the subway track on the left
The Lexington Avenue – 63rd Street station undergoing renovation, with the original Program for Action-era designs having been replaced

On November 25, 1969, the 63rd Street line commenced construction, with tunnel segments being dug westward from Queens and in both directions from Roosevelt Island; the bi-level tunnel would have the subway on the top level and LIRR trains on the lower level. The line under Central Park began construction in summer 1971.[11] A groundbreaking ceremony for the Second Avenue Subway was held on October 27, 1972, and construction began shortly thereafter at Second Avenue and 103rd Street.[41][42] Construction costs for the Second Avenue Line were pegged at $1 billion, rising to $1.3 billion a year later.[5] Three tunnels and six shafts were built for the Second Avenue and 63rd Street Lines at a cost of $1.23 billion.[11][43] The East River tunnel segments of the 63rd Street line were connected on October 10, 1972, and the Central Park section was completed on June 20, 1973. On August 30, 1974, workers began building the portion of the 63rd Street tunnel between Fifth and Park Avenues.[11]

Plans for the single-track Queens Super Express Bypass for the IND Queens Boulevard Line had been doubled to two tracks in 1972.[11][25][27] The BMT Jamaica Line from 121st Street to 168th Street would be demolished to make room for a connection to the lower level of the Archer Avenue Line, which extended east to Jamaica Center – Parsons/Archer.[11][14][16][17][18] A year later, a final design for the Northeast Queens LIE line was published, while other final engineering for the Southeast Queens line was imminent.[11][14] The IRT Nostrand Avenue Line extension to Avenue V, as well as an IRT Eastern Parkway Line branch under Utica Avenue to Avenue U, was being designed.[11][14] The MCTA, which was by now renamed the MTA, were rerouting the proposed IRT Pelham Line branch to Co-op City via New Haven Railroad right of way.[11][14]

In 1973, the MTA published a progress report on the Program for Action. The report said that, overall, "Almost all of the projects are well ahead of the goal recommended five years ago. Despite technical setbacks, legal roadblocks, administrative frustrations and limited funding, progress has been substantial."[44] In total, eight lines were under design and three were undergoing active construction. The MTA were studying the 42nd Street and 57th Street people movers as well.[11][14][44] In addition, 800 new R40 and R42 subway cars had been delivered between 1968 and 1973, and the number of New York City Subway cars in need of replacement had nearly halved, from 1,883 to 956.[44] The first R44 cars had been delivered in 1971 in anticipation for use on the SAS.[44]

The planned extensions and realignment of the Canarsie Line were cancelled in 1973, due to community opposition against the proposed expressways that the line would have been built along with.[8] Later that year, the LIE line was canceled because New York state voters had declined a $3.5 billion bond measure that would have paid for five subway extensions, including the LIE line.[11] However, the MTA believed that many other projects would still be built. By November 1974, the MTA projected a 1981 opening date for the Archer Avenue Line to Springfield Boulevard, as well as a 1982 opening date for the 63rd Street Line and for the SAS from 34th Street to 125th Street. In 1983, the Queens Super Express Bypass would open, and in the same year, the Bronx extension of the SAS and the BMT Jamaica Line reroute to Archer Avenue would open. The MTA thought that the SAS's southern extension to Whitehall Street would open by 1988, and that by 1993, the Utica Avenue, Nostrand Avenue, and LIE subway lines and the LIRR East Side Access would all open.[11]

1975–1989: Fiscal crisis, delays, and plan reduction

Due to the 1975–76 fiscal crisis that affected the city, most of the remaining projects did not have funding, so they were declined. Expected to be completed by the mid-1970s and early 1980s,[18][29] lines for the Program for Action had to be reduced or canceled altogether due to the 1970s fiscal crisis.[14] Because of the fiscal crisis, the Archer Avenue and 63rd Street lines, the only two complete lines to be built under the program, were truncated and delayed, and there were plans to abandon the expansions altogether.[14][45][16][46]

The MTA's proposed "40 miles of new subway" in Queens was reduced to 15 miles of tracks,[47] and at the end, only three lines were even constructed: the 63rd Street Line, Archer Avenue Line, and portions of the SAS.[11] Construction for the Second Avenue Line was halted indefinitely in 1975,[2] but when the United States government ceased to fund the two remaining projects ten years later, neither of them had been completed.[48] The Archer Avenue Line was opened in 1988 and the 63rd Street Line was also opened one year later; both lines, which had three stations each, were scaled-down versions of their original plans.[43][14] However, construction on the SAS ceased in 1976.[11] The eastern Jamaica elevated in Queens and the entire Third Avenue elevated in the Bronx were closed by 1985;[16] the Jamaica el was only partially replaced by Archer Avenue service,[13] while no rapid transit facilities were ever built to replace Third Avenue service.[49][50]

63rd Street Subway

People waiting on a dimly lighted, nearly empty brick-tile platform at the 21st Street – Queensbridge station
The 63rd Street Line at 21st Street – Queensbridge

By the summer of 1976, the 63rd Street Subway, which would comprise part of the Southeast Queens Line "from Central Park to Jamaica via the new 63rd Street tunnel," was being delayed to 1987–1988, since the planned 5.8-mile super express bypass had yet to begin construction. The authority proposed a new station at Northern Boulevard, adjacent to the existing Queens Plaza station, with transfers between mainline Queens Boulevard trains and 63rd Street/super-express trains, to be opened by 1983 or 1984.[51] The Manhattan section of that line was completed that year.[47]

The New York Times reported in May 1978 that the expansion had been reduced to 38 of its original length, saying, "The line costs $100,000 a foot, will be very short and will serve only a modest number of riders." The article now noted that the Queens super-express had been deferred "to 1988 at the earliest," and the only sections in progress were the 63rd Street Line to Northern Boulevard, and "a small piece along Archer Avenue." The opening date of the 63rd Street Subway to Jamaica was projected for 1985.[47] By 1980, the MTA considered stopping the project and diverting the money to existing subway infrastructure, which was heavily vandalized, severely deteriorating, and devoid of riders. At this point, the 63rd Street Subway was to be be completed in 1985, with the bypass to be completed later.[52]

By the end of 1985, though, the 63rd Street Subway's eastern Queens extension was no longer being planned,[46][33] although a bellmouth was built at the end of the tunnel, past 21st Street – Queensbridge, as a provision for the express bypass.[53] At the then-terminal of the line, 21st Street – Queensbridge, usage estimates for that station in 1984 were 220 passengers per hour. The MTA considered four alternatives to improve the line's functionality by extending it farther into Queens:[25][27][33][54][55]

  1. The Queens Express Bypass: extending the line along the LIRR Main Line to Forest Hills – 71st Avenue. It would be completed in 1998 and cost $931 million. This was the original plan for this line proposed in the 1968 Program for Action. This was also the only option that the MTA felt that would add passenger and train capacity to the E and F express services. At a proposed station at Northern Boulevard, a transfer concourse to Queens Plaza would have allowed transfers between local, express, and bypass trains.[25][27][33][43][54][55]
  2. Feeding the line into the IND Queens Boulevard Line's local tracks under Northern Boulevard. This alternative would be completed the earliest, by 1993, ran the shortest distance (1,500 feet between 29th Street and Northern Boulevard), and was the cheapest, at a cost of $222 million. However, some pointed out that the E and F services in Queens, the most crowded in the system, would not see any added capacity from such a connection, while the 63rd Street line would run at only 13 of its total capacity, in addition to reducing the viability of future extensions to the line.[25][27][33][43][54][55][56] An option similar to this was ultimately chosen, and the F was ultimately rerouted through the line to reduce congestion (see below).[57]
  3. Extending the line to the Sunnyside Yard and onto the LIRR Montauk Branch, running directly to the Archer Avenue Line in Jamaica. The Montauk Branch in Queens is currently used for freight service, last seeing passenger service in 1998. This $594 million option would be open by 1997, but people living around the Montauk Branch opposed the proposal due to fears of increased traffic and danger from the Montauk Branch's multiple grade crossings.[25][27][33][43][54][55]
  4. Extending the line to the Sunnyside Yard, with a transfer to a LIRR route that would go to Rosedale and Queens Village via the Montauk Branch. This $488 million option, to be completed by 1995, was also opposed by people living along the Montauk Branch.[25][27][33][43][54][55]

None of these options came to pass, and the 63rd Street Line was opened in 1989 after more than a decade of delays, its terminal station at 21st Street, rendering the once-grandiosely-planned line a "useless subway to nowhere".[58][46][43] In 2001, the 63rd Street Connection was completed between the Queens stub of the 63rd Street Line at 29th Street and the 36th Street station of the Queens Boulevard line, allowing service from both Queens Boulevard local and express trains to serve the line. The connection cost $645 million. This resulted in several major service changes, such as the reroute of the B and Q away from the 63rd Street tunnel, the introduction of F express service between Queens Boulevard and the tunnel, truncation of G service to Court Square, and the creation of the V to cover areas formerly served by F and G trains.[59][57][56]

63rd Street LIRR line

Construction on the lower level of the 63rd Street tunnel, which was to be used by LIRR trains from and to the planned Metropolitan Transportation Center, was completed along with the upper subway level.[11][60] However, the LIRR project had been canceled long before the tunnel was completed. In 1976, the New York Times noted that the lower level of the 63rd Street tunnel was still under construction, even though "officials knew that the tunnel would never be used."[3] Richard Ravitch, the MTA chairman, said that to stop the work was impossible or so costly as to make it impractical subsequent to the construction of the subway portion."[52] The 8,600 feet (2,600 m)[60] "tunnel to nowhere" was completed "largely for structural reasons — to support the subway tunnel above."[52]

A similar project, East Side Access, was instigated in December 2006. The East Side Access project will construct a new LIRR terminal beneath the current Grand Central Terminal, and will use the 63rd Street tunnel's lower level.[60][61][62]

Archer Avenue Subway

A train with its doors open at the Jamaica Center station
The Jamaica Center station of the Archer Avenue Lines

The Archer Avenue Subway was initially conceived as part of the 63rd Street Line and planned "Southeast Queens" subway, as well as the planned Jamaica El replacement. By May 1976, the Archer Avenue segment was projected to be completed in 1983.[51] However, New York City became insolvent during the 1975–1976 fiscal crisis, and in October 1980, officials considered stopping this project as well and diverting the money to mend existing infrastructure. At this point the Archer Avenue project was projected for completion in 1984.[52]

In addition, the line was also delayed to disagreements over the quality of concrete and the leakage of water into the tunnels, the speed of construction, and the federal Urban Mass Transportation Administration's reluctance to provide funding for the line based on the tunnels' condition. Still, construction was completed a year ahead of schedule, in 1983.[63] Due to the city's fiscal crisis, the planned subway line was truncated to Jamaica Center – Parsons/Archer,[16] with provisions existing for the planned extension of the upper level along the LIRR Locust Manor right-of-way.[29][64] The line opened on December 11, 1988, at a cost of nearly five times its original budgeted cost, and severely cut back to a length of 2 miles (3 km).[16][65] Since the line had been abridged to Jamaica Center, the "modern terminal" at Springfield Gardens had not been built, severely reducing train capacity on both levels to twelve trains per hour.[16]

Second Avenue Subway

The Second Avenue Subway was supposed to be the flagship project of the Program for Action. In a 1964 report, it was given top priority on a list of projects to be completed. Prior attempts to build the line had failed, and the city wished to have a Second Avenue subway line to alleviate overcrowding on the IRT Lexington Avenue Line.[5] Twenty-two blocks of tunnel were ultimately constructed, excluding seven blocks in the East Village that were prepared for tunneling operations, but never excavated.[66]

However, the 1975–1976 fiscal crisis, combined with the massive outflow of city residents to the suburbs, led to the MTA and the city having no funds to complete the Second Avenue Line.[42] Construction of the subway was halted on September 29, 1975,[67] with only three sections of tunnel having been completed, excluding the Chrystie Street Connection and the connection to the BMT 63rd Street Line.[5][68] By 1978, when the New York City Subway was at its lowest point in its existence, State Comptroller Arthur Levitt stated that there were no plans to finish the line.[5][2] Of this failure to complete construction, Gene Russianoff, an advocate for subway riders since 1981, stated: "It's the most famous thing that's never been built in New York City, so everyone is skeptical and rightly so. It's much-promised and never delivered."[71]

On the Upper East Side, a bond for an unrelated project to complete the line passed in 2005.[71] Construction on the new project commenced in 2007, with projections for the line to open as early as December 2016. This first phase, and the planned Phase II to East Harlem, will utilize the sections of tunnel north of 96th Street that were built in the 1970s.[69][70]


  1. ^ a b c Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–2014. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved February 27, 2014.
  2. ^ a b At the time, there was no plan for completion. The Second Avenue Line's construction resumed in 2007, with its first segment to be opened by 2016.[69][70]
  3. ^ At the time, there was no plan for completion. The early-2000s East Side Access will use this lower level for LIRR service to Grand Central Terminal upon the project's completion.[60]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al """Full text of "Metropolitan transportation, a program for action. Report to Nelson A. Rockefeller, Governor of New York.. Internet Archive. November 7, 1967. Retrieved October 1, 2015. 
  2. ^ Penner, Larry (July 15, 2014). "Happy 51st Birthday To Queens Public Transportation". Queens Gazette. Archived from the original on 2015-09-12. Retrieved 1 November 2015. 
  3. ^ Annual Report. Metropolitan Transportation Authority. 1970. Retrieved October 1, 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c "Second Avenue Subway Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS): Appendix B: Development of Alternatives" (PDF).  
  5. ^ a b c d e Sam Jewler (July 24, 2004). "The Long, Tortured History of the Second Avenue Subway". New York Magazine. Retrieved August 14, 2015. 
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  7. ^ a b Burks, Edward C. (May 23, 1971). "INTERBORO ROUTE ANGERS RESIDENTS; Proposal for a Truck Link Assailed in Queens".  
  8. ^ a b "Broadway Junction Transportation Study: NYC Department of City Planning Final Report-November 2008" (PDF).  
  9. ^ Walter Thabit (1 April 2005). How East New York Became a Ghetto. NYU Press.  
  10. ^ "1968 NYCTA Expansion Plans (Picture)". Second Avenue Sagas. Retrieved December 2013. 
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au Feinman, Mark. "The New York Transit Authority in the 1970s". Retrieved April 23, 2015. 
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  13. ^ a b Herman, Robin (July 4, 1979). "For Jamaica, Redevelopment Is a Promise Unfulfilled; Projects Are Thwarted".  
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x Joseph B. Raskin (November 1, 2013). The Routes Not Taken: A Trip Through New York City's Unbuilt Subway System. Fordham University Press.  
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  19. ^ a b c d e Program for Action maps from
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  21. ^ 2nd Avenue Subway – Tentative track plan, Manhattan portion,
  22. ^ "Review of F Line Operations, Ridership, and Infrastructure" (PDF).  
  23. ^ "Review of the G Line" (PDF).  
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  25. ^ a b c d e f g h i Burks, Edward C. (June 6, 1976). "Shortage of U.S. Funds May Delay Subway Link".  
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  28. ^ Levine, Richard (February 7, 1987). "M.T.A. Proposes Opening 63d Street Tunnel in '89". The New York Times. Retrieved October 20, 2011. 
  29. ^ a b c Burks, Edward C. (October 24, 1973). "Work Begun on Queens Subway Extension".  
  30. ^ a b c d e Kihss, Peter (April 13, 1967). "Study is Started for New Subways: 3 Routes Proposed to Aid Growing Queens Areas".  
  31. ^ Project for Expanded Rapid Transit Facilities, New York City Transit System, dated July 5, 1939
  32. ^ Duffus, R.L. (September 22, 1929). "OUR GREAT SUBWAY NETWORK SPREADS WIDER; New Plans of Board of Transportation Involve the Building of More Than One Hundred Miles of Additional Rapid Transit Routes for New York".  
  33. ^ a b c d e f g Daley, Suzanne (November 1, 1984). "63D ST. SUBWAY TUNNEL: MORE SETBACKS FOR A TROUBLED PROJECT".  
  34. ^ a b New York Media, LLC (February 8, 1971). New York Magazine. New York Media, LLC. pp. 37–40.  
  35. ^ a b c d e f g "Highlights of Program For Subway, Rail and Air".  
  36. ^ " New York City Subway Track Maps". 2015-10-09. Retrieved 2015-10-09. 
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  38. ^ a b c "A Record $250-Million Is Asked for Transit Expansion Here".  
  39. ^ Prial, Frank J. (October 31, 1971). "Brooklyn Bemoans Its Ancient Subways".  
  40. ^ a b Prial, Frank J. (March 21, 1971). "Long-Awaited Subway Line on Utica Ave. in Brooklyn Is Still an Idea That Keeps Getting Untracked".  
  41. ^ Second Avenue Subway: Timeline. Retrieved April 7, 2014.
  42. ^ a b "Second Avenue Subway". Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Retrieved April 7, 2014. 
  43. ^ a b c d e f g Feinman, Mark. "The New York Transit Authority in the 1980s". Retrieved April 23, 2015. 
  44. ^ a b c d 1968-1973, the Ten-year Program at the Halfway Mark. Metropolitan Transportation Authority. 1973. 
  45. ^ Roger P. Roess; Gene Sansone (August 23, 2012). The Wheels That Drove New York: A History of the New York City Transit System. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 416-417.  
  46. ^ a b c Kennedy, Randy (May 25, 2001). "Panel Approves New V Train but Shortens G Line to Make Room".  
  47. ^ a b c Lichtenstein, Grace (May 9, 1978). "Planned 40-Mile Queens Subway, Cut to 15, is Costly and Behind Time". The New York Times. p. 68. Retrieved October 20, 2011. 
  48. ^ Martin, Douglas (November 17, 1996). "Subway Planners' Lofty Ambitions Are Buried as Dead-End Curiosities".  
  49. ^ Blumenthal, Ralph (August 27, 1977). "Now That El's Gone, Bronx Hub Sees A Brighter Future".  
  50. ^ "The 3rd Avenue Corridor". The Bronx Journal. March 27, 2013. Retrieved September 24, 2015. 
  51. ^ a b Burks, Edward C. (July 29, 1976). "New Subway Line Delayed 5 or 6 Years". The New York Times. p. 35. Retrieved October 20, 2011. 
  52. ^ a b c d Andelman, David A. (October 11, 1980). "Tunnel Project, Five Years Old, Won't Be Used". The New York Times. p. 25. Retrieved October 20, 2011. 
  53. ^ "MTA 63rd Street Connector".  
  54. ^ a b c d e Burks, Edward C. (September 24, 1976). "Coming: Light at End of 63d St. Tunnel".  
  55. ^ a b c d e Burks, Edward C. (August 7, 1976). "New York Improving Subway, But Still Trails Foreign Cities".  
  56. ^ a b Saulny, Susan (November 28, 2000). "Another Tunnel Offers Breathing Room for E and F Trains".  
  57. ^ a b "E,F Detour in 2001, F trains via 63 St, E no trains running, take R instead". The Subway Nut. Retrieved October 20, 2011. 
  58. ^ Lorch, Donatella (October 29, 1989). "The 'Subway to Nowhere' Now Goes Somewhere". The New York Times. Retrieved October 20, 2011. 
  59. ^ O'Neill, Natalie (April 13, 2012). "History shows it’s not the G train ‘extension’ — it’s the G train renewal".  
  60. ^ a b c d "Project Overview". Retrieved April 21, 2014. 
  61. ^ "U.S. Transportation Secretary Signs Record $2.6 Billion Agreement To Fund New Tunnel Network To Give Long Island Commuters Direct Access to Grand Central Station" (Press release).  
  62. ^ "East Side Access Tunnel Boring Machine Reaches Grand Central Terminal" (Press release).  
  63. ^ Schmalz, Jeffrey (August 18, 1985). "U.S. HOLDS UP AID FOR SUBWAY WORK". The New York Times. Retrieved October 1, 2015. 
  64. ^ Burks, Edward C. (March 9, 1975). "Building Progresses On Subway In Jamaica".  
  65. ^ "New Subway Line Finally Rolling Through Queens," Newsday, December 11, 1988, page 7.
  66. ^ Burks, Edward C. (October 25, 1973). "GROUND IS BROKEN FOR 2D AVE. LINK; Downtown Subway Section Begins With Ceremony Led by Lindsay and Ronan Projects Are Listed Interest in French Train". The New York Times. p. 51. Retrieved October 4, 2015. 
  67. ^ Burks, Edward C. (September 26, 1975). "WORK IS STOPPED ON SUBWAY LINE; City Lacks Funds to Finish Part of 2d Ave. Project". The New York Times. p. 41. Retrieved October 4, 2015. 
  68. ^ "The Line That Time Forgot – Second Avenue Subway". April 5, 2004. Retrieved April 10, 2014. 
  69. ^ a b—Second Avenue Subway Quarterly Report Q4 2013
  70. ^ a b MTA releases Second Avenue subway images, says project on track NY Daily News, November 5, 2013
  71. ^ a b  

External links

  • Brochure and full text at
  • Program for Action maps at
  • Program for Action track maps:
    • Nostrand Avenue Line
    • LIE Northeast Queens Line
    • Southeast Queens Line junction and extension
    • Queens Express Bypass
    • Second Avenue Subway
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