- In: Culture
- Published on 15 May 2012
- By James
Most people don't realize it, but right in the heart of the Times Square train station, New York's busiest train station, there's an abandoned lower level on the 8th avenue side, under the IND (A,C,E) line. It's an oddity in the city's busiest public transportation hub. The lower level only contains two tracks. One which lies underneath the downtown-bound local track on the upper level, and another side platform underneath the island platform above.
The lower level platform was built along with the rest of the station in 1932, but it was only used from 1959 to 1981 for odd services like the Aqueduct Racetrack special fare trains, and for rush hour E trains for a period during the 1970s. For many years, a crossunder was open between the upper level platforms using a passageway at the northern end of the lower level. Rearrangement of the mezzanine a few years ago allowed passengers to crossover using the mezzanine within the fare control.
It isn't really clear why this lower level was even built. It can only be used by trains running from Queens via 53rd Street (today's E service). Until 1940 the NYC subway was owned by three separate companies, the Independent Subway System, Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit Corporation, and Interborough Rapid Transit Companies. A good theory is that the IND was being built by the city to compete directly with routes owned by the IRT and BMT companies. The #7 crosstown IRT line terminates at Times Square; it is said that the bumper blocks of the #7 are directly against or very close to the eastern wall of the lower level of the 42nd St. IND station. The construction of the lower level therefore blocked any potential extension of the #7 line to the west side of Manhattan. If this is true, it would have been done only in the spirit of crushing the competition, for the IND had no plans to construct a competing crosstown line.
The three companies have long since been absorbed by New York City. The #7 crosstown is headed west, to 11th avenue and the Abandoned lower level on the 8th avenue side of the Times Square station has been de-commisioned. The MTA is in the process of boring through the lower level and extending the #7 train tunnel through. Take a look at the history of the Times Square IND Lower Level:
In the 1970s while still in use
Abandoned during the 1990s (note the special Aqueduct train gates)
2009 - Present (during construction)
Today's tunnel Progress
The 7 Line Extension Route Plan
[Special thanks to the NYCSubway.org]