John Pazmino
 NYSkies Astronomy Inc
 2017 February 18

    In 2007 I wrote a discoursse on the Second Avenue Subway, then 
just starting construction. It's at 
'www.nyskies.org/articles/pazmino/2avline.htm'. Building continues 
since then with major news media coverage, both pro and con, along the 
way. Now that the line is open, I put out this sequel. 
    The epic story of the Second Avenue Subway crossed a meterppoint 
on New Year's Day of 2017. After some 90 years in gestation, the first 
segment opened for service! Construction of this reach, three 
kilometers, took ten years. Like any major construction project, the 
subway did cause some disruptive conditions along its corridor. 

Brief History 
    Most people can't believe that the 'Far East' flank of Manhattan's 
Upper East Side had no rapid transit until now. In reality it enjoyed 
world-class transit for about seventy years, starting with the els in 
2nd and 3rd Avenues in the 1870s. These, and other on Manhattan and in 
Brooklyn, were a spin-off of the American Civil War. 'World-class' 
must be taken in that 1870s context, when almost all other large towns 
had no rapid transit at all. 
    In the 1920s, riding a tide of new subways then building, the City 
planned to replace the el with an underground line. By the late 1920s 
this line was scheduled to build as the 'Second system' of the 
Independent, IND, network. In anticipation of this line, structure was 
incorporated in many IND stations for a junction or crossing of the 
2nd Avenue line. 
    With the 1930s Depression work on the IND network went slowly. The 
2nd Av line was deferred to later and later years. In 1940 the 2nd Av  
el was demolished to clear the street for the underground replacement. 
Then World War II halted all construction projects. 
    On the astronomy side of life, work on the Mt Palomar observatory 
was suspended. It was dedicated in 1941 -- just before Pearl Harbor -- 
with first-light set for early 1942. 
    Altho Mt Palomar was completed in 1948, after the War, work on the 
2nd Av line was delayed. For one factor, New York City, partly from 
stress of the Depression, acquired the privately-operated subways and 
els and now had to bring them into a state of good repair. On and off 
in the 1950s efforts sprang up, including a bond issued for the 2nd Av 
subway, to get moving but all fizzled. 
    In the 1960s definite work started with plans for the line 
approved. A ground-breaking ceremony was staged at 103rd St and 2nd Av 
in 1972 with intent to open the line in about 1980. The early work was 
digging out the running tunnels between the stations. These were 
actually completed and are now in partial use for the current service. 
    The City fell into a fiscal default in the mid 1970s, forcing a 
halt to the 2nd Av line. The finished tunnels were mothballed in hope 
of resuming work 'soon'. Foe the next forty years thru were maintained 
in readiness. The crisis was, for City astronomers, demonstrated by 
the lunar eclipse of 1975 November 18. Many astronomers, with me, 
observed it from the Empire State Building. The Moon rose in totality. 
It immediately became the 'Default Moon', covered with the red ink of 
the City finances! 
    The current building started in 2007 with continuous, if slow, 
work until, litteraly!, opening day. 

The line is open! 
    Ten years after the current construction began, the first segment 
of the Second Avenues Subway opened at noon on 2017 January 1. 
Ceremonial trains ran in the morning for officials. For the first week 
service ran from 6AM thru 10PM to allow for residual punch-list work 
items to complete. From 6AM on January 9 24-hour service started. 
    in the first full month, the Second Avenue Subway attracted about 
155,000 riders per day. About half are riders shifting from the 
adjacent Lexington Av line. The other half seem to be brand-new subway 
customers. They probably passed up the subway for buses, taxis, or 
didn't travel far enough to need transit. These 155,000 riders were 
locked in at the three new stations: 72nd St, 86th St, and 96th St. 
There was a rise in ridership at Lexington Av/63rd St. Traffic within 
this station increased substantially because it is now a junction 
for trains radiating in four directions.  
    The Lexington Av line, in spite of losing some 80,000 riders to 
the 2nd Av line, remains far and away the busiest single subway line 
in the work. it carries 1.6 million riders per day. It, if separated 
from the rest of the City, would be the nation's second busiest 
subway, surpassing Washington DC and Chicago combined. 

Changes since 1970s
    I give here some updates for this article, based on the first full 
month of service from news reports, correspondence wtih rail 
advocates, and personal travels on the line. 
    The structures in place now are substantially all-new. The design 
and plan from the 1970s were scrapped mainly because construction 
methods improved and civic needs evolved. The City did not dust off 
the 1970s unbuilt designs and hand them to the 2000s contractor. 
    Altho there were finished tunnels at the Lexington Av/63rd St 
station, long in service for trains heading to Queens, there were none 
from there, into 2nd Av, to 96th St. They had to be chewed thru 
bedrock by a tunnel boring machine or TBM or mole. The contractor 
keeps the mole after his job for refurbishing and use on other jobs. 
It so happened that the mole used in the current construction was the 
very same one that digged out the 63rd St line, including the 
Lexington/63 station. 
    A TBM is immense as a vehicle. When in 2007 is started work at 
92nd St, it was about 130 meters long with a 7 meter diameter cutting 
head. it was 'launched' from a concrete box that later was 
incorporated into the 96th St station. It chewed out 15 meters of 
tunnel per day, passing the cuttings to conveyor belts to the street 
for disposal 
    The configuration of the stations was simplified to two tracks for 
each with island platforms and full-length mezzanines. In the 1970s 
design, 72nd St would be a four-track two-platform station. 
96th St was expanded to house workshops, crew quarters, storage for 
tools and supplies. 
    In case of an other 'Sandy' episode, inconceivable in the 1970s, 
certain vents  and shafts were built at a higher elevation. Recessed 
barriers were built into street stairs to be raised to keep flood 
water rom pouring down into the station. 
    Stations are wired for WiFi and radio-quiet machinery for rider 
convenience, a concept not even Star Trek and Star Wars  thought of in 
the 1970s. 
    All of the new stations were built with current ADA-compliant 
fixtures and furnishings, ADA not yet being in force in the 1970s. 
lexington/63, in service when ADA went into effect, was altered over 
the years to keep it incompliance with ADA. 

New routing 
    Service on the Broadway line, which feeds into 2nd Av, was 
reorganized in November 2016 in preparation for the new line. Route Q 
was changed to end its uptown run at 57/7, not continuing into the 
60th St line to Astoria. Uptown N trains were local in Broadway on 
their way to Astoria. Now they run express in Broadway  to 34th St.  
Then it switched to local to 57/7 continue to Astoria. Route R was 
left alone, a local in Broadway to Forest Hills. 
    A new route W was returned from its retirement in 2010. It was at 
that time dropped  due to budget constraints. It is a local from 
Whitehall St to Astoria to replace the Q service. 
    Broadway now has two expresses, N and Q, and two locals, R and W. 
    In the last two weeks of December 2016 some Q trains at 57/7 
discarded riders, as normally at this terminal, and then continued 
uptown into the 63rd St and 2nd Av lines. The empty train was 
exercising the driver for running on the new tracks. The return train, 
still empty, entered 57/7 and resumed normal downtown service. Twice 
on different days I asked the train crew if I may ride, staying on the 
train with no attempt to get off, to peek at the new line. Both 
requests were rejected. 

Congestion Relief
    So far during January 2017 the new subway siphoned about 
80,000daily riders from the Lexington Av lie. There is no obvious 
relaxation of the crowding on that line because its base volume of 
traffic is so stupendous, some 1.6 million riders per day. However, 
there is starting to develop a relief from congestion at transfer 
stations along the Lexington Avenue line. The line runs straight along 
Manhattan's east side from the Harlem River to the Battery with no 
diversions to the centerline of the island or its west side. Or the 
target may be in Queens.To get to these other sections of Manhattan a 
rider must transfer at 51st St, 59th St, or Grand Central (42nd St) to 
crossing lines. These stations are ridiculously congested in the busy 
hours and riders hustle from one platform to an other. 
    The 2nd Av line, with its service by the A train, could mitigate 
the overcrowding. It runs down the Upper East side and the slaps west 
to the west side of Manhattan, and continues downtown in the center 
line of the island. A rider could have a one-seat ride to his target 
with no need to change trains. If a change is needed it could be at 
Lexington/63 to route F. This train in the uptown direction heads to 
Queens; downtown, the spine of Manhattan. The transfer is trivial, 
with no hassle, just a cross-platform step. 

Wrong-way Curve? 
    Some riders on the new line were puzzled by the peculiar curve the 
trains follow uptown from 57/7. it seemed logical that the tracks, 
looking uptown into the tunnel, should curve to the right, toward 2nd 
Av. They in the stead curve to the left, toward, say, 8th Av! This is 
a historical vestige from the 1910s when the Broadway line was built. 
it was planned to continue uptown in 8th Av to Washington Heights. 
This extension was in the 1920s taken over by the 8th Av line, leaving 
the 57/7 station with a stub of curved tracks. They were too short to 
store a full-length train and ended up used to pocket a hall-length 
train or a work train. 
    When the renewed 2nd Av plans were in order,  the 'wrong-way' 
curve was left in place. The new tracks into 63rd St attach to the 
north, uptown, end of the curve and immediately do a reverse turn. The 
Trains do an S-turn north of 57/7 to and from 63rd St 

Lexington Av/63rd St station
    The Lexington/63 station opened in the late 1980s as a 'stubeay' 
to Queens. From this station trains ran to Roosevelt Island and 
Queensbridge, the terminal of the stubway. Eventually the line was 
extended eastward and attached to the Queens Bv line. 
    Until then uptown Q trains did run into 63rd St to Queensbridge. 
They headed toward the north side of Lexington/63, which was closed 
off from the public by a false wall.They could not enter the north 
track to reach Queens because that track dead-ended at the east end of 
the station, beyond which there was no railworks. The track was 
capped with a bumping block. 
     Just west of the station the Q train switched, over a double 
crossover, to the south track to enter the station. From there they 
continued to Queensbridge. 
    When in the 1990s the 63rd St line was tied into Queens Bv, Q 
trains ended their uptown run at 57/7. Route F trains worked the line. 
They entered Lexington /63 directly on its south track. Until 2017 f 
trains were the only service at Lexington/63. 
    The north track was always in place at Lexington/63 and was used 
to store a train or swop it between the Broadway and 6th Av line. The 
moves were done across the double crossover. 
    Riders at the station heard the trains behind the false wall and 
assumed they were passing by on the Lexington Av line, that crosses 
above this station. 

Schematic Track Map
    Among the fascinations remote readers have about New York City's 
transit grid is the complexity of its tracks. Most towns make do with 
simple two-track -- or single-track -- lines with junctions on one 
plane, like for streetcars and typical mainline railroads.  The City 
learned in the 19th century that this scheme is idiotic and built  
flying crossings and junctions. Altho the Second Avenue Subway is 
basicly a two-track road, it has a half-cloverleaf flying junction and 
crossing under 63rd St and 2nd Av. 
    This track map, in ASCII, shows the way trains now, and in later 
expansion, shift from on corridor to an other. There is no scale in 
this diagram. Special features are keyed by number or letter. 

    1----6    B 
     ###    /--\ 
    1-----/      \ 
         X    /-\  \  
    1 -----/     \  2 
     ###         |                  | 
    1----6       | 
          3--2   | 
          3-- \  | 
               |#| C 
        4--5   |#| 
        4--2   | |          2-- \      D        E         F       G 
        4-- \  |  |         4-----\-------------------------------O 
        4--5  \|   \                X ### X    ####    X ### 
               | 2   \      4----/-------------------------------P 
               | |     \------/        
               | | 
               7 7 

 --, /, \, | - track, in service or not yet built 
 ### - platform in station 
 |X|,-- - double crossover 
 A - 57th St/7th Av station, Broadway line 
 B - 'S' curve north of 57/7
 C - Lexington Av/63rd St station, 63rd St line, lower level 
 D - 72nd St station, 2nd Av line 
 E - 86th St station, 2nd Av line 
 F - 96th St station, 2nd Av line 
  G - end of tail tracks, under 105th St & 2nd Av 
  1 - to Broadway line 
 2 - to upper level of Lexington/63 
 3 - to 6th Av line
 4 - to south arm of 2nd Av line, not built yet
 5 - to north arm of 2nd Av line 
 6 - to 60th St line 
 7 - to Queens Bv line   

    From the 1980s until now the north, right in the diagram, track in 
Lexington/63 , on both levels, was hidden behind a false wall.  It 
ended in a block at the east, bottom, end of the station with no 
railworks father east. It was used to store an extra train and to move 
trains between the Broadway and 6th lines. The double crossover west, 
top, of the station connected the two lines.  In November-December 
2017 this wall was removed and the station dressed up for four running 
tracks. Trains under exercise on the 2nd Av line passed thru the 
station without stopping. 

The Next Phase
    The top priority for the 2nd Av line is the uptown part from 96th 
St to 125th  St. It should take only five years to build this reach 
because all of the tunnels are finished from the 1970s. They are not 
just rough rock borings. Their structure is complete with all civil 
work and some utilities. They need only railworks to release them for 
subway operation. 
    It was always desired to have the line cover the whole length of 
2nd Av, even in the earliest ideas. As the 20th century turned into 
the 21st it was utterly crucial to get the line in mosre of the avenue 
as soon as practical. The north side of Upper East Side, in El Barrio 
and East harlem, were growing in population andd destinations. People 
would suffer a long bus ride , thro or above Central Park,  to subways 
on the west side of Manhattan to avoid the bone-crushing crowding of 
the Lexington Av line. This was the only transit corridor in their own 
nabe since removal of the 2nd Av el in 1940 and a parallel one in 3rd 
Av in the 1950s.
    Already trains on the first segment are filled in both directions 
as riders take to the new service. If current trend in urban growth 
continues the full upper portion of the line could carry 300,000 to 
400,000 tiders per day.
    Talk floats to expand the line to four tracks for express and 
local serice. As currently built it is a pure two-track road. It can 
be fitted wwith express trcks without serious changes to existing 
structure by letting the present tracks be local and adding the 
express tracks outside or under them. Various schemes are speculated, 
most allowing one express stop along the opper arm, usually at 116th 
St and others along the wouth arm, as yet in design stage. 
    The northent has stations at 106th St, 116th St, and Park-
Lexington in 125th St. This last, the end of the line, interchanges 
with the Lexington Av line and metro-North railroad. 
    The tunnel from 96th St to 105th St, being complete and ready for 
installing railworks was so fitted. The new tracks are tail tracks for 
stacking trains north of 96th St station. 
    TIn the 1970s plans there was no station at 116th St. This was a 
nasty goof, corrected in the current plans. A slice of tunnel passing 
thru 116th St will be demolished for the new station. 

    Well, we at last got back, ater a severy year lapse, transit 
service on the east flank of Manhattan. It is a very busy line with 
good connections in Midtown and Brooklyn. It alleviates congestion at 
Lexington/53 and Lexington/59 by offering a ross-platform transfer at 
the enlarged Lexington/63 station. 
    Many residents in Upper East Side note that the spacing between 
42nd St and 86th St stations is too large, compared to spacing on 
other subway lines. It seems that the stations could have been put at 
66th St and 76th St in the stead.  The stations on the south arm 
aren't designed yet, allowing that they could be more evenly spaced. 
    Some note that huge cost of the stations in their cathedral roofs, 
lavish artwork, wide open floors. They point to the City's program of 
closing off excessive floorage in other stations to simplify cleaning 
and maintenance and to eradicate crime hotspots. 
    Others note that there is only one service on the line, route Q. 
This train must mesh into the Broadway with three other routes, making 
it tricky to increase frequency. On the Lexington Av line, trains pass 
thru stations at one-minute intervals, against 2nd Av 6 to 8 in rush 
hour. A second service, route T in can color, is planned for the line 
when it is pushed south of 63rd St.  It will run from Hanover Sq or 
Houston St, which ever is the south end of the line, to 125th St.
    The line has a turn off from south of 63rd St to the 63rd St line 
heading to Queens Bv. aA potential third service could avail of it to 
add service to the south arm of 2nd Av. At present thee is such 
service in the works because queens Bv is now saturated with several 
routes with no room for an other one. The turn-off will, at least at 
first, by for off-duty train moves.