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Times Square–42nd Street is the busiest station complex of the New York City Subway, joining four lines, with a free transfer via a passageway to a fifth (42nd Street–Port Authority Bus Terminal on the IND Eighth Avenue Line (A C
E)). It lies under Times Square, at the intersection of 42nd Street, Seventh Avenue and Broadway.
42nd Street Shuttle platformsEdit
Times Square was originally a local station on the first subway in 1904. Since 1918 three shuttle tracks serve it; the southbound express track was removed. There is no track connection between the northbound local and the other two tracks anywhere along the shuttle. Platforms are located on both sides (at the old local platforms) and where the southbound express track was; all three platforms connect on the north (compass west) side. This walkway crosses the northbound local track on a bridge that can be lifted for the only access to that track, via a merge into the northbound IRT Broadway-Seventh Avenue Line local track along the original subway alignment (north of the current Broadway-Seventh Avenue Line station). This track merge is only used for overnight swaps and special railfan excursion trains. The other three tracks used to curve parallel to this one.
Because of the curvature on the platforms, gap fillers are used to bridge the gap between train and platform. An underpass which used to connect the original side platforms lies between the downtown local track and the two express and the uptown local tracks of the BMT Broadway Line, which runs perpendicular to the shuttle.
IRT Flushing Line platformEdit
Times Square is the terminal for all 3 service. It has one island platform between the two tracks located along West 41st Street. There are stairs, escalators and an elevator along the platform leading to various mezzanines. There are "TS" tile mosaics along the station walls. An office is located at the north end of the platform. An elevator was recently installed and connects with the Downtown IRT 7th Ave platform and then the mezzanine.
The tracks continue south (compass west) beyond the station to an unused storage and layover area. If the Flushing Line were to be extended, as has been proposed, work would have to done to improve this stretch. The closed lower level platform at 42nd Street-Port Authority Bus Terminal on the IND Eighth Avenue Line would also have to be removed.
Broadway Line platformsEdit
Times Square–42nd Street is an express station with four tracks and two island platforms. Connections to the other lines are at the north end of the platforms. In 2005, the Broadway platforms were renovated. The platforms are now fully ADA accessible.
Broadway-Seventh Avenue Line platformsEdit
Times Square–42nd Street is an express station with four tracks and two island platforms. Access to the other lines is provided at the North end and in the center of each platform. An elevator was recently installed and is now in operation but there are very few signs in the station complex that show where they are.
Just to the south of the station, a fifth center track begins, formed by a connection from each express track. This track splits back into the two express tracks just before 34th Street–Penn Station.
This section of line was the site of a 1928 wreck which killed 16 people, the second worst in New York City history.
IND Eighth Avenue LineEdit
It is an express station with four tracks and two island platforms in use. A free transfer to the 42nd Street–Times Square complex, the busiest in the subway system, is available via an underground passageway. The platforms here are extra wide, to accommodate passenger volume. In order to fit the wider platforms, they are offset from north to south; the southbound platform extends between 40th and 42nd Streets, and the northbound platform between 42nd and 44th Street. The mezzanine extends from 40th to 44th Street. Ramps are in place for access to the mezzanine, which is unusual in that there are retail stores within the fare control (including a record store), as well as various New York City Transit offices. The tile color is dark purple with black border and there is no IND-style tile name tablet.
In addition to the platforms described above, there is an abandoned lower platform on the southbound side (one track, underneath the downtown local track on the upper level, and one 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 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 cross over using the mezzanine within the fare control.
It isn't clear why this lower level was built. It could only be used by trains running from Queens via 53rd Street (today's E service). Heading downtown on the track from the lower level of 50th Street, switches allow access to the downtown local, downtown express, or lower level of 42nd Street. Departing 42nd Street on the lower level, trains can become local or express prior to entering 34th Street–Penn Station. However, trains departing 42nd Street on the upper level cannot cross over until reaching the Canal Street station. It is likely, therefore, that the extra platform was built to allow some operational flexibility, by permitting trains from 53rd Street to have access to both downtown local and express. Perhaps there was no other suitable location for a crossover switch, or it was thought an extra platform face could allow increased dwell time or time for switches to line up.
An oft-repeated story offers this as a reason the lower level was built: The Independent subway was being built by the city to compete directly with routes owned by the IRT and BMT companies. The IRT Flushing Line terminates at Times Square. It is said that the bumper blocks of the Flushing line are directly against or very close to the eastern wall of the lower level of the 42nd Street IND station. The construction of the lower level therefore blocked any potential extension of the Flushing 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.
In 1998 and 1999, all but one remaining entrance to the lower level was sealed (the remaining one is under a lift-up trap door at the south end of the southbound platform). A report in the September 1999 Bulletin of the New York Division ERA reports that the lower level track D-3 from north of 42nd Street all the way to 34th Street is now out of service. It will be demolished as part of the planned IRT Flushing Line extension to Eleventh Avenue.
Some relative depths of stations in the Times Square complex are as follows, +/- 10 feet.
This station has been undergoing total reconstruction in stages starting in the mid-1990s. The reconstruction included a new entryway on the south side of 42nd Street between Seventh Avenue and Broadway, featuring a bright neon and colored glass flashing sign with the train route symbols and the word "Subway". The street level fare control at this site features restored original "Times Square" mosaics from the Contract I station walls (now used by the shuttle), and both escalators and stairs lead into the complex. There are also similar renovated entrances on the northwest and southwest corners of Seventh Avenue and 42nd Street, the latter of which has both esclators and stairs, while the former has only stairs.
In 1999, a US$44 million renovation of the complex began. The goal is to reduce congestion and improve rider access, comfort and safety by improving visual lines and increasing pedestrian capacity. The main corridor is being widened 15 feet, and the number of sharp corners reduced; ADA compliance is being introduced with elevators; new escalators are being built; and other corridors are being widened. The mezzanine above the BMT Broadway Line now features a large oval balcony looking over the trackway and has reduced the sense of claustrophobia described by many riders. In 2004, four unisex stall bathrooms were opened on the mezzanine between the IRT and BMT lines; they are staffed and maintained by employees of the Times Square Alliance.
The free transfer between the IRT and BMT was added in 1948. The free passageway, which runs west one block to the 42nd Street–Port Authority Bus Terminal on the IND Eighth Avenue Line, was added a while later. Since 1991, the ceiling of the passageway has featured a series of Burma Shave-style signs that form a poem called the "Commuter's Lament" by Norman B. Colp. The poem goes: "Overslept/So tired/If late/Get fired./Why bother?/Why the pain?/Just go home/Do it again./" with the last panel being a picture of a bed. The panels were part of an art project that was supposed to last only one year, but was never removed.
- IRT 42nd Street Shuttle, 20 feet below street
- IND Eighth Avenue Line (one block west), 30 feet
- IRT Broadway-Seventh Avenue Line, 40 feet
- BMT Broadway Line, 50 feet
- IRT Flushing Line, 60 feet
- Abandoned Stations - proposed Grand Central shuttle platform (includes a track diagram)
- nycsubway.org - IRT Grand Central/Times Square Shuttle: Times Square
- nycsubway.org - IRT Flushing Line: Times Square
- nycsubway.org - IRT West Side Line: Times Square/42nd Street (text used with permission)
- nycsubway.org - BMT Broadway Subway: Times Square/42nd Street
- Review and photos of the Times Square bathrooms at Gothamist (blog)