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New York City Transit Subway FAQ


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New York City Subway F.A.Q.




Common questions and answers about subways in New York City. If anyone wants to chip in some FAQs please post here. Thanks to everyone who contributes info.


Explanations of Terms

Headway - Amount of time between vehicles (trains or buses). An increase in headway is a DECREASE in service. (inverse relationship).

Frequency - Number of vehicles (trains or buses) in a certain period of time, usually an hour. An increase in frequency is an INCREASE in service. (direct relationship).

ABD (abandon) - An interval that has been dropped for a variety of reasons.

Absolute Block - A section of track on which a train is NOT permitted to enter while occupied by another train.

Anti-climber - Installed on both ends of all cars. They are designed to prevent one car from overriding the floor level of the next car in the event of a collision.

Approach signal - a fixed wayside signal, used in conjunction with one or more home signals, to control the approach thereto.

Aspect (signal) - The color or position of a light displayed by a wayside signal.

Automatic Block Signaling - A series of consecutive blocks, the use of which is governed by automatic and interlocking signals.

Automatic Interlocking - an interlocking controlled by circuit logic, so that train movements follow each other in a predetermined sequence.

Automatic Stop Arm - A mechanical are located on the wayside that works in conjunction with a wayside signal. When a wayside signal displays a RED aspect, the associated stop arm will be in the tripping position. If a train passes a RED signal, the stop are will apply the trains emergency brakes.

Automatic Train Supervision - A programmed, computerized system-- currently running on the "A" Division and the "L" line-- providing the following functions: automatic control of "line ups", starting lights, train identification, and real time tracking of all trains.

Bad Order - A defect.

Battery Run - For a long gap in service (3 head ways or longer), it is usually necessary to give a "battery run" to a series of intervals. The number of stations skipped decreases with each interval. NOT the same as a "skip".

Brake Handle - A tools used to manipulate a valve, which controls the Air Brake System of a train.

Car-borne Tripping Device- Trip **** - a mechanical device mounted underneath a train which, when struck by a "stop arm" or any other obstacle, results in an emergency application of the trains brakes.

Central Business District (CBD) - from 59th Street to the Battery.

Double Ended - A train with a train operator at either end to facilitate movement.

Dwell Time - The time a train is in a station with its doors open.

End Door Light - A blue light on the end of a 75' car which, when illuminated, indicates that an end door on that car in unlocked.

Extra Train - A train not listed on a time table. It may be ordered into service by RTO supervisors.

Fixed Signal - A signal of fixed location indicating a condition governing the movement of trains.

Gap Station - Key locations between terminals where trains pass and times are recorded. Also a location where trains can be properly spaced, held for connections, turned or rerouted.

Gap Train - A train held in reserve to replace a passenger train that has been taken out of service.

General Order - A plan placed in effect any time train service needs to be diverted from its regular route for track repairs or other work.

Headway - The time span between trains traveling one the same track in the same direction.

Home Signal - A fixed signal at the entrance to a route or block, governing trains entering that route or block.

Interlocking - An arrangement of signals and switches so interconnected that their movement must succeed each other in proper sequence and for which interlocking rules are in effect. It may be operated manually or automatically.

Interval - The scheduled departure time of a train.

Lay-up - A train being removed from customer service and returned to a storage facility.

Light Train - a train of customer service cars being operated over a route without customers.

Marker Signal - A signal used to define the limits of train movement.

Pilot Valve - A valve contained in the master controller that operates to set a car or train in emergency when the master controller is released and the brake valve is NOT in the full service position.

Rail Control Center (RCC) - The place where train supervision and control for the entire system is accomplished.

Relay - To move cars from a particular track onto a relay track or main line track and return it to an adjacent track.

Road Car Inspector (RCI) - A car inspector located at terminals and other key stations who can help with the repair or removal or disabled trains.

SMEE - Self-lapping mechanical electric equipment. That's for you Subwayguy!

Snow Bird - Revenue cars stored underground due to inclement weather.

Work Motors (Horses) - Cars that are used o provide motor power for moving inoperative or non-motored cars such as flat cars, gondolas, etc.

Redbird - A name given to multiple IRT car classes including the R26, R28, R29, R33ML, R33WF, R36ML, R36WF during the GOH period. They were called that because of the bright red color they were given. Several B-division car classes (R27, R30/R30A) were also given the same color scheme and ere called the BMT Redbirds.

-Actually, the cars that railfans know today as redbirds, were originally called Silver Foxes when they first hit the line in the late 80's. The R29s, which were delivered in Cardinal Red with bright yellow hand holds, were the first New York equipment (SG says the term came from Boston) to be called Redbirds. TA personal called rebuilt 4 motor Low-V work motors Redbirds as well. Those cars were painted red so they could be told apart from other 2 motor Low-V work motors.



Subway Acronyms and Abbreviations

MTA - Metropolitan Transportation Authority

NYCT/NYCTA - New York City Transit/New York City Transit Authority

IRT - Interborough Rapid Transit

BMT - Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit

IND - Independent Subway

SAS - Second Avenue Subway

CBTC - Communication Based Train Control

LIRR - Long Island Rail Road

SIR - Staten Island Railway

MNR - Metro-North Railroad

PATH - Port Authority Trans-Hudson

NJT - New Jersey Transit

WTC - World Trade Center

CI - Coney Island

Willy B - Williamsburg Bridge

TPH - Trains Per Hour

LES - Lower East Side

GO - General Order

T/O - Train Operator

QB - Queens Blvd

ENY - East New York

SMS - Schedule Maintenance System

TSS - Train Service Supervisor

OPTO - One Person Train Operation

ATO - Automatic Train Operation

BIE - Brakes in Emergency

C/A - Collection Agent

CWA - Continuous Welded Rail

OOS - Out of Service

RCI - Road Car Inspector

RTO - Rapid Transit Operations

ROW - Right of Way

SIR - Staten Island Railway

SIRTOA - Staten Island Rapid Transit Operating Authority

SMEE - Straight-air Motor Car Electro-pneumatic Emergency

WD - Wheel Detector

C/R - Conductor


Subway Radio Codes

12-1 - Emergency

12-2 - Fire/Smoke

12-3 - Flood/Serious Water Condition

12-5 - Stalled Train

12-6 - Derailment

12-7 - Request for Assistance

12-8 - Armed Passenger

12-9 - Person Under Train

12-10 - Unauthorized Personnel on Track/Catwalk

12-11 - Serious Vandalism

12-12 - Disorderly Passenger/s



Why are the subway routes colored the way they are today?


The colors on the routes are based on the Manhattan trunk line.


(1)(2)(3) are red because they run on the IRT 7th Avenue Line

(4)(5)(6) are green because they run the IRT Lexington Avenue Line

(B)(D)(F)(M) are orange because they run on the IND 6th Avenue Line

(A)(C)(E) are blue because they run on the IND 8th Avenue Line

(7) is purple for the IRT Flushing Line

(G) is lime green for IND Crosstown Line

(L) is gray for 14th Street/Canarsie Line.

(J)(Z) are brown because they run on the BMT Nassau Street Line.

(S) shuttles are black/dark gray.

(N)(Q)(R) are yellow because they use the BMT Broadway Line



So the IND lines are the (A) to (H) trains, while the BMT is (J) to (Z)?


Sort of. That only refers to the legacy of the service pattern.


However parts of different lines use both former BMT and IND trackage.


For instance:


The (A) is IND for all of Manhattan and most of Brooklyn, as well as the Rockaways, however from the portal past Grant Avenue to Lefferts Blvd. is part of the former BMT Fulton Elevated


The B is IND in Bronx and Manhattan, but once it crosses onto the Manhattan Bridge and points south, it is BMT


The D is IND in Bronx and Manhattan, but once it crosses onto the Manhattan Bridge and points south, it is BMT


The F is IND in Queens and Manhattan, and half of Brooklyn, but once it enters Ditmas Avenue, it is BMT


The M is BMT from Metropolitan Avenue to Essex Street. Once it takes the Chrystie Street Cut, the rest of its run is on the IND.


The (R) is BMT for the entirety of its run except for the IND section which extends from the 11th street connector out of the 60th Street tube, which takes the R onto the IND Queens Blvd. Line

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  • 1 month later...

A couple of acronyms:

H & M = Hudson And Manhattan Railroad (Predecessor to PATH)

Lex = Lexington (Avenue)

MaBSTOA = Manhattan And Bronx Surface Transportation Operating Authority

TA = Transit Authority (New York City Transit Authority)


Shoe: A metal contact block connected to the subway car which makes contact with the third rail.


Subway Routes Also Have Names:



West Side:

Broadway-Seventh Avenue (1) Local (2)(3) Express


East Side:

Lexington Avenue (4)(5) Express (6) Local


Flushing (Corona) Line (7) Local <7> Express


Forty-Second Street Shuttle (S)



Pelham Line (6) Local <6> Express



Broadway (N) Local (Q) Express (R) Local


Fourteenth Street-Canarsie Line (L)


Nassau Street (Centre Street) (J) Express (Z) Express



Archer Avenue (E)(J)(Z)

Astoria (N)

Brighton B Express Q Local

Broadway (Brooklyn) J Express M Local Z Express

Fourth Avenue (Brooklyn) D Express N Express R Local

Franklin Avenue Shuttle S

Jamaica J Z

Myrtle Avenue M

Sea Beach N

West End D



Sixth Avenue (:P Express (D) Express (F) Local (M) Local


Eighth Avenue (A) Express (C) Local (E) Local (S) Rockaway Park Shuttle


Brooklyn-Queens Crosstown (G) Local



Concourse B Local D Express

Culver F

Fulton Street A Express C Local

Queens Boulevard E Express F Express M Local R Local

Rockaway Park Shuttle S

Washington Heights A Express C Local

53d Street B D E M

63d Street F

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...

Subway Yard Homes:




East 180th Street- Home of the (5)

239th Street Yard- Home of the (2)

240th Street Yard- Home of the (1)

Corona Yard- Home of the (7)<7>

Jerome/Mosholu Yard- Home of the (4)(S)- 42nd Street

Livonia Yard- Home of the (3)

Westchester Yard- Home of the (6)<6>




207th Street Yard- Home of the (C)

Concourse Yard- Home of the (D)

Coney Island Yard- Home of the (:)(N)(Q)(S)- Franklin Avenue

East New York Yard- Home of the (J)(L)(M)(Z)

Jamaica Yard- Home of the (E)(F)(G)(R)

Pitkin Yard- Home of the (A)(S)- Rockaway Park

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