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Via Garibaldi 8

Why weren't more subways built underground?

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I notice that just about all of the subways in Manhattan were built underground, but in the outerboroughs they're mainly above ground? Is it solely because of the foundation or was it cheaper to have the subways above ground or what?

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Manhattan had EL's back in the day but they tore them down...

 

The 3rd Ave one would have been useful today, would have been no need to build the SAS! :D

 

The money that was wasted on that SAS could have been used to expend the subway in the outer boroughs somehow.

Edited by trainfan22

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There is no such thing as wasting money on building the SAS. It is a badly needed line on the east side of Manhattan which is only covered by the Lexington Avenue IRT and it's bursting at the seams.

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So I guess my question is did they at some point think that building elevated lines were less costly or was it also a geographic issue as well?  I know some areas aren't like Manhattan with the bedrock and were built with landfill, etc., which makes building a subway underground pretty much impossible.  It makes me wonder how they would ever build a subway in a place like Co-op City which has been sinking for years...

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It has to do with several factors. First off, location. Manhattan, with a few minor exceptions along the 1 line, was always intended to be subway central. That's why the Ninth and Sixth Avenue els were replaced by the Eighth and Sixth Avenue subway lines respectively and the Second and Third Avenue els were to be replaced by the Lexington and Second Avenue subways. Obviously the latter didn't happen as it was supposed to. In the outer boroughs, it didn't matter as much. In fact, in a few places, the elevated line preceded the neighborhood.

 

That leads into my second point. Most of the elevated lines still in existance are at or near a hundred years old, if not older. There's nothing wrong with that. I'm just saying that it was a different time. Only the IND was interested in building subway lines outside of Manhattan. And they didn't get started until the late '20s and early '30s. The philosophy for the other two was probably something along the lines of "unless it absolutely can't be built as an el, build it as an el." After all, the only subways built were the 4th Avenue line by the BMT and the Eastern Pkwy & Nostrand Ave lines by the IRT.

 

Thirdly, money was and still is a huge factor concerning subways vs elevated lines. The IND had the intention of replacing more els than they actually got around to doing, like part of the Jamaica elevated in Brooklyn. Of course, the Depression hit, then WWII. Subway ridership dropped afterwards as more people used cars to travel, so investments in new construction weren't really coming forward. Then there was the financial crisis of the '70s which hampered new construction, like the bigger plans in the '68 Plan for Action (and the subway system in general). That pretty much brings us to today and unfortunately, we're lucky if we see a fully build Second Avenue line before we all hit the dust.

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It has to do with several factors. First off, location. Manhattan, with a few minor exceptions along the 1 line, was always intended to be subway central. That's why the Ninth and Sixth Avenue els were replaced by the Eighth and Sixth Avenue subway lines respectively and the Second and Third Avenue els were to be replaced by the Lexington and Second Avenue subways. Obviously the latter didn't happen as it was supposed to. In the outer boroughs, it didn't matter as much. In fact, in a few places, the elevated line preceded the neighborhood.

 

That leads into my second point. Most of the elevated lines still in existance are at or near a hundred years old, if not older. There's nothing wrong with that. I'm just saying that it was a different time. Only the IND was interested in building subway lines outside of Manhattan. And they didn't get started until the late '20s and early '30s. The philosophy for the other two was probably something along the lines of "unless it absolutely can't be built as an el, build it as an el." After all, the only subways built were the 4th Avenue line by the BMT and the Eastern Pkwy & Nostrand Ave lines by the IRT.

 

Thirdly, money was and still is a huge factor concerning subways vs elevated lines. The IND had the intention of replacing more els than they actually got around to doing, like part of the Jamaica elevated in Brooklyn. Of course, the Depression hit, then WWII. Subway ridership dropped afterwards as more people used cars to travel, so investments in new construction weren't really coming forward. Then there was the financial crisis of the '70s which hampered new construction, like the bigger plans in the '68 Plan for Action (and the subway system in general). That pretty much brings us to today and unfortunately, we're lucky if we see a fully build Second Avenue line before we all hit the dust.

lol... Interesting...  So you're saying that building elevated lines are more cheaper than underground subways...

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lol... Interesting...  So you're saying that building elevated lines are more cheaper than underground subways...

That has always been discussed in the past, time and time again. Digging can count a HUGE chunk of capital, I mean.... look at the Capital Construction projects: the 7 Line Extension, SAS and the East Side Access.

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That has always been discussed in the past, time and time again. Digging can count a HUGE chunk of capital, I mean.... look at the Capital Construction projects: the 7 Line Extension, SAS and the East Side Access.

Yes, but one would think that with new technologies, those costs could be decreased in some fashion....

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Elevated lines are cheaper than subways, and they don't take as long to build. For example in Honolulu, Hawaii when they were debating about building a mass transit system back in 2009 they picked an elevated line over a subway line for several reasons.

 

A) It wouldn't take as long to build. Construction started in 2011 and it would be done in 2019. It will also be 20 miles long so it will be significant. Meanwhile the Second Avenue Subway is only about 8 miles long, and it will probably not be done until the 2040's.

 

B) It's cost affective. The Honolulu Elevated rail project is only going to cost about $5 billion dollars. The Second Avenue Subway is going to end up costing more than $17 billion dollars.

 

The amount of money that is being used to construct the Second Avenue Subway can be used to build nearly 80 miles of elevated subway around New York City. By choosing to build a subway instead of an elevated line we just cost ourselves 10 times in savings while spending more money and time. It's ironic and sad at the same time.

Edited by Roadcruiser1

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Manhattan, with a few minor exceptions along the 1 line, was always intended to be subway central.

Nailed it....

 

I wonder how our subway system would be structured if manhattan was physically situated in the center of the other 4 boroughs..... I think it would be more hub & spoke like, to be perfectly honest.....

 

....So you're saying that building elevated lines are more cheaper than underground subways...

Without hesitation & doubt....... Absolutely it is.

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There is no such thing as wasting money on building the SAS. It is a badly needed line on the east side of Manhattan which is only covered by the Lexington Avenue IRT and it's bursting at the seams.

 

When it's the most expensive subway project in recorded history, beating out places that are built on top of catacombs, earthquake zones, and canals, while tunneling under a single broad avenue, then yes, it's a waste of money. (Higher property values are not an excuse, because Tokyo builds lines for much less and has insanely high property costs.)

 

Keep in mind that most of the lines were built through sparsely developed towns and farmland, so there was no real reason to have a subway built under what was already there.

 

0109queens4.jpg

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To add to Bobtehpanda's post there are/were few true subways built in NYC pre-IND days. The IRT subway was built for Manhattan. The BMT Broadway subway was built for Manhattan.The BMT subway connected to lines that were street running or open cuts before they were elevated in Brooklyn or Queens. The IRT subway connected to elevated lines in the Bronx. If you look at the "subway" sections of the IRT in the Bronx or the BMT"subway" in Brooklyn I'd say that they were built that way (depressed) in what were considered the central business districts or municipal areas of those outer boroughs. Certainly "downtown" Brooklyn and"downtown" Bronx had extensive transit alternatives before the subways were built anyway. I may be forgetting a line but IIRC only the IRT Brooklyn extension in Brooklyn and the BMT Canarsie line were the only long "subway" lines built in the outer boroughs by the private lines. It was certainly cheaper to build an elevated line or connect a subway to one rather than go through the hassle and expense of blasting and cut and cover construction. Even the construction of the IND line in Manhattan was hard because of the els and streetcar lines above it. If it wasn't because of  City Hall politics I doubt if the IND would have been built the way it was. Carry on.

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Here is a map that will explain it best. In the 1930's when the NYC Subway was much bigger much of the lines that existed were elevated. The thin black lines are where they are.

 

http://images.nycsubway.org/maps/system_1939.jpg

system_1939.jpg

 

A map made by KGTeleport shows them more in detail.

 

http://img63.imageshack.us/img63/6026/nycels.png

nycels.png

Edited by Roadcruiser1

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There is no such thing as wasting money on building the SAS. It is a badly needed line on the east side of Manhattan which is only covered by the Lexington Avenue IRT and it's bursting at the seams.

Sigh, of course its needed, as the 3rd Ave EL is not around anymore, I said IF the 3rd Ave EL was still around the SAS wouldn't need to be built as the 3rd Ave EL would already be there to provide service, it would have been only an block difference, they could have use that money to expand service in Queens or the parts of BK that lack subway service.

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Basically, in the beginning, there were streetcars running down the streets of Manhattan. The streets eventually became overcrowded, and companies started building elevated lines above the traffic. Eventually, companies in Brooklyn got the idea to build their own elevated lines like the Fulton Street, Myrtle Avenue, and Lexington Avenue (in Brooklyn) lines and send them into Manhattan (but they only went over the Brooklyn Bridge to City Hall at first).

 

People in Manhattan complained that the els were noisy, and made the streets feel crowded, so eventually, a guy named Belmont (I think it was Arthur Belmont) built the IRT in the early 1900s (it opened on 10/27/1904). It started at the City Hall loop, went up the present-day Lexington Avenue Line, across the 42nd Street Shuttle tracks, and up Broadway to 145th Street. The mayor floored the train when they had the opening ceremony, and made it from end-to-end in 15 minutes (Obviously, when the service was running normally and making stops, it took longer).

 

So the system expanded bit by bit, and the BRT (Brooklyn Rapid Transit Corporation, later the BMT) decided it wanted in on the action. So around 1910 or so (I forget the exact date), they made a deal with the IRT called the Dual Contracts, which resulted in lines being built such as the IRT Eastern Parkway Line, IRT 7th Avenue Line (south of 34th), IRT Jerome Avenue Line, BMT Broadway Line (I think), IRT Flushing Line, and BMT Astoria Line (the Astoria/Flushing Lines were a joint operation using IRT-standard cars)

 

John Hylan was fired from his position as a motorman (for studying while driving a train), so when he became mayor, he wanted to bankrupt the BMT, and so he designed new lines that would compete with the BMT/IRT lines. The 6th/8th Avenue subway lines competed with the 6th/9th Avenue Elevateds. The IND Concourse Line competed with the IRT Jerome Avenue Line. The IND Fulton Street Line competed with the BMT Fulton Street Elevated, and so on. Only a few lines, like the Queens Blvd Line really expanded into new areas.

 

What's interesting about the 2nd/3rd Avenue Els is that the Second Avenue El was built stronger, and was further from the Lex, but was knocked down first, and sold for scrap (that ended up being used against us by the Japanese in WWII). The 3rd Avenue El was knocked down in Manhattan in 1955, and of course, in The Bronx in 1973.

 

Obviously, subways are more expensive to construct than elevated lines, so it makes sense to construct them in areas where you'll get a lot of ridership (which is why (1) is the only elevated line in Manhattan, and only portions of it at that). I mean, geographic issues aside, it wouldn't make much sense to put a subway out in Far Rockaway or the NE Bronx. Aside from that, they also have an impact on real estate values. I'm sure Hylan had the backing of real estate agents when he built those subway lines, because they knew the elevateds would be knocked down, removing urban blight from their neighborhood. In the outer boroughs, it didn't matter as much because they didn't intend to attract any high-end clients or anything. (Imagine a businessman working with elevated trains running by every couple of minutes)

 

As a lot of you know, 125th Street on the (1) is elevated, and that's due to the valley. The engineers didn't see the point in tunneling down at an angle, just to tunnel back up again, so they just put it on a viaduct for that one stop.

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Yes, but one would think that with new technologies, those costs could be decreased in some fashion....

How do you think they get the new technology? One would also think that the purchase of the equipment maybe adding to the bill in every fashion.

Edited by Metro CSW

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Yes, but one would think that with new technologies, those costs could be decreased in some fashion....

 

The cost of digging, sure, could be lowered (adjusted for inflation) if everything were done the same manner that, say, the original IND constructed their subways. 

 

But cut and cover isn't going to cut it. Safety regulations increase cost somewhat. Property acquisition costs have skyrocketed. Everything has to be deep bore - which was always more expensive. 

 

SAS is overbudget, but there is honestly no such thing as too much money spent on a subway line: It will move the city for centuries, shape the development of a whole new area. It's value is priceless, end of story. Sure, they need to get that contract wrangled under control, not arguing that, but we can't throw our hands up and say "this is too expensive lets not do this anymore" .

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How do you think they get the new technology? One would also think that the purchase of the equipment maybe adding to the bill in every fashion.

 

 

The cost of digging, sure, could be lowered (adjusted for inflation) if everything were done the same manner that, say, the original IND constructed their subways. 

 

But cut and cover isn't going to cut it. Safety regulations increase cost somewhat. Property acquisition costs have skyrocketed. Everything has to be deep bore - which was always more expensive. 

 

SAS is overbudget, but there is honestly no such thing as too much money spent on a subway line: It will move the city for centuries, shape the development of a whole new area. It's value is priceless, end of story. Sure, they need to get that contract wrangled under control, not arguing that, but we can't throw our hands up and say "this is too expensive lets not do this anymore" .

I didn't argue about cost or whether or not having underground subways are good or not. I just wanted to understand historically how subways were built here.  The cost factor and all of that is entire different subject and I'd prefer that it stay OUT of this thread.  That and any other crazy foamer ideas about what should be built where.  This is about how we arrived at the current situation.

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In response to the original post, the elevateds actually came first - trains were only put underground once the aboveground structures couldn't expand (IND/BMT Manhattan trunk lines). The IRT and BMT had no reason to build additional subway lines unless it was absolutely necessary - the IRT and BMT had near-monopolies on public transit in their respective areas, and from a business perspective congestion was actually good for business.

 

The IND was actually built mostly underground because it didn't expand into new areas like the other subways did - people were against any sort of new elevated construction, period. This ingrained opposition resurfaced when there were talks to extend the (N) to LaGuardia, and more recently, when they were building AirTrain JFK.

 

In fact, most of the IND lines, with the exception of Queens Blvd and part of the Crosstown Line, were designed to put IRT and BMT-run els out of business. The Eighth Av Line drove the Eighth and Ninth Avenue Lines out of business. The Sixth Avenue Line drove the Sixth Avenue El out of business. The Crosstown line swung towards Downtown Brooklyn instead of connecting to the Franklin Av Shuttle as originally planned, to compete with the Myrtle Av Line. The Fulton Av Line shut down the Fulton Elevated. The Grand Concourse LIne caused the closure of the Third Ave El, and also parallels the Jerome Av Line closely, and not without reason.

 

More IND subways were planned as part of the Second System, with a six-track line on Second Av replacing the Second and Third Av Els, and a giant behemoth of a train line closely paralleling the Jamaica Line to Myrtle Avenue. These never occurred due to the onset of the Great Depression (back then federal financing for subways didn't exist - that started under Jimmy Carter), but the Third Av El was torn down anyways, leading to today's Lexington Avenue mess.

 

Over the decades, after reunification, there were various attempts to restart construction on at least the Second Avenue Subway, but cost was again a concern (no federal funding, highway building competing for funds, and inflation caused by the Korean War). The only major subway project started was the Chrystie Street Connection, which is, indeed, quite important today.

 

In 1968, the newly-formed MTA released its Program for Action, which, among other things, had plans for subway expansions in Queens, Manhattan, and Brooklyn, mostly designed to relieve capacity on overcrowded bus routes and reduced commute times. Small segments of the Second Avenue Subway were started, and the 63rd St Line and Archer Av Line were partially completed, but that was about it.

 

Basically, the main reason has been, and will always be, the cost.

Edited by bobtehpanda
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You see it would be easier to expand and build new subway systems around the country if we can just get people used to living around elevated lines. Vancouver did it with no problem, Dubai did it with no problem, Guangzhou built their Guangzhou-Zhuhai Railway Line as an elevated line with no problem. How come it presents a problem in the United States?

 

To me it seems like all this opposition to elevated lines and subways are coming from Big Oil and Big Auto. There is no point to this opposition. They only back up their lies by showing how great it is to build parks on abandoned railroad ROW that could still be used for new rail lines, tear up railroads whenever they can, calling for bus rapid transit when light rail is a viable option, and causing NIMBYism on as much rail projects as they can and it isn't just on elevated railways.

 

Big Oil and Big Auto need to be stopped or else when oil runs out we will have no alternative.

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You see it would be easier to expand and build new subway systems around the country if we can just get people used to living around elevated lines. Vancouver did it with no problem, Dubai did it with no problem, Guangzhou built their Guangzhou-Zhuhai Railway Line as an elevated line with no problem. How come it presents a problem in the United States?

 

To me it seems like all this opposition to elevated lines and subways are coming from Big Oil and Big Auto. There is no point to this opposition. They only back up their lies by showing how great it is to build parks on abandoned railroad ROW that could still be used for new rail lines, tear up railroads whenever they can, calling for bus rapid transit when light rail is a viable option, and causing NIMBYism on as much rail projects as they can and it isn't just on elevated railways.

 

Big Oil and Big Auto need to be stopped or else when oil runs out we will have no alternative.

 

Els don't work in this city anymore. All the places you mention have wide rights of way or use authoritarian powers to establish new elevated lines. In New York, there's simply no space - most places nowadays build elevated rail lines in at least 100-110 feet-wide rows - approximately eight road lanes and two sidewalks, and maybe a median. There aren't many local roads with this amount of space, and those that do usually have a subway line under or over it already. Routing els through highways is neither feasible or advisable, since most highways in the city lack medians or shoulders, and many of them have clearance issues and poor connectivity to the surrounding pedestrian network.

 

There's also the fact that, I don't know, maybe people don't want to live next to an elevated rail line? Els make crappy neighbors - most residents of underserved areas, myself included, would be very angry if the city decided to route an elevated rail line right by our houses. It has nothing to do with Big Oil or Big Auto - keep your conspiracy theories to yourself.

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In fact, most of the IND lines, with the exception of Queens Blvd and part of the Crosstown Line, were designed to put IRT and BMT-run els out of business. The Eighth Av Line drove the Eighth and Ninth Avenue Lines out of business.

 

Little side point: There was no 8th Avenue El in Manhattan. There were els over 2nd, 3rd, 6th, and 9th Avenues.

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