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BMT Canarsie Line

This article is about a rapid transit line. For the former surface trolley line from Williamsburg to Canarsie, see Canarsie Line (surface).

BMT Canarsie Line
Services that use the BMT Canarsie Line through Manhattan have been colored gray since 1979.
Type Rapid transit
System New York City Subway
Termini Eighth Avenue
Rockaway Parkway
Stations 27 (3 demolished)
Daily ridership 566,997 [1]
Opening 1865-1931
Owner City of New York
Operator(s) New York City Transit Authority
Character At-Grade (Wilson Av northbound platform, E. 105th St. and Rockaway Pkwy. stations only)
Underground (West of Broadway Jct.)
No. of tracks 2
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Electrification 600V DC third rail

The Canarsie Line (sometimes referred to as the 14th Street–Canarsie Line) is a rapid transit line of the BMT Division of the New York City Subway system, named after its terminus in the Canarsie neighborhood of Brooklyn. It is served by the L train at all times, which is shown in the color light slate gray on the NYC Subway map and on station signs.

The line is part of the BMT Eastern Division, and is occasionally referred to as the Eastern District Line. This refers to Williamsburg, which was described as Brooklyn's "Eastern District" when the City of Williamsburg was annexed by the former City of Brooklyn. This was the location where the original Brooklyn subway portions of the line were laid out. Only later was the line connected to the tracks leading to Canarsie. Eastern District High School, near the line's Grand Street station, had preserved this toponym until it was closed in 1995, later reopened as Grand Street Educational Campus.

Extent and service

Services that use the Canarsie Line are colored light slate gray. The following services use part or all of the Canarsie Line:

  Time period Section of line
x20px All times Entire line
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The Canarsie Line runs from Eighth Avenue and 14th Street in Manhattan to Rockaway Parkway in Canarsie, Brooklyn. It is double-tracked along its entire length, except for short stretches of layup track in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

The current line is a two-track subway from its Manhattan terminal to Broadway Junction in the East New York section of Brooklyn, with the exception of a short stretch at Wilson Avenue where it is a double-decked structure with the southbound track outdoors directly above the indoor, ground-level northbound track. Although the northbound track appears to be underground, it is in fact outdoors at ground-level for there are no stairs leading from the northbound platform to the station entrance at the dead-end of Wilson Avenue, southeast of Moffat Street. This is due to the line being pressed directly against the New York Connecting Railroad, which is pressed directly against the border of Trinity Cemetery. There are no express tracks on the Canarsie line; thus, all trains run local service throughout their route.

Just before Broadway Junction, the line emerges onto an elevated structure, passing over the BMT Jamaica Line. Between Broadway Junction and Atlantic Avenue are the Canarsie Line's only track connections to the rest of the system, via flyover ramps connecting the Canarsie line to the Jamaica Line and East New York Yard (and, until 1956, the Fulton Street Elevated). The Canarsie Line used to share the structure at Atlantic Avenue with the connection from the Broadway and Fulton Street elevated lines to the Liberty Avenue Elevated (still extant further east as part of the IND Fulton Street Line).

East of Pitkin Avenue, the Canarsie Line enters the two-track elevated structure on which the line was originally grade-separated in 1906, entering Sutter Avenue station. At the next station, Livonia Avenue, the Livonia Avenue Elevated of the IRT New Lots Line passes overhead, and just beyond this point is a single track connection to the Linden Shops, which is now a track and structures facility. Besides the connection at Broadway Junction, this non-electrified yard connection is the only other connection to the rest of the subway system, as it is indirectly a connection to the New Lots Line. B Division-sized equipment cannot access this line, however, because of A Division width restrictions.

File:Livonia Canarsie junction jeh.jpg
Junction with New Lots Line

Beyond the next station, New Lots Avenue, the elevated structure ends, and an incline brings the Canarsie down to the original 1865 surface right-of-way, the second-oldest such right-of-way on the New York City Transit Authority system. The line operates on this ground-level route to the end of the line at Rockaway Parkway.


For the history of the subway service, see L (New York City Subway service)#History.

The history of the Canarsie Line has three distinct phases. It was first a steam railroad, then a BRT elevated line, and was then extended into Manhattan via subway. Since the early 2000s, it has been automated as well.

Steam and elevated era

Before becoming a BRT elevated line in 1906, the Canarsie Line operated as a steam dummy line. It was first owned by the Brooklyn and Rockaway Beach Railroad, chartered December 24, 1863 and opened October 21, 1865, from the Long Island Rail Road in East New York to a pier at Canarsie Landing, very close to the current junction of Rockaway Parkway and the Belt Parkway, where ferries continued on to Rockaway. The line was single-tracked until 1894.[2]

The Canarsie Railroad was chartered on May 8, 1906 as a BRT</pre> subsidiary (leased to the Brooklyn Union Elevated Railroad) and acquired the line on May 31, 1906. The line was partly elevated, and electrified with third rail on the elevated part and trolley wire on the rest, south of New Lots Avenue. The Long Island Rail Road, which had used the line north of New Lots to access their Bay Ridge Branch, built a new line just to the west. The East New York terminus was extended several blocks along a section of line formerly used for "East New York Loop" service to the Fulton Street Elevated and the Broadway Elevated (now the BMT Jamaica Line), at a point known as Manhattan Junction (now Broadway Junction).

Service, first run on July 28, 1906, ran from Canarsie Landing to the Broadway Ferry at the foot of Broadway in Williamsburg, at the East River. This route still exists as the BMT Jamaica Line, except for the last piece to the East River, where the Jamaica Line runs over the Williamsburg Bridge. The route was later extended over the bridge and along the BMT Nassau Street Line to Canal Street and then Chambers Street.

Dual Contracts rebuilding

The Dual Contracts subway expansion scheme around World War I saw the rebuilding of the complex train junction at Manhattan Junction into an even more complex flyover junction now known as Broadway Junction. The expansion extended south to the point at which the Canarsie and Fulton Street Elevateds diverged, including a six-track, three-platform station at Atlantic Avenue. The complex was rebuilt under traffic and opened in stages, reaching completion in 1919.

At the same time, the BRT moved to eliminate remaining operations that required elevated trains to operate under overhead wire. In most cases this meant using third rail on fully grade-separated lines. When third rail was extended on the Canarsie Line it was decided to extend this power mode only as far as the important station at Rockaway Parkway and Glenwood Road. Beyond that point, frequent grade crossings made third rail impractical. This portion of the line was converted to the Canarsie Shuttle using elevated cars in 1917 and converted to trolley cars in 1920.

One grade crossing was retained at East 105th Street despite the third rail, and was the last public rapid transit grade crossing in New York City. The crossing was removed in 1973.[3]

14th Street–Eastern Line built

Booth and Flinn was awarded the contract to construct the line on January 13, 1916.[4] Clifford Milburn Holland served as the engineer-in-charge during the construction.[5]

On June 30, 1924, at what is now the other end of the line, a subway line initially known as the 14th Street-Eastern District Line, usually shortened to 14th Street–Eastern Line, was opened running beneath 14th Street in Manhattan, from Sixth Avenue under the East River and through Williamsburg to Montrose Avenue and Bushwick Avenues.[6][7] A temporary ramp was built up to the street, onto streetcar tracks and around the corner to the Long Island Rail Road's Bushwick Yard to get trains onto the line, which had no other connections to subway lines.

Four years later, on July 14, 1928, the line was extended further east beneath Wyckoff Avenue and then south paralleling the New York Connecting Railroad to a new station at Broadway Junction, above the existing station on the Broadway Elevated (Jamaica Line). At this time, it was connected to the Canarsie Line.

At noon on May 30, 1931, a two-block extension to Eighth Avenue in Manhattan was opened, allowing passengers to transfer to the new IND Eighth Avenue Line. This station was built to look like the other Independent Subway stations. At this point, the Canarsie Line's route took the shape that it still has to this day.

After World War II, the Canarsie Shuttle trolley line to Canarsie Landing was replaced by the B42 bus; the right-of-way was abandoned. Parts were built over, and other parts can still be seen as broad alleys or narrow parking lots. This right-of-way ran between East 95th and East 96th Streets as far south as Seaview Avenue.


The Canarsie Line is one of only two New York City non-shuttle subway lines that hosts only a single service and does not share operating trackage with any other line or service; the other is the IRT Flushing Line, carrying the 7 <7> trains. Because of this, it was chosen as the location of the first fully automated line of the New York City Subway. In spring 2005, the current automation-enabled R143-class equipment was expected to run under full automation with a single operator (known as OPTO, or One Person Train Operation) acting as an attendant to monitor the train's operation and take over manual operation if necessary. However, technical mishaps including the test train rolling away by itself delayed the start of Automatic train operation, also known as Communication Based Train Control (CBTC).

The project caused numerous service disruptions on the L service on nights and weekends. Frequently, service was shut down in separate sections of the line, usually from Eighth Avenue to Lorimer Street, Lorimer to Broadway Junction, or Broadway Junction to Rockaway Parkway. During this time, shuttle buses served suspended areas. This project also required the temporary closing of some stations, either in one direction or both directions, and for the line to be operated in two sections.

In June 2005, the Canarsie Line ran with a single operator on weekends. However, as this was a violation of contract, the MTA was ordered to resume two-person operation at all times.

Currently, the system is operational as of February 24, 2009 with the R143s assigned to the line and despite the fact that the R160As on the line were not CBTC-compatible until August 2010.[8] The L service fully began automatic train operation in early 2012.[9]

Service patterns

For more information, see BMT 13, BMT 14, and BMT 16.

Service patterns over this line have varied little through the years; initially, trains ran over the Broadway Elevated from the ferry in Williamsburg (later extended into Manhattan), through Manhattan Junction and on to Canarsie. Then when the subway opened, two services ran from Canarsie to Manhattan: the original route on the Broadway Elevated and the route to 14th Street as the 14th Street-Canarsie Line.

In 1936, due to the institution of new lightweight subway-elevated equipment, a new rush-hour-only service was inaugurated from Eighth Avenue and 14th Street to Lefferts Boulevard at the east end of the Liberty Avenue Elevated (the continuation of the Fulton Street Elevated). The Eighth Avenue–Canarsie route was given BMT marker 16, and trains running to Lefferts Boulevard usually were marked as 13. When the Fulton Street El was torn down, some rush-hour Broadway trains ran through from the Broadway Elevated (Jamaica Line) to Canarsie via the flyover at Broadway Junction; these were marked as 14. In 1967, when all BMT services were given letters, the 16, which used the full Canarsie Line, was designated as LL. The rush-hour Broadway service (14) was designated JJ, and ran until 1968 when it was replaced by the KK which stayed on the Jamaica Line instead of switching to the Canarsie Line at Broadway Junction. The flyover connection has been used only sporadically for revenue service since then.

Chaining information

  • The entire line is chained BMT Q. This has no relation whatever to lettered train service that operates on the line, which is designated L.
  • The tracks on the line are Q1 towards Canarsie and Q2 towards Manhattan.
  • Chaining zero is BMT Q, now located at the compass western end of the line at Eighth Avenue and 14th Street in Manhattan. The entire Canarsie Line is coextensive with chaining letter BMT Q and this chaining letter is used for no other line.
  • Railroad north on this line is towards Manhattan, and corresponds roughly to a northwesterly to westerly compass direction.

Chaining change

Prior to 2004, the chaining on the Canarsie Line reflected its historic origin. The original elevated right-of-way from the point where it split with the old Fulton Street Elevated at Pitkin and Van Sinderen Avenues in 1906 was designated as BRT chaining line P, and chaining zero for that section was at the same location.

The portion of the 14th Street–Canarsie Line built or rehabilitated under the Dual Contracts and opened in 1924 and 1928 was designated BMT Q beginning at Sixth Avenue and 14th Street in Manhattan and extending to the beginning of BMT P chaining at Pitkin Avenue. Chaining zero for the BMT Q chaining line was also at Sixth Avenue.

When the line was extended to Eighth Avenue in 1931, chaining zero for the BMT Q chaining line was not moved. Rather than change all the signal designations and chaining stations on the line, the new section was extended west from the same zero and designated chaining line BMT QW.

When the installation of automated train operation required the complete replacement of the signal system, the MTA decided to make the entire line BMT Q and move chaining zero to the current compass western end of the line. Therefore the chaining station of every location on the line had to be changed, a situation rarely seen since the Dual Contracts changes on the old BRT</pre> circa 1920.

Station listing

Note: Every station has only two tracks, and is served only by the L train (not counting free transfers to other services).

Station service legend

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Stops all times Stops all times

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Stops all times except late nights Stops all times except late nights

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Stops weekdays only Stops weekdays only

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Stops rush hours in peak direction only Stops rush hours in the peak direction only

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Time period details
Handicapped/disabled access Station Opened Transfers and notes
Chelsea Handicapped/disabled access Eighth Avenue May 30, 1931 A all times C all except late nights E all times (IND Eighth Avenue Line)
Sixth Avenue June 30, 1924 1 all times 2 all times 3 all except late nights (IRT Broadway – Seventh Avenue Line at 14th Street)
F all times M weekdays until 11:00 p.m. (IND Sixth Avenue Line at 14th Street)
Connection to PATH at 14th Street
Union Square Handicapped/disabled access Union Square June 30, 1924 N all times Q all times R all except late nights (BMT Broadway Line)
4 all times 5 all except late nights 6 all times <6>weekdays until 8:45 p.m., peak direction (IRT Lexington Avenue Line)
East Village Third Avenue June 30, 1924
First Avenue June 30, 1924 Northbound M15 Select Bus Service
14th Street Tunnel under the East River
Williamsburg Bedford Avenue June 30, 1924
Lorimer Street June 30, 1924 G all times (IND Crosstown Line at Metropolitan Avenue)
Graham Avenue June 30, 1924
Grand Street June 30, 1924
East Williamsburg Montrose Avenue June 30, 1924
Morgan Avenue July 14, 1928
Bushwick Jefferson Street July 14, 1928
DeKalb Avenue July 14, 1928
Handicapped/disabled access Myrtle–Wyckoff Avenues July 14, 1928 M all times (BMT Myrtle Avenue Line)
originally Myrtle Avenue
Halsey Street July 14, 1928
Bushwick Wilson Avenue July 14, 1928
Bushwick Avenue – Aberdeen Street July 14, 1928
East New York Broadway Junction July 14, 1928 J all times Z rush hours, peak direction (BMT Jamaica Line)
A all times C all except late nights (IND Fulton Street Line)
connecting tracks to BMT Jamaica Line (no regular service)
connecting track to East New York Yard
Atlantic Avenue July 28, 1906 Connection to LIRR at East New York
Sutter Avenue July 28, 1906
Livonia Avenue July 28, 1906
connecting track to Linden Shops (No third rail; diesel work trains only)
New Lots Avenue July 28, 1906 originally New Lots Road
B15 bus to JFK Airport
Canarsie East 105th Street 19th century original surface station, modified to high-level island platform c.1906
connecting tracks to Canarsie Yard
Handicapped/disabled access Canarsie – Rockaway Parkway 19th century original surface station, extensively rebuilt as terminal station
Flatlands Avenue line abandoned; station demolished
Avenue L line abandoned; station demolished
Canarsie Pier line abandoned; station demolished


  1. ^ MTA. "Average weekday subway ridership". Retrieved 2 April 2014. 
  2. ^ "". 
  3. ^ "Last Grade Crossing on Subway System Is Closed". New York Times. August 6, 1973. p. 28. Retrieved January 2, 2007. 
  4. ^ "East River Tunnel Contract Awarded". The New York Times. January 14, 1916. Retrieved February 28, 2010. 
  5. ^ Aronson, Michael (June 15, 1999). "The Digger Clifford Holland". Daily News (New York). Retrieved July 2, 2010. 
  6. ^ "Subway Tunnel Through". The New York Times. August 8, 1919. Retrieved February 28, 2010. 
  7. ^ "Celebrate Opening of Subway Link". The New York Times. July 1, 1924. Retrieved February 13, 2010. 
  8. ^ NY1 News (February 21, 2009). "L Subway service to be run by computers". Retrieved January 17, 2010. 
  9. ^ "MTA L Train Response to Squadron" (PDF) (Press release). Metropolitan Transportation Authority (New York). September 6, 2011. Retrieved October 29, 2011. 

Further reading

  • Celebrate Opening of Subway Link, New York Times July 1, 1924 page 23
  • Celebrate Opening of New B.M.T. Line, New York Times July 15, 1928 page 13
  • Mayor Drives Train in New Subway Link, New York Times May 30, 1931 page 11

External links