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42nd Street/Times Square Mega- Complex

This complex is the grandest of the entire NYCT system as it is the system's largest in passenger volume and size.  It lies in the heart of NYC's largest playground, Times Square and it has a real maze of platforms, passageways, ramps and staircases. More importantly; part of this complex has the original 1904 IRT station.  If it was not for the NY Times purchasing a site on West 43rd Street between 7th and 8th Avenues, we could have called this complex Longacre Square. The complex is staggering in scope for not only the size and customer usage, but also the numerous lines that pass through this station; 12 subway lines and 1 part time shuttle over 5 different stations and a combined 12 active and abandoned platforms.  There are also 14 fare control areas and over 30 exits.  Currently the entire complex is undergoing the second and most ambitious phase of a massive 3-tiered full scale renovation program. The first phase was done in 1998-2001 and covered the West Side IRT platforms, passageway from 41st to 42nd Streets above the IRT line, all fare control areas along 7th Ave (including a new F/T entrance on the southeast corner of West 42nd Street and 7th Ave), and a portion of the BMT mezzanine area at West 42nd Street.  The first contract was performed by Slattery-Skanska.  The second phase that is currently ongoing covers the BMT Broadway and IRT Flushing line platforms, the passageway behind the BMT 42nd Street side to West 41st Street on the IRT side, and the associated maze of winding ramps, and a new transfer passageway from the BMT Broadway directly downstairs to the IRT Flushing Line.  This contract is currently being done by the jointly operated companies of Schiavone/Granite-Halmar.  A separate contract covered the IND 8th Ave platforms and was recently completed by Judleau Construction.  The 3rd and final phase will cover the 42nd Street shuttle platform . 

Let's start with the lines, then fare control areas and finally the extras.  We will start at the IRT shuttle platforms since they are the original 1904 platforms, then work our way around this complex:

IRT 42nd Street shuttle "Times Square" (On West 42nd Street at Broadway, in an angle) Opened 10/27/1904:  Official station name is Times Square.  Although the shuttle has 3 tracks and 3 side platforms, the original 1904 station was a local stop with 4 tracks and 2 side platforms.  Track #1 is on the south side, with Tracks #3 and #4 to the north.  Track #2 was removed during the Dual Contracts expansion in 1915-1920.  When the IRT extension on the West Side opened on 7/1/1918, the shuttle line was cut off to the north and was reduced to the current shuttle between here and Grand Central.  Because the curves at this station, gap fillers are used when a train is in the station, while audio and visual indicators are used when a train has left Grand Central. For example, when a shuttle train departs from Grand Central on Track #3, the LED indicator message will indicate "NEXT TRAIN, TRK #3", while an pre-recorded audio message over the public address system, will announce the train will arrive Times Square on Track #3.  The line's original presence is most evident to the west end of the station, by a pedestrian bridge to Track #4 as the tracks merge with the current IRT west side route.  The tunnel columns show where original tracks curved northward along the current IRT West Side to 145th Street.  The northern end has a ghost booth and now has a HEET entrance while the 1904 Times Square station mural is moved upstairs to the new F/T mezzanine at the S/E corner of West 42nd St and 7th Ave.  The station also has a sealed underpass that was formerly used from Track #1 to Track #4, however the pedestrian bridge to Track #4 from the rest of the station, is the replacement for the closed underpass.  There is also a P/T entrance in front of Track #1 and leads to the S/E corner of Broadway and West 42nd Street.  Another exit built in the 1950's, is now sealed and lay opposite of the P/T entrance away from Track #1.  It has a ghost booth and the former exit led to the N/E corner on 7th Ave and West 42nd Street.  The newest fare control area is on the west side of Broadway, and replaced the old 1904 station entrance; it is HEET access only and now has a ghost booth.  The shuttle's prominence is seen towers the end of the film "King of New York", in a scene where Christopher Walken slowly exits a set of Redbirds from Track #1 of the shuttle platform.

BMT Broadway Line "Times Square-42nd Street" (On Broadway between West 40th and West 42nd Streets) opened 4/14/1918: This station serves the N/R/Q and weekday only W trains; it is an express stop with 4 tracks and 2 island platforms.  The BMT mosaic on the platform walls are "42" and it is expected that the renovation will preserve these mosaics.  The platform extensions are to the south end and beyond the 40th Street staircases, the absence of the BMT tile and mosaics prove this.  A dedicated PT side at West 40th Street and Broadway offers no transfers to the other subway lines in this complex; it has 4 street stairs and 2 stairs to each platform.  At the north end of the station are 2 street stairs to the rest of the complex and an elevator for each side.  The southern stair replaced a long beloved ramp than extended about 120 feet from mezzanine to platform level. Plans included in the renovation are a new ramp on the southbound platform directly to a new mezzanine level, then to the IRT #7 Flushing line level at the eastern end of the platform.  There will be no ramp constructed on the Uptown side.  This improvement allows customers to directly access the #7 line without having to go upstairs and go through a tangle of passageways or through either IRT West Side platform.  On the mezzanine level are a pair of stairs to the rest of the complex, at the top of the stair is where a no-frills restaurant once stood.  It was a well known location for customers who wanted a quick bite or snack in classic New York tradition between transfers and was closed in the late 1980ís.  

IRT West Side IRT "Times Square-42nd Street" (On 7th Ave between West 42nd and West 40th Streets) Opened 7/1/1918:  Some historians and railfans argued that the IRT's West Side extension to the south along 7th Ave, compromised the original 1904 routing, and did nothing more than to duplicate service along the Broadway BMT line since both lines were no more than 3 blocks apart from each other from all IRT stations from Columbus Circle to South Ferry.  That is not the case and the IRT West Side remains a strong route, as well as an alternative to travel from the Bronx to Brooklyn, should the IRT Lexington Ave line experience any problems.  This is an express stop with 4 tracks and 2 island platforms.  The 2001 renovation preserved the "T" mosaics on the platform walls in similar fashion to the preserving of the "Lex" mosaics at the Lexington Ave/60th Street BMT station. There is a P/T mezzanine at the south end that leads to West 40th Street and 7th Ave, it has 2 street stairs. Similar to the BMT 40th Street entrance, it is a dedicated exit and there are no free transfers to other subway lines outside of the IRT 7th Ave line. Facing fare control is the IRT 7th Ave Master Tower which controls all train movements from south of 96th Street, all the way down to Chambers Street. There are 2 elevators being constructed, one from the West 41st Street/7th Ave area to each platform. The elevator on the Downtown side will be a 4 stop elevator that will go down to the lower mezzanine below the IRT 7th Ave line and to the IRT Flushing line platform. The elevators will be located in the center of the platform. There are a total of 5 up staircases on the Uptown platform, and 4 up staircases on the Downtown platform. Each platform also has 2 down staircases each to the IRT Flushing level and passageway to the IND 8th Avenue line. The renovation closed 2 down staircases on each side and widened the other 2 staircases to improve access. The 5th staircase on the Uptown side is an addition during renovation and is located between the West 42nd and West 41st Street mezzanine areas. The platform wide staircases at the West 42nd Street mezzanine area have replicas of Dual Contracts lettering at the top of the staircases "Uptown Trains" and "Downtown Trains", they do not appear to be the original tablets but a very nice job was done on the reproductions.

IRT Flushing Line "Times Square" (West 41st Street between Broadway and 7th Avenues) Opened 3/22/1926: This station is the deepest in the entire complex, it is the southern Terminal of the famous #7 line, (actually the Western terminal, however NYCT only defines terminals as either north or south only.) and is the area where a lot of changes on this platform will take place. Because the number of staircases will change once the renovation is complete, we will not list the number and location of the staircases. However the area is divided into 2 sections, the eastern end has a concourse level mezzanine to additional staircases to the IRT 7th Ave line. The escalator at the eastern end leads to the West 41st Street mezzanine area. Another escalator and staircase are closed due to long term reconstruction of the West 41st Street passageway to the BMT Broadway line and shuttle platforms. The Western end has staircases only to a block long passageway to the IND 8th Ave line; it is easier to use than the other passageways in this complex because this is the only passageway to the IND section. Until the mid 1980ís, there was no free transfer from the IRT and BMT lines (including the shuttle) to the IND 42nd Street station. The mosaic on the platform walls are "TS" for Times Square, at the far western end of the platform is a tunneled shape area, it appears to be a platform extension and has IND style lettering "TIMES (space) SQUARE", along with a partial tunnel extension to the IND 8th Ave line, but it is not physically connected to the lower level. The incompatibilities of subway car and tunnel dimensions prohibit this connection. The IND sure knew this and intentionally built a lower level to the 42nd Street/8th Avenue station that exterminated any hopes of IRT expansion beyond Times Square on the #7 line. However, the MTA Capital Construction, the lead agency overseeing subway and rail expansion projects, is beginning to build an extension on the #7 line, to the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. The original 1926 "Times Square" IRT signs are still hanging over the platform, expect these signs to be removed during the renovation, The tower for this terminal is located on the far western end on the platform, also near the tower location will be a new staircase or escalator to a new area that will lead to a ramp to the Downtown BMT platform. It is also expected that the newly configured area may replace some or the entire maze of the 4 winding ramps that descend down from an exit on West 41st Street and Broadway, down to the lower concourse area. At the lower concourse area is a new staircase to the West 41st Street mezzanine area, while the other end leads to the IND passageway.

As we walk down the block long passageway to the IND station, we pass through a sealed exit only on the left side, at the top of a hill; (may also have been a ghost booth as well) this exit formerly led to the south side on West 41st Street and mid-block between 7th and 8th Avenues. We are walking west towards the IND section, however if we were to walk east towards the Flushing line, we would encounter a poem that is 3 to 4 words on each overhead sign. The title and author of this poem is unknown, but the synopsis is a man wakes up late for work and really doesnít care if he gets fired or not. Life, according to the first person narrative, is no big deal and if he does get canned, he will start the process all over again the next day.

We now enter the massive IND platform areas, along with the longest abandoned platform in the history of the entire NYC elevated and subway system:

IND 8th Ave Line "42nd Street-Port Authority Bus Terminal (Originally 42nd Street from 1932 to 1950, on 8th Ave between West 40th and West 44th Streets) Opened 9/10/1932: This station is home to the IND A/C/E lines and has 2 platforms and 4 tracks, plus 1 double length abandoned platform on the lower level, and below the Downtown side. It is fully ADA accessible and exits can only be used through the Port Authority Bus Terminalís elevators (the bus terminal opened in 1950), there are no elevators at this station. A second renovation contract, recently completed by Judleau Contracting, corrected some of the deficiencies of the first renovation contract in the mid-1980ís, but left the mezzanine area intact. The platforms are not aligned together, the Uptown platform is to the north of the Downtown platform, thus creates a mezzanine that is 4 short blocks long and over 1,200 in length, also permitting crossover and transfers at all staircases except for the southernmost staircase on the Downtown platform. Therefore the Uptown platform stretches from West 42nd to West 44th Streets, while the Downtown platform run underneath West 40th to West 42nd Streets. Each has 8 stairs to the full length mezzanine and a very interesting wheelchair ramp. The ramp descends from the mezzanine to platform is winding fashion at first, then a "wraparound" the ramp at least 3 more times before reaching the platform level. The ramps and reconfiguration of fare control areas were done in the 1980ís contract, name of contractor is unknown. Prior to the first contract, all fare control areas were situated near the staircases, thus preventing any crossovers, except for a crossunder between platforms. This crossunder was situated where both platforms arte aligned together by West 42nd Street. The second renovation replaced the wall tiles with the replica of the purple tile band black borders on the platform walls with a new twist; large white "42" mosaics are inscribed over the tile band. No two 42 mosaics are aligned together, and since they blend in with the white tile, only the presence of these mosaics are on the tile band itself. The mezzanine area has some stores, RTO offices, and an NYPD specialized unit. The abandoned lower level lies underneath the Downtown platform and was only in use from 1959 to 1981, it is 1,200 feet in length and has only one track and side platform. This track is underneath the local track upstairs. There are several sealed staircases and one escalator, the platform was used mostly for Aqueduct Racetrack specials. Since an extra fare was charged for the use of this super express service, a special fare control was installed on platform level to collect the second fare. It is also apparent that a ghost booth may be on this platform to assist in the token sales. The lower level will never reopen, despite track connections from the E platform (only access to this station from the north) level south of 50th Street, through this abandoned station, and back up to either Downtown track on the current 8th Avenue line. From 1932 to 1959, there was no activity at this platform, when Aqueduct Race Track opened in the 1950ís the Racetrack specials were in operation until the late-1960ís. After the racetrack specials were discontinued, the fare control area was removed and some rush hour special E trains used this level. The lower level was permanently closed in 1981,but you can see the lower level in at least two films, a brief scene in the 1969 musical "Sweet Charity", where Shirley McLaine dances down a staircase as an R 1/9 Train pulls in. The second and more famous movie scene is the fight scene between Patrick Swayze and a human monster in "Ghost" (1990)

Fare Control: There are 14 active fare control areas, plus some closed exits and ghost booths. Starting from West 44th Street and 8th Ave, we work our way south and towards the rest of the complex.:

West 44th Street and 8th Ave:  Full Time booth access with 3 street stairs. Best used for Uptown A/C/E trains

West 43rd Street/8th Ave, S/W corner only: HEET access only, 1 street stair

West 42nd Street/8th Ave, N/E corner only: Full time booth access, it is good for A/C/E trains in direction, 1 street stair and renovated entrance.

West 42nd Street/8th Ave, N/W corner only: HEET access only, 1 street stair.

Port Authority Bus Terminal, North Wing (West 41st Street & 8th Ave): Full time booth, with ADA ramp to lower level of the bus terminal. Elevators are available to the main level, as well as one street stair just inside the bus terminal entrance.

Port Authority Bus Terminal, South Wing (West 40th Street & 8th Ave): Full time with 2 booths, 1 Full time with access to PA south wing, and a P/T booth with exits to West 40th Street/8th Ave, one for each corner. The 2 south exits at West 40th Street are closed at night, as well as the P/T booth.

Mid block on north side West 41st Street, between 7th and 8th Aves: Abandoned exit only staircase

West 42nd Street and 7th Ave, N/W and S/W corners: Full time booth, with 2 street stairs, the S/W corner has an up/down escalator, while the N/W corner has enhanced neon sign entrance that blends nicely with the bright lights of Times Square

West 42nd Street and 7th Ave, S/E corner: Newest entrance in this complex, full time with booth at street level, and up/down escalators to shuttle platforms and BMT areas.

West 42nd Street and 7th Ave, N/E corner: Sealed entrance, tiles on wall and design of station entrance suggests it was built as an addition in the 1950ís. Permanently closed when Phase I was in process and leaves behind a ghost booth, now wall sized lighted advertisements cover this entranceway.

West 43rd Street and Broadway, S/W corner: Renovated and shortened entrance, HEET access only and now has ghost booth. The West 43rd Street and Broadway entrance on S/E corner is permanently sealed.

West 42nd Street and Broadway, S/E corner: P/T booth and 1 street stair, the narrow area before fare control makes entering and exiting this station somewhat difficult.

West 41st Street and 7th Ave, S/E corner: F/T booth and 2 street stairs

West 41st Street and 7th Ave, N/W corner: HEET access replaces a P/T booth, now another ghost booth. The S/W exit at the same location is sealed during ongoing renovations, no word if this entrance will reopen or not.

West 40th Street and 7th Ave: Dedicated entrance to IRT 7th Ave line, P/T booth access and 2 street stairs

West 40th Street and Broadway: Dedicated entrance to BMT Broadway Line, P/T booth access and 4 street stairs.

Artwork: There are several pieces of artwork, scattered around the complex. More artwork is anticipated upon completion of Phase II and III projects.

Shuttle Passage near BMT Broadway line and West 42nd/7th Ave SE corner exit: "Times Square Mural" by Roy Lichtenstein, has the 42 mosaic

Passage facing BMT Broadway mezzanine area, near ADA elevators: "New York in Transit" (2001) by Jacob Lawrence, hangs over the passageway and is a glass mosaic mural

Outside West 42nd Street and 7th Ave, S/E corner entrance: Untitled, by artists John Blackford and James Fisher (2003) draw a deep sea diver at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean where he discovers two "reefed" R17 subway cars. A school of fish apparently exits from the car on the right side, the storm door is separated from the car end. Recently, this creative artwork was also plastered inside subway cars as an advertisement for the NYC subway centennial.

West 41st Street and 7th Ave IRT upper mezzanine area: "The Return of Spring" by Jack Beal (2001), is a glass mosaic mural to depict people working or shopping at a fruit stand next to an IRT kiosk entrance to an Uptown platform. The artwork is enhanced by lighting on the mezzanine floor.

8th Ave mezzanine between both PA Bus Terminal wings and next to IRT/BMT passageway: "On a Roll" by Lisa Dinhofer (2003), uses glass mosaics to create different balls of various shapes and colors.

This complex has numerous art installations. We reefer you to the MTA web site for more information.

Contact us at subway-buff@stationreporter.net (paste this address into your e-mail program)


 Last revised 01/31/2011

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