The 42nd Street Shuttle is a New York City Subway shuttle train service that operates in Manhattan. The shuttle is sometimes referred to as the Grand Central/Times Square Shuttle, since these are the only two stations it serves. The shuttle runs at all times except late nights, connecting Times Square to Grand Central under 42nd Street. With two stations, it is the shortest regular service in the system by number of stops, running about 2,402 feet (732 m) in 90 seconds.
The 42nd Street Shuttle was constructed and operated by the Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT), and is currently part of the A Division of New York City Transit. The tracks that it uses opened in 1904 as part of the first subway in the city. The original subway line ran north from City Hall on what is now the IRT Lexington Avenue Line to 42nd Street, from where it turned west to run across 42nd Street. Then, at Broadway, the line turned north to 145th Street on what is now the IRT Broadway–Seventh Avenue Line. This operation continued until 1918, when construction on the Lexington Avenue Line north of 42nd Street, and on the Broadway–Seventh Avenue Line south of 42nd Street was completed. One trunk would run via the new Lexington Avenue Line down Park Avenue, and the other trunk would run via the new Seventh Avenue Line up Broadway. The section in the middle, via 42nd Street, was converted into shuttle operation.
In order to distinguish it from the other shuttles in the system, NYCT Rapid Transit Operations internally refers to it as the 0 (zero).[a] Its route bullet is colored dark gray on route signs, station signs, and rolling stock with the letter "S" on the official subway map.
The subway through which the shuttle runs was opened on October 27, 1904 by the Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT), the first day of subway service in Manhattan. The current shuttle line was part of the first IRT subway line, which ran north to 145th Street via Broadway and south to City Hall via Park Avenue and Lafayette Street. The 42nd Street section of the line connected Broadway at Times Square, on the west, to Park Avenue at Grand Central Terminal, on the east.:243–244 At the Times Square end of this segment, the line curved sharply to the north under One Times Square, swinging northeast under Seventh Avenue before shifting under Broadway. The platforms at Times Square are located on this curve. Like the rest of the Original Subway, the line was built with a vertical clearance of 13 feet (4.0 m), and a total width of 49 feet (15 m). The maximum grade of the line is 1.0 percent between Sixth Avenue and Broadway.:2 In 1910, the platforms at the two stations were extended.
In 1913, the IRT, the Brooklyn Rapid Transit, and the city agreed to the Dual System of Rapid Transit to expand the city's transportation. As part of the agreement, the existing IRT subway would be split into two north-south lines and a shuttle along 42nd Street. The section of the line south of 42nd Street would be connected to a newly constructed line stretching from 41st Street and Park Avenue to the Bronx, running via Lexington Avenue, while the section of the line north of 42nd Street would be connected to a newly constructed line heading south under Seventh Avenue.:222–223 The section along 42nd Street was left as a shuttle to connect the new East Side and West Side Lines.
The new Lexington Avenue route curved off of the old line at 41st Street and ran underneath private property to reach Lexington Avenue at 43rd Street with a new Grand Central station located in the diagonal segment. Since there was 400 feet between the eastern end of the original line's station and the new Lexington Avenue Line station, a new shuttle station was to be built near the Lexington Avenue Line station. The construction of the narrow island platform station required building two new trackways extending east under 42nd Street. The two-track layout was expected to provide ample capacity for the shuttle. On August 1, 1918, the Dual System's "H system" was put into service, with through trains over the IRT Lexington Avenue Line and IRT Broadway–Seventh Avenue Line, and only shuttle trains under 42nd Street. The station was not ready in time, and therefore wooden flooring was temporarily laid over sections of the trackways at Times Square and Grand Central. The shuttle was heavily used, and the crowding conditions were so bad that the shuttle was ordered closed the next day by the Public Service Commission.
The new, unused trackways of the planned station were covered with flooring and turned into a passageway between the Shuttle and Lexington Avenue stations. The shuttle reopened on September 28, 1918, with improved passageways and platforms. Track 2 at the Grand Central station was covered over by a wooden platform. A New York Times columnist later said that former southbound express track 2 was still usable for the first few hours of the shuttle's operation, but the wooden platform was placed over that track later the same day to allow shuttles to use former northbound express track 3, due to high demand for the shuttles on the former local tracks, numbered 1 and 4. On the walls of the stations, black bands (at Times Square) and green bands (at Grand Central) were painted to guide passengers to the shuttle platforms. The shuttle was meant to be "temporary," and by 1922, there were proposals for the shuttle to be replaced by a moving sidewalk.
Throughout the history of the shuttle there have been proposals to improve service on the line and to extend the line both to the east and to the west. However, it is not feasible to extend the line in either direction, as the line is at the same level as the tracks of the Broadway–Seventh Avenue Line and those of the Lexington Avenue Line. There have been several proposals to replace the line with moving walkways or conveyor belts. In 1923, H.S. Putnam proposed to replace the shuttle with an endless moving platform system. There would have been three platforms with speeds of 3 miles per hour (4.8 km/h), 6 miles per hour (9.7 km/h) and 9 miles per hour (14 km/h). The fastest platform was to have been installed with seats. Even though the plan was supported by the Chief Engineer of the New York City Rapid Transit Commission, it was not adopted.:12 In 1930, Charles E. Smith, vice president of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad, proposed allowing trains from the Broadway-Seventh Avenue and Lexington Avenue Lines to use the shuttle tracks for through service, as well as discontinuing shuttle service. This also was not carried out.
Between 1948 and 1951, the Stephens–Adamson Manufacturing Company and the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company proposed that the shuttle be replaced by a pedestrian conveyor system called "Carveyor". The "Carveyor" would have consisted of a set of wheelless cars running on conveyor belts. They would have run slowly–at speeds of 1.5 miles per hour (2.4 km/h)–in stations and would have run more quickly–at speeds of 15 miles per hour (24 km/h)–between stations. Even though New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA) and the Board of Estimate approved the plan it was not completed due to union opposition and high cost.:13 In November 1954, chairman of the Board of Transportation, Sidney H. Bingham, proposed that a conveyor-belt system replace the shuttle. Twelve small passenger cars would move along the conveyor-belt continuously between Times Square and Grand Central. In November 1954, the $3,881,000 contract for a modified version of the plan was awarded. The New York Times lauded the plan, stating that "the Times Square-Grand Central subway shuttle was an atrocity from the beginning and has had no substantial improvement in a third of a century." Less than a year later the plan was canceled due to its high cost.
As part of a demonstration for automation, Track 4 was briefly automated from 1962 to 1964. It was the first automated service in the New York City subway system. Starting in December 1959, the fully automatic train, consisting of three cars, was tested on 2,700 feet (820 m) of one of the BMT Sea Beach Line express tracks (E4) between the 18th Avenue and New Utrecht Avenue stations. The train was equipped with a telephone system to keep voice communication with human dispatchers at the two shuttle terminals. At each station there was a cabinet that housed 24 relay systems that made up electronic dispatchers. The relays controlled the train's starting, acceleration, braking, and stopping, as well as the opening and closing of the car doors. The relays were operated by electrical impulses initiated by a punched tape. At full speed, the train ran at 30 miles per hour (48 km/h), slowing to 5.5 miles per hour (8.9 km/h) when coming into the two stations. When entering stations, the train passed through a series of detectors, which caused a series of tripper arms at trackside to go into the open position if the train was going at the speed. If the train was going too quickly, the tripper arms would stay upright and the train's brakes would automatically be set. The equipment was built and installed by the General Railway Signal Company and the Union Switch and Signal division of the Westinghouse Air Brake Company, after several years of research and development. The NYCTA contributed between $20,000 to $30,000 on the project, while the bulk of it, between $250,000 and $300,000, was contributed by the two companies. The automation of the shuttle was opposed by the president of the Transport Workers Union, Michael J. Quill, who pledged to fight the project and called the device "insane". A June 1961 report from the New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA) mentioned the automatic train was planned to be placed into service that November.
On February 29, 1960, the NYCTA began to test a new tie-less roadbed on Track 1, which had been installed since the previous Thursday. The experiment was intended to produce a smoother and more comfortable ride for commuters, in addition to lessening the effect of moisture and erosion. It was planned that if the test succeeded, the rest of the tracks in the subway system would be retrofitted in such a manner. The set-up included two parallel strips of concrete that would serve as the roadbed. Between them, flat-bottomed steel troughs were installed, cushioned by rubber. Inside the troughs, there were rubber tie plates spaced apart with flaps that encase the rail bottom. The rails were kept in place by lug bolts that were anchored in concrete. The third rail was also mounted on concrete. This differed from the normal roadbeds, which consisted of stone, with wooden ties set into it. The ties, under damp conditions, would rot and the spikes would become loose, resulting in bumpy rides. This test replicated similar roadbeds in Toronto's subway system. In order to construct the new roadbed, Track 1 had to be closed. From May 6 to June 5, 1961, Track 4 was closed for the installation of the same roadbed as was tested on Track 1.
In the afternoon of January 4, 1962, the three-car automated train began service, with a ceremony. The trains carried a stand-by motorman during the six-month trial period. The train had scheduled to begin service on December 15, 1961, but Quill threatened to strike all city- and private-owned transit in the city if the train ran. Under the new contract with the TWU, the NYCTA agreed to put a motorman in the train during the experimental period. While in its experimental period, the automated train was only operating during rush hours. In July, the test was extended for three more months, and in October the test was extended for six additional months. The chairman of the NYCTA, Charles Patterson, was disappointed by the automated shuttle train, doubting that the train could be operated without any transit personnel on board. Initially, the automation of the shuttle was expected to save $150,000 a year in labor costs; however, with one employee still required on the train, there would essentially be no savings. Tape recorded messages warned passengers that the doors of the train were closing. If the test succeeded, it was planned to automate the IRT Flushing Line, the Franklin Avenue Shuttle, and the Culver Shuttle. However, the NYCTA did not have plans to automate the whole system.
A severe fire at the Grand Central station on April 21, 1964, destroyed the demonstration train and manual operation had been restored since. The fire began under a shuttle train on track 3, and it became larger, feeding on the wooden platform. The train on Track 1 was saved when the motorman saw smoke, and reversed the train. The basements of nearby buildings were damaged. Tracks 1 and 4 returned to service on April 23, 1964, while Track 3 returned to service on June 1, 1964. The reinstallation of Track 3 was delayed because of the need to replace 60 beams that were damaged in the fire. Initially, a decision was not made concerning whether or not the automated shuttle train should be reintroduced.
From September 19, 1966 to April 1967, service on the shuttle was limited in order to allow for the reconstruction of parts of the line. The entire project cost $419,000 and included the construction of a new mezzanine at Grand Central and the replacement of the wooden platform at Times Square with a new concrete one of 300 feet (91 m).
In 1978 the U.S. Department of Transportation undertook a study to analyze and determine the feasibility of installing an Accelerating Walkway System in an urban environment. The study used the 42nd Street Shuttle as a case study. The two options the study analyzed were a one-directional reversible linear walkway and a bi-directional loop. The study found that the walkways would provide a better level of service during off-peak hours and a similar level of service during peak hours. It was estimated that it would cost between $5.4 and $13 million to install the system.:i
The shuttle ran at all times until September 10, 1995, when night service was discontinued in order to avoid raising fares, meaning that late-night passengers must use the 7 train. New York City Transit had been expecting a $160 million surplus in 1995, but due to reductions in state and Federal contributions, it was left with a deficit which could reach $172 million. The elimination of late night service was part of a larger plan to reduce spending in order to avert a fare increase, which Governor George Pataki and Mayor Rudy Giuliani had pressured the MTA to avoid. The line had run as frequently as every ten minutes during the night in 1978.:2
On March 1, 2005, a shuttle train crashed into the bumper block at Grand Central, injuring the driver and hospitalizing two passengers.
In 1998, MTA officials announced that the Times Square station would be renovated and that the entire complex would become compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). The project was to be split into two phases, each lasting four years; the renovation of the 42nd Street Shuttle platforms would occur during the second phase of renovations. However, the curved platforms at Times Square made it very difficult to convert to ADA standards, and the shuttle platform renovation project was delayed. Although planning was completed in 2006, the project was delayed due to a lack of funding. Initially, funding for a study to develop the requirements for a second program to automate the shuttle was included in the 2015–2019 Capital Program. However, this study was removed from the program in a later amendment.
Funding for the renovation of the Times Square shuttle platforms was provided as part of the 2015–2019 MTA Capital Program. The 42nd Street Shuttle would become ADA-accessible, and the shuttle would be reconfigured from three to two tracks, with the center track, Track 3, to be removed. The shuttle would be able to run six-car trains, compared to the three- and four-car trains currently in use on the shuttle. To accommodate these longer trains, a new 28-foot-wide (8.5 m) platform would be built, extending 360 feet (110 m) to the east. This would allow for a second point of entry at Sixth Avenue, with a connection to the IND Sixth Avenue Line's 42nd Street–Bryant Park station via an existing easement passageway in the basement of the Durst Building. A portion of the curved track and platform would be removed to eliminate the large gap between the trains and the platforms. This project would cost $235.41 million.
The reconstruction work would be done in conjunction with a second project to add access to the Times Square complex, which would cost $28.93 million. As part of the project, the eastern platform would be closed to public access. The existing 43rd Street fare control area and two staircases would be closed and covered over, to be replaced by a new 20-foot-wide (6.1 m) entrance with a canopy. To increase capacity, dozens of columns would be removed, thinned, or relocated. In addition, elevators to One Times Square's observation deck would be installed, and certain features of the station would be repaired and restored. A display case or plaque describing the history of the station will be installed underneath the replicated Knickerbocker lintel.
At Grand Central, the P-4 staircase would be removed, and the P-3 staircase would be widened.
The construction contract for the project was originally scheduled to be awarded in June 2018. However, this was delayed by several months because of changes to the project schedule and cost. The construction duration was expected to be extended by three months, and the cost would increase by $25 million, because of additions to the original construction plan.
Of the four shuttle tracks, only three are in use, with the former southbound express track space being used for platform space at each terminal. The former southbound local track is now Shuttle Track 1. Track 2 no longer exists, but the trackbed of Track 2 can be seen inside the tunnel from passing trains on Tracks 1 and 3. At the two terminals, the trackway for Track 2 is occupied by platforms that provide access to Track 3, which was the former northbound express track. The former northbound local track is Track 4. Track 2 was removed between the two stations in 1975.
Tracks 1 and 3 are connected to each other and to the IRT Lexington Avenue Line's southbound local track south of Grand Central station. Track 4 connects to the IRT Broadway–Seventh Avenue Line's northbound local track north of Times Square station. There is no connection between the two tracks that connect to the Lexington Avenue Line, Tracks 1 and 3, and the track that connects to the Broadway–Seventh Avenue Line, Track 4; therefore, it is now physically impossible for a train to go from the IRT Lexington Avenue Line through to the IRT Seventh Avenue Line or vice versa by using the shuttle tracks. At the Times Square station, to provide a connection between the platform for Track 4 and the rest of the station complex, there is a pedestrian bridge over Track 4. The pedestrian bridge is temporarily removed to allow the train on Track 4 to leave for maintenance on an as-needed basis.
|Service||Time period||Section of line|
|All except nights||Late nights|
|service||no service||entire line, tracks 1 and 3 only (track 4 rush hours only)|
The shuttle operates at all times except between midnight and 5:50 am weekdays and 6am weekends, when alternate service is provided by the 7 train. When in service, each of the shuttle tracks in operation at any given time is independent of the other; e.g., the train on track 1 simply runs back and forth on track 1, and there is no switching involved in reversing at each terminal. To provide for quick turnaround of the shuttle trains, there is an operator at each end of the train. Depending on which direction the train is traveling the operators swap jobs when the train gets to one end; one acts as the operator in the front and the other acts as conductor in the rear. Trains run on weekdays every 2 to 4 minutes during rush hours every 5 minutes at other times. On weekends, trains run every 5 minutes during daytime hours and every 10 minutes during the early morning and late evening.
It is common for shuttle trains to display advertising that entirely covers the interiors and exteriors of the train, as opposed to other routes, whose stock only displays advertising on placards inside the train. Since 2008, the MTA has tested full-train advertisements on 42nd Street Shuttle rolling stock. While most advertisements are well received, a few advertisements have been controversial. Among the more contentious wraps that were withdrawn are a 2015 ad for the TV show The Man in the High Castle, which featured a Nazi flag, and an ad for Fox Sports 1, in which a shuttle train and half of its seats were plastered with negative quotes about the New York Knicks, one of the city's NBA teams.
|Station service legend|
|Stops all times|
|Stops all times except late nights|
|Stops weekdays only|
|Stops weekdays in the peak direction only|
|Time period details|
|Station is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act|
|↑||Station is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act|
in the indicated direction only
|Elevator access to mezzanine only|
|42nd Street Line|
|Times Square||1 2 3 (IRT Broadway–Seventh Avenue Line)
7 <7> (IRT Flushing Line)
N Q R W (BMT Broadway Line)
A C E (IND Eighth Avenue Line at 42nd Street–Port Authority Bus Terminal)
|Port Authority Bus Terminal|
|Grand Central||4 5 6 <6> (IRT Lexington Avenue Line)
7 <7> (IRT Flushing Line)
|Metro-North Railroad at Grand Central Terminal|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to 42nd Street Shuttle.|