Opening of the Broadway Subway (1918)

From nycsubway.org

The New York Times · Tuesday, January 1st, 1918

Trains from Whitehall Street to Times Square Will Begin Running at Noon.
Efforts to Put Line In Operation Before End of Year Hampered by Cold Weather.

The operation of the Broadway subway between Times Square and Whitehall Street will not begin until noon Saturday. Yesterday the Public Service Commission announced that the efforts of the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company to throw the line open to the public in time to allow it to be added to the list of new lines opened in 1917 had failed. At 4:30 yesterday afternoon the engineers reported that power had been thrown on the third rail and that a train was waiting at the Fourteenth Street Station for a trial run north to Times Square.

Among the passengers on the train were Commissioner Whitney, Acting Chief Engineer Robert Ridgway, Electrical Engineer J. H. Dodd of the commission, and vice president John J. Dempsey of the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company. Everybody on the train agreed that the line from Times Square to Fourteenth Street was completed to the point of operation, yet it would not be possible to begin the running of trains on a regular schedule because the contractor had not completed the work of installing the third rail at Rector Street. Therefore it was decided not to begin operation until the end of the week. Explaining the situation Commissioner Whitney said:

"The schedule of work some time ago indicated that the line could be put in operation by the middle of January. I thought, therefore, that special effort would advance the date to Dec. 31, and the engineers of the commission and of the company, as well as the contractors, undertook that difficult job with great enthusiasm. During the last two or three weeks continuous work was prosecuted over Saturday, Sunday, and Christmas, and during the last week there has been no let up during the entire day. Men have been at work for twenty-four hours at a time, and they would have succeeded in finishing the job had it not been for extremely cold weather, which handicapped the handling of material.

Open New Subway To Times Square

Brooklyn Directly Connected with Wholesale and Shopping Districts of New York.
First Train in Broadway Tube Makes Run from Rector Street in 17 1/2 Minutes.
COST ABOUT $20,000,000.
Rapid Transit from Downtown to Hotel and Theatre Sections Expected to Affect Surface Lines.

The Broadway subway, one of the most important links in the dual system of rapid transit, was opened to the public yesterday between Times Square and Rector Street. Trains have been running in the subway between Union Square and Canal Street since Sept. 4. That small piece was put in operation by the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company with reluctance because it was feared that even with its Brooklyn connection, it would not pay. But the results were so successful financially that every effort was made to extend the operation as soon as possible.

Stations on the new line are located at Times Square, Thirty-fourth, Twenty-eighth, and Twenty-third Streets, Union Square, Eighth, Prince, and Canal Streets, City Hall, and Cortlandt and Rector Streets. Sea Beach and West End trains operating to Canal Street and Union Square will hereafter be express trains. Passengers from Brooklyn desiring to journey south of Canal Street are requested to transfer at that point, while those desiring to go north of Union Square will change at that station. Whatever schedules are arranged for the operation of trains may not be permanent, as the needs of the public on this line will first be tested by actual operation. The Public Service Commission said yesterday that the line would be used to the utmost to accommodate the public and to relieve the congestion on the old lines. What effect the line will have on the business of the Broadway surface road is interesting the commission's experts. It was suggested yesterday that it would increase the alleged losses of the New York Railways Company to the point of making that company clamor for permission to increase its rate of fare or to use whatever influence it can command to promote municipal ownership of surface lines.

Increases Five-Cent Zone. Operation of the Broadway line will serve two purposes. It will extend materially the five-cent zone in Brooklyn and at the same time it will give additional subway facilities to Manhattan south of Times Square, thus forming an important connecting link with the retail and wholesale shopping districts and with all the principal theatre and hotel sections.

Residents of the sections in Brooklyn lying along the Sea Beach, West End, and Culver lines, will now be able to reach Times Square for a five-cent fare, while those using the Broadway and Myrtle Avenue lines will be able to reach the same point by changing from the elevated trains to the subway trains. Later on, as the new transit system of Brooklyn is developed, all subway and elevated lines of the B.R.T. system will have similar transfer privileges.

Eventually the Broadway subway will have two connections with the subway lines in Brooklyn, the one now in operation via the Manhattan Bridge, and the other via the Montague Street tunnel, which will be ready for operation before the end of the year. When the Broadway line is completed it will go north to Fifty-ninth and Sixtieth Streets and then by tunnel under the East River to a connection with the new elevated lines in Queens. This portion of the line will probably not be ready for operation until early in 1919. The line is connected with the lines entering Jersey City and Hoboken by underground passageways at Cortlandt Street, and at Thirty-fourth Street with the Hudson & Manhattan Railroad.

The opening of the line to the public occurred at noon yesterday. It came immediately after a special train carrying members of the Public Service Commission, city officials, officials of the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company, and members of the Broadway Association, and of several civic organizations of Brooklyn had gone over the route.

First Trip to Times Square. Among those on the train were Public Service Commissioners Whitney, Kracke, Hubbell, Secretaries Walker and Robinson, Ex-Judge Ransom, President Williams of the B.R.T. Company, W. C. Fisk, President of the Hudson & Manhattan Railroad Company, E. W. Estes, Secretary of the Broadway Association, and Victor Lersner, President of the Brooklyn Civic Club. Later Chairman Straus of the Public Service Commission joined the party at a luncheon at Murray's Restaurant in Forty-second Street. The trip between Times Square and Rector Street was made in seventeen and one-half minutes without stops.

One of the novel features of the trip was the sight of women in nearly all of the ticket booths. This is a common enough sight in Brooklyn, but it attracted the attention and the comment of the New Yorker on the train. Along the route emergency telephones had been placed for use in case of an accident, but the train ran as smoothly as one of the old subway trains and there was no hitch anywhere.

Chairman Straus issued a statement congratulating the people of the city on the fact that the East River has been finally removed as a barrier between the two boroughs. Part of his statement reads:

It is hardly more than ten years ago when something like sixteen elevated tracks, spreading fan-like through Brooklyn, were throttled down into two tracks crossing the Brooklyn Bridge, and Brooklyn passengers bound to and from Manhattan, subjected to one of the most severe instances of traffic congestion on the record, and even then inadequately served by merely being carried from or to Manhattan instead of to or from the points in Manhattan where business or other interests called them. The construction of this great Broadway line, with its tunnel and bridge connections, not only relieves the traffic throttling of the past, that so hindered the proper development of Brooklyn, but will permit the people of Brooklyn being carried with speed and in comfort to the business, shopping and theatre districts in Manhattan.

While Brooklyn will be the chief beneficiary of the operation of the Broadway Subway, nevertheless, the benefit to Manhattan is very great and far reaching. Aside from the connections with Brooklyn and Queens, with its express service to the Coney Island beaches, Manhattan secures a trunk line subway built for express service extending from the Battery to Fifty-ninth Street. It is an interesting commentary of the time it takes to accomplish great public works that in 1865 a committee of the State Legislature, after investigation, reported the then pressing need of a subway under Broadway. For various reasons Manhattan has had to wait for over a half century for its Broadway Subway. But it is here now, and Manhattan is to have the benefit from its operation that it has been awaiting all these years. But it is not only the Broadway Subway - important as it is in itself - that is Manhattan's gain today, but the connection of that subway with the rapid transit systems of Brooklyn and Queens, rapid and convenient access to the financial, shopping and theatre districts in Manhattan, but will afford the crowded districts of Manhattan proper outlets to the nearby thinly settled districts of two great home boroughs. These benefits we are unable now properly or adequately to appraise. But as the Broadway traffic develops and the new links are thrown into operation those benefits will be great and lasting and will accrue in increasing degree.

In this connection I wish to refer for a moment to one unfortunate omission in the original dual subway plans. Greatly as they provided for most districts in the greater city, they left out of the subway system the great Central District of Brooklyn, with a population measured by hundreds of thousands, it is the desire of the commission promptly to remedy this omission, and it has lately authorized and transmitted to the Board of Estimate and Apportionment contracts and plans whereby for less than $2,500,000 this section of Brooklyn can be connected with the Broadway subway system, with great and lasting benefit both to Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Our imagination is stimulated by projects like the Panama Canal, costing about $400,000,000, but somehow we fail to realize that day in and day out for the past years there has been going on literally under our feet work of infinitely greater engineering difficulty than the construction of the Panama Canal, and costing as much. How many people, as they hurried to and fro over Broadway while this work was in progress, realized that as one of the incidents of it practically every building along the line had to have new foundations built under it and carried to a depth below the bottom of the subway? And that, mind you, with the buildings occupied and with the occupants hardly knowing what was being done under the building and never realizing its hazard and difficulty. Naturally we all have reason to be proud of the fact that despite the difficulty and hazard the construction of the dual subway system has been carried on in such a way that physical damage to abutting property has been so small as to be almost negligible. When an accident has happened public attention has momentarily been drawn to the subway work, but how many people realize that under the most trying and exacting conditions, there have been only three or four accidents of major importance?

Benefits to Brooklyn. Public Service Commissioner Kracke said that the people of Brooklyn would benefit largely by the subway. He added:

This line was one of the largest benefits granted the Borough of Brooklyn when the dual arrangements were worked out between the city and the operating companies. This operation puts the borough directly in touch with the main artery of traffic of Manhattan and with the financial, hotel, shopping, and theatrical centre of the city. It is moreover a very direct benefit to Brooklynites doing business between Fourteenth Street and Forty-second Street in Manhattan and generally, in extending the five-cent zone that far north.

Up to today there have been two types of operation to Union Square and Manhattan. The first of these, a short line service operated form connection with the Culver and West End lines at Ninth Avenue and Thirty-eighth Street, Brooklyn via the Fourth Avenue subway to Union Square. The second of these, operating over the Sea Beach line from Coney Island, also to Union Square. West End line trains have been operated only to the Chambers Street Terminal under the Municipal Building. Operation from Canal Street north has been on local tracks to Fourteenth Street. Beginning today local service is to be operated in the Broadway subway from Rector Street to Forty-second Street. The short line service from Ninth Avenue and Thirty-eighth Street is to be diverted into the Centre Street loop to the terminal at Chambers Street, while the West End line will run directly to Fourteenth Street. Both the Sea Beach and West End service will run on express tracks and without intermediate stops from Canal Street to Fourteenth Street. Brooklyn passengers going to north Manhattan via Fourth Avenue subway and Manhattan Bridge and desiring to go north of Fourteenth Street will have an opportunity to do so for a single fare, but will be required to transfer at Fourteenth Street to the local subway service.

During the luncheon President Williams of the B.R.T. and others made speeches congratulating the city and the various officials, public and private, who had been instrumental in building it.

Among the guests on the first train and at the luncheon were Frederick C. and Stanley Y. Beach, son and grandson, respectively, of the late Alfred Ely Beach, who designed and began the construction of a subway under Broadway forty-seven years ago. It ran for two blocks under the surface between Murray Street and Park Place.

The Broadway subway is owned by the city and is leased for forty-nine years to the New York Municipal Railway Corporation, one of the B.R.T. companies. The operating company is the New York Consolidated Railroad Company, also one of the B.R.T. system. Construction of the line was begun in 1912. When it is completed it wull have cost approximately $27,000,000, exclusive of the tunnels, which will cost about $10,000,000 more. Between Times Square and Rector Street the cost has been about $20,000,000.

Broadway's Revival

The New York Times · Sunday, January 6th, 1918

The opening of the Broadway subway between Rector Street and Times Square is more important than the length of the line suggests. One of its consequences is the revival of several miles of one of the city's leading thoroughfares. Broadway property owners objected to the experiment of a subway on that route, and they have seen their values transfered to the Fourth Avenue route. It was hardly less than a disaster for them, but it was good for the city. If there originally had been a Broadway route there might never have been a Fourth Avenue route. Now the city has both, and since yesterday the Broadway route is available clear to the ocean on the Fourth Avenue (Brooklyn) route to Coney Island.

Even more important is the new accommodation offered to riders on the Brooklyn elevated roads over the Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges. Manhattanites know nothing about the Canarsie, Cypress Hills, New Lots, or Ridgewood sections of their sister borough, but they have a double interest in knowing that already the populations of small cities are resident there, and that their numbers will increase with the boon to them of a 5-cent fare to the busy areas of the central borough. Ten years ago these were served by sixteen tracks which fed into two tracks crossing the Brooklyn Bridge. The congestion was injurious to business property in Manhattan and residence property in Brooklyn. The 10-cent fare and change of cars hurt both boroughs. Now both are benefited, and the city as a whole gains from the beginning of income from its $400,000,000 investment.

It might have had the dual system in its entirety ten years ago, and at less cost, but there are several links still incomplete. The link opened yesterday goes no farther north than Times Square, but soon it will reach Fifty-ninth Street, and pass on into Queens. Than another route to and from Brooklyn and Queens through Times Square will be opened along Seventh Avenue. Northern Manhattan and the Bronx will benefit by the opening on the east side of the Lexington Avenue line. Manhattan will then have its complete system, but Brooklyn still has something to hope for. Years ago, the Times suggested what the Chairman favored yesterday. The Fulton Street (Brooklyn) elevated line ought to have a physical connection with the subway to Manhattan, and the disfigurements about the Brooklyn end of the Brooklyn Bridge ought to be removed as an incident. Mr. Straus says that the Commission desires to remedy this omission for the benefit of the hundreds of thousands living in this central district of Brooklyn. It would cost only a couple of millions, and a couple of years. Meanwhile a transfer privilege would be appreciated.

A New Subway On Upper West Side

The New York Times · Sunday, March 3rd, 1918

Suggested That Broadway Line Be Extended to Serve Residents West of Present Lines.
Would Be Part of B.R.T. and Dual System -- Service Board Considering Proposal.

A suggestion that the new Broadway subway, which is operated by the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company, be extended to the Bronx, is being favorably considered by the Public Service Commission. That plans for such a change in the dual subway contracts will come within a short time is unlikely, because of lack of money and the difficulty of getting men and materials, but that the proposed change will come eventually appears certain. The suggestion came from Robert R. Perkins of 51 Chambers Street.

His letter to the commission says that the situation which gives direct and rapid access to Broadway to the dwellers in Brooklyn, but denies it to the residents of Manhattan, is preposterous and should be corrected. The completion of the Interborough Rapid Transit subway lines in Lexington and Seventh Avenues, he wrote, cannot adequately serve the upper west side of Manhattan, because north of Ninety-sixth Street the lines will have only two tracks built in such a manner that there can never be four tracks. He also says that the Interborough lines are not centrally located. South of 168th Street the roads lie too far to the west, and north of that thoroughfare they are too far to the east. Part of Mr. Perkins letter reads:

"North of 168th Street the present subway should never have been built under St. Nicholas Avenue, but should have followed the line of Broadway to the end of the island."

After saying that an extension of the Broadway subway would solve the problem, Mr. Perkins puts his suggestions in this concrete form:

"I therefore, respectfully urge that some arrangement be made between the city and the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company for the construction and operation of a four-track extension to its present Broadway line as follows: Beginning at the junction of Seventh Avenue and Fifty-ninth Street, running thence northwesterly and diagonally under the Central Park to the easterly side of Central Park West, at or about, Seventieth Street; thence northerly and under the westerly side of the Park or possibly, partly under the easterly sidewalk of the avenue to 110th Street, thence westerly under 110th Street to Manhattan Avenue; thence northerly, under Manhattan Avenue to 124th Street; thence northerly under St. Nicholas Avenue to 169th Street, and thence partly under and partly over Broadway to the north end of Manhattan Island.

"As Broadway at Dyckman Street turns sharply to the east and converges with the present subway at 218th Street, it might be desirable, north of Dyckman Street, to run under Seaman Avenue. The upper end of Seaman Avenue would furnish much better terminal facilities than Broadway could afford.

"The construction of such an extension would be of inestimate value to the traveling public, our city, our property owners, and the operating company.

"It would correct a conspicuous fault in the present transit plans. It would give the people of the west side what they have longed for, but never enjoyed, direct and rapid access to the heart and main artery of our city.

"It would be a matter of direct and indirect profit to the city. Of profit, because temporary partnership in and final ownership of lines running under the very backbone of Manhattan Island from beginning to end, with dense traffic morning and night in both directions, would be a highly remunerative proposition. Of indirect profit, because of the increased values of taxable property along and adjacent to its lines. It would go far toward restoring former values to property on Broadway south of Twenty-third Street, and again put the deserted section on the map of the City of New York. It would greatly increase the value of property on and adjacent to Central Park West. On St. Nicholas Avenue it would not only restore former values, but double them; and the increases on upper Broadway and in the Dyckman section would be very substantial. As regards to the Dyckman section, I would say that if something is not done for immediate relief the assessed valuations now placed by the city on properties in that locality must be materially reduced.

"The profit to the operating company is obvious. The proposed extension would be of comparatively small cost, and if a railroad running through the main artery of Manhattan Island from one end to the other, and owing to its Brooklyn connections, having traffic in both directions morning and night - if I say, such a railroad will not pay, where will you find anything more promising? It would unquestionably be the most valuable franchise of its length in the world.

"The plan above outlines is the product of careful thought. It is practical and not over costly. Made effective, it would adequately meet a great public demand. It would be profitable to the city, the taxpayers, and to the operating company. What does it lack?"

Mr. Perkins' letter was carefully studied by members of the commission, and his plan may be one of the features of further extensions of the rapid transit system, which are already receiving some attention by various members of the commission and of rapid transit officials.

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