8 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About the Second Avenue Subway

April 27, 2014 | By Damon Young
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't' line subway map 

The long awaited ‘T’ line is nearly here, coming to the aid of cramped commuters and property owners on Manhattan’s far-east side as early as December 2016. But there are some things we may have overlooked while celebrating the stunning new progress photos. The finished product will be a major departure from past design and may take some getting used to. We’ll enjoy plenty of high-tech upgrades, but perhaps at a cost for some. Here are 8 interesting things about the new ‘T’ line that just might surprise you:

 1. It is very far underground - 8 stories in fact. We'll see steep, modern escalators that evoke London or Washington D.C. transit, rather than the gritty, artsy 'just below the surface' character that has defined the NYC subway system for generations. It wouldn't hurt to plan ahead for extra commuting time either. It seems all the new subway projects are reaching record depths. The 7-extension and the new East Side Access will operate at 8 and 14 stories below street level, respectively.


2. It is grate-less - Future riders may be perplexed at the famous Marilyn Mornroe skirt scene in 1955's "The Seven Year Itch". Subway grates are now being replaced with mechanical ventilating towers above street level. But what we lose in nostalgia we gain in practicality. Women will have fewer obstacles to contend with when wearing heels. Trip and fall lawsuits will go down. And surely no one will miss the subway odor typically brought to street level through the grates either.


3. It is climate controlled - Say goodbye to sticky clothes and paper fans as you travel the city's underground during those hot summer months. All 16 stations along the 'T' line will be climate controlled for maximum comfort, with convenient elevator and escalator access, including access for the disabled.


4. It is finally boosting home values - East Side property owners have long endured disruptive construction and a reticence among buyers who prefer living closer to the subway. However, that trend appears to be reversing. Amid a string of positive news, including the release of some remarkable progress photos, The Real Deal reported this month that home values east of third avenue rose 11.4% in the past year vs. 10.4% for the East Side as a whole -- showing that homes along 2nd Avenue are becoming more competitive with those closer to Lexington. As opening draws nearer, expect this boost to increase.


5. It only uses 2 tracks - We'll feel quite comfy without all that Lex Line congestion, but we'll need the extra legroom. The 'T' will be all local all the time, making for sleepier commutes - at least until any further expansion of the line.   


6. It began in 1929  ... with the Great Depression being the first of an endless series of fiscal problems and pushbacks for the project. After nearly a century, the project resumed in earnest in 2007. One stop, the Chrystie Street Connection, has been built since 1967. Three more currently under construction are 72nd Street, 86th Street, and 96th Street.


7. The 'T' was reluctantly chosen ... as the least bad choice of the remaining letters I, O, P, U, X, Y and the previously used H, K, V, W, 8 and 9. (Some can be confused with words or symbols, while others can be confused with their former routes). Its official color is turquoise.  

8. It open in Summer 2017 - While many forecasts still point to a December 2016 completion date, a recent MTA study projects a more likely Summer 2017 opening. Either way, the consensus is that there is finally light at the end of this tunnel.

Tags: Wisdom, Subway