The 34th Street-Herald Square IND 6th Avenue line station opened on December 15, 1940, and directly replaced the former 6th Avenue elevated station above the station (33 Street) that closed on December 4, 1938. The el had to be supported while the 6th Avenue line was under construction. When the station opened the express tracks didn't continue south, ending at bumper blocks along the station platforms. The area where the express tracks would normally be south of the station were taken up by the two PATH tracks (whose terminus was relocated at 33rd Street was rebuilt and relocated south closer to 32 to 31 Street to accommodate the new New Subway station). The IND also tried to satisfy local businesses on 38th Street that were lamenting the loss of the 38th Street elevated station on the 6th Avenue el by building a continuous (out of system) mezzanine between the 34th Street and 42nd Street subway stations with entrances at 38th Street. There was also the Gimbel Passageway at the southern end of the station that led beneath 32 Street to Penn Station. (allowing a continuous walk underground from 42 Street and 6 Avenue to 8 Avenue and 34 Street). The mezzanine passageway to 38th Street was closed after the second rape (a women who'd entered at 40th Street and was heading to PATH) in it in two years in March 1991. This article documents that only 400 people a day used the passageway. The Gimbel Passageway also closed around this time. Both ends of the passageway have been walled off during nearly immediate subsequent renovations. The station opened as an engineering marvel and the New York Times claimed it as the largest subway station in the world with 16 escalators, four in the Gimbel Department Store and twelve from the train platform to mezzanine.
The express tracks were finally built in a deep bore tunnel (without intermediate stops, the reason B and D trains skip 14th Street) beneath the PATH tracks and reached the stub-platforms on the lower level of West 4th Street, opening with the Chrystie Street connection in 1967. The station was renovated in the early 1990s that included retiling the platform walls and making the stop the first connecting subway complex (where all of the platforms of more than one set of subway lines) to become wheelchair accessible and ADA compliant with a total of 5 elevators. The street stairs are all unique from this renovation with silver railings and square posts holding up some with square M station globes and others that have been retrofitted since with more modern and typical round globes above the silver square posts.
The IND station has four tracks and two island platforms, the usual express stop configuration. These platforms are unusually deep for a subway station and the middle of the platforms between the exits have an extremely low ceiling where it is quite clear the BMT station that predates the subway stop is crossing overhead at the diagonal of Broadway. The station also had to accommodate the tracks getting beneath PATH and its station just south of the subway station. The platforms aren't notably staggered but the uptown platform is slightly longer than the downtown and the front car of trains (particularly the front of the uptown platform) is far enough away from the platform elevator at the northern end of the platform that a sign says Trains Stop Ahead with an arrow to walk down. The early 1990s renovation also replaced the tiling along the track walls. Until the renovations the station opened with a golden colored trimline with 34 tiles beneath. Today this consists of white tile walls with vertical areas of red with large 34s (in red in a white background) in them. The closest thing the station has to a trimline is are sets of red dots towards towards the top of the walls. The platforms have many sets of orangish red columns along the edges of the platforms. The renovation originally saw the installation of a black tactile warning strip with a line of orange (to look like the sandpaper edges installed in most stations) in the middle of the black tactile era. In 2010-2011 these were replaced by normal yellow tactile warning strips as now required by the ADA. The mezzanines have modern tiling but many of the original IND name tablets (including some for the Penn R.R. Survive) survive.
The northern part of the platform is where the main large mezzanine is. It is shared with the BMT making the station one of the easiest transfers in the system (there is an additional connecting passageway that's longer at the southern end of the platforms). It is here that the depth of the IND platforms are noticeable. Access to the mezzanine begins with elevators at the northernmost end of the platforms beyond where trains actually stop. The platforms each have two sets of escalators (one narrow single-file escalator in each direction) up the mezzanine to the platform and its quite a long ride. These escalators were original to the deep station, when it opened it had a total of 16. Going up by stairs is where the design gets more interesting. Each platform has a staircase at its northern end up to a lower passageway bridge level above mainly the downtown express track. In this area, hard to see and dusty in the steelwork that hold up the ramps and mezzanine is Radiant Site. This level doesn't have real walls, just fencing. In the middle of it is another staircase down to the downtown platform. At its southern end are two more staircases down to the uptown platform. To reach the actual mezzanine level are two gradual ramps. These begin at each end of the lower level bridge above the downtown express track. These ramps gradually rise up above the uptown express track (both cover portions of the platforms and the escalators just pass by up, unobstructed in their direct routes from mezzanine to platform) to an upper intermediate landing. At this landing there is an additional short staircase down to the middle of the lower passageway bridge right in front of the middle staircase for the downtown platform (It is signed for downtown trains only). Two more ramps continue from this upper landing above the lower bridge level (over the downtown express track) and arrive to the middle of the main mezzanine. One is towards the 35th Street end, the other 34th Street and the Broadway BMT Line (N,Q,R) transfer.
The large mezzanine has the connection to the N,Q,R at its southwestern corner (where the main entrance and 24 hour both to the west side of 34th Street and Broadway is). The two lines and transfer are so close and easy to each other that it isn't clear when your transitioning from the BMT half of the mezzanine to the IND half. The west wall before the N,Q,R platform has golden tiles part of the arts for transit installation Radiant Site by Michele Oka Doner. The north and east sides of the large mezzanine are a continuous passageway outside of fare control with a narrow area with a silver fence (and two sets of high exit turnstiles) connecting the exits to 35th Street and the east side of 6th Avenue at 34th Street. The east side of the 34th Street end of the mezzanine has both high and low turnstiles with a removed token booth. Streetstairs (with silver railings, unique to 34th Street Herald Square) lead out to the NE and SE corners of 34th Street and 6th Avenue. The street stairs with silver railings lead to the SE, NE and NW corners of 35th Street and 6th Avenue. A passageway continues, leaving the main mezzanine area beneath Broadway (and above the BMT tracks) to the NW and SW corners of 35th Street and Broadway.
The southern end of the platform has an additional exit. It is clearly at the same level as the BMT Broadway Line platforms with an oddly angled wall and 3 staircases up from the downtown platform and only two from the uptown platform. It is nestled directly beneath the PATH entrance area, one level up. In the cieling are the white balls of Halo. A passageway on the west side gradually leads up steps, separated by a glass wall from the PATH entrance (you can see PATH trains doing the transfer here) to the southern BMT mezzanine. Turnstiles lead out to direct entrances to JC Penny in Lower Level 2 of the mid-Manhattan Mall. One staircase just beyond the turnstiles leads up to the PATH mezzanine for connecting passengers as well as access to a long corridor outside of fare control that provides an underground connection to the main west side of 34th Street and Broadway entrance. The two other exits are controlled and owned by the Mid-Manhattan Mall and fully shared with path. The Mid-Manhattan mall is on the site of the Gimbels Department store that had the Gimbel's passageway that provided an underground connection between the Hearld Square subway and PATH station to Penn Station, closing around 1990. A staircase leads up to the PATH mezzanine and continues up to 6th Avenue basically at the NW corner of 32 Street. In the middle of the block between 32 and 33 Streets is another entrance. This has two escalators that lead down to Lower Level 1 (for PATH) before continue down and underground to Lower Level 2 for the IND Subway. (see 33rd Street PATH pages for photos of these entrances). Above this entrance are white balls of Halo by Nicholas Pearson. This entrance on opening day also had escalators.
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