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14 St-Canarsie Local
New York City Subway
14 Street-
Canarsie Local

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Rockaway Pkwy

The L train, historically known as the BMT 14 Street-Canarsie Line, is the only 2 track subway line that operates fully isolated from other subway lines. The rapid development of Williamsburg and Bushwick in Brooklyn means the line currently operates at capacity even after becoming the first fully automated subway line in 2009, with all trains operating using CBTC technology in 2012 and allowing service to expand from 20 trains per hour to 24 trains per hour.

The line doesn’t see the highest number of trains per hour per individual track on the New York City subway (which is about 30 trains per hour) because of limitations involving the number of substations that would be required to provide enough 3rd rail power for 30 trains per hour, and the capacity constraints of both the 8 Avenue and Canarsie terminal stations that both have the tracks end at bumper blocks at the end of each station platform, requiring trains to use a crossover before each station and enter and leave each station relatively slowly reducing the capacity to turn trains around. Expanding L train service would require extending the tunnels at 8 Avenue, so trains can enter this terminal station faster and perhaps converting a yard track at Canarsie to have an additional platform to provide trains with additional capacity to terminate, or having certain trains short-turn during Rush Hours, which currently happens to every-other train at Myrtle Avenue during the AM rush hour.

The line currently uses CBTC-equipped R143 trains that were originally purchased in the 1990s and started to be delivered between 2001 and 2003, with the intention that these cars would be enough to provide all L train service. Unforchunately the rapid rise in development along the L train, primarily in Williamsburg and Bushwick, meant that the L train ridership was transforming from a lowly used subway line (in a nearly similar category to the G train), proposed even to be closed and abandoned in the 1980s and into a subway line that sees sardine-packed trains at rush hour and the 53 R143 sets wasn’t enough for service, so full CBTC operations couldn’t enter service until R160As were delivered and certified for CBTC operations in 2012. Today L trains are a mixture of R143 cars and R160A cars. The easiest way to figure out which type of train your on is the format of the strip map, R143 has a static map with lights to indicate which stop the train is at and a LED screen beneath on the inside of the on window destination sign, it that was designed to provide customer information and pretty much now provides subway system PSAs, R160As have the modern fully LED FIND map system so the train can be programmed to operate on any subway route, and artwork on the exterior panel of the destination sign.

The Canarsie Line is a combination of the original Canarsie Railway that opened starting in 1865 before being electrified in 1906 on the outdoor portion of today’s L train between Broadway Junction and Canarsie. Trains originally operated from Canarsie on one of 3 routings, via the Broadway Brooklyn Line over the Williamsburg Bridge in Manhattan, or via two abandoned in 1941 and 1950 respectively elevated lines, the Fulton Street, and Lexington Avenue (Brooklyn) elevateds to Downtown Brooklyn and over the Manhattan Bridge to Park Row in Manhattan. Today there is still a flying junction at Broadway Junction that could easily allow trains to still operate from Canarsie and over the Williamsburg Bridge and onto any of the J,M,Z destinations in Manhattan.

The portion of the line between Broadway Junction and 14 Street, is a nearly entirely underground subway line - see Wilson Avenue for a unique exemption - that opened between 1924 and 1928 under the dual-contracts as the BMT 14 Street-Eastern Subway. From this subway line, once at Broadway Junction, trains originally could continue to Canarsie, or onto the outer portion of the Fulton Street elevated out to Lefferts Blvd, until this was closed in Brooklyn, and the Queens portion taken over by a new ramp from the IND extension in April 1956.

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14 St-Canarsie Local
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Last Updated: March 19, 2022
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