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The Canarsie Line (sometimes referred to as the 14th Street–Canarsie Line) is a rapid transit line of the BMT Division of the New York City Subway system, named after its terminus in the Canarsie neighborhood of Brooklyn. It is used by the L service, which is shown in the color gray on the NYC Subway map and on station signs.

It is also occasionally referred to as the Eastern District Line. This refers to Williamsburg, which was described as Brooklyn's "Eastern District" when the City of Williamsburg was annexed by the former City of Brooklyn. This was the location where the original Brooklyn subway portions of the line were laid out. Only later was the line connected to the tracks leading to Canarsie. Eastern District High School preserves this toponym.

Extent and serviceEdit

The Canarsie Line runs from Eighth Avenue and 14th Street in Manhattan to Rockaway Parkway in Canarsie, Brooklyn. It is double-tracked along its entire length, except for short stretches of layup track in Manhattan.

The current line is a two-track subway from its Manhattan terminal to Broadway Junction in the East New York section of Brooklyn, with the exception of a short stretch at Wilson Avenue where it is a double-decked structure with the southbound track outdoors directly above the underground northbound track.

Just before Broadway Junction, the line emerges onto an elevated structure, passing over the BMT Jamaica Line. Between Broadway Junction and Atlantic Avenue are the Canarsie Line's only track connections to the rest of the system, via ramps connecting the Canarsie-bound line to the Manhattan-bound Jamaica Line and East New York Yard (and, until 1956, the BMT Fulton Street El). The Canarsie Line used to share the structure at Atlantic Avenue with the connection from the Broadway and Fulton Street elevated lines to the Liberty Avenue Elevated (still extant further east as part of the IND Fulton Street Line).

East of Pitkin Avenue, the Canarsie Line enters the two-track elevated structure on which the line was originally grade-separated in 1906, entering Sutter Avenue station. At the next station, Livonia Avenue, the Livonia Avenue Elevated of the IRT Eastern Parkway Line passes overhead, and just beyond this point is a single track connection to the Linden Shops, which is now a track and structures facility. Besides the connection at Broadway Junction, this non-electrified yard connection is the only other connection to the rest of the subway system, as it is indirectly a connection to the Eastern Parkway Line. Division B revenue equipment cannot access this line, however, because of Division A width restrictions.

Beyond the next station, New Lots Avenue, the elevated structure ends,, and an incline brings the Canarsie down to the original 1865 surface right-of-way, the second-oldest such right-of-way on the New York City Transit Authority system. The line operates on this ground-level route to the end of the line at Rockaway Parkway.


The Canarsie Line is one of only two New York City non-shuttle subway lines that hosts only a single service and does not share operating trackage with any other line or service; the other is the IRT Flushing Line, carrying the 3. Because of this, it was chosen as the location of the first fully-automated line of the New York City Subway. In spring 2005, the current automation-enabled R143-class equipment was expected to run under full automation with a single operator (known as OPTO, or One Person Train Operation) acting as an attendant to monitor the train's operation and take over manual operation if necessary. However, technical mishaps including the test train rolling away by itself has delayed the start of Automation, also known as Communication Based Train Control (CBTC).

The project has caused numerous service disruptions on the L line on nights and weekends. Frequently, service is shut down in separate sections of the line, usually from Eighth Avenue to Lorimer Street, Lorimer to Broadway Junction, or Broadway Junction to Rockaway Parkway. During this time, shuttle buses serve suspended areas. This project also requires the closing of some stations, either in one direction or both directions, and for the line to be operated in two sections.

In June 2005, the Canarsie Line ran with a single operator on weekends. However, as this was a violation of contract, the MTA was ordered to resume two-person operation at all times.

Currently, the system is active between Chelsea-Eighth Avenue and First Avenue in Manhattan and Broadway Junction and Canarsie-Rockaway Parkway in Brooklyn.


The history of the Canarsie Line has three distinct phases. It was first a steam railroad, then a BRT elevated line, and was then extended into Manhattan via subway.

Steam and elevated eraEdit

Before becoming a BRT elevated line in 1906, the Canarsie Line operated as a steam dummy line. It was first owned by the Brooklyn and Rockaway Beach Railroad, chartered December 24, 1863 and opened October 21, 1865, from the Long Island Rail Road in East New York to a pier at Canarsie Landing, very close to the current junction of Rockaway Parkway and the Belt Parkway, where ferries continued on to Rockaway. The line was single-tracked until 1894.[1]

The Canarsie Railroad was chartered on May 8, 1906 as a BRT subsidiary (leased to the Brooklyn Union Elevated Railroad) and acquired the line on May 31, 1906. The line was partly elevated, and electrified with third rail on the elevated part and trolley wire on the rest, south of New Lots Avenue. The Long Island Rail Road, which had used the line north of New Lots to access their Bay Ridge Branch, built a new line just to the west. The East New York terminus was extended several blocks along a section of line formerly used for "East New York Loop" service to the Fulton Street Elevated and the Broadway Elevated (now the BMT Jamaica Line), at a point known as Manhattan Junction (now Broadway Junction).

Service, first run on July 28, 1906, ran from Canarsie Landing to the Broadway Ferry at the foot of Broadway in Williamsburg, at the East River. This route still exists as the BMT Jamaica Line, except for the last piece to the East River, where the Jamaica Line runs over the Williamsburg Bridge. The route was later extended over the bridge and along the BMT Nassau Street Line to Canal Street and then Chambers Street.

Dual Contracts rebuildingEdit

The Dual Contracts subway expansion scheme around World War I saw the rebuilding of the complex train junction at Manhattan Junction into an even more complex flyover junction now known as Broadway Junction. The expansion extended south to the point at which the Canarsie and Fulton Street Elevateds diverged, including a six-track, three-platform station at Atlantic Avenue. The complex was rebuilt under traffic and opened in stages, reaching completion in 1919.

At the same time, the BRT moved to eliminate remaining operations that required elevated trains to operate under overhead wire. In most cases this meant using third rail on fully grade-separated lines. When third rail was extended on the Canarsie Line it was decided to extend this power mode only as far as the important station at Rockaway Parkway and Glenwood Road. Beyond that point, frequent grade crossings made third rail impractical. This portion of the line was converted to a shuttle operation using elevated cars in 1917 and converted to trolley cars in 1920.

One grade crossing was retained at East 105th Street despite the third rail, and was the last public rapid transit grade crossing in New York City. The crossing was removed in 1983.[2]

14th Street-Eastern Line builtEdit

On June 30, 1924, at what is now the other end of the line, a subway line initially known as the 14th Street-Eastern District Line, usually shortened to 14th Street-Eastern Line, was opened running beneath 14th Street in Manhattan, from Sixth Avenue under the East River and through Williamsburg to Montrose Avenue and Bushwick Avenues. A temporary ramp was built to the Long Island Rail Road's Bushwick Yard to get trains onto the line, which had no other connections to subway lines.

Four years later, on July 14, 1928, the line was extended further east beneath Wyckoff Avenue and then south paralleling the New York Connecting Railroad to a new station at Broadway Junction, above the existing station on the Broadway Elevated (Jamaica Line). At this time, it was connected to the Canarsie Line.

At noon on May 30, 1931, a two-block extension to Eighth Avenue in Manhattan, connecting the Canarsie Line to the newly-opened IND Eighth Avenue Line. This station was built to look like the other Independent Subway stations. At this point, the Canarsie Line's route took the shape that it still has to this day.

After World War II, the Canarsie Shuttle trolley line to Canarsie Landing was replaced by the B42 bus; the right-of-way was abandoned and is now partly built over. This right-of-way ran between East 95th and East 96th Streets as far south as Seaview Avenue.

Service patternsEdit

Service patterns over this line varied little through the years; initially trains ran over the Broadway Elevated from the ferry in Williamsburg (later extended into Manhattan), through Manhattan Junction and on to Canarsie. Then when the subway opened, two services ran from Canarsie to Manhattan: the original route on the Broadway Elevated and the route to 14th Street as the 14th Street-Canarsie Line.

In 1936, due to the institution of new lightweight subway-elevated equipment, a new rush-hour-only service was inaugurated from 8th Avenue and 14th Street to Lefferts Boulevard at the east end of the Liberty Avenue Elevated (the continuation of the Fulton Street Elevated). The Eighth Avenue-Canarsie route was given BMT marker 16, and trains running to Lefferts Boulevard usually were marked as 13. When the Fulton Street El was torn down, some rush-hour Broadway trains ran through from the Broadway Elevated (Jamaica Line) to Canarsie via the flyover at Broadway Junction; these were marked as 14. In 1967, when all BMT lines were given letters, the 16, which used the full Canarsie Line, was designated as LL. The rush-hour Broadway service (14) was designated JJ, and ran until 1968 when it was replaced by the KK which stayed on the Jamaica Line instead of switching to the Canarsie Line at Broadway Junction. The flyover connection has not been used for revenue service since then.

For more information, see the BMT 13, BMT 14 and BMT 16 articles.

Chaining informationEdit

  • The entire line is chained BMT Q. This has no relation whatever to lettered train service that operates on the line, which is designated L.
  • The tracks on the line are Q1 towards Canarsie and Q2 towards Manhattan.
  • Chaining zero is BMT Q, now located at the compass western end of the line at 8th Avenue and 14th Street in Manhattan. The entire Canarsie Line is coextensive with chaining letter BMT Q and this chaining letter is used for no other line.
  • Railroad north on this line is towards Manhattan, and corresponds roughly to a northwesterly to westerly compass direction.

Chaining changeEdit

Prior to 2004, the chaining on the Canarsie Line reflected its historic origin. The original elevated right-of-way from the point where it split with the old BMT Fulton Street Line at Pitkin and Van Sinderin Avenues in 1906 was designated as BRT chaining line P, and chaining zero for that section was at the same location.

The portion of the 14th Street–Canarsie Line built or rehabilitated under the Dual Contracts and opened in 1924 and 1928 was designated BMT Q beginning at 6th Avenue and 14th Street in Manhattan and extending to the beginning of BMT P chaining at Pitkin Avenue. Chaining zero for the BMT Q chaining line was also at 6th Avenue.

When the line was extended to 8th Avenue in 1931, chaining zero for the BMT Q chaining line was not moved. Rather than change all the signal designations and chaining stations on the line, the new section was extended west from the same zero and designated chaining line BMT QW.

When the installation of automated train operation required the complete replacement of the signal system, the MTA decided to make the entire line BMT Q and move chaining zero to the current compass western end of the line. Therefore the chaining station of every location on the line had to be changed, a situation rarely seen since the Dual Contracts changes on the old BRT circa 1920.

Station listingEdit

Every station is served by one service, the L (not counting transfers to other lines).

Station Opened Notes
Eighth AvenueMay 30, 1931free transfer to A C 

  E (IND Eighth Avenue Line)

Sixth AvenueJune 30, 1924free transfer to 1 2 3

  (IRT Broadway-Seventh Avenue Line)
free transfer to F V   (IND Sixth Avenue Line)
transfer to PATH

14th Street-Union SquareJune 30, 1924free transfer to N Q R

  W   (BMT Broadway Line)
free transfer to 4 5   6 <6>   (IRT Lexington Avenue Line)
originally Union Square

Third AvenueJune 30, 1924
First AvenueJune 30, 1924
14th Street Tunnel under the East River (Manhattan-Brooklyn line)
Bedford AvenueJune 30, 1924
Lorimer StreetJune 30, 1924free transfer to G (IND Crosstown Line)
Graham AvenueJune 30, 1924
Grand StreetJune 30, 1924
Montrose AvenueJune 30, 1924
Morgan AvenueJuly 14, 1928
Jefferson StreetJuly 14, 1928
DeKalb AvenueJuly 14, 1928
Myrtle–Wyckoff AvenuesJuly 14, 1928free transfer to M (BMT Myrtle Avenue Line)
originally Wyckoff Avenue
Halsey StreetJuly 14, 1928
Wilson AvenueJuly 14, 1928
Bushwick Avenue–Aberdeen StreetJuly 14, 1928
Broadway JunctionJuly 14, 1928free transfer to J Z

  (BMT Jamaica Line)
free transfer to A C   (IND Fulton Street Line)
originally Eastern Parkway

connecting tracks to BMT Jamaica Line (J Z


Atlantic AvenueJuly 28, 1906transfer to LIRR at East New York
Sutter AvenueJuly 28, 1906
Livonia AvenueJuly 28, 1906
New Lots AvenueJuly 28, 1906originally New Lots Road
East 105th Street19th centuryoriginal surface station, modified to high-level island platform c.1906
Canarsie–Rockaway Parkway19th centuryoriginal surface station, extensively rebult as terminal station
Flatlands Avenueline abandoned; station demolished
Avenue Lline abandoned; station demolished
Canarsie Pierline abandoned; station demolished

External linksEdit


  • Celebrate Opening of Subway Link, New York Times July 1, 1924 page 23
  • Celebrate Opening of New B.M.T. Line, New York Times July 15, 1928 page 13
  • Mayor Drives Train in New Subway Link, New York Times May 30, 1931 page 11
  • Railroad History Database

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