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An old BMT sign at Conley island station

The Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit Corporation (BMT) was an urban transit holding company, based in Brooklyn, New York City, United States, and incorporated in 1923. It is now the BMT Division of the New York City Subway. Together with the IND, it is operationally described as B Division. The original BMT routes have the letters from J to R, as well as the Franklin Avenue Shuttle (S). The IND's B, D and F partly use BMT trackage, and the Z supplement the N and J.

Corporate backgroundEdit

The BMT was the successor in bankruptcy to the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company. Both companies controlled subsidiaries which operated and supplied services for the great majority of the rapid transit and streetcar lines in Brooklyn, New York with extensions into Queens and Manhattan. The subsidiary that operated the elevated and subway lines was the New York Rapid Transit Corporation.

Predecessor companiesEdit

The predecessor BRT opened its first short subway segment, consisting only of an underground terminal at the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge at Delancey and Essex Streets in Manhattan on June 16, 1908. This line was extended three stations under Nassau Street to Chambers Street beneath the Manhattan Municipal Building at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge on August 4, 1913. The BRT opened its first Brooklyn subway under Fourth Avenue on June 22, 1915, running over the Manhattan Bridge to a junction with the aforementioned Nassau Street Line at Canal Street. The BRT opened the first segment of its Manhattan main line subway, the Broadway Line, as far as Union Square on September 4, 1917. All of these subways but the first short segment were built by the City as part of the Dual Contracts.

Some of the former elevated system of the BRT, dating to 1885, remains in use today, though most of the surviving structure was either built new or rehabilitated between 1915 and 1922 as part of the Dual Contracts. One piece of structure, the elevated portion of the Franklin Avenue Shuttle, built in 1896 and 1905, was extensively rebuilt in 1999.

The BRT also took over the property of a number of surface railroads, the earliest of which, the Brooklyn, Bath and Coney Island Railroad or West End Line, opened for passenger service on October 9, 1863 between Fifth Avenue at 36th Street at the then border of Brooklyn City and Bath Beach in the Town of Gravesend, New York. A short piece of surface route of this railroad, near Coney Island Creek, is the oldest existing piece of rapid transit right-of-way in New York City, and in the U.S., having opened on June 8, 1864.

Industry positionEdit

The BMT was a national leader in the transit industry, and was a proponent of advanced urban railways, participating in development of advanced streetcar designs, including the PCC car, whose design and advanced components influenced railcar design worldwide for decades. The company also sought to extend the art of rapid transit car design with such innovations as articulated (multi-jointed-body) cars, lightweight equipment, advanced control systems, and shared components with streetcar fleets. The BMT was also the original proponent of the all-four concept of integrated urban transit.

Unlike the Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT), the other private operator of subways in New York City, the BMT remained solvent throughout the Great Depression and showed a profit, albeit small in its last year, until the very end of its transit operations.

Sale to the City of New YorkEdit

The BMT was pressed by the City administration of Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia to sell its operations to the City, which wanted to have all subway and elevated lines municipally owned and operated. The City had two powerful incentives to coerce the sale:

  • the BMT was forced by provisions of the Dual Contracts to charge no more than a five-cent fare, an amount set in 1913, before the inflation of World War I.
  • the City had the right of "recapture" of those lines that had been built or improved with City participation under those Dual Contracts. This meant that, if the City forced the issue, the BMT could have been left with a fragmented system and City competition in many of its market areas.

The BMT sold all of its transit operations to the City, completing the deal on June 1, 1940.

Current systemEdit

Current BMT lines in Manhattan are exclusively subway. Its Brooklyn lines include one long subway line, the Fourth Avenue Line, and one subway connector, hooking the pre-existing Brighton Beach Line to the main subway at a large flying junction at DeKalb and Flatbush Avenues. The remaining Brooklyn lines are on elevated structures, in open cuts or on embankments, or on short portions of surface trackage. Several Brooklyn lines extend into Queens, and these are elevated, except for the final station on the Myrtle Avenue Line, which is on the surface, and the last two stations of the Jamaica Line, which is in a new (1989) subway (officially the Archer Avenue Line). The BMT's only line in Queens which comes directly from Manhattan, the BMT Astoria Line, is all elevated.

BMT DivisionsEdit

The BMT's predecessor BRT organized the rapid transit lines into two divisions, the Eastern Division and the Southern Division. When BMT service began on the Corona and Astoria Lines in 1923, a Queens Division was added. When the dual-operated Queens lines were divided between the BMT and IRT in 1949, the Queens Division was dissolved.

All the lines running to southern Brooklyn, including the Brighton-Franklin Line plus the Broadway Line as far as Queensboro Plaza and the BMT Nassau Street Line as far as Chambers Street constitute the Southern Division. All the rest of the system are the Eastern Division except the Astoria and Flushing Lines, which were the Queens Division. Since 1949 the Astoria Line is part of the Southern Division and the Flushing is no longer a BMT Line.

The divisions maintained separate car fleets and maintenance bases, to the extent that some types of cars were assigned only to one division or the other, and common equipment, such as the BMT Standards, were nevertheless divided by car number between the divisions.

Equipment Introduced Code Division Notes
Gate cars to 1910 BU All Blocks of cars assigned to all three
Standards 1915-24 AB East / South Blocks of car assigned to Eastern and Southern
C-types 1923 C Eastern Converted from gate cars
Triplex 1925-27 D Southern
Multi-Section 1936 MS Eastern
World's Fair 1939 Q Queens Converted from gate cars
R16 1953 R16 Eastern Under NYCTA
R27/30 1960-61 R27/30 Southern Under NYCTA
Brightliners 1964-65 R32 Southern Under NYCTA

The distinction between Eastern and Southern BMT Divisions continues to date, partly for operational and maintenance reasons, partly because of the Eastern Division's requirement that only 60-foot cars be used there. When the Chrystie Street Connection joined the IND and BMT operationally in 1967, it did not change the Division boundaries, but it did break the strict assignment of types of car to one division of another.

Prior to Chrystie Street, operation of a service on both divisions was exceedingly rare, until the QJ and RJ services were introduced in 1967. There were some instances of joint trackage, mainly on the Nassau Street Line and approaching Brooklyn Bridge. Currently, only the M service operates on both divisions, during rush hours.

When the BMT introduced line numbers in 1924, it divided them by division: 1 to 4, the Southern Division subway services, 5, 6 and 7, the Southern Division elevated services, 8 and 9 of the Queens Division. 10 to 16, the Eastern Division services.

In 1940, with City ownership, the Divisions were officially restyled as "Sections" to avoid having Divisions of Divisions: i.e., "BMT Division, Eastern Section" but they are usually still referred to as "Divisions" to the present.

Service labelsEdit

BMT services were assigned numbers in 1924, which only appeared on the fronts of trains and in schedules. In 1960, the MTA brought the BMT into the IND letter system, and most services were reassigned as letters. Since then, many changes have been made; see the individual articles about the letters for more detail, and New York City Subway nomenclature for more general information. Terminals shown in the table below are pre-letters. This chart shows the letter code assigned to each BMT service in 1960; important changes happened on a few lines between then and when the letters were first publicly used.

1939 service Notes
BMT Southern Division
1QBrighton Beach LineQueensboro Plaza - Stillwell Avenue (local via Tunnel)
57th Street - Stillwell Avenue (local via Bridge)
Times Square - Brighton Beach (express via Bridge)
2RFourth Avenue LineQueensboro Plaza - 95th Street (local via Tunnel)
3TWest End LineTimes Square - Stillwell Avenue (express via Bridge)
Chambers Street - Bay Parkway (local loop service via Nassau Street)
4NSea Beach LineTimes Square - Stillwell Avenue (express via Bridge)
5SSCulver LineChambers Street - Stillwell Avenue (local via Tunnel)
Sands Street - Stillwell Avenue (local via Fifth Avenue Elevated)
truncated on October 30, 1954
6-Fifth Avenue-Bay Ridge LineSands Street - 65th Street (local)closed May 31, 1940
7SSBrighton-Franklin LineFranklin Avenue - Prospect Park (local)shuttle
BMT Queens Division
8-Astoria LineQueensboro Plaza - Ditmars Avenue (local)became the "other end" for service labels in fall 1949
93Flushing LineQueensboro Plaza - Main Street (local)formerly known as Corona Line
became IRT-only in fall 1949
also known as World's Fair-Flushing Line
BMT Eastern Division
10MMyrtle Avenue-Chambers Street LineChambers Street - Metropolitan Avenue (local)
11MJMyrtle Avenue LineSands Street - Metropolitan Avenue (local)closed October 4, 1969
12-Lexington Avenue LinePark Row - Eastern Parkway (local)closed October 13, 1950
13-Fulton Street LinePark Row - Lefferts Avenue (local)part west of Rockaway Avenue closed May 31, 1940; part west of Grant Avenue closed April 26, 1956, remainder became part of the IND April 29, 1956
14KBroadway (Brooklyn) LineCanal Street - Rockaway Parkway (local)formerly known as Canarsie Line before 16 was finished on July 14, 1928
15JJamaica LineBroad Street - 168th Street (local)
16L14th Street-Canarsie LineEighth Avenue - Rockaway Parkway (local)formerly known as 14th Street-Eastern Line until July 14, 1928

External linksEdit

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