The Story Behind the 42nd Street Shuttle: New York’s Tiniest Subway Line

By Paul Riegler on 8 August 2018
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Few people, including native New Yorkers, know very much about New York City’s tiniest subway line, the 42nd Street Shuttle. With only two stations – Grand Central Terminal and Times Square – it only has the two stops and runs about 2,402 feet (732 meters) in 90 seconds.

The Shuttle is part of the city’s original subway system, specifically the IRT line, and the actual subway through which it runs dates to 1904.

When the New York City subway system was expanded in 1913, the city, along with Brooklyn Rapid Transit and Interborough Rapid Transit agreed to create a shuttle when the city was split into two north-south lines, one serving the East Side and one the West Side.

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The shuttle itself goes from Grand Central Terminal curving sharply to the north under One Times Square and then going northeast under Seventh Avenue before shifting under Broadway. Times Square platforms are located on this curve.

The line’s official color is dark gray and it appears on subway route maps with the symbol “S.”

The current rolling stock is comprised of three R62A subway cars manufactured by Bombardier. In November 2017, the middle car of each train used on the shuttle had almost all of its seats removed as part of a plan to increase capacity on the line. The only remaining seats in that car are the benches at either end.

On a day-to-day basis, the shuttle operates from 5:50 a.m. to midnight on weekdays and from 6 a.m. to midnight on weekends. During the off periods, the 7 train provides an alternate route between the two stations. The trains remain on the same track and simply run back and forth. Each train has an operator at each end of the train to facilitate a quick turnaround, as they run as frequently as every two minutes during rush hour.

(Photos: Accura Media Group)

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