The BMT Franklin Avenue Line (also known as the Brighton–Franklin Line) is a rapid transit line of the New York City Subway in Brooklyn, New York, running between Franklin Avenue–Fulton Street and Prospect Park. Service is full-time, and provided by the Franklin Avenue Shuttle. The line serves the neighborhood of Prospect Heights, and allows for easy connections between the Fulton Street Line and the Brighton Line.
The line was originally part of the Brooklyn, Flatbush, and Coney Island Railway, which was created to connect Downtown Brooklyn with Coney Island. This Franklin Avenue Line opened in 1878 as part of the railway. Trains continued via the Long Island Rail Road to get to Downtown Brooklyn. In 1896, a connection was built with the Fulton Street Elevated, providing direct service to Manhattan. In 1905 and 1906, the line was elevated near Park Place to eliminate the last remaining grade crossings.
In 1913, the line was acquired by the Brooklyn Rapid Transit (BRT), which consolidated various railroad lines in Brooklyn. As part of the Dual Contracts of 1913, the BRT planned to connect the Brighton Line to a more direct subway route under Flatbush Avenue as part of Contract 4. The worst rapid transit wreck in the New York City Subway's history, the Malbone Street Wreck, occurred on November 1, 1918, when a five-car wooden elevated train derailed while approaching the Prospect Park station, killing at least 93 people. In 1920, the Franklin Avenue Line was severed from the Fulton Street Elevated, and Brighton Line trains started using the new subway under Flatbush Avenue.
The line's condition deteriorated in the 1980s and 1990s, and as a result it was nearly abandoned. One station, Dean Street, was closed in 1995 due to low ridership. After pleas from the local community and transit advocacy groups, the MTA agreed to spend $74 million to rehabilitate the line. The line was closed for eighteen months in 1998 and 1999, during which the track layout was changed and the stations were rebuilt.
The Brooklyn, Flatbush, and Coney Island Railway (BF&CI), or Brighton Line, was incorporated in 1877 in order to connect Downtown Brooklyn with the hotels and resorts at Coney Island, Manhattan Beach, and Brighton Beach. The line opened on July 2, 1878, originally running from the entrance of Prospect Park to the Brighton Beach Hotel. However, the railroad desired to get the line closer to downtown Brooklyn. There was a problem: the line could not pass through Prospect Park, since the park had been built specifically as a retreat from the busyness of New York City.:90 Therefore, the line was to be built in a trench through the hill in Crown Heights, connecting with the tracks of the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) at Atlantic Avenue. The route was built on the surface between Bedford Terminal (at Atlantic Avenue) and Park Place, and was built in an open cut to Prospect Park in order to avoid grade crossings and to placate the local community.:90 This portion of the Brighton Beach Line represented a routing compromise, since the bypass route through Crown Heights was 2.3 miles (3.7 km) long, while the BF&CI's preferred direct routing to Downtown Brooklyn would have measured only 1.7 miles (2.7 km).:90 The Crown Heights routing took the BF&CI north to the Bedford station of the LIRR. This portion of the BF&CI's mainline would become the Franklin Avenue Line. Later on, in order to accommodate larger locomotives for LIRR through-service, the open cut had to be dug deeper.
This portion formally opened on August 19, 1878, about six weeks after the rest of the Brighton Line opened.:90 This portion of the Brighton Beach Line went north to the LIRR's Bedford station, where Brighton trains could merge onto LIRR tracks and operate to the Flatbush Avenue Terminal at Flatbush Avenue and Atlantic Avenue. However, the LIRR later gained control of the New York and Manhattan Beach Railway, a competitor of the BF&CI, and on December 14, 1883, ended the agreement to provide equal access to the Flatbush Avenue Terminal.:91 The BF&CI was forced to end its trains at Bedford, a situation which led to its bankruptcy in 1884.:91, 113 Three years later, the BF&CI line was reorganized as the Brooklyn and Brighton Beach Railroad.:91
The Kings County Elevated Railway (KCER) wanted to link the Brighton Beach Railroad, running west of Franklin Avenue, to its elevated railway above Fulton Street. However, there was a problem: the LIRR's Atlantic Branch right-of-way, running along Atlantic Avenue, separated the Brighton Beach Railroad's Bedford Terminal to the south and the Fulton Street Line to the north. The LIRR vigorously defended its right to prevent any other railroad companies from crossing its right-of-way, and it only backed down after the KCER brought litigation against the LIRR. Moreover, store owners on Franklin Avenue and Fulton Street opposed the creation of an additional elevated link between the Brighton Beach Railroad and the Fulton Street elevated.:115 The BF&CI won its lawsuit against the LIRR in 1889, but the victory was largely symbolic since the Brighton Beach Railroad had replaced the BF&CI.:91
In February 1896, the railroad was leased by the KCER. On August 15, 1896, the railroad gained a connection with it by means of a ramp and short elevated railway. The connection linked to the Fulton Street Elevated, which ran from Downtown Brooklyn to Jamaica and had been completed in 1893. From there the line bridged over Atlantic Avenue, where the LIRR was still operating at-grade.:113 As part of the Atlantic Avenue improvement program, this portion of the LIRR was submerged in a tunnel between 1903 and 1905. Additionally, provisions were provided for a future two-track connection in Downtown Brooklyn near the current Atlantic Terminal, leading from the Atlantic Branch to the Brighton Line.
Also in 1896, a new entity, the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company (BRT), was created to consolidate the surface and elevated lines in Brooklyn. This enabled the KCER to operate its steam-powered elevated trains on the Brighton Line via the Franklin Avenue Line's right-of-way, providing Brighton riders with direct service to downtown Manhattan via the Brooklyn Bridge. Brooklyn and Brighton Beach Railroad trains continued to run from Bedford Terminal, but this service was soon abandoned, though the track connections were retained. In 1899, elevated trains began to run via the Brighton Line in addition to steam service. All steam service stopped running by 1903.
The first electrification of the Brighton Line, including the Franklin Avenue Line, was accomplished in 1899 using trolley wire. Trains that used third rail in elevated service raised trolley poles at Franklin Avenue station. Some of the trolley poles required for the operation still exist along the line. In 1905 and 1906, the last remaining grade crossings were eliminated in the vicinity of Park Place by building an elevated structure to connect the old elevated structure and the open-cut portion. In the ensuing years, some existing bridges were strengthened or replaced and some of the elevated trackage was placed on concrete-retained embankment.
The KCER connection was still less than ideal, and the BRT, which ended up as the lessor of both the KCER and B&BB roads, negotiated a more direct subway route under Flatbush Avenue as part of Contract 4 of the Dual Contracts of 1913. The KCER's connection to the BB&B consisted of a grade-separated divergence just north of the two-platformed, four-tracked Prospect Park station, where KCER trains used the outer pair of tracks and the BB&B used the inner pair. While the two inner BB&B tracks continued northwest to Downtown Brooklyn and Manhattan, the KCER tracks continued northeast. The track layouts of the northbound and southbound KCER tracks differed: the northbound (easternmost) track had a relatively straight path northeast to the Franklin Avenue Line, while the southbound (westernmost) track had a sharp curve that, coming from the north, had a sharp S-curve to the right and then to the left.
The construction of this new connection indirectly contributed to the Malbone Street Wreck on November 1, 1918, which became at the time the worst rapid transit wreck in world history. A five-car wooden elevated train, heading southbound along the Franklin Avenue Line just after leaving the Consumers Park station, left the tracks and crashed into one of the new tunnel walls, killing 97.:1 The collision was found to be caused by an inexperienced motorman who was speeding down the southbound S-curve at seven and a half times over that track's speed limit. It remains the deadliest crash in the New York City Subway's history, as well as one of the worst rapid-transit crashes in the history of the United States.
On August 1, 1920, the Brighton Beach Line was connected to the Broadway subway in Manhattan via the Montague Street Tunnel under the East River, as well as a tunnel connection underneath Flatbush Avenue. At the same time, track connections to the Fulton Street Elevated were severed so that through service to Brooklyn Bridge was no longer possible. Subway trains from Manhattan and elevated trains from Franklin Avenue shared operations to Coney Island. A connection and cross-platform interchange between the Brighton Beach and Franklin Avenue Lines was made at Prospect Park, where Franklin Avenue trains used the outer tracks and Brighton Beach trains used the inner tracks. South of Prospect Park, there were switches between all four tracks, allowing southbound trains from either line to run either local or express to Coney Island, as well as permitting northbound local and express trains from Coney Island to access either line. On the four-track Brighton Beach main line south of Prospect Park, the inner pair of tracks were for express trains, and the outer pair of tracks were for local trains.:97
The line continued to operate elevated train service on the Brighton Beach main line until 1928, after which similar services were continued with steel subway cars. For the summer excursion season of 1924, the Franklin Avenue Line was upgraded for the operation of six-car subway trains, and was assigned the BMT number 7.:98 This service used the Brighton Line during most daytime hours. During warm weather, express service ran to Coney Island on weekends during the day.:98
In the 1920s, transportation officials discussed the possibility of an extension of the line. It was proposed that the line would be extended beyond Fulton Street, ran across central Brooklyn, and link up with other BRT lines in Long Island City. Provisions for this line were made in the elevated structure at Queensboro Plaza, but no other parts of the line were built as the plan never left the talking stages.:98 A crosstown line would eventually be built in the 1930s; however, it was part of the city-operated Independent Subway System, not the BRT.
The Fulton Street Elevated, to which the Franklin Avenue line was originally connected, closed in 1940 and was replaced by the IND Fulton Street Line. A free transfer was instituted between the Fulton Street subway and the Franklin Avenue elevated.:100
In 1958, a new switch was installed north of Prospect Park, allowing trains to reverse ends at the easternmost track at Prospect Park, which had formerly served northbound Franklin Avenue Line trains. This eliminated a traffic bottleneck in which southbound Franklin Avenue Line trains, arriving on the westernmost track at Prospect Park, reversed directions by crossing over two active Brighton Line tracks to the northbound Franklin Avenue Line track, thereby delaying train traffic. As a result, most trains avoided negotiating the sharp S-curve where the Malbone Street Wreck had occurred.:77 Trains that were being taken out of service continued to use the old route.:98
Prior to the Brooklyn Dodgers' relocation to Los Angeles in 1957, the Franklin Avenue Line was one of the busiest routes to their games at Ebbets Field, located in Flatbush near the southern end of the line. A 1982 New York Times article described the line as the "gateway to Ebbets Field".
After the city gained ownership of the line in 1940, Brighton-Franklin services gradually declined. A major blow to the viability of through-service occurred in 1954 when the D train of the IND Division was extended to Coney Island via the Culver Line, deprived the Franklin of a major source of transfer traffic, consisting of passengers from Harlem and the Bronx, who now had a more direct route to Coney Island. Brighton-Franklin express service ended in 1954,:98 and the Franklin Avenue Line became a full-time shuttle in 1963. On November 1, 1965, when R27 subway cars started going into service, this service was named SS. In 1985, when the practice of using double letters was eliminated, this service became the S.:98
On December 1, 1974, a southbound shuttle train of R32s was approaching the tunnel portal en route from Franklin Avenue when it derailed on the crossover and smashed the same place where BRT car 100 had hit in the Malbone Street Wreck. This derailment resulted in some injuries, but there were no fatalities, because time signals limited the speed of trains coming down the hill from Crown Heights.:98–100
In January 1977, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA)'s Emergency Financial Control Board proposed abandoning the severely deteriorated line due to cutbacks in city funding. The local community was outraged at the plan and was successful in saving the shuttle for the meantime. A coalition of about 5,000 passengers, including local businessmen, the Jewish Hospital and Medical Center, staff workers of the Bureau of Child Welfare and representation from local high schools, showed up to a meeting on January 5 to protest the planned cut. They were aided by Congress members Shirley Chisholm and Fred Richmond, who issued a statement in support of the riders of the shuttle, including 2,000 students.
In 1981, the MTA proposed abandoning the severely deteriorated line under the failed Program for Action. At the time, only 10,000 daily passengers used the line. It was proposed that bus service along nearby Franklin Avenue could substitute for the line.:100 During the winter, the line would often be closed because there was fear that trains would derail. Stations were in horrible condition; portions of the wooden platforms were sealed off because they had burned or collapsed. From January to March 1982, the line needed to be closed for emergency repair work because a retaining wall along the line was in danger of collapse. An MTA spokeswoman said that the repairs would only last for three years and $38 to $60 million would be needed to rebuild the line. She said that the MTA was considering ending service on the line permanently.
By the 1990s the Franklin Avenue Shuttle was known as the "ghost train" and the Franklin Avenue Line was very dilapidated. Shuttle trains' lengths were shrunk from four to two cars, and the platforms were so poorly maintained that they were literally crumbling. However, the MTA was still lacking the funds to renovate the line from end to end. The Dean Street station, which had 50 paying riders per day, was closed in 1995. The entire line was under consideration for abandonment, and community leaders were opposed to the move. They showed up to town hall meetings, news conferences and they sat down with transit officials. They also formed the Committee to Save the Franklin Avenue Shuttle. The coalition included the Straphangers Campaign, a local church, local community boards and the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance. They argued that subway station repair work occurred elsewhere, when no attention was paid to the Franklin Avenue Shuttle.
The civic groups ultimately convinced the New York State Assembly to force the MTA to rebuild rather than abandon the line, and at its April 26, 1996 board meeting, it announced that the shuttle would be closed for eighteen months so that the line could be rehabilitated for $63 million. As a result, most of the supporting infrastructure and stations were completely rehabilitated for eighteen months, between July 1998 and October 1999 at a cost of $74 million. Closing the shuttle full time was estimated to save time and $22 million. While the closure of the line started in July 1998, work began in September 1997. The contract on the bid was out in February 1997. During the renovation, a temporary shuttle bus and the B48 bus replaced train service. The line reopened on October 18, 1999, three months ahead of schedule.
As part of the rehabilitation, three stations were rebuilt, elevators were installed at the Fulton Street station, tracks and bridges were replaced, and security cameras and new artwork were added. 0.4 miles (640 m) of unnecessary double track was removed, and 1.4 miles (2,300 m) of track was replaced. The signal system between the Botanic Garden and Franklin Avenue stations was replaced and rehabilitated. The transfer to the IND Fulton Street Line had required an out-of-system paper transfer, but an enclosed transfer was built with two elevators and an escalator. Prior to this enclosed transfer, a portion of the Fulton Street Elevated line was left standing so passengers could use a staircase to transfer to the Fulton Street Line. The closed Dean Street station was demolished as part of the project. The local community agreed to close the station in exchange for the construction of a new passageway to provide transfers to the IRT Eastern Parkway Line at Botanic Garden. MetroCard vending machines and improved speakers were also installed in the stations.
Once the line was reopened there were still calls to restore the Dean Street station, and there were complaints that the Botanic Garden and Prospect Park stops were not made ADA accessible. Prospect Park was made accessible in a later project.
At Fulton Street and Franklin Avenue, where the Fulton Street Elevated had given way to the IND Fulton Street Line subway, a large station is present with modern conveniences, elevators and escalators, providing an easier transfer between the Fulton Street Line and the Franklin Avenue Line. From that station, most of the original steelwork from elevated days has been removed and replaced with heavier construction. The line runs on a single track from Franklin/Fulton to another new station at Park Place. Though this portion of the line uses much of the reinforced viaduct from 1903-1905, it was totally reconstructed in 1999. There was once a stop at Dean Street, between the Fulton Street and Park Place stations. The Dean Street station closed in 1995 because it was one of the least used stations in the system, and because it was in very poor condition. The station still had wooden platforms, which were a safety hazard, as well as incandescent lighting, although all other stations had been upgraded with fluorescent lamps. The station was demolished upon its closure, and the only visible remnant of the station is a sidewalk streetlamp which used to illuminate the staircase leading from the station platform.
Between Sterling Place and Park Place, the line rises along a ramp that opened in 1896, and had connected the original line to the Fulton Street Elevated. The elevated railway was rebuilt along the original line's old right-of-way to reduce costs. The line then crosses a bridge over Park Place. Park Place was placed at a lower elevation in 1905 in order to eliminate the grade crossing. To allow vehicular traffic to pass under the line, the street descends to as much as 3 feet (0.91 m) below its elevation on either side of the Franklin Avenue Line overpass. Since the sidewalk remains at the same elevation as on either side, stairs are provided between the road's curb and the sidewalk.
After Park Place, the line broadens from one to two tracks and the right-of-way enters the near-original 1878 right-of-way, including the original railroad-style tunnel under Eastern Parkway. The south end of the tunnel contains the rehabilitated Botanic Garden station, originally built in 1928. All three stations between Franklin Avenue and Botanic Garden were rebuilt or renovated with elements such as distinctive artwork, masonry and ironwork funded by New York City Transit's "Arts in Transit" program. From Botanic Garden, the line continues on its original 1878 roadbed and connects with the main part of the Brighton Line at Prospect Park. Before entering Prospect Park, trains switch to the northbound track, which continues straight and enters a tunnel. The shuttle terminates on the northbound outer track of the four-track Prospect Park station. The unused southbound track also enters a tunnel, but curves sharply west and then south to swing around the Brighton Beach Line tracks, which approach Prospect Park from the northwest and feed into the station's inner two tracks. The southbound Franklin Avenue Line track then connects to the southbound outer track at Prospect Park.
In accordance with the subway's railroad chaining conventions, which measure distances along railroad lines based on the engineer's chain of 66 feet (20 m), the Franklin Avenue Line is chained BMT O (letter "O"). "Chaining zero", the geographical point from which the distance to locations along the line are measured, is BMT Eastern. It is located in Civic Center, Manhattan, at the intersection of the line of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Chambers Street station on the Nassau Street Line; the measurements were made using the length of the now-dismantled Brooklyn Bridge and Fulton Street Lines. The Franklin Avenue Line's chaining measurement ties, or continues off the Brooklyn Bridge and Fulton Street Lines' original measurement, at the Franklin Avenue station. In terms of railroad directions, "north" is toward Franklin Avenue and generally corresponds to geographical north. The line's signals are controlled by the DeKalb Avenue Tower, located at the DeKalb Avenue station in Downtown Brooklyn.
(geographical west to east)
|Franklin Avenue||south of Park Place||O2||bi-directional single track|
|south of Park Place||north of Prospect Park||O1-O2||
|Station service legend|
|Stops all times|
|Time period details|
|Station is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act|
|↑||Station is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act|
in the indicated direction only
|Elevator access to mezzanine only|
|Station||Services||Opened||Transfers and notes|
|Bedford–Stuyvesant||Franklin Avenue||S||August 15, 1896||A C (IND Fulton Street Line)|
|Bedford||August 19, 1878||Replaced by Franklin Avenue in 1896. The location was then served by Dean Street (now closed). Track connection and some facilities retained until disconnected during 1904–1905 rebuilding.|
|Crown Heights||Dean Street||August 15, 1896||Closed c. 1899;[a] re-opened October 28, 1901. Closed again in 1995; now demolished|
|Park Place||S||June 19, 1899|
|Botanic Garden (2nd iteration)||S||September 30, 1928||2 3 4 5 (IRT Eastern Parkway Line at Franklin Avenue)|
|Consumers Park||June 19, 1899||Renamed Botanic Garden (1st iteration) c. 1924. Closed in 1928 and replaced by the second iteration of Botanic Garden; now demolished|
|Flatbush||Prospect Park||S||July 2, 1878||B Q (BMT Brighton Line)|
|merges with BMT Brighton Line (no regular service)|