The connection was originally conceived as part of the long delayed Second Avenue Subway, and, along with the 3 stations added with the opening of phase 1, is one of the few completed sections of the project.
D train on the north side of the Manhattan Bridge, looking toward Brooklyn
The two tracks that run the full length of the connection begin as a continuation of the IND Sixth Avenue Line express tracks east of Broadway–Lafayette Street. These tracks include the line's only station, Grand Street, and connections to the two northern tracks over the Manhattan Bridge. The IND Sixth Avenue Line express tracks formerly continued east, ending slightly east of the Second Avenue station, and were planned to extend into Brooklyn and beyond as part of a never-built major system expansion called the IND Second System. Those tracks still exist at Second Avenue station, but now connect to the local tracks west of the station.
The two tracks on the north side of the Manhattan Bridge formerly carried trains to the BMT Broadway Line, which now connects to the tracks on the south side of the bridge.:151 The south side tracks had been connected to the BMT Nassau Street Line, carrying the Nassau Street Loop service via Chambers Street from 1915. The northern tracks of the bridge saw heavier traffic loads because it led to Midtown Manhattan, compared to the southern tracks, which made three stops in Lower Manhattan before returning to Brooklyn. As a result of the uneven traffic distribution, the Manhattan Bridge started tilting to its north side. The connection to the Nassau Street Line was cut north of Chambers Street at the Manhattan Bridge end, and is used for storage from the Nassau Street end.
The opening of the Chrystie Street Connection to the Manhattan Bridge allowed the integration of four major routes of the combined system. The BB service of the IND was through-routed with the TBMT West End Line service as the B, and the D service of the IND was through-routed with the QBMT Brighton Line service as the D.:152 In 2004, the Brooklyn routes and terminals of the B and D trains were swapped as part of the Manhattan Bridge reconstruction from 1986 to 2004.
Williamsburg Bridge connection
The Williamsburg Bridge and two trains on it, seen from the Marcy Avenue station
The two tracks that connect to the Williamsburg Bridge split from the Sixth Avenue Line local tracks east of Broadway – Lafayette Street and feed into the BMT Nassau Street Line west of Essex Street. The purpose of this portion of the connector was to allow trains originating in northern and eastern Brooklyn and southern and eastern Queens to operate into Midtown Manhattan via the Sixth Avenue Line, rather than having to turn south along Nassau Street. The KK (later renamed the K) service, which used these tracks, proved unpopular; as such, it only operated from July 1, 1968, to August 29, 1976, when it was cut as part of an ongoing retrenchment of service during New York City's fiscal crisis.
A plan similar to the Chrystie Street Connection was proposed as part of the Second Avenue Subway (SAS) under the Board of Transportation's 1944-1948 Capital Program, with connections from the 2nd Avenue line to the BMT Nassau Street Line, the Williamsburg and Manhattan Bridges, as well as a new station at Grand and Chrystie Streets. This plan would have allowed service from Grand Street to run south to Chambers and Broad Streets on the Nassau Street line, providing an additional East River crossing via the Montague Street Tunnel. In 1954, the modern Chrystie Street plans were introduced as part of a request by the Transit Authority (TA) for $172 million in capital transit improvement funds.
A groundbreaking ceremony was held on November 25, 1957, with Mayor Robert F. Wagner, Jr. and TA officials in attendance. The project was constructed in conjunction with the addition of express tracks on the Sixth Avenue Line between 34th Street and West 4th Street, and reconfiguration of the DeKalb Avenue interlocking on the Brooklyn side of the Manhattan Bridge. It was expected that the project would be finished in three years. In 1962, the Sixth Avenue extension to the new terminal at 57th Street was announced. During construction, the entire seven-block length of Chrystie Street was closed until 1964.
The connection was projected to cost $100 million, and provide capacity for 52,000 more riders an hour between Brooklyn and Manhattan. Lighting, power and signal equipment for the Chrystie Street tunnel had been installed by January 1965. In 1965, the project was projected to be completed in 1967, with the portion involving the opening of the Grand Street station to be finished in 1966.
The Manhattan Bridge connection and the Grand Street station opened on November 26, 1967, almost exactly 10 years after the project began. The Williamsburg Bridge connection and 57th Street station opened on July 1, 1968. The opening of the connection allowed greater flexibility in routings along BMT lines in Brooklyn. The Manhattan Bridge connection eliminated a bottleneck where trains using three of the four BMT Southern Division lines from Coney Island–Stillwell Avenue, were forced to use the Manhattan Bridge or the Montague Street Tunnel before going onto the BMT Broadway Line to Midtown Manhattan (or onto the Nassau Street Loop). The new connection thus permitted IND Sixth Avenue Line trains from Midtown to use the BMT lines toward Coney Island, while preserving Nassau Street service via the Montague Street Tunnel.:152 Trains from the BMT Jamaica Line and other BMT Eastern Division lines also gained a direct connection to Midtown Manhattan via the Sixth Avenue Line by using the Williamsburg Bridge connection.:153
Two major service changes were inaugurated with the opening of the connection. The first went into effect on Sunday, November 26, 1967, when the Manhattan Bridge connection opened. The second occurred on Monday, July 1, 1968, when the Williamsburg Bridge connection opened. Additionally, for the 1967 opening, every service in the system was labeled with a letter or number and a color.
Changes following the Manhattan Bridge connection opening
New Subway Routes
The opening of the Manhattan Bridge connection on November 26, 1967, was concurrent with the opening of the new express tracks on the Sixth Avenue Line between West Fourth Street–Washington Square and 34th Street, providing additional capacity for the extra trains on the IND via the connection. The following service changes were made, affecting about 200,000 passengers:
The rush-hour only BB, which had run between Washington Heights–168th Street on the IND Eighth Avenue Line and 34th Street, was relabeled the B. It was extended via the new Sixth Avenue Line express tracks and the Chrystie Street Connection, then express on the BMT Fourth Avenue Line and local on the BMT West End Line, terminating at Coney Island–Stillwell Avenue. This latter segment replaced the T (express via Bridge) and TT (local via Tunnel) services, leaving only the TT West End Shuttle from the BMT Fourth Avenue Line running to Coney Island during late evenings, late nights and all day Sundays. B service was added during middays, early evenings, and the same time on Saturdays, but only south of West Fourth Street – Washington Square.
The Q (BMT Brighton Line express) service was "absorbed" by a rerouted D, which used the Sixth Avenue Line local tracks (except rush hours, when it ran express). It used the Chrystie Street Connection to the BMT Brighton Line to Stillwell Avenue (running express in Brooklyn from morning rush hours through early evenings). Formerly, the Q had run local in Brooklyn (except during morning rush hours and early evenings) and express on the BMT Broadway Line in Manhattan, terminating at 57th Street. The pre-1967 Q ran only weekdays until the mid-evening. The D had previously used the Sixth Avenue Line and IND Culver Line to Coney Island; this service was replaced by the F (see below).
In a major rerouting affecting Queens riders, the F train was considerably extended from its original terminal stops, Broadway–Lafayette Street (morning rush hour to early evening) and 34th Street on the Sixth Avenue Line (other times), into Brooklyn to Stillwell Avenue along the Culver Line (previously serviced by the D). It continued to run express east of Forest Hills–71st Avenue only during rush hours. For the first time, riders from central Queens had a one-seat ride to southern Brooklyn destinations and Coney Island.
The QJ was added as a rerouting of the old QT, combined with an extension of the old J Jamaica Express, entering Manhattan via the tunnel and extending via the BMT Jamaica Line to 168th Street. Its service hours remained the same, running from morning rush hours through early evening. It continued to run express in western Brooklyn and skip-stop in morning rush hours only in eastern Brooklyn.
The RJ (R via Jamaica) service was added as an extension of former RR special service on the Nassau Street line, continuing local along the Jamaica Line to 168th Street. It operated only during rush hours.
NX A New Service
The NX was added for a "super-express" service from Brighton Beach through the Stillwell Avenue terminal (the only service to do so) and along the BMT Sea Beach Line's middle express tracks and Fourth Avenue Line to 57th Street in Manhattan.
These changes were reportedly so confusing to some motormen that on November 28, 1967, a motorman intending to operate a train along the new D route via Grand Street accidentally took his train to Canal Street, necessitating the discharge of 800 passengers from the train during a busy rush hour. Reaction among passengers was mixed, with one passenger hugging a conductor after the opening of the new Grand Street station in Manhattan, while another passenger complained about having to take a slow local train in Brooklyn.
Changes following the Williamsburg Bridge connection opening
The following changes went into effect on July 1, 1968, concurrent with the opening of the 57th Street station at Sixth Avenue and the bridge connection:
The KK service commenced between the new 57th Street station at Sixth Avenue and 168th Street in Jamaica. It operated only during rush hours, running skip-stop with the QJ on the BMT Jamaica Line east of Broadway Junction and then local into Manhattan. In Brooklyn, the KK (rush hours) and QJ (other times) replaced the JJ service, which was discontinued. The KK served "A" stops on the skip-stop portion of the BMT Jamaica Line, and the QJ served "B" stops. This skip-stop pattern, which had operated only in morning rush hours, was extended into afternoon rush hours, but still ran only in the peak direction.
The D service now bypassed 14th Street and 23rd Street via the express tracks of the IND Sixth Avenue Line at all times. It had previously done this only during rush hours. This service is taken over by the B and KK.
The M (rush hour service) was extended from Chambers Street to Broad Street due to the additional capacity available from the rerouting of the JJ (as the KK).
The F ran express on the IND Culver Line during rush hours north of Church Avenue. Several peak-direction rush hour trains were truncated to Kings Highway; the rest provide express service north of Kings Highway. The GG train was extended to Church Avenue during rush hours to replace F local service, but was cut back to Smith–Ninth Streets on January 18, 1976.
The NX joins the N
These new services began to unravel in response to commuter complaints about the various routings. Many of the new extensions like the NX and RJ quickly disappeared (April 12, 1968 and June 28, 1968, respectively). The KK (since renamed the K) was discontinued in 1976 as a money-saving measure, ending service via the Williamsburg Bridge connection. Reconstruction of the Manhattan Bridge occurred from 1986 to 1988, in 1995, and from 2001 to 2004. At times, this made the Chrystie Street Connection unavailable for through trains, and made the Grand Street station a terminal for Grand Street Shuttle service to Broadway–Lafayette Street. The Manhattan Bridge reopened fully in 2004.
Current service routing
The Chrystie Street Connection returned to full revenue service on June 28, 2010. The Manhattan Bridge connection continues to be used by the B and D services. The Williamsburg Bridge connection is now used by the M service, which had formerly come into Manhattan on the BMT Nassau Street Line. In June 2010, as part of a round of service cuts, the M was rerouted via Chrystie Street onto the IND Sixth Avenue Line, continuing along the V service's former routing north of Broadway–Lafayette Street. At the same time, the V route had been eliminated.
The Chrystie Street Connection comprises two of the six parts of the Second Avenue Subway that were built in the 1960s and 1970s—the other four parts being the BMT 63rd Street Line, two unused subway segments under Second Avenue in East Harlem (one of which was connected to the 63rd Street line for Phase 1 of the Second Avenue line, which opened in 2017), and an unused subway segment under Confucius Plaza just to the south. The Chrystie Street Connection would have facilitated cross-platform and track interchanges between the Second and Sixth Avenue lines at Grand Street. Under current plans, Phase 4 of the future Second Avenue Subway will be built below the existing Sixth Avenue tracks.
Note that this is a list of New York City Subway lines, which are the physical infrastructure over which services operate. Lines with colors next to them are trunk lines; trunk lines determine the color of New York City Subway service bullets, except for shuttles, which are dark gray.