IRT Flushing Line

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IRT Flushing Line
The 7 and 7 Express (<7>) trains serve the entire IRT Flushing Line.
Type Rapid transit
System New York City Subway
Termini Flushing – Main Street
34th Street – Hudson Yards
Stations 22
Daily ridership 817,793[1]
Opened 1915–1928 (between Times Square and Flushing – Main Street)
September 13, 2015 (between 34th Street and Times Square)
Owner City of New York
Operator(s) New York City Transit Authority
Character Underground (Manhattan, Western Queens and Main Street)
Elevated (east of Hunters Point Avenue and west of Main Street, exclusive)
No. of tracks 2–5
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Electrification 625 V DC third rail

The IRT Flushing Line is a rapid transit route of the New York City Subway system, operated as part of the A Division. Originally an Interborough Rapid Transit Company-operated route, the Flushing Line, as originally built, ran from Flushing, Queens, to Times Square, Manhattan; a western extension was built to Hudson Yards in western Manhattan, and the line now stretches from Flushing to Chelsea, Manhattan. It carries trains of the 7 local service, as well as the express <7> during rush hours in the peak direction.

It is shown in the color raspberry on station signs, the official subway map, internal route maps in R188 cars, and route signs on the front and sides of R62A subway cars. Before the line was opened all the way to Flushing, it was known as the Corona Line or Woodside and Corona Line. Prior to the discontinuance of BMT services in 1949, the portion of the IRT Flushing Line between Times Square and Queensboro Plaza was known as the Queensboro Line.

The Flushing Line has various styles of architecture, which range from steel girder elevated structures to European-style concrete viaducts. The underground stations have some unique designs as well. The designs include Hunters Point Avenue, which is in an Italianate style; Grand Central – 42nd Street, which is a single round tube similar to a London Underground station; and 34th Street – Hudson Yards, which, with its deep vault and spacious interior, resembles a Washington Metro station.

Extent and service


Queens Boulevard viaduct

Services that use the Flushing Line are colored raspberry. The following services use part or all of the Flushing Line:

Service Time period
Rush hours,
peak direction
Other times
NYCS-bull-trans-7.svg Local Full line
NYCS-bull-trans-7d.svg Express Full line No service

The line has two distinct sections, split by the Queensboro Plaza station. It begins as a three-track subway, with the center track used for express service, at Flushing – Main Street. It quickly leaves the ground onto a steel elevated structure above Roosevelt Avenue, passing Citi Field and the USTA National Tennis Center. A flying junction between Mets – Willets Point and 111th Street provides access to Corona Yard from the local tracks. At 48th Street in Sunnyside, the line switches to Queens Boulevard and an ornate concrete viaduct begins. The express track ends between 33rd Street – Rawson Street and Queensboro Plaza.

At Queensboro Plaza, the eastbound track (railroad north) is above the westbound track, with both Flushing Line tracks on the south side of the island platforms. On the north side of these platforms is the BMT Astoria Line. East of this point, both the Flushing Line and the Astoria Line were operated by the IRT and the BMT; details on that dual operation are in the Background section. Connections still exist between the eastbound tracks just east of the platforms, but they cannot be used for revenue service because BMT trains are wider than IRT trains. This is the only track connection between the Flushing Line and the rest of the subway system.

West of Queensboro Plaza, the line immediately turns south onto an elevated structure over 23rd Street. It heads into the west end of Amtrak's Sunnyside Yard, and passes through two underground stations before entering Manhattan via the Steinway Tunnel under the East River. In Manhattan, the line runs under 42nd Street, with part directly underneath the 42nd Street Shuttle (S trains), before angling towards 41st Street. The Times Square – 42nd Street station, with no track connections to other lines, is directly under 41st Street.

Directly west of Times Square, the tracks curve sharply downward before turning under 11th Avenue. The tracks end at 24th Street, though the last station is at 34th Street. This segment was built as part of the extension of the Flushing Line west to Manhattan's Far West Side. A decommissioned lower level at the IND Eighth Avenue Line's 42nd Street – Port Authority Bus Terminal station formerly blocked the way; it had been rumored that the IND built it to keep the IRT from extending the Flushing Line, although all initial blueprints indicate that the IRT never planned such an expansion. While some originally questioned the necessity of the plan, with London receiving the 2012 Summer Olympics, the city pursued it as a means to enable the redevelopment of the far West Side under the Hudson Yards Redevelopment Project.


The Flushing 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 BMT Canarsie Line, carrying the L services. Because of this, there are plans to automate the line with new trains using communication-based train control (CBTC), similar to the Canarsie Line.

The IRT Flushing Line's 7 service has the distinction of running trains with the largest number of cars in the New York City Subway. 7 trains are eleven cars long; most other New York City Subway services run ten or eight-car trains. The trains are not the longest by total length, however. An IND/BMT train of ten 60-foot (18 m)-long cars, which is 600 feet (180 m) long, is still 35 feet (11 m) longer than an IRT train of eleven 51.4-foot (15.7 m)-long cars, which is 565 feet (172 m) long.



IRT Flushing Line
Flushing – Main Street
Mets – Willets Point
Corona Yard and approaches
111th Street
103rd Street – Corona Plaza
Junction Boulevard
90th Street – Elmhurst Avenue
82nd Street – Jackson Heights
74th Street – Broadway
69th Street
61st Street – Woodside
52nd Street
46th Street – Bliss Street
40th Street – Lowery Street
33rd Street – Rawson Street
Queensboro Plaza
former connection to the IRT Second Avenue Line
Court Square
Former Inspection Track (1917–1928)
utv-HSTCCa lhvSTR-Lfq
Hunters Point Avenue
Vernon Boulevard – Jackson Avenue
Grand Central
Fifth Avenue
Times Square
10th Avenue
(proposed; not funded)
34th Street – Hudson Yards

The earliest origins of the Flushing Line emerged on February 25, 1885, with the construction of the East River Tunnel Railroad in the Steinway Tunnel, with an objective to connect the Long Island Rail Road with the New York Central Railroad. Although a such a plan was studied, no action was taken upon the plan, and the railroad was redesignated as the New York and Long Island Railroad Company in 1887. To run from West 42nd Street and Tenth Avenue to Van Alst Avenue after crossing under the East River, the remainder of the line was planned to be constructed on private lands; as such, numerous alterations were made to the proposal. In 1890, William Steinway advised the company to utilize electricity to power the tunnels, believing that the construction of the tunnel would increase the value of his properties within the vicinity.

On June 3, 1892, building of the tunnel commenced near the intersection of 50th Avenue and Vernon and Jackson Avenues; however, several failures and hindrances, which included an underground spring preventing the extraction of rubble, resulted in the termination of the project on February 2, 1893. Several calls for the resumption of the project between 1893 and 1896, in addition to a proposed extension to New Jersey, were futile.[2] The tunnel opened for subway use in 1915.[3][4][5]

Construction under Dual Contracts

7 train of R36 "Redbird" cars at 33rd Street – Rawson Street northbound; prior to their retirement

At Queensboro Plaza, the line met the BMT's 60th Street Tunnel, as well as a spur from the elevated IRT Second Avenue Line on the Queensboro Bridge. From this point east, the Flushing and Astoria Lines were built by the City of New York as part of the Dual Contracts. They were officially IRT lines on which the BMT held irrevocable and equal trackage rights. Because BMT trains were wider, and the platforms had been built for the IRT, normal BMT trains ran only to Queensboro Plaza, with a transfer to shuttles, using elevated cars, that alternated between the Astoria – Ditmars Boulevard and Flushing – Main Street terminals. IRT trains simply continued from the Queensboro Line and Queensboro Bridge onto the lines to Astoria and Flushing, originally called the Corona Line or Woodside and Corona Line before it was completed to Flushing.

The line was opened from Queensboro Plaza to 103rd Street – Corona Plaza on April 21, 1917.[6] BMT shuttles began to use the Flushing and Astoria Lines on April 8, 1923.[7] East of there, sources conflict on when each section opened. A New York Times article from May 8 reports that service began on May 7 to what is now the Mets – Willets Point station, and mentions delays due to the structure sinking.[8] Articles from May 13 and May 15 cover a celebration to coincide with the opening to the Willets Point stop on May 14.[9][10] Finally, a January 22, 1928 article reports that the line had ended at 103rd Street–Corona Plaza until January 21; the extension had been finished over a year earlier but had to be strengthened due to structural problems.[11]

The eastern extension to Flushing – Main Street opened on January 2, 1928. However, Flushing – Main Street was not originally intended to be the end of the line. The Public Service Commission, in June 1913, was actively engaged in considering extensions of the line beyond Flushing, but these extensions, later planned as part of a large system expansion, were never built. At the time, the line continued past Flushing – Main Street and into a train storage area.[12]

Western extensions were also built, with part underneath the 42nd Street Shuttle:

For the 1939 New York World's Fair, the Willets Point Boulevard station was rebuilt and centered on 123rd Street, just west of where the station originally lay. Some remnants of the old station are still visible; ironwork tends to indicate where the older outside-platform stations were, and the remains of the fare entry area can be seen east of the current station. The original Willets Point Boulevard station was a "minor" stop on the Flushing Line; it had only two stairways and short station canopies at platform level. It was rebuilt into the much larger station in use today, and the ramp used during two World's Fairs still exists, but is only used during special events, such as the US Open for tennis. Express service to the World's Fair began on the Flushing Line on April 24, 1939.[15] This was the first time the middle express track had been used for revenue service; prior to the fair, the express track had only been used for non-revenue moves and re-routes during construction.

Currently and historically, IRT subway services on the Flushing Line were assigned the number 7, though this did not appear on any equipment until the introduction of the R12 class cars in 1948. The BMT services were assigned the BMT number 9, used on maps but not trains.

Service curtailments and slight improvements

In 1942, when IRT Second Avenue Line service ended, major overhauls for the Corona fleet were transferred to the Coney Island shop. In addition, free transfers to the IRT Third Avenue Line were offered at Grand Central from June 13, 1942 (when Second Avenue Line service ended, including the Queensboro Bridge connection) until May 12, 1955 (when Third Avenue Line service ended). In the fall of 1949, the joint BMT/IRT service arrangement ended. The Flushing Line became the responsibility of IRT. The Astoria Line had its platforms shaved back, and became BMT-only. Because of this, routes through the then eight-track Queensboro Plaza station were consolidated and the northern half of the structure was later torn down. Evidence of where the torn-down platforms were, as well as the trackways that approached this area, can still be seen in the ironwork at the station.

The station's extra-long platforms, which allow for 11-car operation, are also a remnant of the joint service period. However, the rest of the stations on the line were only able to fit 9-car trainsets. These platforms were extended to 11 cars in the late 1950s.[16]

Identification of Trains and Routing Automatically (IDENTRA) was implemented on the line in the 1957 and used until 1997, when a route selector punch box with B1 Astoria, local/express buttons was installed at the 10/11 car marker on the upper level of Queensboro Plaza.[16][17] IDENTRA used a removable round circular disc type radio antennas assembly, slide-mounted on the small mounting brackets that were attached on the front of R12, R14, R15, and R17 cars that were assigned to the 7 route, which has been used on the line since 1948. Similar to the use of radio transponders in the CBTC installation, the system used the round circular antennas with a small box type selector switch to determine whether a train was running local or express, then accordingly switched the track at interlockings near Queensboro Plaza and Flushing – Main Street stations. This move reduced the number of signal towers on the line from 10 to 2.[18][16] This system, still in use by many transit agencies such as SEPTA's Broad Street Line, is also nicknamed the "toilet seat" because the removable disc antenna is shaped like a toilet seat.

Decline and rehabilitation

As with the rest of the system, the IRT Flushing Line was allowed to deteriorate throughout the 1970s to the late 1980s. Structural defects in the subway that required immediate attention at the time were labeled as "Code Red" defects or "Red Tag" areas; these Code Red defects were numerous on the Flushing Line. Some columns that supported elevated structures on the Flushing Line were so shaky that trains would not run if the wind exceeded 65 miles per hour (105 km/h). This was particularly widespread on the Flushing Line, as well as the BMT Jamaica Line.

On May 13, 1985, a 412-year long project to overhaul the IRT Flushing Line commenced. It forced single-tracking on much of the line during weekends, and the complete elimination of express service for the duration of the project. Consequently, the MTA advertised this change by putting leaflets in the New York Times, the Staten Island Advance, the Daily News, and Newsday. The project would lay new track, replace or repair concrete and steel structures, replace wooden station canopies with aluminum ones, improve lighting, improve signage, and install new ventilation and pumping equipment. Expanded service would be provided when the Mets played home games or when there were sporting events in Flushing Meadows–Corona Park. Paradoxically, Flushing local trains had better on-time performance during the construction than before it started.

The $60 million rehabilitation project on the Queens Boulevard concrete viaduct ended on August 21, 1989. When Flushing express service was restored, trains no longer stopped at 61st Street – Woodside. This led to protests to get express service back at 61st Street station. The reason for the stop's discontinuance on the Flushing express was because the MTA felt it took too long to transfer between locals and expresses. The service was also due to fears of delays on the line when locals and expresses would merge after 33rd Street – Rawson Street. The change was supposed to enable local trains to stop at 61st Street every four minutes (15 trains per hour (tph)) during rush hours, but the trains really arrived every 8–10 minutes (or 6–8 tph), according to riders. The community opposition led to service changes, and expresses began stopping at Woodside a few months later.[19]

Automation of the line

In January 2012, the MTA selected Thales for a $343 million contract to set up a communications-based train control (CBTC) system as part of the plan to automate the line. This was the second installation of CBTC, following a successful implementation on the BMT Canarsie Line. The total cost was $550 million for the signals and other trackside infrastructure, and $613.7 million for CBTC-compliant rolling stock.[18]

The Flushing Line was chosen for the next implementation of CBTC because it is also a self-contained line with no direct connections to other subway lines currently in use. Funding was allocated in the 2010–2014 capital budget for CBTC installation on the Flushing Line, with scheduled installation completion in 2016 or 2017.[20] The R188 cars were ordered to equip the line with compatible rolling stock. CBTC on the line will allow the 7 <7> services to run 2 more trains per hour (tph) during peak hours (it currently runs 27 tph). However, the system is currently retrofitted to operate at 33 tph even without CBTC.[18][21]

The first train of R188 cars began operating in passenger service on November 9, 2013.[22][23] Test runs of R188s in automated mode were set to start in late 2014.[18]

Completely independent of the CBTC installation is the 7 Subway Extension (see below), which features both CBTC signals and fixed-block signaling. The extension will also increase line capacity.[18]

Extension westward

Construction of the 7 Subway Extension

The IRT Flushing Line was extended westward and southward in Manhattan, and the extension opened September 13, 2015.[24] There is only one new station at 34th Street and Eleventh Avenue to serve Hudson Yards;[25] formerly there was another station proposed at 10th Avenue and 41st Street.[26] Funding was in place and construction began in late 2007.[27] The extension's opening was delayed several times.[28][29][30]

Station listing

Station service legend
Stops all times Stops all times
Stops all times except late nights Stops all times except late nights
Stops late nights and weekends Stops late nights and weekends only
Stops weekdays only Stops weekdays only
Stops rush hours in peak direction only Stops rush hours in the peak direction only
Time period details
Handicapped/disabled access Station Tracks Services Opened Transfers and notes
Begins as a three track line
Flushing Handicapped/disabled access Flushing – Main Street[31] all 7 all times <7>rush hours until 9:30 p.m., peak direction January 21, 1928[32] originally Main Street
Q44 Select Bus Service
Q48 to LaGuardia Airport
Connection to LIRR at Flushing – Main Street
Willets Point Handicapped/disabled access[lower-alpha 1] Mets – Willets Point[31] all 7 all times <7>rush hours until 9:30 p.m., peak direction January 21, 1928[32] Connection to LIRR at Mets – Willets Point (special events only)
formerly Willets Point–Shea Stadium
originally Willets Point Boulevard
Corona connecting tracks to Corona Yard
111th Street[31] local 7 all times January 21, 1928[32]
103rd Street – Corona Plaza[31] local 7 all times April 21, 1917[6] originally Alburtis Avenue
Handicapped/disabled access Junction Boulevard[31] all 7 all times <7>rush hours until 9:30 p.m., peak direction April 21, 1917[6] originally Junction Avenue
Elmhurst 90th Street – Elmhurst Avenue[31] local 7 all times April 21, 1917[6] originally Elmhurst Avenue
Jackson Heights 82nd Street – Jackson Heights[31] local 7 all times April 21, 1917[6] originally 25th Street–Jackson Heights
Handicapped/disabled access 74th Street – Broadway[31] local 7 all times April 21, 1917[6] E all times F all times M weekdays until 11:00 p.m. R all hours except late nights (IND Queens Boulevard Line at Jackson Heights – Roosevelt Avenue)
originally Broadway
Woodside 69th Street[31] local 7 all times April 21, 1917[6] originally Fisk Avenue
Handicapped/disabled access 61st Street – Woodside[31] all 7 all times <7>rush hours until 9:30 p.m., peak direction April 21, 1917[6] originally Woodside
Connection to LIRR at Woodside
52nd Street[31] local 7 all times April 21, 1917[6] originally Lincoln Avenue
Sunnyside 46th Street – Bliss Street[31] local 7 all times April 21, 1917[6] originally Bliss Street
40th Street – Lowery Street[31] local 7 all times April 21, 1917[6] originally Lowery Street
33rd Street – Rawson Street[31] local 7 all times April 21, 1917[6] originally Rawson Street
Center Express track ends
connecting tracks to BMT Astoria Line (No regular service)
Long Island City / Astoria Queensboro Plaza[31] all 7 all times <7>rush hours until 9:30 p.m., peak direction November 5, 1916[5] N all times Q weekdays (BMT Astoria Line)
Long Island City Handicapped/disabled access Court Square[31] all 7 all times <7>rush hours until 9:30 p.m., peak direction November 5, 1916[5] originally 45th Road – Court House Square
G all times (IND Crosstown Line)
E all times M weekdays until 11:00 p.m. (IND Queens Boulevard Line)
Hunters Point Avenue[31] all 7 all times <7>rush hours until 9:30 p.m., peak direction February 15, 1916[4] Connection to LIRR at Hunterspoint Avenue
Vernon Boulevard – Jackson Avenue all 7 all times <7>rush hours until 9:30 p.m., peak direction June 22, 1915[3] originally Vernon-Jackson Avenues
Connection to LIRR at Long Island City
Steinway Tunnel under the East River
Midtown Manhattan Handicapped/disabled access Grand Central[31] all 7 all times <7>rush hours until 9:30 p.m., peak direction June 22, 1915[3] 4 all times 5 all except late nights 6 all times <6>weekdays until 8:45 p.m., peak direction (IRT Lexington Avenue Line)
S all except late nights (IRT 42nd Street Shuttle)
Connection to Metro-North Railroad at Grand Central Terminal
Fifth Avenue[31] all 7 all times <7>rush hours until 9:30 p.m., peak direction March 22, 1926[13] B weekdays until 11:00 p.m. D all times F all times M weekdays until 11:00 p.m. (IND Sixth Avenue Line at 42nd Street – Bryant Park)
Midtown Manhattan (Times Square) Handicapped/disabled access Times Square[31] all 7 all times <7>rush hours until 9:30 p.m., peak direction March 14, 1927[14] N all times Q all times R all except late nights (BMT Broadway Line)
1 all times 2 all times 3 all times (IRT Broadway – Seventh Avenue Line)
A all times C all except late nights E all times (IND Eighth Avenue Line at 42nd Street – Port Authority Bus Terminal)
S all except late nights (IRT 42nd Street Shuttle)
Port Authority Bus Terminal
Hell's Kitchen / Hudson Yards / Chelsea Handicapped/disabled access 34th Street – Hudson Yards[34] all 7 all times <7>rush hours until 9:30 p.m., peak direction September 13, 2015[35] built as part of the 7 Subway Extension
planning names 34th Street, 34th Street – Javits Center
M34 Select Bus Service


  1. Only the Flushing-bound local side platform is wheelchair-accessible. Trains operate on this platform only during New York Mets games and other special events.[33]


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  12.—IRT Flushing Line: Main Street/Flushing
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  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 18.4 RPA CBTC plan
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External links

Route map: Bing / Google