The 42nd Street Shuttle is a New York City Subway shuttle train service that operates in Manhattan. Part of a former Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT) line, it is sometimes referred to as the Grand Central / Times Square Shuttle, since these are the only two stations served by the shuttle. It runs at all times except nights, connecting Times Square to Grand Central under 42nd Street. It is the shortest regular service in the system, running about 2,700 feet (820 m) in under 90 seconds.

The 42nd Street Shuttle was constructed and operated by the Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT), but is currently part of the A Division of New York City Transit, and the tracks that it uses opened in 1904 as part of the first subway in the city. The original line ran north from City Hall on what is now the IRT Lexington Avenue Line to 42nd Street, from where it turned west to run across 42nd Street. Then, at Broadway, the line turned north to 145th Street on what is now the IRT Broadway–Seventh Avenue Line. This operation continued until 1918, when construction on the Lexington Avenue Line north of 42nd Street, and on the Broadway–Seventh Avenue Line south of 42nd Street was completed. One trunk would run via the new Lexington Avenue Line down Park Avenue, and the other trunk would run via the new Seventh Avenue Line up Broadway. The section in the middle, via 42nd Street, was converted into shuttle operation.

In order to distinguish it from the other shuttles in the system, NYCT Rapid Transit Operations internally refers to it as the 0 (zero). Its route bullet is colored dark gray on route signs, station signs, and rolling stock with the letter "S" on the official subway map.

History Edit


The subway through which the shuttle runs was opened on October 27, 1904, the first day of subway service in Manhattan. In 1910, the platforms at the two stations were extended. A plan called the Dual System of Rapid Transit in 1913 was worked out with the Interborough Rapid Transit and the Brooklyn Rapid Transit companies, and was announced by the Public Service Commission. As part of the plan, the existing IRT subway would be reconfigured into what was called the "H system". From 42nd Street, new lines would be built northward in Lexington Avenue and southward in Seventh Avenue, connecting with the old subway to form East Side and West Side main lines. The leftover segment under 42nd Street was to be used for a shuttle connecting the two main lines.

The new Lexington Avenue route curved off of the old line at 41st Street and ran under private property to reach Lexington Avenue at 43rd Street with the new Grand Central station in the diagonal segment. 400 feet was left between the end of the old station and the new station, and therefore a new station was to be built for the shuttle, ending close to the new station on the Lexington Avenue Line. Trackways were built continuing east under 42nd Street to bring the two tracks into the new station, which was a narrow island platform between the two tracks. It was expected that two tracks would be more than adequate for the shuttle. On August 1, 1918, the Dual Contracts' "H system" was put into service, with through trains over the IRT Lexington Avenue Line and IRT Broadway–Seventh Avenue Line, and only shuttle trains under 42nd Street. The station was not ready in time, and therefore temporary wooden flooring was laid over part of the trackways at Times Square and Grand Central. The shuttle was heavily used, and the crowding conditions were so bad that the shuttle was ordered closed the next day by the Public Service Commission.

The new, unused trackways of the planned station were covered with flooring and turned into a passageway between the Shuttle and Lexington Avenue stations. The shuttle reopened on September 28, 1918, with improved passageways and platforms. Track 2 at the Grand Central station was covered over by a wooden platform. On the walls of the stations, black bands (at Times Square) and green bands (at Grand Central) were painted to guide passengers to the shuttle platforms. The shuttle was meant to be "temporary," and by 1922, there were proposals for the shuttle to be replaced by a moving sidewalk.

Throughout the history of the shuttle there have been proposals to extend and improve the line both to the east and to the west. However, it is not feasible to extend the line in either direction, as the line is at the same level as the tracks of the Broadway–Seventh Avenue Line and those of the Lexington Avenue Line. While most were not taken seriously, a November 1954 plan by a chairman of the Board of Transportation, Sidney H. Bingham, was closer to implementation. He proposed that the shuttle be replaced by a conveyor‐belt system to move small, 12‐passenger cars continuously between the two stations. In November 1954, a $3,881,000 contract for a modified version of the plan was awarded. The New York Times lauded the plan, stating that "the Times Square-Grand Central subway shuttle was an atrocity from the beginning and has had no substantial improvement in a third of a century." However, the plan was canceled less than a year later because of its high cost.

Automation testEdit

As part of a demonstration for automation, Track 4 was briefly automated from 1962 to 1964. Starting in December 1959, the fully automatic train was tested on the BMT Sea Beach Line express tracks between the 18th Avenue and New Utrecht Avenue stations. The train was equipped with a telephone system to keep voice communication with human dispatchers at the two shuttle terminals. At each station there was a cabinet that housed 24 relay systems that made up electronic dispatchers. The relays controlled the train's starting, acceleration, braking, and stopping, as well as the opening and closing of the car doors. The relays were operated by electrical impulses initiated by a punched tape. At full speed, the train ran at 30 miles per hour (48 km/h), slowing to 5.5 miles per hour (8.9 km/h) when coming into the two stations. When entering stations, the train passed through a series of detectors, which caused a series of tripper arms at trackside to go into the open position if the train was going at the speed. If the train was going too quickly, the tripper arms would stay upright and the train's brakes would automatically be set. The equipment was built and installed by the General Railway Signal Company and the Union Switch and Signal division of the Westinghouse Air Brake Company, after several years of research and development. The NYCTA contributed between $20,000 to $30,000 on the project, while the bulk of it, between $250,000 and $300,000, was contributed by the two companies. The automation of the shuttle was opposed by the president of the Transport Workers Union, Michael J. Quill, who pledged to fight the project and called the device "insane."

On February 29, 1960, the New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA) began to test a new tie-less roadbed on Track 1, which had been installed since the previous Thursday. The experiment was intended to produce a smoother and more comfortable ride for commuters, in addition to lessening the effect of moisture and erosion. It was planned that if the test succeeded, the rest of the tracks in the subway system would be retrofitted in such a manner. The set-up included two parallel strips of concrete that would serve as the roadbed. Between them, flat-bottomed steel troughs were installed, cushioned by rubber. Inside the troughs, there were rubber tie plates spaced apart with flaps that encase the rail bottom. The rails were kept in place by lug bolts that were anchored in concrete. The third rail was also mounted on concrete. This differed from the normal roadbeds, which consisted of stone, with wooden ties set into it. The ties, under damp conditions, would rot and the spikes would become loose, resulting in bumpy rides. This test replicated similar roadbeds in Toronto's subway system. In order to construct the new roadbed, Track 1 had to be closed. From May 6 to June 5, 1961, Track 4 was closed for the installation of the same roadbed as was tested on Track 1.

In the afternoon of January 4, 1962, the three-car automated train began service, with a ceremony. The trains carried a stand-by motorman during the six-month trial period. The train had scheduled to begin service on December 15, 1961, but Quill threatened to strike all city- and private-owned transit in the city if the train ran. Under the new contract with the TWU, the NYCTA agreed to put a motorman in the train during the experimental period. While in its experimental period, the automated train was only operating during rush hours. In July, the test was extended for three more months, and in October the test was extended for six additional months. The chairman of the NYCTA, Charles Patterson, was disappointed by the automated shuttle train, doubting that the train could be operated without any transit personnel on board. Initially, the automation of the shuttle was expected to save $150,000 a year in labor costs; however, with one employee still required on the train, there would essentially be no savings. If the test succeeded, it was planned to automate the IRT Flushing Line, the Franklin Avenue Shuttle, and the Culver Shuttle. However, the NYCTA did not have plans to automate the whole system.

A severe fire at the Grand Central station on April 21, 1964, destroyed the demonstration train and manual operation had been restored since. The fire began under a shuttle train on track 3, and it became larger, feeding on the wooden platform. The train on Track 1 was saved when the motorman saw smoke, and reversed the train. The basements of nearby buildings were damaged. Tracks 1 and 4 returned to service on April 23, 1964, while Track 3 returned to service on June 1, 1964. The reinstallation of Track 3 was delayed because of the need to replace 60 beams that were damaged in the fire. Initially, a decision was not made concerning whether or not the automated shuttle train should be reintroduced.

From September 19, 1966 to April 1967, service on the shuttle was limited in order to allow for the reconstruction of parts of the line. The entire project cost $419,000 and included the construction of a new mezzanine at Grand Central and the replacement of the wooden platform at Times Square with a new concrete one of 300 feet (91 m).

1980s to presentEdit

On October 3, 1987, ten R62As made their debut on the line, and thus started the replacement of the R17s that provided the shuttle's service.

The shuttle ran at all times until September 10, 1995, when night service was discontinued, meaning that late-night passengers must use the 7 train. This was just a part of the largest series of cuts in subway and bus service in two decades. In February 1995, Governor George Pataki raided an MTA surplus fund and proposed cutting state aid to the agency by $128 million a year, and President Bill Clinton proposed a $26 million cut in Federal subsidies. Rather than an expected $160 million surplus in 1995, New York City Transit was left with a projected deficit that could reach $172 million. Governor Pataki and Mayor Rudy Giuliani pressured the MTA to avoid a fare increase, and reducing spending would accomplish this.

On March 1, 2005, a shuttle train crashed into the bumper block at Grand Central, injuring the driver and hospitalizing another two passengers.

When the shuttle is closed, the area is sometimes used for movie and TV filming. For instance, The French Connection was filmed on the 42nd Street Shuttle.

As part of the 2005–2009 MTA Capital Program, the 42nd Street Shuttle became ADA accessible. The whole project costed $235.41 million. The platforms at Times Square were extended to allow for a second point of entry at Sixth Avenue, with a connection to the IND Sixth Avenue Line. The Times Square station was rehabilitated with congestion mitigation measures. A wider stairway was installed from the shuttle mezzanine to street level, a new control area was installed at the bottom of the stairway, and 21 columns were removed. The cost of this part of the project was $28.93 million. Also included in the Capital Program was funding for a study that would develop the requirements for a second program to automate the shuttle.

Track layout Edit

Of the four shuttle tracks, only three are in use, with the former southbound express track space being used for platform space at each terminal. The former southbound local track is now Shuttle Track 1. Track 2 no longer exists, but the trackbed of Track 2 can be seen inside the tunnel from passing trains on Tracks 1 and 3. At the two terminals, the trackway for Track 2 is occupied by platforms that provide access to Track 3, which was the former northbound express track. The former northbound local track is Track 4. Track 2 was removed between the two stations in 1975.

Tracks 1 and 3 are connected to each other and to the IRT Lexington Avenue Line's local tracks south of the Grand Central station. Track 4 connects to the IRT Broadway–Seventh Avenue Line's northbound local track north of the Times Square station. There is no connection between the two tracks that connect to the Lexington Avenue Line, Tracks 1 and 3, and the track that connects to the Broadway–Seventh Avenue Line, Track 4; therefore, it is now physically impossible for a train to go from the IRT Lexington Avenue Line through to the IRT Seventh Avenue Line or vice versa by using the shuttle tracks. At the Times Square station, to provide a connection between the platform for Track 4 and the rest of the station complex, there is a pedestrian bridge over Track 4.

Operation Edit

Service Time period Section of line
All except nights Nights
S service no service entire line

The shuttle operates at all times except nights, when alternate service is provided by the 7 train. When in service, each of the shuttle tracks in operation at any given time is independent of the other; e.g., the train on track 1 simply runs back and forth on track 1, and there is no switching involved in reversing at each terminal. To provide for quick turnaround of the shuttle trains, there is an operator at each end of the train. Depending on which direction the train is traveling the operators swap jobs when the train gets to one end; one acts as the operator in the front and the other acts as conductor in the rear.

It is common for shuttle trains to display advertising that entirely covers the interiors and exteriors of the train, as opposed to other routes, whose stock only displays advertising on placards inside the train. Since 2008, the MTA has tested full-train advertisements on 42nd Street Shuttle rolling stock. While most advertisements are well received, a few advertisements—such as one for the TV show The Man in the High Castle, which featured a Nazi flag—have been controversial.

Stations Edit

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