The Canarsie Line (sometimes referred to as the 14th Street–Canarsie Line) is a rapid transit line of the BMT Division of the New York City Subway system, named after its terminus in the Canarsie neighborhood of Brooklyn. It is served by the L train at all times, which is shown in the color light slate gray on the NYC Subway map and on station signs.

The line is part of the BMT Eastern Division, and is occasionally referred to as the Eastern District Line. This refers to Williamsburg, which was described as Brooklyn's "Eastern District" when the City of Williamsburg was annexed by the former City of Brooklyn. This was the location where the original Brooklyn subway portions of the line were laid out. Only later was the line connected to the tracks leading to Canarsie. Eastern District High School, near the line's Grand Street station, had preserved this toponym until it was closed in 1996, later reopened as Grand Street Educational Campus.

Extent and serviceEdit

Services that use the Canarsie Line are colored light slate gray. The following services use part or all of the Canarsie Line:

  Time period Section of line
L All times Entire line

The Canarsie Line runs from Eighth Avenue and 14th Street in Manhattan to Rockaway Parkway in Canarsie, Brooklyn. It is double-tracked along its entire length, except for short stretches of layup track in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

The current line is a two-track subway from its Manhattan terminal to Broadway Junction in the East New York section of Brooklyn, with the exception of a short stretch at Wilson Avenue where it is a double-decked structure with the southbound track outdoors directly above the indoor, ground-level northbound track. Although the northbound track appears to be underground, it is in fact outdoors at ground-level for there are no stairs leading from the northbound platform to the station entrance at the dead-end of Wilson Avenue, southeast of Moffat Street. This is due to the line being pressed directly against the New York Connecting Railroad, which is pressed directly against the border of Trinity Cemetery. There are no express tracks on the Canarsie line; thus, all trains run local service throughout their route.

Just before Broadway Junction, the line emerges onto an elevated structure, passing over the BMT Jamaica Line. Between Broadway Junction and Atlantic Avenue are the Canarsie Line's only track connections to the rest of the system, via flyover ramps connecting the Canarsie line to the Jamaica Line and East New York Yard (and, until 1956, the Fulton Street Elevated). The Canarsie Line used to share the structure at Atlantic Avenue with the connection from the Broadway and Fulton Street elevated lines to the Liberty Avenue Elevated (still extant further east as part of the IND Fulton Street Line).

East of Pitkin Avenue, the Canarsie Line enters the two-track elevated structure on which the line was originally grade-separated in 1906, entering Sutter Avenue station. At the next station, Livonia Avenue, the Livonia Avenue Elevated of the IRT New Lots Line passes overhead, and just beyond this point is a single track connection to the Linden Shops, which is now a track and structures facility. Besides the connection at Broadway Junction, this non-electrified yard connection is the only other connection to the rest of the subway system, as it is indirectly a connection to the New Lots Line. B Division-sized equipment cannot access this line, however, because of A Division width restrictions.

Beyond the next station, New Lots Avenue, the elevated structure ends, and an incline brings the Canarsie down to the original 1865 surface right-of-way, the second-oldest such right-of-way on the New York City Transit Authority system. The line operates on this ground-level route to the end of the line at Rockaway Parkway.


The history of the Canarsie Line has three distinct phases. It was first a steam railroad, then a BRT elevated line, and was then extended into Manhattan via subway. Since the early 2000s, it has been automated as well.

Steam and elevated eraEdit

Before becoming a BRT elevated line in 1906, the Canarsie Line operated as a steam dummy line. It was first owned by the Brooklyn and Rockaway Beach Railroad, chartered December 24, 1863 and opened October 21, 1865, from the Long Island Rail Road in East New York to a pier at Canarsie Landing, very close to the current junction of Rockaway Parkway and the Belt Parkway, where ferries continued on to Rockaway. The line was single-tracked until 1894.

The Canarsie Railroad was chartered on May 8, 1906 as a BRT subsidiary (leased to the Brooklyn Union Elevated Railroad) and acquired the line on May 31, 1906. The line was partly elevated, and electrified with third rail on the elevated part and trolley wire on the rest, south of New Lots Avenue. The Long Island Rail Road, which had used the line north of New Lots to access their Bay Ridge Branch, built a new line just to the west. The East New York terminus was extended several blocks along a section of line formerly used for "East New York Loop" service to the Fulton Street Elevated and the Broadway Elevated (now the BMT Jamaica Line), at a point known as Manhattan Junction (now Broadway Junction).

Service, first run on July 28, 1906, ran from Canarsie Landing to the Broadway Ferry at the foot of Broadway in Williamsburg]], at the East River. This route still exists as the BMT Jamaica Line, except for the last piece to the East River, where the Jamaica Line runs over the Williamsburg Bridge. The route was later extended over the bridge and along the BMT Nassau Street Line to Canal Street and then Chambers Street.

Dual Contracts rebuildingEdit

The Dual Contracts subway expansion scheme around World War I saw the rebuilding of the complex train junction at Manhattan Junction into an even more complex flyover junction now known as Broadway Junction. The expansion extended south to the point at which the Canarsie and Fulton Street Elevateds diverged, including a six-track, three-platform station at Atlantic Avenue. The complex was rebuilt under traffic and opened in stages, reaching completion in 1919.

At the same time, the BRT moved to eliminate remaining operations that required elevated trains to operate under overhead wire. In most cases this meant using third rail on fully grade-separated lines. When third rail was extended on the Canarsie Line it was decided to extend this power mode only as far as the important station at Rockaway Parkway and Glenwood Road. Beyond that point, frequent grade crossings made third rail impractical. This portion of the line was converted to the Canarsie Shuttle using elevated cars in 1917 and converted to trolley cars in 1920.

One grade crossing was retained at East 105th Street despite the third rail, and was the last public rapid transit grade crossing in New York City until the crossing was removed in 1973.

14th Street–Eastern LineEdit

Booth and Flinn was awarded the contract to construct the line on January 13, 1916.

On June 30, 1924, at what is now the other end of the line, a subway line initially known as the 14th Street-Eastern District Line, usually shortened to 14th Street–Eastern Line, was opened running beneath 14th Street in Manhattan, from Sixth Avenue under the East River and through Williamsburg to Montrose Avenue and Bushwick Avenues. A temporary ramp was built up to the street, onto streetcar tracks and around the corner to the Long Island Rail Road's Bushwick Yard to get trains onto the line, which had no other connections to subway lines.

Four years later, on July 14, 1928, the line was extended further east beneath Wyckoff Avenue and then south paralleling the New York Connecting Railroad to a new station at Broadway Junction, above the existing station on the Broadway Elevated (Jamaica Line). At this time, it was connected to the Canarsie Line.

At noon on May 30, 1931, a two-block extension to Eighth Avenue in Manhattan was opened, allowing passengers to transfer to the new IND Eighth Avenue Line. This station was built to look like the other Independent Subway stations. At this point, the Canarsie Line's route took the shape that it still has to this day.

After World War II, the Canarsie Shuttle trolley line to Canarsie Landing was replaced by the B42 bus; the right-of-way was abandoned. Parts were built over, and other parts can still be seen as broad alleys or narrow parking lots. This right-of-way ran between East 95th and East 96th Streets as far south as Seaview Avenue.

By the 1980s, the Canarsie Line was proposed for closure, as it was dilapidated and only had a ridership of 40,000 a day.

Automation and post-automationEdit

The Canarsie 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 IRT Flushing Line, carrying the 7 train. Because of this, it was chosen as the location of the first fully automated line of the New York City Subway. The automation project was among the first in the world to use a radio frequency-based system. The plans for installation were laid out between 1999 and 2002. Communications-based train control (CBTC) was installed in pieces between 2003 and January 2006: the elevated section of the line south of Broadway Junction was completed first, followed by the underground section north of Broadway Junction. The project cost $340 million, with $78 million of it used to upgrade track interlockings on the line.

In spring 2005, the current CBTC-enabled R143-class equipment was expected to run under full automation with a single operator (known as OPTO, or One Person Train Operation) acting as an attendant to monitor the train's operation and take over manual operation if necessary. However, technical mishaps including the test train rolling away by itself delayed the start of automatic train operation. The project caused numerous service disruptions on the L at night and on weekends. Frequently, service was shut down in separate sections of the line, usually from Eighth Avenue to Lorimer Street, Lorimer to Broadway Junction, or Broadway Junction to Rockaway Parkway. During this time, shuttle buses served suspended areas. This project also required the temporary closing of some stations, either in one direction or both directions, and for the line to be operated in two sections.

In June 2005, the Canarsie Line ran full-length 480 feet (150 m) trains with a single operator on weekends. However, as this was a violation of union contracts – which stipulated that there must be one operator per 300 feet (91 m) of train – the MTA was ordered to resume two-person operation at all times.

The system became operational as of February 2009. Automation was achieved with the R143s assigned exclusively to the L, but since the R160As on the line were not CBTC-compatible until August 2010, some trains were manually operated alongside automatically driven trains. The L fully began automatic train operation in early 2012. The CBTC installation increased the train capacity on the line from 20 trains per hour (tph) to 24 tph, as well as permitted the installation of countdown clocks, which show the amount of time until the next train arrives.

In January 2016, the BMT Canarsie Line between Bedford and Eighth Avenues was proposed for a partial or full shutdown so that the MTA could repair tunnels damaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The MTA considered either shuttering the entire segment for eighteen months, or operating two segments for three years: a one-track segment between Bedford and Eighth Avenues with a 5-tph capacity in either direction, and regular service between Lorimer Street and Rockaway Parkway. For both options, the Third Avenue station would be closed for the duration of the renovation, which would fix the 14th Street Tunnels and add new exits and elevators to the First Avenue and Bedford Avenue stations. The renovations would cost between $800 million and $1 billion. Additional shuttle bus, ferry, and subway service would be provided. Trains on the G route might be lengthened from 4 to eight cars, and the M route might be extended to Midtown Manhattan twenty-four hours a day. A ferry route between Williamsburg and East Village, Manhattan, might be instituted. In addition, the M14 and M23 buses might be converted to Select Bus Service to handle the resulting passenger load; dedicated bus lanes would be placed on crosstown corridors in Manhattan. Community meetings were held to determine which of the two options would be better. The repairs are slated to start in January 2019 and would replace damaged communications, power, and signal wires; third rails and tracks; duct banks; pump rooms; circuit breaker houses; tunnel lighting; concrete lining; and fire protection systems.

Service patternsEdit

Service patterns over this line have varied little through the years; initially, trains ran over the Broadway Elevated from the ferry in Williamsburg (later extended into Manhattan), through Manhattan Junction and on to Canarsie. Then when the subway opened, two services ran from Canarsie to Manhattan: the original route on the Broadway Elevated and the route to 14th Street as the 14th Street-Canarsie Line.

In 1936, due to the institution of new lightweight subway-elevated equipment, a new rush-hour-only service was inaugurated from Eighth Avenue and 14th Street to Lefferts Boulevard at the east end of the Liberty Avenue Elevated (the continuation of the Fulton Street Elevated). The Eighth Avenue–Canarsie route was given BMT marker 16, and trains running to Lefferts Boulevard usually were marked as 13. When the Fulton Street El was torn down, some rush-hour Broadway trains ran through from the Broadway Elevated (Jamaica Line) to Canarsie via the flyover at Broadway Junction; these were marked as 14. In 1967, when all BMT services were given letters, the 16, which used the full Canarsie Line, was designated as LL. The rush-hour Broadway service (14) was designated JJ, and ran until 1968 when it was replaced by the KK which stayed on the Jamaica Line instead of switching to the Canarsie Line at Broadway Junction. The flyover connection has been used only sporadically for revenue service since then.

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