The Jamaica Line (also known as the Broadway Line or Broadway (Brooklyn) Line) is an elevated rapid transit line of the B Division of the New York City Subway, in Brooklyn and Queens, New York City, United States. It runs from the Williamsburg Bridge southeast over Broadway to East New York, Brooklyn, and then east over Fulton Street and Jamaica Avenue to Jamaica, Queens. In western Jamaica, the line goes into a tunnel, becoming the lower level of the Archer Avenue Line in central Jamaica. The J and Z trains serve the entire length of the Jamaica Line, and the M serves the line west of Myrtle Avenue.
The longest elevated line in the system, the Jamaica Line includes the oldest existing elevated structure in the subway system - the original 1885 line of the Brooklyn Elevated Railroad, the BMT Lexington Avenue Line - between Gates Avenue and Van Siclen Avenue, as well as the newest elevated structure - the 1988 ramp into the underground Archer Avenue Line.
When the Brooklyn–Manhattan Transit Corporation (BMT) operated the line railroad directions were east and west, generally in agreement with compass direction. However under NYCT, the directions used are north and south, which replaced the BMT's old west and east respectively. This reclassification resulted in services which ran through the BMT Nassau Street Line to Downtown Brooklyn having two south ends. To eliminate any confusion, the directions of train services in the eastern division were switched, with trains running towards Jamaica being considered Northbound. The KK (later K) and current M services were an exception to this, with Jamaica or Metropolitan Avenue remaining the south terminal, since they used the Chrystie Street Connection from the Jamaica Line to the IND Sixth Avenue Line.
The Jamaica Line includes a variety of structures. The original BMT Jamaica Line started from Broadway Ferry, Brooklyn. The line was two tracks, and connected with Marcy Avenue, from the west. This section, which was called the "Broadway Spur", has a short, but easily seen remnant (about one-half of a block in length, no tracks, just maintenance buildings) west and south of where the line curves toward the Williamsburg Bridge.
From Marcy Avenue to a point just before Alabama Avenue the line operates on the structure of old elevated railways, but substantially rebuilt and upgraded to a three-track line around World War I under the Dual Contracts of 1913. From Alabama Avenue to just before the current Cypress Hills station, the Jamaica Line operates on the oldest elevated structure in New York City, a steel-reinforced cast iron line opened in 1893. Interestingly enough, west of Alabama Avenue, a third middle trackway exists and elevates over the other two tracks, ending just west of the Alabama Avenue station. This track was intended to be an express track, but engineering studies completed after the work started indicated that the vibration of trains passing over the stations would be too severe and would literally shake the stations apart.
Between Crescent Street station and Cypress Hills, the line runs on an "S-curve", turning north from Fulton Street onto Crescent Street, then east onto Jamaica Avenue. The curves are at nearly 90-degree angles, forcing trains to drastically reduce speed to 15 miles per hour in order to traverse them. The line east of Cypress Hills is known as the Jamaica Avenue Line, the newest section of the line which was built under the Dual Contracts. This structure has provisions on its entire length for three tracks, but a center track was never built, with the exception of a layup track at 111th Street and another between 160th Street and 168th Street on the now-demolished original end of the line.
Four curves on the line, including the two on the Jamaica Avenue "S-curve", rank among the 30 sharpest curves in the subway system.
The Union Elevated Railroad, leased to the Brooklyn Elevated Railroad, opened an elevated line above Broadway from Gates Avenue northwest to Driggs Avenue in Williamsburg on June 25, 1888. This was a branch of the existing Lexington Avenue Elevated, which then ended at Van Siclen Avenue; Broadway trains ran between Driggs and Van Siclen Avenues. A popular free transfer was available at Gates Avenue to Lexington Avenue trains towards Downtown Brooklyn. The Broadway Elevated was extended to Broadway Ferry on July 14, 1888.
An extension of the Broadway Elevated east to Cypress Hills, over Fulton Street and Crescent Street, opened on May 30, 1893, and the company extended both Lexington Avenue and Broadway trains to the new terminal. This extension incorporated portions of the recently demolished Park Avenue Elevated. A connection to the Williamsburg Bridge was established in 1908, rendering the two westernmost stations on the Broadway Ferry Branch obsolete by July 3, 1916. The eastern extension along Jamaica Avenue to 168th Street was opened on July 3, 1918. Joint service with the Long Island Rail Road's Atlantic Branch existed between Norwood Avenue and Crescent Street stations with a connection built at Chestnut Street in Brooklyn. This allowed BRT trains to access the Rockaways and Manhattan Beach, while affording the LIRR a connection into Manhattan to the BRT terminal located at Park Row over the Brooklyn Bridge (this service predated the opening of the East River Tunnels to Penn Station). Nevertheless the Interstate Commerce Commission ended this service in 1916 when they classified different operating standards between rapid transit trains and regular heavy rail railroads such as the LIRR.
By the time the Independent Subway System extended the Queens Boulevard Line along Hillside Avenue in Jamaica in 1937, residents became dissatisfied with the Jamaica El. Long after the consolidation of the BMT with the IRT and IND in 1940, MTA began proposing an underground replacement as part of their Program for Action in the mid-1960's. Construction for the Archer Avenue Subway began in 1973, and used a portal intended for the formerly proposed Van Wyck Boulevard line to Rockaway Avenue (Boulevard). However, the city was hit by a major financial crisis during the mid-1970's delaying the completion and opening of the new line. Regardless of these circumstances, the three easternmost stations (Sutphin Boulevard, 160th, and 168th Streets) were closed in 1977, with most of that segment of the line being demolished in 1985, and the two others west of that point (Metropolitan Boulevard and Queens Boulevards) were closed in 1985, with the line there being demolished in 1990. The Archer Avenue subway was opened in 1988. Two remnants of the former Jamaica El in Jamaica itself still exist today; the 144th Street Powerhouse, which is now used for the Archer Avenue Subway, and the station house and tower for 168th Street, which can be found on the southeast corner of Hillside Avenue and 165th Street and is now used as a women's clothing store.
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The line has had two major service patterns: the 14 Broadway (Brooklyn) Line (earlier called the Canarsie Line, before that line was connected to the 14th Street Line) and the 15 Jamaica Line. Eventually, the 14 became the KK (which became the K in 1974) and the 15 the J; the K was eliminated in 1976. The Z was introduced in 1988 to provide skip-stop service, which had been done by the 14/K and 15/J at times.
From its accession by the BRT to and beyond city ownership in 1940, the portion of the line from its western terminus to Cypress Hills was known as the Broadway El or the Broadway-Brooklyn Line. Beyond that point it was known as the Jamaica Avenue El or the Jamaica Line. Subsequent to city takeover, the dividing line between the Broadway and Jamaica Avenue Lines was often considered to be the more westerly station at Eastern Parkway, now known as Broadway Junction.
Since the discontinuance of separate Broadway-Brooklyn services, the entire line is now known as the Jamaica Line.