Hi again. We’ve installed a ton of new bright white track tile at 1 Av and Bedford Av. And if you haven’t been blinded by its glistening glaze, you may have noticed black letters and numbers with a yellow background, including a…“Q”? If you like puzzles, read on. This week, we’re going totally transit geek, and explaining the weird system we use to mark distances on our tracks. Useful for us, trivia know-how for you.

Plus: More good news on 14th Street; final tile and handrails coming to a Bedford Av platform staircase; reminders on upcoming L service changes.

Have a great NYC marathon weekend (Runners—GOOD LUCK! Spectators—use our travel tips here, including taking the M or J to Marcy Av for a good watch spot on Bedford Avenue.).
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Find the track wall. Now find the yellow marker (hint: right in front of the speedy train). Zoom in and you'll see a "Q" with a combo of numbers...even though it's the "L" train.

Photo: Trent Reeves  / MTA Capital Construction / August 7, 2019

"L" train. Running on "Q" stationing. What's up with that?

Next time you’re standing on the L platform, look across the track. You’ll see a Q1 or Q2 with some numbers stenciled on the track wall. Why? What’s that Q got to do with the L line? We passed this question around to a brain trust of in-house experts, from rail planners to maintenance of way leads.
L Project Weekly: First, let’s be perfectly honest with our readers. There is no topic as complicated as the history of NYC subway numbering. Maybe quantum physics, nothing else.  

Experts: It can make your head hurt, yes. They may want to stop reading right now.

LPW: Fair warning. Anyway, a keen-eyed customer asked why there’s a “Q1” or “Q2” and a number on the track wall of the L line. That has nothing to do with the Q train, does it?

Experts: Not at all. It’s a whole different numbering system we use called “stationing.” The Q1 and Q2 are just the original labels for those two tracks on the L line.

LPW: Sorry, why do we call them Q tracks? Why not something wild and original like…the L tracks?

Experts: Like a lot of things in our system, it goes way back. Those tracks got labeled the Q tracks before there was an L train, when it was still the Canarsie line in the old BMT system. Fun fact: While other lines have been renamed with various parts merging together, they’ve been the Q tracks all along.

LPW: We’ll come back to that. But first, tell us what this “stationing” system is. What does it measure and why do we need it?

Experts: It measures distances and locations. Each track has its label, in this case the Q1 and Q2 tracks. Then each location along the tracks is measured, in feet, from one end of the line. On the L, we measure from Eighth Ave. Those numbers stenciled on the track wall are the number of feet from the start point at Eighth Ave.

LPW: Okay, say we’re standing on the Q1 side of an L platform and we’re 1,000 ft from Eighth Ave. We’d look across the track and see Q1-1000 on the wall, right? It’s just the track letter and the number of feet.

Experts: We’re talking subway history here. Nothing is that simple. For some reason, we use a plus sign to break up the number of feet into hundreds. Don’t ask why, we just do. So what you’d actually see is Q1-10+00. That’s how we mark 1,000 ft on the Q1 track. If we were 50,900 ft along the Q1 track, you’d see Q1-509+00. Got it?

LPW: Um, let’s move on. What are these stationing numbers used for?

Experts: We use them to mark the location of things. We have to keep track of and manage our assets, and this is a good identifier. Track signals, for example. Let’s say we have a signal on track Q1 on the L line 50,900 ft from Eighth Ave. That’s the signal at Q1-509+00, and it will be called “Q1-509,” dropping the pesky “+00.” No other signal in
our system has that address. Even if we revised the train service numbers, that’s still the signal at Q1-509+00. Also, anyone working on the track knows right where they are, just like using street numbers.

LPW: So, the basic idea is pretty simple. But again, why Q? Why weird numbers with plus signs. Why not just create a new system that’s a little more…logical?

Experts: People think of our subway system as a big machine, but it’s more like an ecosystem. Those numbers are used for overlapping contracts, engineering plans and infrastructure parts. Changing them would be complicated and costly. But really, it works well for us, and, since it’s not something customers need to know to navigate the system, it’s not necessary to simplify it.

LPW: Yeah, we have lots of interesting ways of doing things. Mostly from the legacy of merging three original subway systems—the two private companies, the IRT and BMT, and the public IND.

Experts: Right, each of the three subway systems had its own logic and history. That’s where the Q tracks on the L line comes from. The BMT tracks were labeled with letters alphabetically, in roughly the order they opened. The Canarsie line was opened in 1928, later than most, so it got labeled “Q,” lower down on the alphabet. When the three subway systems were merged in the 1940s, the line numbers no longer made sense. There were duplicate line numbers, trains, and stations.

LPW: So the Q track was there from the start. What about the L line? Where did that letter come from?

Experts: Bit of history here. When the Chrystie Street Connection opened in 1967, joining up the BMT and IND lines, the planners knew they had to renumber all the subway lines to prevent total chaos. So they gave numbers to the IRT lines and letters to the BMT lines, based on the lettering system used on the IND lines. The L, for example, had been the BMT number 16. It got lettered L—well, actually “LL” because the IND originally used double letters for local trains—in 1967.

LPW: Why the LL? Is there any logic to our numbers and letters? Any hidden pattern?

Experts: Well, there is one thing most people don’t know. Look on our map. The number 1 train is the furthest west and the line numbers get higher as you move from west to east. Same with the lettered lines outside of the core of Manhattan south of Central Park, generally. The A, B, C, and D are the furthest west along Central Park West, and the lettered lines also get higher as you move east.

LPW: Really? So there is a hidden system!

Experts: Well, it’s actually a little more complicated than that…

LPW: Of course it is. We’ll stop there for now, thanks. Anyway, now our L customers can decipher the track wall glyphs and tell exactly how many feet they are standing from Eighth Ave. Good conversation starter, or ender.

L trip planner for your week and weekend coming up

It's all on website as you know, loyal reader, but we'll save you the click. Here are the service changes you need to know about for the week and weekend coming up (i.e. Nov 8-11, not this weekend):
Weeknights, Mon 10/28-Wed 11/27
  • No service at 8 Av or 6 Av (use the M14 SBS!)
  • No service between Myrtle-Wyckoff Avs and Broadway Junction (use our free shuttle buses!)

Weekends, 11/8-11-11; 11/15-11/18; 11/22-11/25

No service at 8 Av or 6 Av (use the M14 SBS!)
Plan your trip →

Coming to select M14 A/D SBS stops near you: Bus boarding platforms!

Just when you thought NYC DOT and we were done with improving that peaceful, speedy path also known as 14th-Street-with-transit-priority, we have another cool thing coming. Bus boarding platforms!

Don't be misled by their understated gray-plastic-y vibes (see photo). These are bus-speeding, customer and pedestrian-easing powerhouses from our partners at NYC DOT. They have a bunch of them on our bus routes throughout the city that have already made a huge positive impact. 

And starting this Thursday, November 7, these bus boarding platforms are coming to 14th Street as part of the transit priority initiative!

We're installing seven of these beauties along the route. Here's what you need know:
  • Each one is expected to take about 6 days to install, and while we're working, the bus will bypass that stop.
  • We'll be doing two at a time, working from 7 a.m.-7 p.m., but never two consecutive stops so you can use the next closest stop.
  • Check signs at the bus stops and listen to announcements on buses for more info. We'll also keep this page updated as our construction progresses:
Keep tabs on the non-boring bus boarder progress →

Finishing touches coming to Bedford Av platform stairs

As you know, we're opening stairs for you as we finish the basic stuff: concrete, steel, etc. Now we're going back and prettying them up.

Starting this Monday, November 4, one of the two platform stairs on the Bedford Ave side will be closed for about a month (the other one will stay open to keep you moving). Here's what we're doing:
  • Installing new wall tiles—bye blue plywood!
  • Swapping in the permanent guardrails and handrails
Read all about what's going on at Bedford Av →

Glamour shot(s) of the week: Welding is 🔥

Thermite welding: a story. Follow the numbers to watch our crews safely go through this process, which at the end creates a welded joint.
Photo: Trent Reeves  / MTA Capital Construction / October 26, 2019

Construction look-ahead: Week of 11/2/19

Track work and demo continues. Check out what we are up to this week:
  • Continue demo work (between the circuit breaker house and Ave D)
  • Make duct wall repairs (also between the circuit breaker house and Ave D)
  • Install FRP planels in several locations
  • Install more conduit: Ave B substation; fire alarm at the tunnel lighting room near Bedford Av Station; fire alarm and fare control machines at 1 Av Station; mezzanine lighting at 1 Av Station
  • Weld negative rail and drill out third rail in one area
  • Install new communications cables and test them in the communications room near 1 Av Station
  • Continue progress installing new plates and ties and install new contact rail equipment from Bedford to N 7th between two zones
  • Continue working to relocate the radio fiber cable       
  • Install new platform wall tiles at the 1 Av Station platform

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