The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) announcement that the first phase for replacement of track and third rail along a significant portion of the New York City Transit (NYCT) Archer Avenue E Subway Line extension has reached substantial completion ahead of schedule is great news!
On Dec. 22, 1988, the Archer Avenue Subway line extension opened. On several occasions, while working for the Urban Mass Transportation Administration Region 2 Office in New York City, I remember walking the project site while it was under construction in the 1980s. The final price tag was $440 million. This was far higher than the original forecasted baseline budget. Completion was several years late beyond the promised opening day of revenue service. It was the first addition of three new stations to the NYCT subway system in 20 years. The previous last new subway station at 57th Street - 6th Avenue in midtown Manhattan opened in 1968. These new stations were also designed to provide handicapped accessibility. No one remembers that the original concept from the 1960s was to extend the Archer Avenue Subway line deep into southeast Queens. It would have had reached the large Rochdale Village housing complex and served other neighborhoods such as Locust Manor and Laurelton. This never happened due to lack of funding.
The NYCT E Subway line originally ran from the 179th Street Hillside Avenue Queens station to the first World Trade Center (WTC) in downtown Manhattan. Connections are available at the WTC subway station via a short walk to the nearby Port Authority Trans Hudson (PATH) WTC station. PATH provides connections to Hoboken, Journal Square and Newark New Jersey. Upon opening of the Archer Avenue line, the E Subway line Queens terminal was relocated to the new Jamaica Center Parsons Archer Station. Thousands of commuters from various neighborhoods in Southeast Queens travel via various NYCT bus routes to either the Jamaica Center Parsons Archer or Sutphin Blvd. Archer Ave JFK Airport Station and transfer to the NYCT E or J Subway lines. Some also choose to utilize legal and illegal commuter vans to these stations.
Prior to 1996, everyone had to pay two fares. Thanks to the MTA Metro Card introduced in 1996, commuters only pay one fare. This includes a free transfer from bus to subway. How many other cities with a subway can offer the same bargain?
The new Archer Avenue subway line also provided easier access to the City University of New York York College campus. It also served as a critical investment catalyst since opening in the economic redevelopment of Jamaica, Queens. The once vibrant community began to decline during the 1960s due to closing of several large department stores, movie theaters and other local businesses. Many relocated to the suburbs and their customers followed. In 1977, the Long Island Press, which was a major Queens daily newspaper, closed its Jamaica offices and printing plant.
A significant portion of the NYCT Archer Avenue Subway line extension project was paid for by a grant from the Urban Mass Transportation Administration. After 1991, this became the Federal Transit Administration. It makes sense 32 years later for these capital improvements, which maintain safety and state of good repair, to take place.
One benefit of the Archer Avenue Subway three stop extension was a direct connection from the Jamaica Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) Station to NYCT subway system. When service disruptions take place on the LIRR between Jamaica and Penn Station, LIRR riders tickets are cross honored for a free transfer. They have an alternative route for traveling to and from Jamaica via the E Subway line. Eight of nine LIRR branches connect at Jamaica. Only the north shore Port Washington branch does not. It also provides a low cost fast direct connection to Kennedy Airport from the LIRR Jamaica Station via the Air Train.
The Archer Avenue Subway extension also permitted removal of the Jamaica Avenue El between 168th Street and 121st Street Stations. This opened up Jamaica Avenue to sunlight and new development. Introduction of the Z Subway line on the Jamaica Avenue El supported introduction of skip stop service during rush hour. This results in both the J and Z line providing a faster trip to Broadway Junction, East New York, Williamsburg and downtown Manhattan.
Congratulations are in order for the MTA, contractors and hard working NYC Transit employees for a job well done and keeping the Archer Avenue Subway line in a state of good repair.
Larry Penner is a transportation advocate, historian and writer who previously worked for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 New York Office. This included the development, review, approval and oversight for billions in capital projects and programs for the MTA, NYC Transit, Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North Railroad, MTA Bus, NYC DOT, NJ Transit, along with 30 other transit agencies in New York and New Jersey.