Svgalbertian/Wikimedia Commons

And a brief rundown of some other ghost letter trains.

The MTA's response to Hurricane Sandy has been, by all accounts, remarkably efficient. Days after the worst disaster in the New York subway system's history, some lines were running again. Two weeks later, parts of all lines were back in action. 

For nerds of subway nomenclature, there is an added bonus: the MTA has reintroduced the H Train

The reincarnated H will run, for free, along the Rockaway Peninsula from Beach 90th Street to Far Rockaway, where a bus will take commuters around Jamaica Bay and into Manhattan. That stretch of track usually belongs to the A Train, but Sandy wiped out the Broad Channel tracks that bring the subway onto the Rockaway Peninsula. It could be months before the cross-bay tracks are back in action. 

In the meantime, there's the H. 

There has been a shuttle train in the Rockaways since 1956, usually running from Broad Channel to Rockaway Park, towards the end of the peninsula. That train is currently called the S, like the other two New York City shuttle trains, but it was once known as the H -- in the '80s and early '90s -- and previously, as the HH, back in the 1960s. (Apparently the MTA still refers to it as the H internally, to distinguish the route from the S trains of Times Square and Franklin Avenue.)

This helps explain a small mystery that may puzzle outside observers looking very, very closely at the way the New York City subway system is named. About a third the subway system -- lines formerly part of the IRT (Interborough Rapid Transit Company) -- is designated with numbers, running 1-7. 

The other parts of the subway, formerly the BMT (Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit) and IND (Independent Subway System), are now split into letter names. But there are a number of letters missing even from the beginning of the alphabet, like H and K. (A, B, C, D, E, F, G, J, L, M, and N are all accounted for, as are Q, R, S, and Z.) 

The K train, like the H train, is a ghost of subway past -- it replaced the AA when the MTA abolished double letters, and ran as a West Side local until it went off the rails in 1988. The W and V are more recent casualties, but as a former W rider, I have to say: good riddance to them. I and O were never particularly good candidates because of their similarity to 1 and 0.

And since we now nearly have the whole alphabet accounted for, let's wrap it up. The T train is another ex-train, a former BMT route, as well as the presumptive name of the Second Avenue Subway, currently under construction. X is used as a place-holder; Y, U and P have been discounted due to their homophones "why," "you," and "pee." (I realize that there are already a number of homophones in the system; this logic comes from Glenn Lunden, NYC Transit Operations and Planning, via AM New York.) 

If that's not enough on subway nomenclature for you, check out the Wikipedia Page for "Unused New York City Subway service labels." Our ancestors also rode the NX, the QJ, and the 16.

Top image: Svgalbertian/Wikimedia Commons.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A photo of a Google employee on a bicycle.
    Equity

    How Far Will Google’s Billion-Dollar Bay Area Housing Plan Go?

    The single largest commitment by a private employer to address the Bay Area’s acute affordable housing crisis is unique in its focus on land redevelopment.

  2. Equity

    Berlin Will Freeze Rents for Five Years

    Local lawmakers agreed to one of Europe’s most radical rental laws, but it sets the stage for a battle with Germany’s national government.

  3. A person tapes an eviction notice to the door of an apartment.
    Equity

    Why Landlords File for Eviction (Hint: It’s Usually Not to Evict)

    Most of the time, a new study finds, landlords file for eviction because it tilts the power dynamic in their favor—not because they want to eject their tenants.

  4. Environment

    Paris Wants to Grow ‘Urban Forests’ at Famous Landmarks

    The city plans to fill some small but treasured sites with trees—a climate strategy that may also change the way Paris frames its architectural heritage.

  5. A map showing the affordability of housing in the U.S.
    Equity

    Minimum Wage Still Can’t Pay For A Two-Bedroom Apartment Anywhere

    The 30th anniversary edition of the National Low Income Housing Coalition report, “Out of Reach,” shows that housing affordability is getting worse, not better.

×