The Franklin Avenue Line was part of the original main line of the Brooklyn, Flatbush and Coney Island Railway or Brighton Beach Line, later known as the BMT Brighton Line. It formally opened on August 18, 1878, about six weeks after the rest of the Brighton Line opened. This portion of the Brighton Beach Line represented a routing compromise. The BF&CI would have preferred a more direct route to downtown Brooklyn, but instead had to settle for a route which took it north to the Bedford station of the Long Island Rail Road, where Brighton trains could operate to the latter railroad's terminal at Flatbush Avenue and Atlantic Avenue. The LIRR, however, gained control of the New York and Manhattan Beach Railway, a competitor of the BF&CI, and breached its agreement to provide equal access to the Flatbush Avenue terminal. After the 1882 season, the Brighton was forced to end its trains at Bedford, a situation which soon led to bankruptcy.
In 1896, the Brighton, now the Brooklyn and Brighton Beach Railroad gained a connection with the Kings County Elevated Railway by means of a ramp and short elevated railway, connecting to the former line at Franklin Avenue and Fulton Street. This enabled the KCERR to operate its steam-powered elevated trains on the Brighton Road via the Franklin Avenue right-of-way, providing Brighton riders with direct service to downtown Manhattan via the Brooklyn Bridge. The KCERR connection was still less than ideal, and the Brooklyn Rapid Transit company, which ended up as the lessor of both the KCERR and B&BB roads, negotiated a more direct subway route under Flatbush Avenue as part of Contract 4 of the Dual Contracts of 1913. Construction of this new connection indirectly contributed to the worst rapid transit wreck in world history, known as the Malbone Street Wreck or Brighton Beach Line Accident when, on November 1, 1918, a five-car wooden elevated train left the tracks and crashed into one of the new tunnel walls, killing at least 93.
Route designation on BMT Triplex equipment
On August 1, 1920, the new subway opened and became the new main line for the Brighton Line. At that time, the Franklin Avenue alignment was established as the Brighton-Franklin Line and disconnected from the trackage to Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan. The line continued to operate elevated train service on the Brighton Beach main line until 1928, after which similar services were continued with steel subway cars. For the summer excursion season of 1924, the Franklin Avenue Line was upgraded for the operation of six-car subway trains, and assigned the BMT number 7. Services used the Brighton Line during most daytime hours. During warm weather, express services ran to Coney Island on weekend days. After the city gained ownership of the line in 1940, Brighton-Franklin services gradually declined. A major blow to through service viability occurred in 1954 when the D train of the IND Division was extended to Coney Island via the Culver Line, deprived the Franklin of a major source of transfer traffic, consisting of passengers from Harlem and the Bronx, who now had a more direct route to Coney Island. Brighton-Franklin express service ended by 1959, and the Franklin Avenue Line became a full-time shuttle in 1963.
In 1981, the MTA proposed abandoning the severely deteriorated line under the failed Program for Action. In the 1990s the Franklin Avenue Shuttle was known as the "ghost train". It was shrunk in size to only two cars and the Dean Street station was closed. The entire line was under consideration for abandonment, but community pressure forced the MTA to rebuild rather than abandon the line, and as a result most of the supporting infrastructure and stations were completely rehabilitated in 1998/1999 at a cost of $74 million and reopened in 1999. During renovation, a temporary shuttle bus and the B48 bus replaced train service.
1878 August 18: What is now the Franklin Avenue Shuttle opens as the last portion of the Brooklyn, Flatbush & Coney Island Railway to open, six weeks later than the rest of the line. It enables BF&CI excursion trains to connect to the Long Island Rail Road at Bedford for access to downtown Brooklyn. The line runs on the surface from Atlantic Avenue (Bedford Terminal) to Park Place, then in an open cut to connect to the rest of the line at Prospect Park.
1899: First electrification on the Brighton Line, including the Franklin Avenue Line, is accomplished using trolley wire. Trains that use third rail in elevated service raise trolley poles at Franklin Avenue station. Some passenger steam operates under different circumstances for several more years.
1905-06: The last remaining grade crossings are eliminated in the vicinity of Park Place by building an elevated structure to connect the old elevated structure and the open-cut portion. In the ensuing years, some existing bridges are strengthened or replaced and some of the elevated trackage placed on concrete-retained embankment.
1920 August 1: The Brighton Beach Line is connected to the BMT Broadway Line subway via a connection under Flatbush Avenue, and at the same time track connections to the Fulton Street El are severed so that through service to Brooklyn Bridge is no longer possible. Subway trains from New York and elevated trains from Franklin Avenue share operations to Coney Island.
1924: For the summer season, platforms on the line are extended and modified for the operation of subway trains.
1928: The last elevated trains run on the Franklin Avenue Line.
1963: The last through trains via the Brighton Line, a short running of the Brighton Beach Local, ends. The Franklin Avenue Line is now a full-time shuttle.
1999: The line is reopened after a complete rebuild, which included rebuilding the support infrastructure and stations. The MTA considered abandoning the line in the late 1990s due to the line's deterioration; community pressure convinced them to rebuild the shuttle instead.
At Franklin Avenue and Fulton Street, where the BMT Fulton Street Lineelevated railway had given way to the IND Fulton Street Line subway, a large station is present with modern conveniences, elevators and escalators, providing an easier transfer between the shuttle and the IND line. From that station, most of the original steelwork from elevated days has been removed and replaced with heavier construction. The line runs on a single track from Franklin/Fulton to another new station at Park Place. Though this portion of the line uses much of the reinforced viaduct from 1903-1905, it is virtually new as of 1999. After Park Place, the line broadens from one to two tracks and the right-of-way transforms from 1999 reconstruction to near-original 1878 right-of-way, including the original railroad-style tunnel under Eastern Parkway, at the south end of which is the rehabilitated Botanic Garden station of 1928. All three of the above stations have been attractively rebuilt or rehabilitated, including distinctive artwork, masonry and ironwork funded by MTA New York City Transit's "Arts in Transit" program. From Botanic Garden, the line continues on original 1878 roadbed to its connection with the main part of the Brighton Beach Line at Prospect Park. Before entering Prospect Park, most trains switch to the northbound track to enter the station, where the shuttle terminates.
As of 2008[update], the Franklin Avenue shuttle is the most punctual train in the New York City Subway system with a 99.7 percent on-time average. The shuttle averages 20,000 riders per day.
Note that this is a list of New York City Subway lines, which are the physical infrastructure over which services operate.
Lines with colors next to them are trunk lines; trunk lines determine the color of New York City Subway service bullets, except for shuttles, which are dark gray.