World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Dual Contracts

The original "H" system that predated the contracts

The Dual Contracts, signed on March 19, 1913, and also known as the Dual Subway System, were contracts for the construction and/or rehabilitation and operation of rapid transit lines in the City of New York. The majority of the lines of the present-day New York City Subway were built or reconstructed under these contracts. The contracts were "dual," in that they were signed between the City and two separate private companies (the Interborough Rapid Transit Company and the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company) who all worked together to make the construction of the Dual Contracts possible.


In the late 19th century and for most of the 20th century, New York was host to millions of immigrants each year. Many of the immigrants crowded into tenements and other apartment buildings in the inner city. This resulted in overpopulation of the buildings, and congestion of city streets. As living in Manhattan was becoming a hazard, subway lines to the outer boroughs were planned during the early 20th century, after the first subway line was opened.[1] Dispersion resulted in the expansion and development of the boroughs, and helped prepare New York for the millions of immigrants that came in the following years.

Some opposed the Dual Contracts as they thought that the company owners and city officials were just looking for another way to produce personal revenue.[2] Reformists like George McAneny and Charles Hughes would not have it any other way than to see the expansion of the city and the subway. They wanted to see the inner city become less populated and spread the people to the outer boroughs of the city. They planned to expand the city and disperse the people by building subway lines which would hopefully result in new homes being built near the subway lines and the areas surrounding. This would lower population densities in the city and also made as a good reason to help prove the subway expansion as necessary.


Before the Contracts, there was crowding in many of the forms of transportation in the city. The following is a list of annual ridership for each mode of transportation between June 30, 1910, and June 30, 1911:

  • Interborough Rapid Transit Company – subways, elevated roads — 578,154,088
  • Hudson and Manhattan Railroad — 52,756,434
  • Brooklyn Union Elevated Railroad System — 167,371,328
  • East River ferries — 23,460,000
  • Municipal ferry to Staten Island — 10,540,000
  • Hudson River ferries — 91,776,200

In total, 924,058,050 passengers were carried that year over these six modes of transport.[3]

Planned effects

It was expected that, within five years of completion:

When completed the rapid transit facilities of the City will have been more than trebled. During the year ended June 30, 1911, shortly after which the construction of the new system was begun, the existing rapid transit lines carried 798,281,850 passengers. The new Dual System will have a capacity of upwards of [3 billion], although it is not expected that such capacity will be demanded immediately upon the completion of the system. The combined trackage of the existing lines (including 7.1 miles of the Hudson and Manhattan Railroad) amounts to 303 miles of single track. To this will be added by the new lines of the Dual System 334 miles of single track, making a new system with 637 miles of single track. What this will mean to the City may be appreciated by considering how the existing lines will be amplified by the new additions and extensions. The Hudson and Manhattan road, however, is not to be a part of the Dual System.[3]

This system expansion was expected to be as big as, if not bigger, than the proposed Second System expansion put forth by the Independent Subway System in 1929 and 1939.

The Contracts

1910 plan for IRT expansion

Contracts 3 and 4

Contract 3 was signed between the City and the IRT, operator of the original subway line in New York City. Contract 4 was signed between the City and the Municipal Railway Company, a subsidiary of the BRT (later BMT), formed especially for the purpose of contracting with the city for construction of the lines. Contracts 1 and 2 were the original subway contracts between the City and the IRT for the city's first subway. These contracts predated the Dual Contracts, which were contracts 3 and 4.

Under the terms of Contracts 3 and 4, the city would build new subway and elevated lines, and rehabilitate and expand certain existing elevated lines, and lease them to the private companies for operation. The cost would be borne more-or-less equally by the City and the companies. The City's contribution was in cash raised by bond offerings, while the companies' contributions were variously by supplying cash, facilities and equipment to run the lines.

Queensboro Plaza

Queensboro Plaza track plan

The contract negotiations were long and sometimes acrimonious. For instance, when the IRT was reluctant (if not totally opposed) to the BRT's proposed access to Midtown Manhattan via the Broadway Line, the city and state negotiators immediately offered the BRT all of the lines under proposal, including such obvious IRT tie-ins such as the upper Lexington Avenue Line, and both lines in Queens. The IRT quickly gave in to the 'invasion' of Midtown Manhattan by the BRT.

The assignment of the proposed lines in Queens proved to be an imposition on both companies. Instead of one company enjoying a monopoly in that borough, both proposed lines — a short line to Astoria, and a longer line reaching initially to Corona, and eventually to Flushing — were assigned to both companies, to be operated in what was called "joint service." The lines would start from a huge station called Queensborough Plaza. The IRT would access the station from both the 1907 Steinway Tunnel and an extension of the Second Avenue Elevated from Manhattan over the Queensborough Bridge. The BRT would feed the Queens lines from the 60th Street Tunnel in Manhattan. Technically the line was under IRT 'ownership', but the BRT/BMT was granted trackage rights in perpetuity, essentially making it theirs also.

The BRT had a big disadvantage, as both Queens lines were built to IRT specifications. This meant that IRT passengers had a one-seat ride to Manhattan destinations, whereas BRT passengers had to make a change at Queensborough Plaza. This came to be important when service was extended for the 1939 World's Fair, as the IRT was able to offer direct express trains from Manhattan, and the BRT was not. This practice lasted well into the municipal ownership of the lines, and was not ended until 1949. Both companies shared in the revenues from this service. To facilitate this arrangement originally, extra long platforms were constructed along both Queens routes, so separate fare controls/boarding areas could be established. This quickly turned out to be operationally unworkable, so eventually a proportionate formula was worked out. The bonus legacy of this construction was that the IRT was able to operate 11-car trains on this line, and when the BMT took over the Astoria Line, minimal work had to done to accommodate 10-car BMT units.

Several provisions were imposed on the companies, which eventually led to their downfall and consolidation into City ownership in 1940:

  • The fare was limited to five cents, and this led to financial troubles for the two companies after post-World War I inflation.
  • The City had the right to "recapture" any of the lines it built, and run them as its own.
  • The City was to share in the profits.

IRT lines

The following lines were built under the Dual Contracts for the IRT:[3]

The following lines were rebuilt with extra tracks:[3]

BMT lines

1924 map of the BMT Dual Contracts lines

All Manhattan and Queens BMT lines were built under the Dual Contracts, as were all subway and some elevated lines in Brooklyn.[3]

Lines and line segments built new

Grade-separated rights-of-way built to replace surface railroads

1911 plan, giving all the contracts to the BRT

Existing rights-of-way rehabilitated and expanded


As reformists predicted the Dual Contracts resulted in city expansion. People moved to the newly built homes along the newly built subway lines. These homes were affordable, about the same cost as the houses in Brooklyn and Manhattan.[4] The Dual Contracts were the key to dispersion of the city’s congested areas. The Dual Contracts helped lower high population areas and probably helped saves lives as people were no longer living in heavily diseased areas. According to the Federal Census of New York City for 1920 the population in Manhattan decreased from 1910 to 1920. The census resulted in the following:

  • 1905 State census-1,271,848
  • 1910 United State census-1,269,591
  • 1915 State census-1,085,308
  • 1920 United State census-1,059,589[5]

People were allowed to move to better parts the same cost and could have a better and more comfortable life in the suburbs. They could still commute to work every day as most of the better off city workers who moved to the outer boroughs did.[4] This also helped the business districts as people could still work. The Dual Contracts as a whole helped shape New York City into what it is today.


  1. ^ Derrick 2001, p. 265
  2. ^ Derrick 2001, p. 6
  3. ^ a b c d e "The Dual System of Rapid Transit (1912)". 
  4. ^ a b Derrick 2001, p. 7
  5. ^ "Lower Manhattan Lost in Population". The New York Times. New York Times. Retrieved November 5, 2013. 
  • Derrick, Peter (2001). Tunneling to the Future: The Story of the Great Subway Expansion that Saved New York. NYU Press. ISBN . 

External links

  • — The Dual Contracts
  • Story including 50th anniversary of the contracts
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.