The A Eighth Avenue Express is a rapid transit service in the B Division of the New York City Subway. Its route emblem, or "bullet", is colored vivid blue since it uses the IND Eighth Avenue Line in Manhattan. The A operates between 207th Street in Inwood, Manhattan and Mott Avenue in Far Rockaway, Queens, or Lefferts Boulevard in Richmond Hill, Queens. The A is the Central Park West / Eighth Avenue Express in Manhattan, Fulton Street Express in Brooklyn, and Liberty Avenue / Rockaway Local in Queens during daytime hours. The A provides the longest one-seat ride in the system, at 32 miles (51 km) between Inwood and Far Rockaway and has a weekday ridership of 600,000. Five rush hour trips run to and from Beach 116th Street in Rockaway Park, Queens, in the peak direction. At all times, a shuttle train (S – Rockaway Park Shuttle) operates between Broad Channel, where it connects with the A, and Rockaway Park. During late nights, the A makes all stops along its entire route and originates/terminates at Far Rockaway only; a shuttle train (Lefferts Boulevard Shuttle) runs between Euclid Avenue and Lefferts Boulevard.
The A and AA were the first services on the IND Eighth Avenue Line when it opened on September 10, 1932. The Independent Subway System (IND) used single letters to refer to express services and double letters for local services. The A ran express between 207th Street and Chambers Street/World Trade Center, and the AA ran local between 168th Street and Chambers St/World Trade Center, known at the time as Hudson Terminal. The AA used a red bullet. During late nights and Sundays, the A did not run and the AA made all stops along the line.
The A was extended to Jay Street–Borough Hall on February 1, 1933, when the Cranberry Street Tunnel to Brooklyn opened; an extension to Bergen Street opened on March 20, and to Church Avenue on October 7.
On April 9, 1936, the IND Fulton Street Line was opened to Rockaway Avenue. The 1936 completion played an integral part in the establishment of Bedford-Stuyvesant as Brooklyn's central African American community. The A train connected Harlem, Manhattan's central African American community to areas of Bedford-Stuyvesant that provided residential opportunities for African Americans not found throughout the rest of New York City.
On December 30, 1946 and November 28, 1948, the line was extended to Broadway–East New York (now Broadway Junction) and Euclid Avenue, respectively.
On October 24, 1949, express service in Brooklyn to Broadway–East New York began with the A running express during rush hours, with the E extended to provide local service.
On April 29, 1956, Grant Avenue was opened, and the line was extended over the BMT Fulton Street Line to Lefferts Boulevard. Weekdays except midnights, alternate trains terminated at Lefferts Boulevard and at Euclid Avenue. During weekends, they terminated at Euclid Avenue with a shuttle to Lefferts Boulevard.
Two months later, on June 28, 1956, the former Long Island Rail Road Rockaway Line was rebuilt to subway specifications, and service began to Rockaway Park and Wavecrest (Beach 25th Street). At this time, rush hour express service on the Fulton Street Line with the E train began.
On September 16, 1956, the A was extended to the Rockaways replacing the E. At the time, alternate trains continued running to Lefferts Boulevard. On January 27, 1957, non-rush hour through service to the Rockaways was discontinued and was replaced by a shuttle running between Euclid Avenue and Wavecrest (now Beach 25th Street). Non-rush hour A train service is now to Lefferts Boulevard. This may also be the time that the E replaced the A again in the Rockaways.
On January 16, 1958, a new terminal was created at Far Rockaway–Mott Avenue, and the through connection to the Long Island Rail Road's Far Rockaway station was severed. On September 8, 1958, the A train replaced the E train in the Rockaways again. "Round-robin" service from Euclid Avenue to both Rockaway terminals began, non-rush hours, while through A service runs to Lefferts Boulevard. In September 1959, the A begins to run local in Brooklyn at all times, as the E becomes express in Brooklyn.
In 1963, the E train was extended to the Rockaways, and the A train ran local to Euclid Avenue or Lefferts Boulevard at all times. (HH shuttle service from Euclid Avenue provided all service to the Rockaways).
On July 9, 1967, the A train was extended to Far Rockaway middays, evenings, and weekends, replacing the HH shuttle on that branch. Five years later, it would also be extended during rush hours.
On January 2, 1973, the A train became the express service along Fulton Street and the E train became the local during rush hours. Finally, in 1976, the C became the Fulton Street Local during rush hours.
On August 27, 1977, the A began making local stops in Manhattan during late nights, when the AA was not running.
On December 11, 1988, A trains began running local between 145th Street and 168th Street on weekends to replace the discontinued K service and express on the IND Fulton Street Line in Brooklyn during middays and rush hours with the C providing local service during those times.
On September 30, 1990, A trains began operating local between 145th Street and 168th Street during evenings and late nights and 168th Street and Chambers Street during late nights.
Until 1993, the A train ran to Lefferts Boulevard during late nights while the Far Rockaway section was served by a shuttle to Euclid Avenue. In 1993, this pattern was switched, with late-night A service running to Far Rockaway. Since then an A shuttle provided service from Euclid Avenue to Lefferts Boulevard during late nights. A few years later, special A service began running from Rockaway Park to Dyckman Street during the morning rush and from 168th Street to Rockaway Park during the evening rush. In 1999, the A became the express on the Fulton Street Line at all times except late nights after all C service was moved from World Trade Center to Euclid Avenue.
On January 23, 2005, a fire at the Chambers Street signal room crippled A and C service. Initial assessments suggested that it would take several years to restore normal service, but the damaged equipment was replaced with available spare parts, and normal service resumed on April 21.
A service was affected by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012 due to extreme damage to the IND Rockaway Line. Trains that normally traveled to Far Rockaway or Rockaway Park terminated at Howard Beach–JFK Airport. Service to the Rockaways resumed on May 30, 2013. The Far Rockaway part of the route was served by the temporary free H shuttle that ran between Far Rockaway and Beach 90th Street via the connecting track at Hammels Wye.
Take the A Train is a jazz standard by Billy Strayhorn, referring to the A train, going at that time from eastern Brooklyn up into Harlem and northern Manhattan, using the express tracks in Manhattan. It became the signature tune of Duke Ellington and often opened the shows of Ella Fitzgerald. Part of the significance of this is sociological; it connected Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant, the two largest black neighborhoods in New York City.
The following table shows the lines used by the A, with shaded boxes indicating the route at the specified times:
For a more detailed station listing, see the articles on the lines listed above.
For clarity, the A's branches are shown separately in the following table. The leftmost column shows the Lefferts Boulevard service, while the column directly to the right shows the Rockaways services. Stations in blue denote stops made by the Rockaway Park service during rush hours in the peak direction.