The Fulton Street station complex is the busiest in Lower Manhattan, with over 275,000 passenger entries, exits, and transfers each day. Many of these trips are made by commuters traveling throughout the NYC area or to commuter rail hubs at Penn Station, Grand Central Terminal, Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn, and Jamaica. Subway access to Howard Beach and Jamaica, where the Port Authority's AirTrain automated rail service carries customers to John F. Kennedy International Airport, is also available at the Fulton Street complex on the line.
The current subway complex is made up of six separate subway stations, built at different times by different companies or agencies between 1905 and 1932. Because the subway lines competed with each other during this period, there was little incentive to make it easy to transfer from one line to another. Consequently, these stations suffer from a number of impediments:
- Many subway entrances are obscured and poorly identified.
- Entrances (many inside buildings) are frequently dark, narrow, and confusing.
- Access into and out of the station is hampered by narrow sidewalks and heavy street traffic.
- Transfers between subway lines are complicated, often requiring the use of multiple stairways, ramps, and narrow passageways.
- The line platforms are crowded by passengers transferring from other lines, creating delays in train boarding and overall subway service on the entire line.
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