As you might imagine, our interest was piqued when we saw this item in the FYI column of yesterday's City Section:
>Q. Most subway stops’ names use only the street number (42nd Street, for example). How come West Fourth Street and a few stops in the Bronx (like East 180th Street and East 149th Street) are given an east/west distinction?
>A. Mainly to avoid confusion.
>Herb Schonhaut, manager in New York City Transit’s Office of Station Signage, said the Fourth Street station uses the word “West” to distinguish it from the planned but unbuilt “South” Fourth Street Station in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
South Fourth Street station?
Indeed. It seems that back in 1929 (before the consolidation of the various subways systems under City control), there was a bold plan (called the IND Second System) to expand the City's subway system. The plan was called the IND Second System, and during the 1930s parts of it were built. The plan was scrapped with the consolidation of the BMT and IRT lines in 1940.
The proposed service to Williamsburg included two new lines: one connecting to the Sixth Avenue line and running beneath the East River from Houston Street; the second connecting to the Eighth Avenue line and running under the River from Grand Street in Manhattan (with the last stop at Columbia Street). In Williamsburg, the north line was to run beneath Grand Street as far as Driggs, and then turn south to meet up with the second line, which was to run under Broadway and South Fourth Street (more detail here). All of this was to meet up with the Crosstown Line (aka the G train) at Broadway and South 4th. That was the South 4th Street station referred to in the Times article (portions of which were built: see below). From South Fourth Street, the lines continued east. In Bed Stuy, they were to branch off. The Utica Avenue would run to the south, eventually winding up in Sheepshead Bay. The Rockaway line would continue northeast along Myrtle and Central Avenues, and then turn south and run all the way to the Rockaways.
Think about it, instead of being the redheaded stepchild of the transit system, the G train would have been an integral part of the largest interchange in the entire subway system.