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181st Street (IND Eighth Avenue Line)

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 181 Street
 "A" train
MTA NYC logo.svg New York City Subway rapid transit station
181 St IND SB platform jeh.jpg
Station statistics
Address West 181st Street & Fort Washington Avenue
New York, NY 10033
Borough Manhattan
Locale Washington Heights, Hudson Heights
Coordinates 40°51′06″N 73°56′17″W / 40.8517°N 73.9380°W / 40.8517; -73.9380Coordinates: 40°51′06″N 73°56′17″W / 40.8517°N 73.9380°W / 40.8517; -73.9380
Division B (IND)
Line       IND Eighth Avenue Line
Services       A all times (all times)
Transit connections Bus transport NYCT Bus: Bx3, Bx7, Bx11, Bx13, Bx35, Bx36, M4, M98, M100
Bus transport GWB Bus Station
Structure Underground
Platforms 2 side platforms
Tracks 2
Other information
Opened September 10, 1932; 85 years ago (1932-09-10)[1]
Station code 146[3]
Accessible The mezzanine is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, but the platforms are not compliant ADA-accessible to mezzanine only; platforms are not ADA-accessible
Wireless service Wi-Fi and cellular service is provided at this station[4]
Former/other names 181st Street–Fort Washington Avenue[2]
Other entrances/
Fort Washington Avenue & 184st Street, Overlook Terrace & 184th Street, east side of Fort Washington Avenue
Passengers (2017) 3,453,621[5]Decrease 0.2%
Rank 146 out of 425
Station succession
Next north 190th Street: A all times
Next south 175th Street: A all times

181st Street Subway Station (IND)
MPS New York City Subway System MPS
NRHP reference # 05000233[6]
Added to NRHP March 30, 2005

181st Street, once also known as 181st Street–Fort Washington Avenue, is a station on the IND Eighth Avenue Line of the New York City Subway. It is served by the A train at all times.

181st Street opened on September 10, 1932, and has two tracks and two side platforms. It is located deep below the surface due to the area's hills.

The station has three separate entrances. Two are on Fort Washington Avenue: one at 181st Street at the foot of Fort Washington Hill; and one at 184th Street in the Hudson Heights neighborhood atop the hill opposite Bennett Park, the highest natural point in Manhattan. The third entrance is at 184th Street and Overlook Terrace, also at the bottom of the hill. The entrance from 181st Street connects to the station via escalators, while the entrance from the top of 184th Street connects to the station and the Overlook Terrace entrance via an elevator connection that is free to the public.


Track layout

This station opened on September 10, 1932 as part of the opening of the first city-owned subway line, the IND Eighth Avenue Line. On this date, the line opened from Chambers Street north to 207th Street.[1][7] Construction of the whole line cost $191,200,000. Service at this station was provided with express service from its onset. While the IRT Broadway–Seventh Avenue Line already provided service to Washington Heights, the new subway via Fort Washington Avenue made subway service more readily accessible.[8] Soon after the station opened, a bus route running over the George Washington Bridge began connecting this station to Fort Lee, New Jersey for five cents.[9] The construction of the station spurred development in the surrounding area.[10]

In December 1950, the New York City Board of Transportation issued a report concerning the construction of bomb shelters in the subway system in the midst of the Cold War. Five deep stations in Washington Heights, including the 181st Street station, were considered to be ideal for being used as bomb-proof shelters. The program was expected to cost $104,000,000. These shelters were expected to provide limited protection against conventional bombs, while providing protection against shock waves and air blast, as well as from the heat and radiation from an atomic bomb. To become suitable as shelters, the stations would require water-supply facilities, first-aid rooms, and additional bathrooms.[11]


From 1932 until 1957, pedestrians had to pay a fare to use the elevators. Though the elevators were intended for subway riders, local residents paid the subway fare to avoid climbing about eight stories up Fort Washington Hill. In September 1957, the New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA) began allowing free public access to the elevators at the 181st and 190th Street stations. Bills were proposed in the New York State Legislature to put the elevators out of fare control, but these failed in committee. The NYCTA agreed once Joseph Zaretzki, the local State Senator, requested the change.[12]

During the 1970s, the NYCTA attempted to eliminate the elevator attendants at this station once the elevators become automatic, but was not able to do so as a state law was passed by the urging of local politicians that required them to stay on the job. For four months during 1999, the station was closed while repairs were made to the elevators.[13] In 2004, the number of elevator attendants at the station was reduced to one per station as a result of budget cuts by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). The agency had intended to remove all the attendants, but kept one in each station after many riders protested. The change saved $1.2 million a year.[14] In November 2007, the MTA proposed savings cuts to help reduce the agency's deficit. As part of the plan, all elevator operators at 181st Street, along with those in four other stations in Washington Heights, would have been cut.[15] The next month, the MTA announced that it would not remove the remaining elevator operators at 181st Street, along with those in four other stations in Washington Heights. The move was intended to save $1.7 million a year, but was not implemented due to pushback from elected officials and residents from the area.[16]

The elevator attendants currently serve as a way to reassure passengers as the elevators are the primary entrance to the platforms, and passengers often wait for the elevators with an attendant.[17] The attendants at the five stations are primarily maintenance and cleaning workers who sustained injuries that made it hard for them to continue doing their original jobs. Riders of the 181st Street station have connected with the station's elevator attendants. For instance, in 2000, one elevator attendant put up images of popular jazz musicians while playing jazz music. The MTA ordered the posters removed, but 300 residents protested their removal. The elevator attendants have been known to attempt to cheer up commuters by playing music. A 2003 New York Times article stated that one operator played calypso music and merengue music from a portable CD player, and that "on occasion a dour-faced occupant will execute a brief tap or samba step on the way out".[18]

Station layout[edit]

G Street Level Exits/Entrances

(Elevator at Bennett Park exit. Note: Platforms are not accessible)

M Mezzanine Fare control, station agent, MetroCard vending machines
Escalators to 181st Street at south end
Tunnel to Overlook Terrace and elevator to Bennett Park at north end

Platform level

Side platform, doors will open on the right
Northbound "A" train toward Inwood–207th Street (190th Street)
Southbound "A" train toward Rockaway Park or Lefferts Boulevard (175th Street)
Side platform, doors will open on the right

This underground station has two tracks and two side platforms and is deep below the surface due to the area's hills.[19] In fact, the highest natural point on Manhattan Island is in Bennett Park, adjacent to the station exit on Fort Washington Avenue between West 183rd and 185th Streets (there is no West 184th Street there).[20]

The station's mezzanine is located directly above the station's two tracks, and it is located within the arched tunnel structure, affording views of the station's two side platforms.[21][22][23] The station's tiles are colored burgundy to help riders identify their station more easily, part of a tiles scheme conceived for the entire Independent Subway System. As a passenger heads away from downtown Manhattan, the colors of the tiles change each time an express station is reached. As a result, all of the stations on the Eighth Avenue Line north of 168th Street, the northernmost express station, all share the same burgundy tile colors.[8][24][25]

Because of the station's depth, long escalators lead to 181st Street at the south end, and elevators at the north end of the station carry passengers to the Bennett Park exit.[26] The elevators were formerly only open during the daytime and required the payment of a fare to use.[27] Since 1957, the elevators have not required the payment of a fare, so pedestrians traveling between Overlook Terrace and Fort Washington Avenue are allowed to use the elevators for free. There are also free elevators for pedestrians at 190th Street, the next station uptown,[12] as well as at 191st Street on the IRT Broadway–Seventh Avenue Line.[28]

Entrances and exits[edit]

The 181st Street station has three entrances. Two of them are located at the top of a hill along Fort Washington Avenue: one between West 183rd and 185th Streets, across from Bennett Park, and the other at 181st Street. The third, at Overlook Avenue and 184th Street, is located at the bottom of a hill.[29]

The entrances at the 181st Street station were designed so as to not be sidewalk obstructions like those constructed by the Interborough Rapid Transit Company and the Brooklyn–Manhattan Transit Corporation, the two other subway operators in the city. To accomplish this goal, the exit at Overlook Terrace was placed on city-owned property near the station, and the exit at Fort Washington Avenue between 183rd and 185th Streets was placed in a building. The Overlook Terrace entrance consists of a passageway to the mezzanine, while the Fort Washington Avenue entrance consists of three elevators to mezzanine level. While Board of Transportation engineers were able to find ways to place these subway entrances in places without forming obstructions, it was not possible to do the same at Fort Washington Avenue at 181st Street.[30] At this corner, there are four street stairs in total, or two to each southern corner of the intersection.[29][30]

Overlook Terrace entrance at West 184th Street
Fort Washington Avenue entrance between West 183rd and 185th Streets

Bus service[edit]

The station and the nearby George Washington Bridge Bus Station are served by ten local MTA Regional Bus Operations routes and various interstate bus routes.[31][32]

Route Operator North/West Terminal South/East Terminal via notes
Local Bus Routes
M4 New York City Bus The Cloisters or Fort Tryon Park Penn Station Broadway and Fifth Avenue Bus only runs to the Cloisters when the museum is open; it only runs to Fort Tryon Park at all other times.
M5 New York City Bus Broadway at West 179th Street South Ferry Riverside Drive, Fifth Avenue, and Broadway
M98 LTD New York City Bus Fort Tryon Park 68th Street/Lexington Avenue Harlem River Drive and Lexington Avenue Bus only runs during rush hours.
M100 New York City Bus West 220th Street/Broadway, Inwood East 125th Street/First Avenue, East Harlem Broadway and Amsterdam Avenues
Bx3 New York City Bus 238th Street station, Riverdale, Bronx West 179th Street east of Broadway University Avenue
Bx7 New York City Bus West 263rd Street/Riverdale Avenue, Riverdale, Bronx 168th Street station Broadway, Johnson Avenue, Henry Hudson Parkway
Bx11 New York City Bus West 179th Street west of Broadway Simpson Street station, Longwood, Bronx 170th Street
Bx13 New York City Bus West 179th Street west of Broadway Bronx Terminal Market (extended to Third Avenue/163rd Street, rush hours) Ogden Avenue and Yankee Stadium
Bx35 New York City Bus West 179th Street east of Broadway Simpson Street station, Longwood, Bronx 167th & 169th Street's
Bx36 New York City Bus West 179th Street west of Broadway Olmstead Avenue/Seaward Avenue, Castle Hill, Bronx 174/180th Streets
Other bus routes
George Washington Bridge Bus Station routes Various George Washington Bridge Bus Station

In popular culture[edit]

The upper mezzanine's elevator bank

The station is mentioned in the title song of the Broadway musical In the Heights by Lin-Manuel Miranda, where Usnavi says to take the A train "even farther than Harlem to Northern Manhattan and maintain, get off at 181st and take the escalator. I hope you're writing this down I'm gonna test ya later".[33]

On September 13, 1980, aspiring pianist Eric Kaminsky was robbed and stabbed to death in the station. His murder became the basis for his mother's book The Victim's Song.[34]


  1. ^ a b Crowell, Paul Crowell by Paul (September 10, 1932). "GAY MIDNIGHT CROWD RIDES FIRST TRAINS IN THE SUBWAY; Throngs at Stations an Hour Before Time, Rush Turnstiles When Chains Are Dropped. NO OFFICIAL CEREMONIES But West Side Business Group Celebrates Midnight Event With Ride and Dinner. LAST REHEARSALS SMOOTH Delaney, Fullen and Aides Check First Hour of Pay Traffic From Big Times Square Station. NEW SUBWAY OPENS; TRAINS CROWDED". The New York Times. p. 6. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved August 2, 2017. 
  2. ^ "More Subway Escalators". The New York Times. May 12, 1939. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved August 2, 2017. 
  3. ^ "Station Developers' Information". Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Retrieved June 13, 2017. 
  4. ^ "NYC Subway Wireless – Active Stations". Transit Wireless Wifi. Retrieved May 18, 2016.
  5. ^ "Facts and Figures: Annual Subway Ridership 2012–2017". Metropolitan Transportation Authority. July 12, 2018. Retrieved July 12, 2018. 
  6. ^ "NPS Focus". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. Retrieved November 6, 2011. 
  7. ^ Crowell, Paul (September 10, 1932). "Gay Midnight Crowd Rides First Trains In The New Subway: Throngs at Station an Hour Before Time, Rush Turnstiles When Chains are Dropped" (PDF). New York Times. Retrieved November 8, 2015. 
  8. ^ a b Duffus, R. l (September 9, 1932). "NEW LINE FIRST UNIT IN CITY-WIDE SYSTEM; 8th Av. Tube to Ease West Side Congestion at Once -- Branches to Link 4 Boroughs Later. LAST WORD IN SUBWAYS Run From 207th to Chambers St. Cut to 33 Minutes -- 42d St. Has World's Largest Station. COST HAS BEEN $191,200,000 Years of Digging Up City Streets, Tunneling Rock and Building Road Finally Brought to Completion". The New York Times. p. 12. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved August 3, 2017. 
  9. ^ "BRIDGE COMMUTERS PAY 5-CENT FARE; Buses Will Carry Passengers From Fort Lee to 181st Street Subway Station. Five-Cent Fare Benefits". The New York Times. October 25, 1931. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved August 2, 2017. 
  10. ^ "Operators Add to Holdings In Washington Heights Area". The New York Times. November 17, 1931. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved August 2, 2017. 
  11. ^ Ronan, Thomas P. (December 29, 1950). "SUBWAY SHELTERS TO COST $104,000,000 PROPOSED FOR CITY; Board Would Build Havens in Present and Proposed Lines or Convert for Defense EXTENT OF U.S. AID IN DOUBT Most of Routes Would Provide Limited Safety 5 Stations Listed as 'Bomb-Proof' Some Federal Aid Expected Would Expedite Work SUBWAY SHELTERS FOR CITY OUTLINED Provide Longer Occupancy". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved August 2, 2017. 
  12. ^ a b "2 IND ELEVATORS OPEN TO FREE USE". The New York Times. September 6, 1957. p. 19. Retrieved July 30, 2016. 
  13. ^ Barnes, Julian E. (January 16, 2000). "NEIGHBORHOOD REPORT: NEW YORK UP CLOSE; For Perennially Ailing Subway Elevators, the Doctor Will Call in April". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved August 2, 2017. 
  14. ^ Piazza, Jo (December 7, 2003). "M.T.A. Urged Not to Cut Elevator Jobs At 5 Stations". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved August 3, 2017. 
  15. ^ Neuman, William (November 30, 2007). "M.T.A. Savings Proposal May Mean Service Cuts". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved August 3, 2017. 
  16. ^ "Changing Course, M.T.A. Will Keep Elevator Operators On". The New York Times. December 8, 2007. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved August 3, 2017. 
  17. ^ Grynbaum, Michael M. (April 28, 2011). "Subway Elevator Operators Dwindle in New York". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved August 3, 2017. 
  18. ^ Waller, Nikki (November 23, 2003). "NEIGHBORHOOD REPORT: WASHINGTON HEIGHTS -- CITYPEOPLE; Why They Take the A Train (and the 1/9)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved August 3, 2017. 
  19. ^ Dougherty, Peter (2006) [2002]. Tracks of the New York City Subway 2006 (3rd ed.). Dougherty. OCLC 49777633 – via Google Books. 
  20. ^ "Bennett Park Highest Natural Point in Manhattan". Retrieved August 3, 2017. 
  21. ^ Cox, Jeremiah (November 23, 2005). "The staircases in the middle of the platforms lead up to the mezzanine above". Retrieved August 2, 2017. 
  22. ^ Cox, Jeremiah (April 2, 2007). "Floor view of the middle mezzanine". Retrieved August 2, 2017. 
  23. ^ Cox, Jeremiah (November 11, 2004). "Looking down the railing of the mezzanine". Retrieved August 2, 2017. 
  24. ^ Whitehorne, Wayne; Sklar, Bob. " IND Station Tile Colors". Retrieved August 3, 2017. 
  25. ^ Cox, Jeremiah (November 30, 2009). "A 181 St name tablet with an arrow for -184-> exit". Retrieved August 3, 2017. 
  26. ^ Weiss, Bernard (October 29, 1932). "The 181st Street Escalator". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved August 2, 2017. 
  27. ^ "FREE ELEVATORS IN SUBWAY FOUGHT". The New York Times. August 7, 1939. p. 13. Retrieved July 29, 2016. 
  28. ^ Kurtz, Josh (August 12, 1991). "Washington Heights Journal; A Subway Passageway Just for the Courageous". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved July 30, 2016. 
  29. ^ a b "MTA Neighborhood Maps: Washington Heights" (PDF). Metropolitan Transportation Authority. 2015. Retrieved July 29, 2016. 
  30. ^ a b "MAPS SUBWAY EXITS TO EASE CONGESTION; Committee Places Passageways to City System in Near-By Buildings or Parks. OWNERS AID THE OFFICIALS Give Space as Convenience to Tenants--Sidewalk Obstructions on Old Lines Removed. Utilize City Parks. List of Entrances". The New York Times. August 24, 1930. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved August 2, 2017. 
  31. ^ "Manhattan Bus Map" (PDF). Metropolitan Transportation Authority. December 2017. Retrieved April 24, 2018. 
  32. ^ "Bronx Bus Map" (PDF). Metropolitan Transportation Authority. September 2017. Retrieved April 24, 2018. 
  33. ^ "Lin-Manuel Miranda – In the Heights". Genius. November 1, 2013. Retrieved July 16, 2016. 
  34. ^ Kaminsky, Alice. The Victim's Song. Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 1985. ISBN 0879752920.

External links[edit]