One hundred years ago, New Yorkers started riding in a hole in the ground. Today, we still are.
Newsweek: Take the A Train (or the F, the Q, the 1, the 7 … ): “If anything truly revolutionized the way New Yorkers live, work and play, it’s the subway. On any given weekday, 4.5 million people travel on the 6,400 cars that run along 722 miles of track beneath the city’s five teeming boroughs. For all their complaints about it—the dirt! the crowding! the noise!—the subway remains nothing short of the miracle it was when the subway opened in 1904.”
Development of the subway essentially halted while Robert Moses diverted transportation funding away from the subway to indulge his automobile fetish. Instead of building the long-planned Second Avenue subway and expanding the system in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx, a funding shortfall forced the transit authority to defer maintenance. As a result, became decrepit and dangerous.
New cars and station upgrades are bringing the New York subway into the modern era, slowly. While the subway is the best rapid transit system in the US, it still lacks features common to other leading subway systems, such as a modern signal system which lets commuters know when trains are expected to arrive (as in London or DC). Slowly, the MTA is rehabilitating the system, while trains continue to run 24/7 (more or less.)
Now, the MTA is contemplating another fare hike. As debt service payments from the MTA’s last capital program are now becoming due, while the state and city governments have cut their funding of the subway to unprecedented minimum levels.
The NY Times reports that the MTA is in trouble In Transit Crisis, a Cash Bind Many Foresaw.
The Straphangers Campaign finds that the MTA has real financial problems:
Why all the borrowing? Because the State under Governor Pataki’s leadership has forced the MTA to rely more and more heavily on operating budget-backed bonding to meet its essential rebuilding needs. At the same time, Mayor Bloomberg has cut $90 million in city aid to the current MTA five-year rebuilding plan. The city is now making the smallest contribution to fixing the subways in at least 25 years. The Mayor also wants the MTA to hand over the valuable land the MTA owns on Manhattan’s West Side at a bargain basement price, money that could fund capital repairs.
While it may be in trouble, the subway took some time out today to celebrate. Old subway cars will be running and Moving Pretty Well for an 87-Year-Old. City Hall station was briefly open to the public today. The Transit Museum offered free entrance today. I walked over between classes and took these photos.
NYCSubway.org is probably the web’s best site about the subway and looks back at the development of the IRT. The MTA details its Centennial Celebration. The NY Times looks at A Day in the Subway, as It Rolls Up a Century and offers up Interactive Features.