SUBWAYS



New York, New York
It's a wonderful town!
The Bronx is up
and the Battery's down.
The people ride
in a hole in the ground.
New York, New York
It's a wonderful town!
--Lyrics to New York, New York" by Betty Comden & Adolph Green from the ON THE TOWN movie
filmed on location in NYC in 1949 
with Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra. 
Ann Miller, and Vera-Ellen and music by Leonard Bernstein

Directed by Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly
SUBWAYS  are one of the many things New Yorkers love to complain about.  Subways are noisy and often too dirty, may be late and sometimes seem to never come when you're in a hurry and need them most.  BUT, it's remarkable that the huge NYC subway system works as well as it does, and subways are still the FASTEST and easiest way to get around New York City.  First-time users are probably going to get lost -- at least a couple of times -- but that's part of the experience.  You live and learn.

New Yorkers first got a glimpse and exciting introduction to something known as a subway on February 26, 1870 when Alfred Ely Beach built a one-block subway under Broadway between Murphy and Warren Streets.  The subway had a large waiting room which had been designed to impress the public with its fresco walls, paintings, a fountain, a large tank of goldfish, and even a grand piano.  The public rushed to see this prototype pneumatic train subway but the very powerful Democratic New York politician, Boss (William) Tweed, and other city officials were not impressed.  Cornelius Vanderbilt  investigated the building of an underground railroad (to run from City Hall to Grand Central) as early as 1872 but determined  it would not be a profitable venture.  So, it was not until October 27, 1904 that New York City’s first subway line would open.  On that day, Mayor George B. McClellan was at the controls as the first subway train took a 26-minute ride from City Hall to 145th Street. Both the BMT (Brooklyn-Manhattan-Transit Corporation) and IRT (Interborough Rapid Transit Company) lines opened in 1904.  Ceramic tiles with Beaux Arts designs, depicting historical events and city landmarks, were used to decorate the first subway stations.  Photographs of some of these designs can be found in the book, Subway Style:  One Hundred Years of Architecture & Design in the New York City Subways by Anthony Robins and Andrew Garn.  Subway fares were only five cents and remain so until the year 1948.  In 1968, New Yorkers were shocked and angry when fares were raised from 20 cents to 30 cents.  Fares in the year 2012 are $2.50 per ride and are expected to increase soon.    

Composer Billy Strayhorn and the Duke Ellington Orchestra made the A train subway line the City’s most famous with their 1941 hit song, “Take the A Train.”  The 31 miles that the A train travels through make it the City’s longest subway ride and will probably increase again soon. 

Horses, stagecoaches, horse-drawn omnibuses pulled by horses (introduced in 1832), streetcars, electric streetcars (introduced in 1900), buses, carts, steamboats, railroads (pulled by mules, horses and finally locomotives), elevated railways, trolleys, clipper ships, ferries, automobiles, taxis (first introduced in 1907) and modern-day buses and subways are among the numerous modes of transportation used over the years in the City.  Changes in transportation have played a large role in the way the City grew as it became easier for New Yorkers to travel from neighborhood to neighborhood and borough to borough.  One city visitor described New York as "the city of magnificent distances."

Robert Fulton was responsible for developing the steamboat and for the first successful steamboat trip which ran from New York City to Albany, New York in 1807.  However, Fulton was not the inventor of the steamboat as is generally thought.  (John Fitch, patented the idea, but was so unsuccessful in obtaining financial backing that he committed suicide.)  Before Fulton’s powered steamboats, ferries “were powered by teams of horses walking in a circle on the boat deck, turning a pole that was the dove shaft to the paddle wheel.”

Elevated trains (or Els) were  introduced in 1868 (the first ran up Greenwich Street and Ninth Avenue from the Battery to 30th Street, followed by the Third Avenue El in 1878, the Sixth Avenue El in 1879 and the Second Avenue El in 1890).  In 1883, elevated trains would first cross the Brooklyn Bridge and eventually carry over one million passengers daily.  Taxicabs first appeared in the City in 1907.  The deepest subway station in NYC is 180 feet below street level and is the 191st Street station on the #1 line under a hill at St. Nicholas Avenue in the Fort George section of upper Manhattan.

Primarily due to its subway system, New York City is an extremely energy efficient city.  Today there are also diesel-hybrid buses and hybrid taxis.

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