A demonstration for an underground transit system in New York City wasfirst built by Alfred Ely Beach in 1869. His Beach Pneumatic Transitonly extended 312 feet (95 m) under Broadway in Lower Manhattan andexhibited his idea for a subway propelled by pneumatic tube technology.The tunnel was never extended for political and financial reasons,although extensions had been planned to take the tunnel southward toThe Battery and northwards towards the Harlem River. The Beachsubway was demolished when the BMT Broadway Line was built in the1910s; thus, it was not integrated into the New York City Subway system.
The Great Blizzard of 1888 helped demonstrate the benefits of anunderground transportation system. The first underground line of the subwayopened on October 27, 1904, almost 35 years after the opening of the firstelevated line in New York City, which became the IRT Ninth Avenue Line. Theoldest structure still in use opened in 1885 as part of the BMT Lexington Avenue Line in Brooklyn and is now part of the BMT Jamaica Line. Theoldest right-of-way, that of the BMT West End Line, was in use in 1863 as asteam railroad called the Brooklyn, Bath and Coney Island Rail Road.
By the time the first subway opened, the lines had been consolidated into twoprivately owned systems, the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company (BRT, laterBrooklyn–Manhattan Transit Corporation, BMT) and the Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT). The city was closely involved: all lines built for the IRTand most other lines built or improved for the BRT after 1913 were built by thecity and leased to the companies. The first line of the city-owned and operatedIndependent Subway System (IND) opened in 1932; this system wasintended to compete with the private systems and allow some of the elevatedrailways to be torn down, but kept within the core of the City due to the lowamount of startup capital provided to the municipal Board of Transportation, thelater MTA, by the state. This required it to be run ‘at cost’, necessitating faresup to double the five-cent fare popular at the time.
In 1940, the two private systems were bought by the city and some elevatedlines closed immediately while others closed soon after. Integration was slow,but several connections were built between the IND and BMT, and nowoperate as one division called the B Division. Since the IRT tunnel segmentsare too small and stations too narrow to accommodate B Division cars, andcontain curves too sharp for B Division cars, the IRT remains its own division,A Division.
The New York City Transit Authority, a public authority presided by New York City, was created in 1953 to take over subway,bus, and streetcar operations from the city, and placed under control of the state-level Metropolitan Transportation Authority in 1968.
In 1934, transit workers of the BRT, IRT, and IND founded the Transport Workers Union of America, organized as Local 100. Local 100 remains thelargest and most influential local of the labor union. Since the union’s founding,there have been three union strikes over contract disputes with the MTA, 12days in 1966, 11 days in 1980, and three days in 2005.
The September 11 attacks resulted in service disruptions on lines runningthrough Lower Manhattan, particularly the IRT Broadway – Seventh AvenueLine, which ran directly underneath the World Trade Center between theChambers Street and Rector Street stations. Sections of the tunnel, as well asthe Cortlandt Street station, which was directly underneath the Twin Towers,were severely damaged by the collapse and had to be rebuilt, requiringsuspension of service on that line south of Chambers Street. Ten other nearbystations were closed while dust and debris were cleaned up. By March 2002,seven of those stations had reopened. The rest (except for Cortlandt Street onthe IRT Broadway – Seventh Avenue Line) reopened on September 15, 2002along with service south of Chambers Street.
When the IRT subway debuted in 1904, the typical tunnel construction methodwas cut-and-cover. The street was torn up to dig the tunnel below before beingrebuilt from above. This method worked well for digging soft dirt and gravelnear the street surface. However, mining shields were required for deepersections, such as the Harlem and East River tunnels, which used cast-irontubes, segments between 33rd and 42nd streets under Park Avenue, 116thStreet and 120th Street under Broadway, and 145th Street and DyckmanStreet (Fort George) under Broadway and Saint Nicholas Avenue as well asthe tunnel from 96th Street to Central Park North – 110th Street & LenoxAvenue, all of which used either rock or concrete-lined tunnels.
About 40% of the subway system runs on surface or elevated tracks, including steel or cast iron elevated structures, concreteviaducts, embankments, open cuts and surface routes. All of these construction methods are completely grade-separatedfrom road and pedestrian crossings, and most crossings of two subway tracks are grade-separated with flying junctions.
Lines and routes
There are 24 train services in the subway system, including three short shuttles. Each route has a color and a local orexpress designation representing the Manhattan trunk line of the particular service. The color lime green is exclusivelyassigned to the Crosstown Line route since it operates entirely outside Manhattan while the shuttles are all assigned dark slate gray. The 1, 6, 7, C, G, L, M and R trains are fully local; making all stops. The 2, 3, 4, 5, <6>, <7>, A, B, D, E, F, Nand Q trains have portions of express and local service. The J train normally operates local, but during rush hours it is joinedby the Z train in the peak direction. Both run local, express or skip-stop on different parts of their route. The letter S is used forthree shuttle services.
|A Division (IRT) consists of:
|B Division (BMT/IND) consists of:
The current color system depicted on official subway maps was proposed byR. Raleigh D’Adamo, a lawyer who entered a contest sponsored by the TransitAuthority in 1964. D’Adamo proposed replacing a map that used only threecolors (representing the three operating entities of the subway network) with amap that used a different color for each service. D’Adamo’s contest entryshared first place with two others and led to the Transit Authority adopting amulti-colored scheme. However, the lines and services are not referred toby color (e.g., Blue Line or Green Line), although the colors are often assignedthrough their groups.
Though the subway system operates on a 24-hour basis, some of thedesignated routes do not run, run as a shorter route or run with a differentstopping pattern during late night hours. In addition to these regularlyscheduled changes, because there is no nightly system shutdown formaintenance, tracks and stations must be maintained while the system isoperating. To accommodate such work, services are usually changed duringmidday, overnight hours, and weekends.
The current official transit maps of the New York City Subway are based on a 1979 design by Michael Hertz Associates. Themaps are not geographically accurate due to the complexity of the system (i.e. Manhattan being the smallest borough, buthaving the most services), but are known to help tourists navigate the city, as major city streets are shown alongside thesubway stations serving them. The newest edition of the subway map, which took effect on June 27, 2010, reflects the latestservice changes and also makes Manhattan bigger and Staten Island smaller. A late night-only version of the map wasintroduced on January 30, 2012.
Part of the reason for the current incarnation is that earlier diagrams of the subway (the first being produced in 1958), whilebeing more aesthetically pleasing, had the perception of being more geographically inaccurate than the diagrams today. Thedesign of the subway map by Massimo Vignelli, published by the MTA between 1972 and 1979, has since becomerecognized in design circles as a modern classic; however, the MTA deemed the map flawed due to its placement ofgeographical elements.
On September 16, 2011, the MTA introduced a Vignelli-style interactive subway map, aptly called “The Weekender”, to itswebsite. As the title suggests, it is a way for riders to get information about any planned work, from late Friday night toearly Monday morning, that is going on either on a service(s) or station(s) of the subway during the weekend only. OnJune 11, 2012, the MTA duplicated “The Weekender” site as a free mobile app download for the iPhone, iPod Touch, and theiPad. An Android version is still being developed.
There are several privately produced schematics which are available online or in published form, such as those by HagstromMap.
 Additionally, the New York City subway map has served as the subject of artistic endeavors. Among these are worksby Fadeout Design and by Alexander Chen.