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About the New York City Subway

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    History

    • The subway is no longer riddled with graffiti as it was in the 1980s.

      The New York City subway was not the first underground railroad system to be built in the city. In 1869 a 312-foot demonstration train was built to show the feasibility of a subterranean transit system. That was later demolished and replaced with a longer line that ran under Broadway, and finally in 1904 the first extant subway tracks were laid. The system has been growing since then, extending into all five boroughs and and beyond. The graffiti movements of the 1980s saw a spike in vandalism, but by the 1990s the laws were cinched a bit tighter and the subways made more tourist-friendly.

    Significance

    • Interior of a New York City subway car

      The New York City subway is the largest in the United States. Today more than 8 million riders pack the subways on weekdays, spurring many to fear imminent overcrowding. Much of the Metro Transit Authority's (MTA's) $10.8 billion operating budget is devoted to the subway, with new tracks slated to be laid (and old facilities repaired) in the coming years. The NYC subway is comprised of 468 stations and over 31,000 turnstiles. Times Square, Grand Central Terminal and 34th St-Herald Square are the busiest three stations in the system.

    Function

    • Without the subway system, New York City would barely be able to operate. Consider the fact that its average weekday ridership (including commuters from outside the city) is equal to the total residential population of New York City itself. The NYC transit workers union has gone on strike three times in the city's past, dramatically crowding the streets and sidewalks with overflow traffic. Had the union gone on strike for longer than they did (ranging from two days to two weeks) the city simply would not have been able to function.

    Features

    • Turnstiles inside a New York City subway station

      The New York City subway is relatively easy to use. Ticket cards can be purchased with any type of currency at automated vending machines located inside all stations. All rides cost a flat $2 no matter what the start and destination points are, and no matter how many transfers are necessary. Once you are in the subway system, you do not have to pay any more until you have arrived at your destination. Ticket cards are swiped at turnstiles. The value of the ticket is reduced by one ride, and the balance is noted in the magnetic strip in the card. Large maps are displayed station walls for navigation, and hand-held copies of the transit system are available from the human tellers inside most stations.

    Misconceptions

    • The subway is not as dangerous a place as it used to be, as crime in general has rapidly been decreasing in New York City since the mid-1990s.
      Although the word "subway" implies that the system is underground, in fact only 40 percent of the 240 miles of tracks are below ground. Most stops in Manhattan are underground, while the majority of stops in all other locales are elevated.

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