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The New York Subway Opened Back In 1904 – And There Are Still Major Issues

(Photo Credit: Universal History Archive/ Getty Images)
(Photo Credit: Universal History Archive/ Getty Images)

Although Boston built the first subway system in America in 1897, the New York subway system soon became the largest subway system in both America and the world.

New York subway construction
Construction workers working in the tunnel of the New York City Subway, circa 1902. (Photo Credit: Arterra/ Getty Images)

The New York City subway line first opened at 2:35 on the afternoon of October 27, 1904. Originally called “the Manhattan Line,” the subway line traveled a total distance of 9.1 miles, making stops at 28 different stations.

New York Subway, City Hall Station
City Hall Subway Station, circa 1904. (Photo Credit: Universal History Archive/ Getty Images)

The original New York City subway ran from City Hall in lower Manhattan to Grand Central Terminal in midtown. It then went west along 42nd Street to Times Square. The line finished by traveling north to Harlem, where it stopped at 145th Street and Broadway.

28th Street Subway Station
28th Street Subway Station, New York City, Circa 1904. (Photo Credit: Universal History Archive/ Getty Images)

The cost to ride the New York City subway was a nickel (five cents). On opening day 117 years ago, more than 100,000 people waited their turn to take a ride under the busy streets of Manhattan.

Women's Reserved Subway Car
Subway car reserved for women only, Broadway line. (Photo Credit: Bettmann/ Getty Images)

By 1905, the Interborough Rapid Transit Company (ITR), who originally operated the New York City subway, had expanded service to The Bronx. Subway service was Brough to Brooklyn in 1908 and Queens in 1915.

subway train crash 1920
Two subway trains collided with each other on an elevated track, circa 1920. (Photo Credit: Hirz/ Getty Images)

In 1953, the New York City Transit Authority assumed control of the subway system. Today, the New York City subway is one of the largest subway systems in the world. The system now includes 472 stations in operations, 26 different lines, and 714 track miles.

Interior of a subway car
Interior of a subway car circa 1935 with upholstered seats and posters advertising cigarettes, cold medicine, and dog food. (Photo Credit: Hulton Archive/ Getty Images)

The New York City subway system runs 6,500 scheduled trains a day, transporting 3.1 million daily passengers across four of the five boroughs of Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx.

people getting on the subway at Times Square
Crowd of people attempting to board a Subway train at Time Square Station, 1948. (Photo Credit: Michael Ochs Archives/ Getty Images)

Despite being the largest subway system in the world, the New York City subway is not always the most effective. It is extremely confusing to navigate at times, and very busy. In fact, in the 1980s, the New York City subway was the most dangerous mass transit system in the world, with over 250 felonies committed on trains or in stations every week. In 2017, a state of emergency was declared due to problems with mass crowding and reliability surrounding subways in the city. Most recently, Hurricane Ida caused nearly $100 million in damage to the city’s subway system.

Marilyn Monroe waiting for subway
Marilyn Monroe waiting to take the subway in Grand Central Station, March 1955. (Photo Credit: Michaels Ochs Archives/ Stringer/ Getty Images)

More from us: “Miss Subways”- A Beauty Contest in New York City which Celebrated the Everyday Working Girl

Despite not always being perfect, the New York City subway is a staple for millions of New Yorkers. The city truly wouldn’t be the same without it!

Madeline Hiltz

Madeline Hiltz is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News