In my opinion, anyone involved with rail transit—operators, suppliers, consultants, engineers, legislators, planners—should read this.
In recent months, New York’s subway system has come under scrutiny, as it has been plagued with deteriorating infrastructure (despite gleaming new additions such as the first leg of the Second Avenue Subway and the No.
7 extension to Manhattan’s West Side), unreliable service and new rolling stock delivery issues, among other problems.
MTA New York City Transit, the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s largest operation, has been described as burdened by antiquated, overly expensive, city-driven contractual and labor practices and political interference that has done little except drive up costs and delay major initiatives.
Two inmates who spent three weeks on the run after breaking free from a New York prison had smoked a celebratory cigar in their cells after finalizing their elaborate escape route.
Convicted murderers David Sweat (left) and Richard Matt (right) sparked a manhunt that captivated the country when they performed a Shawshank Redemption-style escape from the the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York back on June 6, 2015.
Hundreds of thousands of immigrants fleeing poverty and persecution were arriving on its doorstep every year, but most of them were effectively marooned, herded into dark, squalid tenements in disease-ridden slums.
The five boroughs had recently been joined as one city, but the farms and villages of Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens might as well have been on the other side of the planet from Manhattan’s teeming streets.
Could it adapt and excel in this rapidly changing world?Other cities had subways, but none threaded through nearly as many neighborhoods as New York’s, enabling it to move large numbers of workers between Manhattan and the middle-class boroughs — a cycle that repeated itself every day, generating ever more wealth and drawing in ever more people.As New York evolved over the decades, the subway was the one constant, the very thing that made it possible to repurpose 19th-century factories and warehouses as offices or condominiums, or to reimagine a two-mile spit of land between Manhattan and Queens that once housed a smallpox hospital as a high-tech university hub.For all the changes in transportation technology since the first tunnels were dug — the rise of the automobile, the proliferation of bike lanes and ferries, our growing addiction to ride-hailing apps and dreams of a future filled with autonomous vehicles — the subway remains the only way to move large numbers of people around the city.Today, New York’s subway carries close to six million people every day, more than twice the entire population of Chicago.Can the gap between rich and poor be closed, or is it destined to continue to widen?Can we put the future needs of a city and a nation above the narrow, present-day interests of a few?Will he be able to tame New York’s underground beast? Long before it became an archaic, filthy, profligate symbol of everything wrong with our broken cities, New York’s subway was a marvel — a mad feat of engineering and an audacious gamble on a preposterously ambitious vision.“The effect it is to have on the city of New York is something larger than any mind can realize,” said William Gaynor, the New York mayor who set in motion the primary phase of its construction.Can we use a portion of the monumental sums of wealth that we are generating to invest in an inclusive and competitive future?The answer to all of these questions is still rumbling beneath New York City.