Read 722 Miles: The Building Of The Subways And How They Transformed New York by Clifton Hood Online


As the population of New York - and specifically Manhattan - grew throughout the 19th century, boundaries grew strained and surface transportation increasingly difficult. However, through the vision and financial backing of a handful of wealthy investors, by the early part of the 20th-century New Yorkers were living in the outlying boroughs of The Bronx, Queens and BrooklyAs the population of New York - and specifically Manhattan - grew throughout the 19th century, boundaries grew strained and surface transportation increasingly difficult. However, through the vision and financial backing of a handful of wealthy investors, by the early part of the 20th-century New Yorkers were living in the outlying boroughs of The Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn, and commuting across the rivers into Manhattan on a system of public transportation that in scope is still unrivalled....

Title : 722 Miles: The Building Of The Subways And How They Transformed New York
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ISBN : 9780801852442
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 335 Pages
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722 Miles: The Building Of The Subways And How They Transformed New York Reviews

  • Roy Lotz
    2019-02-14 17:28

    The seven train slowed to a stop in the Mets-Willets Point station and a distorted voice crackled onto the PA system: “Last stop, last stop everybody, this is the last stop, please exit the train.” Normally the seven goes to Flushing; but today it terminated one stop earlier because of track work. With a chorus of sighs and groans the passengers shuffled out and pushed down the stairs to the buses waiting on the street, a stopgap solution used when the subway is shut down. The buses were much smaller than the train, of course, so we had to pack ourselves in tight. When the final passenger squeezed in, the doors shut and we started moving, throwing nearly everyone off balance. Most people were silent, but behind me a man began talking: “Honestly, this is unbelievable—unbelievable! Every week, track work, signal problems, delays. Every week another problem. And they keep raising the fare! We pay more money, more money, and the service gets worse and worse. These damn MTA people, they don’t even use the subway. You know who’s on the MTA board? Yoko Ono. Yoko Ono hasn’t taken the subway once in her life!”Except for the Yoko Ono part (I don’t know where he got that from), the man was right: service on the subways is getting worse, even though the fares keep going up. The quality has gotten so bad lately as to approach a crisis. This summer we have had two derailments, and a track fire that sent several people to the hospital. Less dramatic, but no less important, are the delays: signal problems and overcrowding cause constant tardiness. On some lines, the trains are late more often than on time. Since nearly 6 million people use the subway per day, this is a serious political liability. True to form, the politicians have done what they do best: point fingers at each other. The mayor blames the governor, and vice versa, until finally governor Cuomo declared a state of emergency regarding the subways.Living in Madrid has given me a new perspective on the NYC subway. Before I moved I had just assumed that, by their very nature, subways were dirty, uncomfortable places. The trains screech and wail on the tracks, and jerk back and forth when they pull into the station. The stations themselves are sweaty, claustrophobic, and full of garbage and rats; and the subway cars are always packed to the breaking point. But in Madrid I discovered that a metro can be clean, sleek, and comfortable—and, most surprisingly, cheap. For comparison, a monthly ticket on the Metro North, the railroad from my town in Westchester to Manhattan, costs almost $300; and a monthly subway pass costs an additional $120. An equivalent ticket in Madrid, including both commuter rail and the metro, costs about 100€—one-fourth the price for a cleaner, safer, and better service.I may sound like I’m disparaging the NYC subway, but really I have a great affection for it. The subway has a gritty, industrial aesthetic that I find strongly appealing. And despite the frustrations, the subway represents what is best about New York: a place where people of every background, doing every activity imaginable, are thrown together in a tight space and manage—just barely—to avoid killing each other. Just the other day, for example, I witnessed a woman violently push herself onto the subway, shoving everyone out of her way to get to a seat. As soon as she reached her prize a man rightly began castigating her, and a loud argument ensued. Luckily, another man began preaching in a loud voice, drowning out the argument and restoring a tense truce as we were given a sermon about the perils of hellfire. I simply don’t witness things like this in Madrid.For this combination of reasons—a mixture of admiration and despair—I set out to investigate the NYC subway. First I visited the New York Transit Museum, and then I read this book. The New York Transit Museum has two locations, a small shop in Grand Central Station, and their museum in Brooklyn. The shop in Grand Central has rotating exhibits in half the store. The latest one is about the history of the seven train, which runs from Manhattan to Queens. This line was recently extended to the far West Side, with the opening of the first new station in twenty-five years: Hudson Yards. The museum in Brooklyn, near Borough Hall, is in an old subway station. In addition to the historical photos and the information on display, the museum has examples of all the turnstiles ever used in the subway; and on the old platform there are antique subway cars, going back even to when they were made of wood. (Wooden cars got a bad reputation after the Malbone Street Wreck in 1918, a terrible accident that killed 93 people; the wooden cars splintered apart upon impact.)If you go visit this museum, I recommend a little stop along the way. The New York City subway was officially opened in 1904. The showpiece of the new system was the City Hall station, located right under the seat of the city government. This station was lavish: decorated with ornate tile work designed by the Spanish architect Rafael Guastavino, using arches based on medieval Spanish churches. Beautiful as it is, the station had to be abandoned when the subway switched to longer cars. The short length of the platform, and the sharp angle of the turn, rendered the famous station useless. Now it sits, unused and empty, below City Hall. You can still catch a glimpse of this station, however, if you take the six train down to the Brooklyn Bridge station, and then stay on the train when it curves around to go uptown. The subway screeches horribly as it turns, but it is an eerie and fascinating experience to see the old abandoned station.This book was the perfect accompaniment to the museum. Written by a professional historian, 722 Miles is, I believe, the most informative book on the market about the subway’s history.* As do many books by academics, this one began its life as a doctoral dissertation. It must have been substantially revised, however, since it is mostly free from academic stuffiness and scholarly squabbles. Hood casts a wide net, focusing on three interrelated aspects of the subway’s history: the political wrangling involved in getting it built, the role it played in the development of NYC, and the engineering methods and challenges of the subway. No engineer himself, the latter aspect is fairly basic; but the politics and the urban history are quite well done.The reader may be surprised—or maybe not—to learn that the subway has always been plagued with political wrangling and controversy. It was born in an era that saw major government spending and ownership as antithetical to sound business practices. But since private capital has always proven insufficient to infrastructure on this scale, the subway has been a public-private hybrid since its inception, with the state gradually taking on more and more responsibility. One reason the state had to step in was because the five-cent fare became a political stumbling block, something the public regarded as a sacred right; and so the fare remained a nickel even when the cost of a ride to the business was twice that amount.Originally the subway system was owned and operated by three separate entities: Interborough Rapid Transit (INT), Brooklyn Rapid Transit (BRT), and the Independent Subway System (IND). A relic of this origin is preserved in the subway’s odd numbering and lettering system: the numbered lines were the INT lines, and the lettered lines BRT and IND. These three were consolidated under city ownership by LaGuardia in 1940. From that year onward, there was very little development or even proper maintenance of the subways, in part thanks to the nickel fare. Another contributing factor was Robert Moses—the villain in every New York City story—who commanded most of the federal money available during the New Deal to build highways and bridges, diverting it from subways. Later, in 1968, the subway system was transferred to the newly created Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), by governor Nelson Rockefeller. This did little to help its finances, apparently, since by the early 80s the subway was a frightful, rundown, dangerous place.The original purpose of the subway wasn’t just to serve already built-up areas in the city. Rather, several lines were run into undeveloped areas in the hopes of relieving population density. When the seven line was built in Queens, for example, it was running into almost pristine farmland and wild fields, where many still went to hunt fowl. It didn't take long for this land to be urbanized. The muckraker Jacob Riis played a role in this development strategy, since it was he who documented the horrors of overcrowded tenements in lower Manhattan, prompting progressives to see the subway as a tool to make the city more livable and clean. This was done under the influence of Ebenezer Howard, the urban planner who originated the idea of the ‘garden city’ (which Jane Jacobs later opposed).Aside from the drier history, there are some fun facts in this book. The first underground train in New York was, I learned, not a proper subway at all, but a pneumatic train built in secret. This was the idea of Alfred E. Beach, who tunneled under Manhattan under the pretense of building a pneumatic parcel delivery system, to avoid the opposition of the corrupt legislature. In 1870 he unveiled his new train, which caused quite a sensation, despite being totally impractical for longer trips (Beach’s train only went a few blocks). I also learned that the tunnel that takes the seven train under the East River, on its journey from Manhattan to Queens, is called the Steinway Tunnel, because it was originally funded and promoted by that scion of the famous piano company. He was interested because he had a factory on the other side of the river. This book was originally published in 1993, and it shows its age. This was a particularly bad time for the subway, when it was slowly recovering from its low point in the 1980s, and the book ends on a bleak note. Until fairly recently, the subway has been making quite a comeback since then. Just as many people are using the subway nowadays as they did in its so-called “Golden Age,” the 1920s and 30s, which amounts to almost 2 billion per year. The subways are no longer covered in graffiti and plagued by crime. Instead of posters warning passengers about mugging, they discourage ‘manspreading’ and promote basic etiquette. Viral videos also encourage passengers not to eat, clip their toenails, put their bags on seats, or to try to get on the train before other passengers have gotten off—a big improvement. We still have rats, though.Even more impressive, the subway is building once again. Delayed for nearly 100 years, the Second Avenue line has just begun opening stations, which will relieve the overused Lexington Avenue line. We also have wifi in all the subway stations now.Nevertheless, there are some serious problems to fix. The most daunting is to replace the subway’s signal system. This system is badly out of date. On some lines, they are still using equipment that dates from the 1930s. Having obsolete analog signals means that there are frequent malfunctions; and even when working properly, trains cannot safely run close to each other, since the old signals are not precise, which leads to overcrowding and more delays. This may seem like an easy fix, but it is estimating that it will take until 2045, and maybe even later, to refurbish the whole system.Despite these problems, and despite the expensive fares and the shrieking cars, I am still optimistic about the NYC subway. To me, the subway is a symbol of the entire city: dirty, grimy, overpriced, overcrowded, part worn out and part sleekly modern, where people of all sorts come to strive and struggle and suffer in a narrow space. New York simply wouldn’t be New York if it didn’t include frustration—and garbage—and rats—and loud energy; and the subway has all that in abundance._______*I'm not sure where the number 722 comes from. According to the Transit Museum, there are 656 miles of mainline track and 842 miles total. This number will be rising some more with the completion of the Second Avenue line.

  • Eric_W
    2019-02-02 15:14

    The New York subway system, much like the city itself, mocks hyperbole. The tracks, if stretched end to end, would travel from New York City to Chicago. It has its own police force of 4,250 employees, larger than that of Atlanta of Boston, and it has 469 stations. Forty-six percent of New Yorkers use it to travel to work and Wall Street would cease to function without it.The book recounts the numerous physical and political barriers that need to be surmounted in accomplishing the huge feat. It's hard to overestimate the impact the system had on the city which relied on surface transport provided mostly by horse=drawn trolleys, making at best three to five miles per hour. The streets were incredibly congested. Crossing the street was a risky proposition. Beyond the edge of transportation availability was a rural wasteland, and much of the impetus for building the subway network was from those who feared the middle class might leave New York City. Land surrounding the new stations became quite valuable and -- no surprise -- many fortunes were made by those who knew the routes ahead of time and could purchase land before the prices skyrocketed.The New York City Transit Authority was created to reconcile the conflicting desires of the public: low fares yet high quality service. The NYCTA was supposed to bring management principles and eliminate the need for public subsidies. Ironically, Hood blames the systems decline during the sixties on "the ideology of business management, insulating transit management from the public, and lessening the accountability of top elected officials for transit decisions."This is a fascinating book that illuminates the political and engineering feats required to complete the system.

  • Zahir
    2019-01-28 12:20

    For anyone who has taken New York City transit for granted, this book is a must read. In this work, Hood combines historical narrative, political history, geology and engineering together in a seamless manner to produce this excellent work. Most of all, Hood points out just what a staggering feat of engineering was the planning and construction of the NYC Subway system. Hood starts off by describing what New York was like in the 19th century, describing the mix of ethnic neighborhoods, the extremely vibrant nature of these different neighborhoods, and most of all, how difficult and slow it was to get around to places. What is most striking to modern day NYers about this description is how places that we consider as extremely urban (especially some in Manhattan), were not too long ago wilderness, empty lots, or part of the suburbs or flat our rural. Hood does an excellent job laying down the baseline to measure how the construction of the subways genuinely transformed the very nature of the city.Hood describes the transportation system of the 19th century, with the horse drawn omnibuses and horse drawn railways, elevated trains, street cars, and the insane pre-automobile traffic of old NY. Hood then takes us on a journey to see just how much the city was transformed by the rapid transit system. Hood does an excellent job describing the political climate surrounding the building of the transit system. He explains who the competing interests were, how it was often businesses and real estate speculators who were the biggest advocates of a subway system along their property holdings. Hood also goes into the civic mentality of the time, the role that merchants and businesses had to play, with the state and municipal governments being at the forefront of infrastructure development instead of the federal government, and exactly who were the cogs in the political machines at the time who needed to play a part. Introduced into this cast of characters as Abram Hewitt, a businessman who really brought the idea of the subway to life, August Belmont, Mayor John Hylan, George McAney, Fiorello Laguardia, and several others. Through the politics of businessman and populism, the importance of the nickel fare, the great social and cultural transformation, the subway is in no small part an integral part of the history of New York. What Hood does best is that he explores the subway from all angles. As discussed above, he goes a lot into the people and politics behind constructing the system, but also goes into the geology and engineering of the system. He describes the Manhattan geology, and how the crews had to cut through the Manhattan Schist beneath the ground to dig out the tunnels. He also describes the development of the outer boroughs, and how places in the Bronx and Queens went from wildnerness, farms, and hunting grounds to modern neighborhoods. The only drawback to this particular book is that at this point in time, it is quite dated. It was originally published in 1993, and in the 20 somewhat years since then, a lot has happened that has further transformed the subways. The book ends on a note about how the subways have fallen into disrepair, and is fairly negative in its outlook. This is typical of the gritty and pessimistic New York mentality in the early 90s, before the rejuvenation of New York really took off.Overall, a great and recommended read.

  • Dakota
    2019-01-20 10:32

    This was a frustrating read. The intro suggests that it was a PhD dissertation, but it read like a general urban history without a specific theme or focus. Perhaps the main point was how the subways contributed to the 'suburban' development of NYC outside of Manhattan Island, which the author showed fairly well. But otherwise it bounced around from a rah-rah urban transit praise piece to Tammany Hall politics to the virtues of subsidized transit to a sudden but incomplete focus on labor/class history. The author clearly is a fan of the subway system--as am I--yet his writing wandered, as if in rush to talk about the fascinating history of the subways he felt that every progressive cause much be given due diligence. This hurt the work, and one left with the feeling of a dissertation poorly translated into a general history piece with all the proper progressive city mindset boxes checked.Not to mention the maps and illustrations were pretty minimal, confined to one small insert. For a work so deeply concerned with routes and location, it was sorely lacking.That said, perhaps the most fascinating takeaway is that public transit was a profitable enterprise between 1865 and the 1920s. Private companies largely built and ran the system at profit, until inflation and politics (esp. the 5 cent fare) took their course.A decent and general read for anyone who takes an interest in subways/public transit, but with some problems.

  • Adina
    2019-01-16 15:11

    Recommended for transit and planning wonks. A few takeaways: attitudes about transit governance shift back and forth among public private partnerships, public control, and technocratic management. Things can get and stay very messed up for a long time with intractable conflicts of incompatible beliefs (low fares and a for-profit model). Subway planners *wanted* competing incompatible systems because they hated and feared powerful monopolies. Transportation and land use are tightly linked, and one generation's solutions becomes subsequent generation's problems (the lower east side had a density of 700 people per acre, and italian immigrants had an infant mortality rate of 70%; these were the conditions that inspired suburban expansion). The last line of the book, published in '93, is "the subway belongs to New York's past rather than its future."

  • Nicholas Baker
    2019-02-07 13:14

    A fascinating account of the building of the New York subway system, from the 19th century until 1953. At 250 pages, however, it feels a little rushed given the amount of material to cover.

  • Emily
    2019-02-06 11:37

    Good, but wanting of more detail for the particularly interested

  • Frank Stein
    2019-02-07 10:10

    This book takes a complicated narrative and turns it into a readable and comprehensible story with engaging characters and real drama.The first character here is Abram S. Hewitt, the New York iron-manufactured who introduced the "open-hearth" process to the United States and, despite his reformist credentials, got himself elected mayor of the city in 1886 under the Tammany banner (they were worried about losing out to either the radical Henry George or a young Teddy Roosevelt). Two years later he asked the Board of Aldermen to support the city's first subway system under what became known as the "Hewitt formula," where the municipal government would finance and own a subway line and a private company would build and manage it, but his plan fell on deaf ears, at least until 1894. In that year the city Chamber of Commerce, with Hewitt again in the lead, helped draft a Rapid Transit Act that created a commission with 8 members, five of whom were Chamber businessmen named in the law itself (with a majority of the board being able to fill any vacancies, so it was self-perpetuating). The commission was to lay out a potential map for the subway and open up bids for its construction with city subsidies. This business-run group drew up what became the 1,2,3 and other lines.At this point August Belmont becomes a crucial actor. The son of a German-Jewish emigre and a Rothschild agent, he signed two contracts in 1900 to build the city's first subway lines with $35 million in subsidies in exchange for a fifty year lease. He hardly opened the line in 1904, however, before opprobrium began raining down upon him. When he started putting advertising placards in the stations there was much gnashing of teeth (the contracts had said nothing for or against it, and Belmont stated he had the right). Overcrowding afflicted the subway immediately and many blamed Belmont for not building more. When both the Manhattan Elevated Railway and the Metropolitan Street Railway tried to compete for new lines, he simply bought them up ("BELMONT IS TRACTION KING" said one headline after the Elevated purchase). In 1913 George McAneny, head of the new Public Service Commission, worked to limit his power, and to this end made out the "Dual Contracts," which had Belmont's subway move into Brooklyn and the independent Brooklyn elevated company move subways into Manhattan, ensuring at least some competition.The third character here is John F. Hylan, a rabid populist and Mayor of New York between 1919 and 1925. After being fired from the Brooklyn railway system as a young man, he harbored a life-long resentment to the company and to transit companies in general. In 1925 he helped pass a law creating the Independent subway system, both run and owned by the city for the first time (it became lines A through G). This new competition, as well as the inflation from World War I which eroded the benefits of the "nickel fare," however, wrecked the old subway companies' finances, and sent them on the long road to decline.So it's a good story. The author has an obnoxious tendency to excoriate any business activity and celebrate any municipal "reformers" who wanted to expand their influence, but overall this book takes a sprawling tale and makes it all worthwhile and meaningful.

  • Conor
    2019-01-26 11:21

    This was more a history of the city of New York told through the construction of the subway system than the other way around, but I found it digestible and interesting. The most interesting aspect was the way the private sector actors were portrayed: rapacious and greedy, but efficient and determined. These are hoary and I don't think very universally accurate stereotypes, but it's rare that we see such wholesale control of something we might now regard as a utility being catalyzed and shaped so thoroughly by the private sector. I was left cheering the foresight they possessed to build the IRT in 1904 - then, to the surprise of those of us who ride it daily, the model for the rest of the world - yet mournful that the city's longterm corruption and private greed sundered successive attempts at creating a subway system befitting this city and the ideals of heterogeneity and mobility that are so visibly woven elsewhere into NYC's fabric.

  • Du
    2019-01-23 11:30

    3.5 Stars. This is a well researched and interesting look at the development of the NYC subway system. There is a lot of attention paid to the early politics and dream that took place. The entrepreneurial start up was intriguing compared to the fallout that occurred later in the timeline. It is interesting to review the fare rates and the infighting that happened. On the political front the back and forth of changes in theory and political practice was almost nauseating. Downside of the book is that the maps for the lines would be more interesting, if they were full page and in color. At the same time, I am not sure when the current numbering and lettering system was instituted, because it is not addressed in the book. That would have been a good section to add to the chapter about unification of the three separate lines in the 40s.

  • Linda Gaines
    2019-01-22 16:20

    This book was interesting because the history of the NY subway is interesting. While it was easy to read, it tended to wander a bit. Also, the author is extremely opinionated, essentially says so in the prologue, and I felt like it skewed the book a bit more than it should. The book lacked all technical details about the building and operation of the subway. It also left huge gaps in details about what was built where. The maps are laughable due to lacking do much detail to be almost useless. The author talks about what politicians planned, but it wasn't completely clear what actually was built. If you want a book about the engineering of the subway, I wouldn't bother with this book. If you are interested in the political history, then this is a really interesting read.

  • Batya7
    2019-02-12 12:38

    I am fascinated by the New York City subway system and this book was a really good overview of how the system was established and evolved. It described the politicking and machinations behind the 3 systems and their starts, history writ large in subway tracks. More than an academic read.It took me over a year to finish, not because of the writing -- it is well-written -- but because I kept picking it up and putting it down because it required a bit more concentration than I usually give for fluff reading. And it got buried in the pile next to my bed. A little out of date (published July 2004;first published 1993), it didn't address current issues with the system like the devastation due to flooding after Superstorm Sandy.

  • Joanna
    2019-02-05 13:36

    An enjoyable look at the early years of the New York City subway system. The author gives nice biographical sketches of the relevant political actors and does a decent job of explaining the interactions of different interest groups. The text got a bit dry sometimes and never quite came together as an overarching story instead of just a bunch of isolated historical decisions. Still, I learned quite a bit about how the lines developed and how the city's character was changed by the changing modes of transportation. Recommended for readers of history or those with an interest in New York or public transit history.

  • Paul Marchesano
    2019-02-12 10:23

    A well-written, well-researched book on a fascinating history. Rather than a long list of things that happened, Hood brings us insight to life in New York leading up to the building of the subways and places the development of the world famous subway system in perspective and in relation to life as it happened. Understanding how integral the subway system was to growth of New York City, and understanding how innovative the system was in mixing the classes from the very beginning. Their are enjoyable stories, some funny moments including the mayor driving the first train run at breakaway speeds. Highly recommended reading.

  • Bridget Carroll
    2019-02-03 16:29

    It's an interesting read, although it gets a little dry. The bits about the city at the turn of the century, and in particular about my neighborhood, are most appealing to me (big surprise.) But when you're spending 10 pages on which company is going to get the building contracts and which assemblyman opposes said companies, you're bound to get a little bored.I bought this book a few years ago when I worked in midtown and took the subway everyday and was completely fascinated with the history and construction of the subway. I think I got about 4 pages in, left town and lost interest. But I'm going to give it another try!

  • Lisa
    2019-02-14 16:16

    Kind of disappointing-- I thought it would be more about the more recent history of the subways (the 1970's-80's decline), but it's all about the construction and early years. This would be fine but the author focuses way too much on the bios of the people who dreamed up the subway and the mayors of NYC at key times-- I don't really care about these people. There should have been more emphasis on the construction itself and on how the individual lines were constructed (i.e., and then they decided to build the A train), how the names were developed...things like that. I wasn't a huge fan.

  • James Alvino
    2019-01-17 12:18

    I wanted to like this book a lot more then I did. It is very informative but can get boring and dry at times. I have to admit while the amount of pictures is lacking the pictures they do have are cool. My main gripe is that the author, when talking about old subway lines, doesn't relate them to what they are called today. Sometimes it is hard to figure out exactly what he is talking about, especially since line and station names have changed dramatically since the early nineteen-hundreds. This could have been a five star book but it falls a bit short.

  • David
    2019-02-05 13:10

    Mr. Hood's history of the subways is good as far as it goes. He stops the story in 1953 with the formation of the NYC Transit Authority. he blames many of the system's subsequent problems on the Authority but goes no farther in the history of the system. There is much more to the story. His conclusion that the subway would remain a failure has been proven wrong over time. The decline was steep but the road or track back to success is still being climbed. Mr. Hood should have continued the story. Luckily I know others who have.

  • Emily
    2019-02-15 12:25

    I really wanted to like this book, but it fell short of what I was hoping for. It focused entirely on the local politics that lead to the building of the subway, rather than a split between the politics and the engineering. Maybe as an engineer I'm just expecting too much from my histories, but I was really excited to learn how such a large subway with so many water-crossings was built.Worth a read if you're curious, but if you struggle with nonfiction it may be hard to get through.

  • Paul
    2019-02-16 18:28

    Anyone who's lived in New York City long enough will recognize many of the names Steinway, Belmont, Hylan, and LaGuardia. But who knew they (and many others) were so key in building, developing, and changing our city's subway system?722 Miles is terribly informative, but can become overly dry at times, and a little repetitive of certain facts. A recommended read for anyone fascinated by public transit, the subway, and NYC history. You'll just have to be a bit dedicated to reach the end.

  • Shek
    2019-02-01 11:25

    Probably the best layman's history available on the subject, although since it ends the urban renaissance of the '1990's, its outlook for the continued viability of mass transit is pretty dismal even by today's austerity-obsessed standards.

  • Ben Kintisch
    2019-01-18 10:24

    Ever wonder how they built the NYC subway? This popular history tells the tale with a special focus on political alliances, social progressives, and real estate magnates. After reading this, you will never take a ride for granted.

  • Charles
    2019-01-21 10:13

    Aside from the history of the construction of the subway, this book has some interesting background on some of the attempts to insulate public services from the whims of politicians, including the founding of the Port Authority.

  • Mariah
    2019-02-06 15:36

    Really interesting content, if a little dry. Definitely has it's focus in the politics and people that allowed the subway to be built and operated as opposed to how the subway changed the make-up and neighborhoods of NYC.

  • JZ Temple
    2019-01-31 15:30

    This is another one of those books that I think will go into detail on how things are built, but instead go on endlessly about local politics, financing and social impact descriptions. It just never clicked for me, although I did get through the whole book. Just not an easy or interesting read.

  • Margaret Sankey
    2019-02-01 10:37

    In honor of our visiting historian, the byzantine political, topographical, social and economic development of the New York subway system

  • Noah
    2019-01-22 13:37

    This book is about 15% a history of New York subways, and 85% a history of municipal financial instruments. Not particularly good unless you REALLY care about the New York subway.

  • Peter Tutak
    2019-02-07 18:19

    Required reading for any college level history course on the history of the City of New York. A textbook treatise on the history of the NYC subway system,

  • Kate
    2019-02-01 15:34

    Interesting, but too much politics makes it a slow read.

  • Marcie
    2019-01-29 14:15

    Interesting if you are interested in New York. An update would be appreciated.