Fascinating Facts About the New York Subway System

Often affected by a myriad of problems, there’s no denying the New York Subway system is far from perfect. But issues aside, the subway is an integral part of the transportation and infrastructure in the city. Being one of the oldest and the largest systems in the world, it has been transporting people to places they want to go already for over a century and will be a part of NYC people’s existence.

Here, discover the trove of fascinating facts about the New York Subway System that will let you appreciate the maligned yet iconic transit system.

The New York City Subway System opened on October 27, 1904, with 28 stations. Though it was not the first subway system in the country, being preceded by Boston’s Tremont Street subway in 1897, the NYC subway quickly became the largest American subway system. Its first route began at City Hall in lower Manhattan and finished at 145th Street Broadway in Harlem.

Mayor George McClellan, who oversaw the openings of other important infrastructures and buildings in New York City, was the first individual to drive the subway train. Initially, he was in charge of ceremonially starting the train’s engine, but Mayor McClellan loved the task so much and ended up driving the subway train for most of its journey, before turning over the control to the company’s professional motorman, George L. Morrison.

Only 60% of the New York City Subway System is underground.

In 1904, riding the subway cost five cents and only increased over four decades later in 1948 when it was raised to ten cents. In 1966, it went to twenty cents and thirty cents in 1970. The fare was then gradually increased multiple times thereafter, costing $1.00 in 1986, $2.00 in 2003, and $2.75 in 2015.

Having a platform 173 feet (53 meters) below street level, 191st Street station is the deepest subway stop. Its counterpart is Smith and 9th streets stations, being the highest stations at 88 feet over street level.

If the New York City Subway System’s tracks are laid, the resulting track will measure approximately 660 miles, enough to reach Chicago.

Times Square – 42nd Street is the subway’s busiest station, with nearly 65 million ridership each year. No surprise, as it is within the vicinity of the renowned Times Square, the Broadway Theatre, and midtown Manhattan. Queen’s Broadway Channel station is the least-used station.

Michael Jackson’s music video “Bad” was filmed at the Hoyt-Schermerhorn subway station between November and December 1986. The MTA has rejected all clamor and proposals to name the station under the King of Pop or even install a memorial for the legendary music icon.

Many action movies set in New York City were filmed or have featured the NYC subway. Some of these flicks include “The Taking of Pelham One Two Three” (1974), “Money Train” (1995), and “Die Hard with a Vengeance” (1995).

At a 31-mile journey, A train is the longest route, running from Manhattan’s 207th St. station to Queen’s Far Rockaway station.

Having a 1.7 billion ridership yearly, the New York City subway is certainly bustling. While it is, indeed, the busiest system in the United States, it only ranks seventh in the world. Tokyo gets the top spot, doubling NYC subway’s total number of riders annually.

Retired subway ended on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. While it may seem like it’s polluting the ocean, they actually serve as artificial reefs, becoming a new habitat for marine life.

Nine subway stations have been permanently closed namely the City Hall stop, Worth St, 18th St, 91st Street, Anderson–Jerome Avenues, Court Street, Myrtle Avenue, Sedgwick Avenue, and South Ferry. While they no longer transport people to other destinations, most of these stations can bring anyone back in time.

Much of the NYC Subway system, specifically track switches and signals, is still manually operated, as it still relies on the 100-year-old technology.

A fake townhouse is maintained by the MTA on Joralemon Street in Brooklyn Height. It is a red brick brownstone but actually contains a subway ventilator and has an entryway to the subway system.

A beauty pageant, titled “Miss Subways,” was held from 1941 to 1976, where the bios and photos of the contestants were displayed in the posters inside train cars. Though it may appear for some, it was one of the most diverse beauty contests in the United States during its time.

Mishaps are sometimes inevitable. Just in case you’ll get late to work due to a delay in the subway, you fill out a form to secure an “excuse letter” from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to show to your boss.

Many weird items have been surrendered to the MTA lost and found. Some of which include a karate tournament trophy, TVs, diamond engagement ring, boxing gloves, and even a rabbit. Wallets, phones, and cards are, of course, the most common things that have been turned to MTA.

Tokens were last sold on April 12, 2003, and were last accepted on May 4 of the same year. They were then replaced by MetroCard.

Renowned American pop artist Roy Lichtenstein created a mural for the New York City Subway System. The 53-foot long “Times Square Mural” was made by Lichtenstein after being commissioned by the MTA as part of the Arts for Transit program. It is installed on the Times Square–42nd Street station and features many of Lichtenstein’s iconic elements, such as science fiction and comic books motifs, accentuated by designs reflecting NYC. Our latest blog post reveals the fascinating stories behind New York City’s abandoned subway stations. It’s a must-read for history buffs!