“Yikes! What a Way To Go...New York City's Travel Experience
By Miriam Medina

Part V
New York City's Travel Experience

Researched and Compiled by Miriam Medina

A Passenger on the El, Claims There's Some Advantage in Being Fat

As an opener for this page I want to quote an excerpt from the article "The Advantage of Being Fat" written by a New York Times Reporter on June 5, 1892. Page:15. This excerpt refers to a  funny scene on the Elevated Station with regard to a passenger incident ."On one of the recent hot, soggy afternoons, when every man hated his neighbor and tried to keep at a distance from him, a perspiring, heavily-clothed fat man waddled into an elevated train at the City Hall Station and pre-empted one of the cross seats. He breathed like a porpoise and mopped his face with a large handkerchief. Just before the train started a woman, heavy almost beyond description with adipose tissue, entered the same car. The car creaked beneath her tread. The passengers were many, and those who adjoined empty seats watched her progress with a nervous glance.  She plunged to the centre of the car and pressed herself down into the space beside the fat man. The fat man got out of his seat. "Don't move__plenty of room," said she.  "Madam," said he, and his voice was high and clear, "it's a hot day. I am fat. You are fat. We've got no business to be anywhere near each other, so you'll excuse me." 

But the fat woman, nettled at first, thought better of it, and as she spread herself over the entire seat murmured to a crowded neighbor:  "There's some advantage in being fat, after all."

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A) The Duryea brothers - Charles and Frank - created their first gasoline-powered "horseless-carriage" in 1893.

B) In 1893 Seventh Avenue Bridge: In 1886, it was decided to build a viaduct from Washington Heights to connect with a bridge over the Harlem at 155th Street. Work was commenced on the viaduct in 1890, under the direction of the Department of Public Works, and it was opened to the public in 1893. (20)

C) The Broadway Bridge over the Harlem ship canal, connecting the old Kingsbridge Road on the south with Broadway on the north, was commenced in April, 1893, and completed in December, 1894 and opening on January 1, 1895. . it has a total length of 551 feet, made up of the two approaches and a swing draw. The second permanent Broadway Bridge was completed on June 17, 1905. During the late 1950's, the city decided to replace the existing span with a new, stronger Broadway Bridge. The 2,500-ton span more than doubled roadway capacity and added another subway track across the Harlem River. The bridge opened to vehicular traffic on July 1, 1962.It carries 40,000 vehicles per day as part of US 9. (25)

D) The first cable cars were put on in June, 1893. The first cable that was in use lasted over a year. The business of the company grows heavier and heavier from month to month and from year to year, both in mileage and expenditure, the number of cars in use, and the number of passengers carried. (34)

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For the year ending June 30, 1894, the first year of the trolley in Brooklyn, the traffic aggregated 209,438,125; the Brooklyn Heights carrying 92,535,282; the Brooklyn L, 34,233,697; the Kings County L, 14, 472,150, and the Atlantic Avenue system 18,331,745. While the Brooklyn street railway system was inaugurated by the old Brooklyn City Company in 1854, its annual passenger traffic in 1858 reached the total of 7,705,839; 1860, 11,329,009; 1865, 22,671,087; 1870, 36,431,695; 1875, 61,372,170; 1880; 74,973,220; 1884, 102,143,171; 1885, 108,406,719; with 274 miles of railroad; 1892, 200,545,494; an increase of 10,344,162 over 1891. Of this number the Brooklyn L carried 36,995,837, the Kings County L 17,357,932, the Long Island road 14,596,820, and the Brooklyn City, 78,500,000. (9)

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A) From authentic figures published in 1896, the Pennsylvania Railroad carried nearly twenty-five per cent of the passenger traffic over the North River, and out of the one hundred and forty million passengers now carried, it is safe to say that the Pennsylvania Railroad must move yearly in its ferry boats about thirty-three million people in and out of New York City, in addition to vehicles and commodities. (31)

B) The Fifth Avenue Coach Company, incorporated in 1896 and succeeding other like companies, is the sole operator of stage lines in New York City up to the present time, (c 1915) and is Sui Generis in the transportation problems of the day. (33)

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A) Fourth Avenue (Railroad) Bridge. The new bridge, which is a four-track structure is one of the few bridges in this country with that number of tracks placed side by side. it has a total width of 61 feet. it was opened to traffic over two tracks on January 17, 1897, and on four tracks September 20, 1897. (20)

B) Broadway Bridge, Spanning Spuyten Duyvil Creek: A contract was awarded June 14, 1897, to Messrs. Gildersleeve & Smith, for the construction of a bridge over Spuyten Duyvil Creek at Broadway, to replace the old bridge. Total cost, $53,607.50

C) In 1897, four hundred and ninety million one hundred and fifty-two thousand seven hundred and ninety passengers were carried on the elevated and surface lines in the Borough of Manhattan; in 1906, the elevated, subway and surface lines carried one billion seven million one hundred and sixty-one thousand nine hundred and thirty-three passengers, a gain of five hundred and seventeen million nine thousand one hundred and forty-three, or more than the entire number of passengers carried in the year 1897. (31)

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Harlem or Third Avenue Bridge is to replace the old one. The contract for building this bridge and approaches was awarded to Mr. Isaac A. Hopper. it is expected that the bridge will be opened to travel about March 1, 1898. The estimated cost of the structure and approaches, exclusive of land values, is $1,400,000. During the construction of the new Third Avenue Bridge, this structure has proved entirely inadequate to carry the traffic, and now that the avenues leading to it on the south side have been improved by modern paving, and 138th Street on the North Side is to be widened to 100 feet, the present bridge should be removed and replaced by a better one, having well paved roadways and easier approaches.(20)

 1 8 9 9: A Picture of Broadway, looking North from Franklin Street. (Horsecars)  (click twice)

SINCE THE ARRIVAL OF THE HIGH WHEEL BICYCLE TO AMERICA IN 1870, those who could afford it, turned to the bicycle as a way of getting around, as well as for pleasure use. Though there was a growing interest in cycling, it was not considered a solution to the problem of mass transportation, since it was limited to only one or two passengers at most. In comparison, the railways and the El carrying hundreds of passengers at one time, as well as the trolleys, omnibuses, and horse cars, carrying circa fifty seemed to prove more beneficial to the growing population of the city of New York.

Rucker tandem bicycle. Digital ID: 1195120. New York Public Library

ABOUT 1890, THE BICYCLE WAS IN ITS GLORY: and for nearly a decade the smooth asphalt of the Boulevard attracted the devotees of the wheel, the favorite ride being as far as Claremont and Grant's Tomb. The annual parades of the wheelmen were beautiful sights as they sped swiftly along. The bicycle was also used by New York City's policemen in 1899. (click twice)

There is no doubt that at one time the bicycle was considered a plaything or a luxury, and reserved to the elite who paid an exorbitant price for it, but gradually as the automobile began to make its presence known, the bicycle became an indispensable means of transportation to millions of the working class who employed them.

Men in America, France, Germany and England began to experiment with the motorization of the bicycle. Carl Benz in Germany produced a benzine-powered tricycle in 1885, L.D. Copeland of Philadelphia invented a steam-driven tricycle in 1885, De Dion and Bouton's gasoline tricycle was entered in the Paris-Marseilles-Paris race for automobile vehicles in 1897, Andrew Riker, of Brooklyn, N.Y. introduced his Electric motor cycle and Louis S. Clarke contributed his gasoline tricycle in 1897. Then came Henry Ford's first Car "The Quadricycle" so named because it ran on four bicycle tires. (click here) Henry Ford was one of the several automotive pioneers who helped this country become a nation of motorists. (7)

THE AUTOMOBILE BEGAN TO MAKE ITS APPEARANCE IN THE STREETS IN THE LATE NINETIES, and were being turned out by the thousands. Where once the bicycle shops were in abundance, we find their places taken by many more garages and showrooms for the sale and repair of the automobile.

 Automobiles. Digital ID: 79786. New York Public Library

 Taxi driver inspecting his veh... Digital ID: 79765. New York Public Library

Limousine, $6,000 complete           Runabout, All Complete $3,950          Demi-limousine on 30-40 h.p. Complete $6,000

Delivery Wagon: Able to carry 1 ton of merchandise; 15-20 h.p. complete $3,500; 12-15 h.p. complete $2,800

Scene of Vehicular Traffic in 1918 Manhattan 5th Avenue       Sketching of Ford Automobiles        Rambler Model forty-four

Actual photograph of the first automobile invented by Carl Benz Mannheim, Germany October 25, 1883

Commercial Car No. 185, D-6 Transportation car. Price: $3,200.00

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THE SUBWAY.............."In February of 1900 John B MacDonald contracted to build NY's first subway. Though he was a member of Tammany Hall he still needed financial help which he then got from August Belmont II whose father was connected with the Rothschild fortune in Europe. The contract which detailed the agreement to equip operate and maintain the subway structure which MacDonald and Belmont would build for the city was known as Contract I. The Subway construction began in 1900. As the work was proceeding well, the city commissioners adopted an additional route in 1902, one that would include what had become the borough of Brooklyn. The ability to build subway lines into areas outside of Manhattan had been one of the principal arguments for forming the five boroughs of NYC. The additional route was a 3.1 mile extension from the City Hall-Brooklyn Bridge area, south under Park Row, Lower  Broadway, and the East River into Brooklyn. The line terminated at Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues, a terminal also for the Long island Rail Road. This was to be operated under Contract Two."  (28)  Photo Credit of subway construction: (28)

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A reporter from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle comments on the automobile craze that has affected the residents of Brooklyn, New York in his article "Brooklyn Has Automobile craze in its Most Virgulent Form." dated September 22, 1901.

"Manufacturers of and dealers in automobiles are more surprised than any one else over the growing popularity of those vehicles. Factories everywhere are working over time in a futile effort to keep up with orders. At first the public did not take very kindly to automobiles. They were regarded as hard to manage, rather dangerous and a trifle expensive. Gradually, however, as the novelty wore off, the public became more interested. Today, with the precincts of Greater New York alone, there are more than 3,000 automobiles of every shape, make and description, owned by private individuals, not counting those known as hacks, owned by transportation companies. Brooklyn, particularly, has the automobile craze in its most virulent form. Those who follow the industry assert that in another year there will be more than double the present number in Greater New York. So enormous is the demand for automobiles at present that on August 1 last the price was raised $100 on all styles. Such vehicles as Vanderbilt's White Ghost and the Red Rover cost in the neighborhood of $6,000 each. Automobiles seem to be more popular in Flatbush than in any other part of Brooklyn, or perhaps any other part of Greater New York. People who own automobiles are mostly people of means and the majority of them own their own homes. "

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A) The Pennsylvania, New York and Long Island Railroad Company was incorporated April 21, 1902, under the laws of the State of New York, and it is authorized to construct and operate a tunnel railroad in the City of New York, to be connected with any railroad within the State of New York or any adjoining state, and thereby form a continuous line for the carriage of passengers and property between points within and points without the said city. The western terminus thereof is under the waters of the Hudson River on the boundary line between the States of New York and New Jersey, at points of connection with the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York Railroad, opposite West Thirty-first and West Thirty-second Streets, New York City. (31)

B) Before the New York company could begin constructing its railroad, it was necessary to obtain a certificate from the State Board of Railroad Commissioners that such extension was a public convenience and necessity, which certificate was granted November 24, 1902. (31)

C) August Belmont formed the Interborough Rapid Transit as an operating railroad in the spring of 1902, and the city's first two contracts were awarded to his company. In 1903, the IRT leased the existing elevated railways in Manhattan for 999 years, a term far longer than the IRT would ultimately require.

D) It was also necessary to obtain a franchise from the City of New York, which was granted by the Board of Rapid Transit Railroad Commissioners on October 9, 1902, accepted by the railroad company on November 5th of the same year, and approved by the Board of Aldermen on December 16, 1902. (31)

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The Williamsburg Bridge opened on December 19, 1903 to horse-drawn carriages, bicycles and pedestrians. The trains did not run on the bridge until 1908. As early as the late 1860's, John Roebling, the designer of the Brooklyn Bridge, anticipated the need for additional bridges across the East River to keep up with population growth in the cities of New York and Brooklyn. One bridge was proposed between the Lower East Side of Manhattan and the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. Throughout the 1880's, leaders in Williamsburg battled officials in New York City and powerful ferry interests who did not want the bridge.

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The City of New York then built the first line, which was opened in October 27, 1904 by the Interboro Rapid Transit Company, from City Hall via Lafayette Street, Fourth Avenue, Forty-second Street and Broadway to One Hundred and Thirty-seventh Street, a distance of 8.5 miles. The line became immediately popular and the city proceeded rapidly with the construction of additional subways.(17)

THE SUCCESS OF THE FIRST SUBWAYS EXPOSED THE CITY'S NEED FOR A GREATLY EXPANDED SUBWAY SYSTEM. An early contender for future subway contracts was the Metropolitan Street Railway, owner and operator of Manhattan's streetcar system. The threat of competition was little more than a nuisance to Belmont. He bought out the surface car system in 1905. Public transportation above, below, and now upon the streets of New York was in Belmont's hands. (28)

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A) In 1905 city motorbus service began in several cities. There was a 24 passenger motorbus introduced by New York's Fifth Avenue Coach Company. The double-decker bus, was made by the French in 1905.

B) The145th Street Bridge was opened to traffic on August 24, 1905. In 1895, the New York State Legislature enacted a law providing for the construction of a new Harlem River bridge between 145th Street in Manhattan and 149th Street in the Bronx. The 145th Street Bridge provides two lanes of eastbound and two lanes of westbound traffic between Manhattan and the Bronx. In Manhattan, the bridge connects to the corner of 145th Street and Lenox Avenue, and in the Bronx, the bridge connects to 149th Street and River Avenue. Until 1972, the bridge also carried the NY 22 designation. The Manhattan approach was rebuilt in 1957 to carry traffic over the Harlem River Drive. Motorists must use side streets in order to connect to the parkway. The Bronx approach, which connects to the Bronx street grid and the Major Deegan Expressway (I-87), was rebuilt in 1990 to replace the original Bronx flanking span. (25)

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In 1906, a close estimate shows that 295,000,000 persons were carried across the East River. The ferries conveyed about 100,000,000, and the railways on the Brooklyn and Williamsburg Bridges carried 195,000,000, and although pedestrians tend to make the congestion greater, they are not included in the foregoing figures.

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The Fifth Avenue Coach Company began passenger service between Washington Square and 90th Street with gasoline-powered buses and open-top double-deckers on July 13, 1907. (26)

  Fifth Avenue Bus, Washington S... Digital ID: 482857. New York Public Library

 Double-decker bus. Digital ID: 79759. New York Public Library

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A) The first taxis, imported from Paris, arrive in New York City, and make their first appearance on October 1, 1907. Read about the history of the taxicab in New York City in the article: " Hailing the History of New York's Yellow Cabs"

B) 1907-1952: Construction of the Bronx River Parkway. The Bronx River Commission was established in 1907 to acquire the necessary lands, eliminate nuisance conditions and build the Bronx River Parkway as a joint undertaking between New York City and Westchester County. The river was so polluted that its waters were killing animals in the Bronx Zoo. Construction of the Westchester section of parkway began in 1917.When it was completed in 1925, the Bronx River Parkway was the first modern, multi-lane limited-access parkway in North America. According to the NYSDOT, the Bronx River Parkway carries approximately 100,000 vehicles per day (AADT) in the South Bronx, approximately 75,000 vehicles per day in the northern Bronx, and approximately 60,000 vehicles per day through Westchester County.(25)

C) In 1907 there were 8505 miles of railway and 3950 miles of electric railway tracks. The great railroad of the State is the New York Central system between New York and Buffalo which provides communication between New York  City and the principal places in all parts of the United States by its own lines and their direct connexions.  The Erie system, in addition to being one of the trunk lines to Chicago, is probably the greatest freight carrier in the Union. Its passenger traffic around New York City is also of great extent. The Pennsylvania Railroad one of the great national trunk lines, with its Hudson tunnels and its new vast terminal in New York City, is one of the great institutions of New York.(30)  

Sources of Information Utilized

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Next: Part VI New York City's Travel Experience 1908-1936



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