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

Part VI
New York City's Travel Experience
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Researched and Compiled by Miriam Medina

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"In this year, there was another important development of subway and tunnel construction. The Hudson and Manhattan Railway Company constructed a subway from 19th Street and Sixth Avenue, New York City, under Sixth Avenue and Christopher Street, tunneling under the Hudson River and thence to Hoboken, New Jersey, thus making a close and direct connection with all that large area of adjacent developed and undeveloped territory in New Jersey economically tributary to New York City and its rapid transit lines. This section of the tunnel was opened for traffic February 25th, 1908; extended to 23rd Street and Sixth Avenue, June 15th, 1908; and to 33rd Street and Sixth Avenue, November 10th, 1910. A "Down-town" branch, which was opened July 19th, 1909, extended from Cortlandt and Church Streets under the Hudson River, with a physical connection with the Pennsylvania Railroad Station and other trunk-line stations in Jersey City; and still further reaching out, the company extended their line November 26th, 1911, running part way on the tracks of the Pennsylvania Railroad, into Park Place station, Newark, New Jersey. (33)

    Step Lively: Rush Hour?   Taxicab Waiting by a Subway Entrance     Subway Construction   (click twice on links)

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A) On December 31, 1909, in what he earlier promised to be his last act in office, McClellan formally opened the $31 million Manhattan Bridge.

B) THE BRIDGE OPENS AND TRANSFORMS QUEENS: The final link in the superstructure of the Queensboro Bridge was completed in 1908. On March 30, 1909, the bridge opened to the public at a cost of $20 million and 50 lives. The opening ceremonies, which were sponsored by the "Committee of Forty," featured a two-hour fireworks spectacular that attracted the attention of even the most jaded Manhattanites. (25)

C) The following indicates the total amount of passengers carried by the Fifth Avenue Coach Company. 1909 (3,609,304); 1910 (6,305,175); 1911 (5,997,372); 1912 (6,339,072); 1913 (8,749,610); 1914 (11,276,430). (33)

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A picture of a NYC ferry loaded with carriages and coaches.    (click twice)

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A) In 1912 the Fifth Avenue Coach Company had 81 motor buses, mostly double deckers, with an aggregate seating capacity of 2720 passengers (no standees allowed), and operating on several streets and avenues in Manhattan for a total distance of about 20 miles. (33)

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A) The Jamaica Transfer Station and yard was erected in 1913 at a cost exceeding $3,000,000. It includes 12 passenger tracks and five wide platforms. The Station and Office Building is a six story brick-concrete-steel structure. Over 60,000 passengers pass through this station on an average for every day of the year.(14)

B) The signing of the Dual Contracts on March 19, 1913 was immensely important to the route development of New York City's subway system in Manhattan, The Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens. The cost of the expansion plan was to be nearly a third of a billion dollars, an incredible sum at the time.  The Dual  Contracts brought about a tremendous expansion of the subway system.  In its expanded form, the subway system had clearly placed New York City ahead of all other metropolitan areas in the field of rapid transit. (28)

  Riders On A Subway

 [Subway riders, New York City,... Digital ID: 809888. New York Public Library

 City Hall Subway Station, New ... Digital ID: 836151. New York Public Library

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A)  The Queensboro line from the Grand Central Station via the East River Tunnel to Jackson Avenue, Long Island City, was opened in June, 1915, and extensions thereafter were made to it. This led to Hunters' Point Avenue; to Queensboro Plaza; Ditmars Avenue via Astoria Branch; and Alburtis Avenue on the Corona Branch. The Manhattan extension of this line, from the Grand Central Station to Sixth Avenue at Thirty-fourth Street, is at the present time in course of being effected.(17)

B)  The Fourth Avenue and the Sea Beach lines commenced service between the City hall Terminal and Sixty-fourth Street in 1915, connection being made via these lines with the West End and Culver lines to Coney Island, in July 1917, and in May, 1920, respectively. (17)

C) The Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company (BRT) began subway service between Brooklyn and Manhattan in 1915. The Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit Corporation (BMT) took over the BRT a few years later. (26)

D) In 1915 the Fifth Avenue Coach Company operated about 150 busses, practically all double-decked and of two sizes; one holds 34 passengers, 16 inside and 18 outside, and another type holds 45 passengers, 23 inside and 22 outside. They charge a flat fare of 10c and give few transfers. (33)

E) In 1915 there was recorded, in a Public Service Report, 1576.47 miles of car tracks as of June 30, 1914, which includes all classes of transportation__subway, elevated and surface__with a total number of 1,813,204,692 passengers carried, making about 337 rides per capita. For surface lines alone, Manhattan had 261.45 miles of track; Bronx had 211.76; Queens, 217.64; Richmond, 62.30 miles, and Brooklyn had a total of 627.59 miles of track (not divided). The surface lines in New York City had the usual transformations and experimentations which are perhaps common to other large cities in the development of means of car propulsion; as, horse, cable, storage-battery, compressed air, gasolene, and finally the electric-conduit system, the final development of the art. (33)                            

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A) Existing garage facilities for the motorist to park their automobiles in the city of New York. The usual charge in New York garages was $1.00 per day for storage and a $1.00 extra for cleaning and polishing.. Some of the better known garages at that time were the following: Gotham Garage, 102 W. 46th st.; Joscelyn Garage, 112 W. 52d st.; Belnord Garage, 252 W. 87th st.; Ansonia Garage, 207 W. 75th st.; Bretton Hall Garage, 150 W. 83d st.; Circle Garage, 40 W. 60th st.; Hudson Garage, 220 W. 41st st.; Murray Hill Garage, 27 E. 40th st.; Mineola Garage, Park ave. and 59th st.; Packard Acme Garage, 124 W. 50th st.; St. Regis Garage, 481 Park ave.; Vanderbilt Garage, 155 E. 35th st. (27)

B) Facts on Carriages and Motor Cabs during this period. The two largest taxicab companies were the Yellow Taxicab Co. and the Mason-Seaman Transportation Co. Cab Rates: CABS, for the first mile or any fraction thereof, 50c.; for each add. half m. or fraction thereof, 20c.COACHES, for the first mile or any fraction thereof, 70c.; for each add. half m. or fraction thereof, 30c. MOTOR VEHICLES, for not more than 2 passengers: for the first half m. or any fraction thereof, 30c.; for each add. quarter m. or fraction, 10c. (27)

C) MOTOR OMNIBUSES: ran from 8 a.m. to midnight at intervals of 4 to 10 minutes. Fare 10c. The existing lines were Fifth and Seventh Ave. Lines; Riverside Drive Lines; and the Seeing New York Automobiles, starting from Herald sq. at Broadway and 34th St. (27)

                                                           Typical Traffic Congestion in the City of New York

Fifth Avenue        8th Avenue Trolley      Sunday morning on Fifth Avenue, New York       Street scene pedestrians and vehicles

           (click twice on the above links)

D) The street railroads of new York City, including subways, elevated lines, and surface cars, have 1,666 miles of single track. The passengers carried during the year ending June 30, 1912, numbered 1,680,914,025.The present Subway during this time, was operated by the Interborough Rapid Transit Co., carrying more than a million passengers a day. Service on the subway was divided into Express Trains and Local Trains. "Rush hours" were from about 6 to 10 a.m. and from 4 to 7 p.m. The ELEVATED ROADS have 223 miles of single track. In Manhattan and the Bronx they are operated by the Interborough Rapid Transit Co., and in Brooklyn by the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Co. All fares 5 cents. SURFACE CARS (Tramways). Nearly all the avenues running N. and S. and most of the important cross-streets were traversed by Surface Cars (Tramways, Street Cars), practically all operated by electricity ("underground trolley system" used almost exclusively in Manhattan, an exception being the cross-town line on 135th st. and one or two lines operated by storage batteries. About 500 million passengers are carried annually, and overcrowding is nearly constant.(27)

E) The Hell Gate Bridge which was the longest steel-arch bridge in the world was opened in 1916.In 1892, Oliver W. Barnes, an engineer associated with Pennsylvania Railroad president Alexander J. Cassatt and bridge designer Gustav Lindenthal, conceived plans for the Hell Gate Bridge. Cassatt saw the Hell Gate project - originally called the "East River Arch Bridge" - as an opportunity to bring rail traffic from Pennsylvania Railroad routes in New Jersey and points west through New York City to New England. (25)

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A) The Broadway line in Manhattan began service between Manhattan Bridge and Union Square, in September, 1917, and to Times Square, in January, 1918. In the latter month service was also opened from the Canal Street junction south to Rector Street and continued on to Whitehall Street September 20, 1918. The northerly extension of this line was opened first to Fifty-seventh Street on July 10, 1919, and to Lexington Avenue on September 1, 1919. (17)

B) The Seventh Avenue Line began by operating shuttle trains between Times Square and the Pennsylvania Terminal on June 3, 1917.

C) The Lexington Avenue Branch, from One Hundred and Forty-ninth Street, At Mott Avenue, to Kingsbridge Road and Jerome Avenue, was opened June 2, 1917, and extended to Woodlawn, April 15, 1918. (17)

D) The West Farms Division of the White Plains Road Line began operations, first to Two Hundred and Nineteenth Street, on March 3, 1917, and then continued through to East Two Hundred and Forty-first Street, on December 13, 1920. (17)

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A) Early in August, 1918, the so-called "H" system was opened. This consisted of the newly-constructed Lexington Avenue, or East Side, trunk line, and the Seventh Avenue, or West Side Line, with the Forty-second Street cross tie, between the Grand Central Station and Times Square, thereafter operated as a shuttle to permit passengers to exchange west to east and vice-versa. (17)

B)  On July 1, 1918 trains began running regularly from Times Square to South Ferry and to Williams and Wall Street station via Park Place. (17)

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A) The Hunts' Point Avenue Extension was opened January 7, 1919. (17)

B) The Clark Street Tunnel service to Borough Hall, Brooklyn, was opened in April, 1919. (17)

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A) The East One Hundred and Seventy-seventh Street, Westchester Square and Pelham Bay Park train stations, were opened May 30, October 24, and December 20, 1920.(17)

B) In Brooklyn the Interboro completed its Eastern Parkway and Nostrand Avenue line first to Utica and Flatbush Avenues, in August, 1920, then to Junius Street, Pennsylvania Avenue and New Lots Avenue, the latter station being opened on October 16, 1922.

C)  On August 1, 1920, B.M.T. service was opened through tunnels in Sixtieth Street, Manhattan, and Montague Street, Brooklyn, to Long island City and South Brooklyn points. Progress is being made also in the underground extension of the Fourteenth Street-Eastern District Subway in Brooklyn.

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A) In 1922 New York State reports about 300,000 cars were registered in the city, divided as follows: Pleasure cars, 204,304; trucks, 63,997; trailers, 972; taxicabs, 16,841; dealers' cars, 1,655; and motorcycles, 7,709.

B) The Transit Commission presented its plan in May of 1922. It proposed seven new routes: extension of the Corona line to Flushing; extension of the 42nd Street crosstown line; a Staten Island subway tunnel; extension of the BRT line from 59th Street to 7th Avenue and 155th Street; a Brooklyn crosstown line from Queensborough Plaza to Franklin Avenue and Fulton Street (in Brooklyn); an East River tunnel to connect Brooklyn's Fulton Street elevated with City Hall station in Manhattan; and a trunk line subway from downtown Manhattan to Washington Heights.  The new routes covered 32.5 miles at an estimated construction cost of $218 million. (28)

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A) The Bear Mountain Bridge opened to traffic on November 26, 1924.

B) Hutchinson River Parkway: Construction of the Hutchinson River Parkway began in 1924.

C) The key to unlocking the impasse that had developed in 1922 came in 1924. The state legislature passed a transit act giving New York City the power to build and control new subways through the aegis of a Board of Transportation. The bill was a compromise between what the city politicians would view one aspect of this bill as a Trojan horse. (28)

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A) With the rapid rise of automobile and truck transport after the turn of the century, Hudson River ferries were carrying 30 million vehicles each year between New York and New Jersey. The New York-New Jersey joint coalition finally decided on a twin-tube design by Clifford Holland, a pioneer in tunnel construction. In 1919, Holland became chief engineer of the tunnel that eventually bore his name. The Holland Tunnel opened at midnight on November 13, 1927, providing the first fixed vehicular crossing between New York City and New Jersey, at a cost of $54 million. (25)

B)  West Side (Joe Dimaggio) Highway: The original elevated highway from West 72nd Street south to Chambers Street was constructed between 1927 and 1931. It was extended south from Chambers Street to the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel approach between 1945 and 1948. Its elevated structure allowed trucks to travel between the piers to its west and the factories and warehouses to its east, while automobile traffic was unimpeded overhead. To avoid buildings on either side, the highway was constructed with sharp curves and narrow entrance-exit ramps. The inadequacies of the West Side Highway had become more acute by the early 1970's. Shortly after the collapse of the West Side Highway on December 16, 1973, the entire length of the West Side Highway was closed to all traffic. Construction of the new West Side Highway, handling approximately 95,000 vehicles per day began in April 1996. The first section of the project, between Clarkson Street and Horatio Street, was finished in August 1998. The entire "NY 9A Reconstruction Project" was completed in August 2001. (25)

) "Slightly before 8 a.m. on May 21, 1927, a young pilot named Charles Lindbergh set out on an historic flight across the Atlantic Ocean, from New York to Paris. It was the first continent-to- continent non-stop flight in an airplane, and its effect on both Lindbergh and aviation was enormous. Lindbergh became an instant American hero. Aviation became a more established industry, attracting millions of private investment dollars almost overnight as well as the imagination and support of millions of Americans." (40)

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A) On October 25, 1929, Mayor Jimmy Walker broke ground on the Triborough Bridge. This date later proved significant, as it was just one day after the "Black Thursday" that helped trigger the Great Depression. The initial $5.4 million allocated by New York City for construction of the new bridge - most of which went to condemnation awards and counsel fees - had already been spent before the Ward's Island piers had been built. With its coffers depleted by the ensuing Depression, the city abandoned work on the bridge early in 1930. In 1933, Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia appointed Moses as the chairman of the Triborough Bridge Authority. The Triborough Bridge opened on July 11, 1936 at a cost of $60.3 million. The new Triborough Bridge Authority, which had its administrative offices at the Randall's Island toll plaza, financed $35 million of the construction costs. The bonds were backed by 25-cent tolls. Federal, state and city outlays financed the remainder of the costs. (25)

B) In 1929 the Grumman Aircraft Company started business on Long island. (40)

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A) As the 1930's progressed, Moses had additional reasons to construct the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge. First, when it opened in 1936, traffic filled the eight lanes of the Triborough Bridge between Manhattan, the Bronx and Queens. The bridge was to provide relief for the Triborough Bridge. Second, the bridge was to provide a link from the north to the new airport at North Beach, which eventually became known as LaGuardia Airport. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the bridge was to provide a direct link for upstate New York and New England motorists to reach the 1939-1940 World's Fair, which Moses chaired. (25)

B) The Mid-Hudson Bridge: On August 25, 1930, Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt opened the span between Highland, Ulster County to the west, and Poughkeepsie, Dutchess County to the east. When it opened, the bridge provided two lanes of traffic across the Hudson, one lane in each direction. It also provided a walkway for pedestrian and bicycle traffic. Upon opening, the bridge toll was 80 cents for automobiles, and 10 cents for pedestrians and cyclists. In 1933, the Mid-Hudson Bridge was taken over by the New York State Bridge Authority. During the 1960's, new arterial highways were constructed from both approaches of the Mid-Hudson Bridge. Designed to help traffic between the bridge and surrounding communities flow smoothly, the approaches aroused serious controversy. In 1994, the bridge was ceremonially renamed the "Franklin D. Roosevelt Mid-Hudson Bridge" in honor of the former Governor and President. (25)

C) By 1930, passengers flying on US airlines had soared to 400,000.

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A) The six-lane George Washington Bridge was completed on October 25, 1931, eight months ahead of schedule, at a cost of $59 million and 12 lives. First named the "Hudson River Bridge," other names for the bridge had been considered, including the "Palisades Bridge," "Fort Lee Bridge," "Columbus Bridge" and "Verrazano Bridge," before the Port Authority decided upon the "George Washington Memorial Bridge" in 1930. Later, the name was shortened to "George Washington Bridge."

B) Floyd Bennett Field (first municipal airport) begins operations. On 5/23/1931 the airport was dedicated. A crowd of 25,000 attended this aerial demonstration led by Charles Lindbergh and Jimmy Doolittle. A flotilla of 600 US Army Air Corps aircraft circled the field as part of the airport dedication. (41)

C) Grand Central Parkway. Construction of the Grand Central Parkway began in July 1931 at a ceremony held at the Queens-Nassau border, jointly attended by Moses and Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt. The initial section of the parkway, a nine-mile-long, four-lane section between Kew Gardens and Glen Oaks, opened in July 1933.This "missing link," a 7.5-mile-long, six-lane section connecting the new Triborough Bridge with Kew Gardens, opened in July 1936. On August 17, 1936, a little more than a month after the Triborough Bridge opened, Long Island's parkways were the scene of what some observers called the greatest traffic tie-up in the history of the metropolitan area. (25)

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In 1932, the city's Board of Transportation completed construction of the Eighth Avenue line and created the Independent Rapid Transit Railroad (IND), the first city-run subway service. When the city purchased the BMT and IRT in 1940, it became the sole owner and operator of all New York City subway and elevated lines. (26)

AS 1930 DREW TO A CLOSE, THE EIGHTH AVENUE line was virtually complete. On Saturday, September 10, 1932, the subway began to operate.

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A) Henry Hudson Parkway; construction began in 1933 and was completed on October 12, 1937. (25)

B) The subway route from Chambers Street in Manhattan to Jay Street in Brooklyn opened in February of 1933 and on to Bergen Street a month later. This was without the High Street-Brooklyn Bridge station which didn't open until June. Then on July 1, two months ahead of schedule, service was inaugurated on the Concourse route from 145th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue to East 205th Street. (28)

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FDR (East River) Drive. In the 1920's, public officials and business leaders in New York City proposed waterfront highways along both the Hudson River and East River. The original construction of the East River Drive, began in 1934-1955. Reconstruction of non-limited-access sections were from 1955-1966. (25)

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A) In 1935, New York City arterial coordinator Robert Moses began work on the initial section of the Major Deegan Expressway. This original 1.5-mile section, which connected the northern Triborough Bridge approach with Grand Concourse, was completed in April 1939, just in time for the 1939-1940 World's Fair. (25)

B) The Rip Van Winkle bridge opened on July 2, 1935.According to the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), about 15,000 vehicles cross the Rip Van Winkle Bridge each day (AADT). The bridge, which carries NY 23, connects to the west with US 9W and NY 385 in Catskill, and to the east with NY 9G in Hudson. While bicyclists are permitted on the bridge, they must share the two-lane roadway with motor vehicles. Along the outboard of the superstructure, the bridge has narrow sidewalks reserved exclusively for pedestrian use. (25)

C) Mosholu Parkway began construction in 1935 and ended in 1937. (25)

D) Pelham Parkway. Construction began in 1935 and ended in 1937. (25)

E) January 1935, LaGuardia had been mayor for a year, and his annual message mentioned that the city would apply for a $60 million federal loan to build the Sixth Avenue subway. Besides being the most difficult and expensive subway to build, the Sixth Avenue line was the most dangerous. Blasting of the rock was done with minimum charges because of nearby foundations and the aqueduct 200 feet down. Still, as work progressed, a water main was broken, fire threatened the dynamite, and one of the explosions damaged the BMT's 34th Street station, injuring passengers. (28)

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A) The lower deck of the Henry Hudson Bridge was opened to traffic on December 12, 1936. The upper-deck was opened to traffic on May 7, 1938. (25)

B) Picture:  14th St. & Bwy. Subway Entrance

Greyhound Bus Terminal, 33rd and 34th Streets between Seventh and  Eighth Avenues, Manhattan 7/14/36

 Greyhound Bus Terminal, 33rd a... Digital ID: 482565. New York Public Library

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The DC-3 was the first aircraft to enable airlines to make money carrying passengers. As a result, it quickly became the dominant aircraft in the United States following its debut in 1936 with American Airlines (which played a key role in its design). (40)

Photo Credit for both pictures: Inside the BMT  and Opening Day Eighth Avenue Line. (28)

Sources of Information Utilized

Back To "New York City's Travel Experience Table of Contents

Next: Part VII New York City's Travel Experience 1939-1960




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