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Transit

History of the MTA: Learn about the city's transit system from its inception

The subway has been rumbling through New York City since Oct. 27, 1904, but it wasn't until 1968 that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority took over city transit.

From trains and buses to bridges and tunnels, the MTA plays a major role in keeping this city moving every day.

Take a look at key moments in the agency’s history, from before its inception through to present day.

Before the MTA existed

Long before there was an MTA, there were
Photo Credit: New York Transit Museum

Long before there was an MTA, there were several ways of getting around town, though these modes of transit were operated by private companies. On Oct. 27, 1904, the city's first official subway system (the Interborough Rapid Transit Company or IRT) made its debut in Manhattan, moving commuters between City Hall and 145th Street-Broadway, per the MTA. The IRT then rolled out subways in the Bronx in 1905, Brooklyn in 1908 and Queens in 1915. The Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company -- taken over by the Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit Corporation a few years later -- began providing service between Brooklyn and Manhattan in 1915, the MTA said. Private companies also ran the city's bus systems. The Fifth Avenue Coach Company was the first to offer bus service on July 13, 1907, according to the MTA.

NYC Transit Authority is created

The New York City Transit Authority was created
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Spencer Platt

The New York City Transit Authority was created by the New York State Legislature on June 15, 1953. As a public corporation, it was responsible for handling and operating city-owned buses, trolleys and subway routes at the time. After its creation, the agency was commonly referred to as the "TA," according to the MTA. Its headquarters was originally at 370 Jay St. in Brooklyn. It has since been renamed the MTA New York City Transit but should not be confused with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which was established as the agency's parent company in 1968.

New Yorkers welcome the subway token

On July 25, 1953, token payment was introduced
Photo Credit: Getty Images; New York Transit Museum

On July 25, 1953, token payment was introduced to the city's transit systems. The tokens replaced the use of coins, according to the MTA, and their introduction came along with a fare increase to 15 cents. Tokens were officially phased out in favor of the MetroCard in 2003.

The death of the trolley

New Yorkers bid farewell to the city's last
Photo Credit: Courtesy of New York Transit Museum

New Yorkers bid farewell to the city's last two trolley lines -- along Brooklyn's McDonald Avenue and Church Avenue -- on Oct. 31, 1956, the MTA said.

Bus air conditioning

Summer days were a little less dreary for
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Summer days were a little less dreary for bus commuters beginning on Sept. 11, 1966, when the MTA said it introduced 682 vehicles that had air conditioning.

Subway air conditioning

Imagine a crowded subway car without air conditioning;
Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images / Jewel Samad

Imagine a crowded subway car without air conditioning; until 1967, that was a reality for New Yorkers. According to the MTA, the first successful train featuring air conditioning was brought into service on the F line on July 19, 1967. It wasn't until 1983, however, that new air-conditioned subway cars began arriving, the MTA said.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority is created

On March 1, 1968, the New York State
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Spencer Platt

On March 1, 1968, the New York State Legislature created the Metropolitan Transportation Authority as NYC Transit's parent company. The MTA oversees transportation in 12 counties.

Birth of the New York Transit Museum

Originally called the Transit Exhibit, the city opened
Photo Credit: Nicole Brown

Originally called the Transit Exhibit, the city opened its first transit museum (now called the New York Transit Museum) at the former Court Street shuttle station in Downtown Brooklyn on July 1, 1976.

Transit strike

The city had to go without buses and
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Spencer Platt

The city had to go without buses and subways for 11 days due to a strike that began on April 1, 1980.

Graffiti-free fleets

NYC Transit introduced graffiti-free buses and subways on
Photo Credit: Newsday / Jim Cummins

NYC Transit introduced graffiti-free buses and subways on May 12, 1989, the MTA said.

MetroCard is introduced

New Yorkers got their first glimpse of the
Photo Credit: iStock

New Yorkers got their first glimpse of the MetroCard on Sept. 19, 1996, when the MTA said it sent two buses to community centers, shopping centers and other locations to promote the new form of fare payment. On May 14, 1997, the entire subway system began accepting MetroCards. On July 4 of that same year, MetroCard Gold began allowing commuters to move from bus to subway, subway to bus, or bus to bus for free.

Seven-day and 30-day unlimited MetroCards

The MTA first began selling unlimited 30- and
Photo Credit: Meghan Giannotta

The MTA first began selling unlimited 30- and seven-day MetroCards for a fixed price on July 4, 1998.

MetroCard Vending Machine

The city installed the first MetroCard Vending Machines
Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images / Emmanuel Dunand

The city installed the first MetroCard Vending Machines in two subway stations on Jan. 25, 1999, according to the MTA. There were 347 machines in service at 74 stations by the end of that year.

Sept. 11 terror attacks

On Sept. 11, 2001, NYC Transit mobilized 3,500
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Daniel Barry

On Sept. 11, 2001, NYC Transit mobilized 3,500 employees and equipment to Ground Zero within hours of the terror attacks, the MTA said. MTA buses took people to safety and to places where medical assistance was being offered, the MTA said.

New Yorkers bid farewell to tokens

Tokens were officially phased out of use on
Photo Credit: Newsday / Susan Farley

Tokens were officially phased out of use on April 13, 2003, after nearly 50 years, per the MTA. Buses accepted tokens as fare through the end of 2003.

Blackout of 2003

When the largest power outage in U.S. history
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Matthew Peyton

When the largest power outage in U.S. history struck New York City, forcing the subways to shut down, the MTA said hundreds of thousands of people were able to get home using the city's buses.

100th anniversary of NYC subways

The city celebrated the 100th anniversary of the
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Spencer Platt

The city celebrated the 100th anniversary of the subway on Oct. 27, 2004. The MTA said its transit employees dressed in turn-of-the-century costumes and greeted passersby in City Hall Park as a barbershop quartet sang period songs. Then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg proclaimed the day "Subway Centennial Day."

Second Avenue subway

Ground is broken for the Second Avenue subway
Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

Ground is broken for the Second Avenue subway project on April 12, 2007. The first phase of the project is scheduled to open on Dec. 31, 2016.

Subway ridership peak

The MTA said subway ridership in 2008 rose
Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images / Don Emmert

The MTA said subway ridership in 2008 rose to 1.62 billion, a 3.9 percent increase from the year before. It was the highest annual total since 1950, according to the MTA.

Bus Time

The city launched its Bus Time program on
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Spencer Platt

The city launched its Bus Time program on two Manhattan routes on Oct. 14, 2010. The program allows customers to see estimated arrival times for buses at a specific stop.

FASTRACK

The MTA debuted FASTRACK on Jan. 9, 2012,
Photo Credit: MTA / Patrick Cashin

The MTA debuted FASTRACK on Jan. 9, 2012, aimed at making work on subways more efficient and cost-effective.

Subway ridership continues to climb

In 2015, the MTA said average subway ridership
Photo Credit: Anthony Lanzilote

In 2015, the MTA said average subway ridership on a weekday was 5.7 million. Annual ridership for all of 2015 was 1.76 billion. Both are the highest ridership numbers the city has seen since 1948, according to the MTA.

The end of the MetroCard is near

After 22 years, the MetroCard may soon be
Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

After 22 years, the MetroCard may soon be coming to an end. The MTA has said it hopes to introduce new, open fare technology for payment and begin a slow phase-out of MetroCards in 2018.

Return of the W train

After being done away with in 2010 due
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Ezra Shaw

After being done away with in 2010 due to budget cuts, the W train is set to make a comeback on Nov. 7, the MTA announced earlier this year. The train will run local from the Whitehall Street station in lower Manhattan to the Astoria-Ditmars Boulevard station in Queens. The MTA moved to bring the W out of retirement so it can replace Q train service in Queens once the first phase of the Second Avenue subway launches in December.

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