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MTA facts and figures: Ridership, station history and more

Love it or hate it, the subway is part of everyday life for most New Yorkers. But how much do you really know about the subway system?

Here are some facts and figures from the MTA to keep on hand the next time you feel the need to make awkward conversation with someone you made eye contact with on the F train.

Subway lines

Let's start with the basics. To tourists, it
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Chris Hondros

Let's start with the basics. To tourists, it probably seems like there is a subway line for every letter of the alphabet. But in reality there are 22 total -- and seven are numbers. Here they are, in order: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, J, L, M, N, Q, R, S and Z. Now the real question is, who can recite that backward from memory?


According to the MTA, average subway ridership on
Photo Credit: Anthony Lanzilote

According to the MTA, average subway ridership on a weekday in 2015 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. But even though it feels like it couldn't possibly get more crowded on the 6 train at rush hour, New York City is actually not the most crowded subway system. The MTA says NYC ranked No. 7 in annual ridership in 2015, behind Tokyo (3.41 billion), Beijing (3.41 billion), Shanghai (3.07 billion), Seoul (2.62 billion), Moscow (2.45 billion), and Guangzhou (2.4 billion).

Subway trains go the distance

Here are some fun facts to bust out
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Mario Tama

Here are some fun facts to bust out the next time the person sitting next to you on the L train wants to know your life story en route into Manhattan: There are a total of 6,407 subway cars in the MTA's fleet. In total, those cars traveled 361.2 million miles in 2015 alone, according to the MTA. (Insert rhetorical life question about the meaning of what those miles have accomplished for New Yorkers here.)

Bonus fun fact in case your train gets delayed: If you laid all of the subway train tracks end to end, they would stretch from New York City to Chicago, according to the MTA.

The longest ride on the subway

The next time you feel the need to
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Spencer Platt

The next time you feel the need to do some deep thinking while pretending to be the star of your own indie flick, consider taking one of the longest train rides in NYC's subway system. With no changes, the A train takes the top prize with more than 31 miles between 207th Street in Manhattan and Far Rockaway in Queens, the MTA reports. At more than 38 miles, the longest ride with a transfer will take you from the 2 train at 241st Street in the Bronx to the A train station in Far Rockaway, Queens.

How subway trains are powered

Despite our gripes about the subway (and its
Photo Credit: AFP / Getty Images / Emmanuel Dunand

Despite our gripes about the subway (and its many signal problems), you can't deny the sheer power of the system itself. So, how exactly is the subway powered? According to the MTA, the city's substations receive about 27,000 volts from power plants that are then converted for use on the subway. The third rail uses about 625 volts in order to operate trains. There are also two different types of power used, per the MTA. One is called alternating current, which makes the use of signals, station and tunnel lighting, ventilation and other equipment possible. The second type is called direct current, which operates the trains and auxiliary equipment.

Station history

On Oct. 27, 1904, 28 subway stations opened
Photo Credit: Scout Tufankjian

On Oct. 27, 1904, 28 subway stations opened in Manhattan, signaling the birth of a new era of transportation in NYC. From those humble beginnings the subway has grown to include 469 stations spanning all five boroughs. According to the MTA, most of those subway stations were built by 1940.

If you ride the subways often enough, you'll notice there are three different station styles. That's because three different companies were behind their creations. While the stations designed by the Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT) and the Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit Corporation (BMT) tend to be more grandiose, the stations built by the city-owned Independent Rapid Transit Railroad (IND) are more modern and streamlined in appearance. The IRT and BMT stations were built mostly by 1928, and the IND stations generally opened between 1932 and 1948, the MTA states. The companies also had different ideas when it came to platform length. While the BMT stations are around 615 feet long, the IRT stations are around 525 feet long, and the IND stations are the longest, at 660 feet.

Bonus fun facts: The Smith-9th Street F and G station in Brooklyn is the highest elevated station, at 88 feet. The deepest station to tunnel under the streets is the 191st Street station in Manhattan, at 180 feet beneath street level.

Top 10 busiest subway stations in 2015

Here's a hint: They're all in Manhattan. Considering
Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

Here's a hint: They're all in Manhattan. Considering its nickname is The Crossroads of the World, it should be no surprise that Times Square-42nd Street ranks No. 1 as the busiest station in the city, with an annual ridership of 66,359,208, according to the MTA. The other top nine performers from last year are, in descending order: Grand Central-42nd Street, 34th Street-Herald Square, 14th Street-Union Square, 34th Street-Penn Station (1, 2, 3 lines), 34th Street-Penn Station (A, C, E), 59th Street-Columbus Circle, Fulton Street, Lexington Avenue/59th Street (N, Q, R, 4, 5, 6), and 86th Street.

Station artwork

Not all subway stations are grimy, rodent-infested holes
Photo Credit: <a href="" target="_blank">Scott Beale / Laughing Squid</a>

Not all subway stations are grimy, rodent-infested holes in the ground -- really. Many subway stations sport mosaic tiling art to let you know where you are, and some of stations also boast artworks that are unique to them, like the the 81st Street/Museum of Natural History station. While the agency has put forth efforts to upgrade and rehabilitate many of these artworks, its Arts for Transit entity has also commissioned and installed dozens of artworks in stations since 1985, according to the MTA.


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