Mass transit has fueled the growth of New York City into the global metropolis that we know today.
It began humbly in the form of horse-drawn carriages before evolving into trolleys and streetcars with electrification and steam-powered engines. Modes of transportation coexisted. Elevated trains were introduced. Tunnels were built for subways. Buses began roaming the byways. Each new technology has created, over the decades, today’s modernized system that sprawls across the five boroughs — an indispensable if overburdened and aging network.
To argue that this network of public transportation, with its 2.73 billion trips each year, is vital to sustaining the economy and social life of New Yorkers is a no-brainer, and historians have long referred to it as the “bloodstream” or “lifeblood” of the city.
Here we look back at how mass transit has evolved from its beginnings in the 1820s to today’s modern subways with rare images courtesy of the city’s Transit Museum.