Ten facts about the New York City subway system

Opened in 1904 and the second-oldest system in the country, the New York subway is the biggest and busiest in North America.

Here are ten facts for perspective:

  1. Riders: 5.58 million on a weekday. (OK, even if most of them are probably using it at least twice, coming and going, that’s still over two million people. The busiest time is between 7 and 8 a.m.)
  2. Top speed: 55 mph.
  3. Average speed: 17 mph.
  4. Average voltage in the third rail: 625 DC.
  5. Route length: 245 miles.
  6. Total track length: 850 miles. (Remember, a route requires two tracks, one in each direction. And where local and express routes overlap, you can double that. Stretched out, the track would run well past Chicago.)
  7. Daylight: 40 percent of the track runs above ground, mostly in three boroughs outside Manhattan. (It doesn’t run on Staten Island.)
  8. Two sizes of cars in operation: The IRT tunnels, curves, and stations are too small for the cars running on the IND and BMT lines.
  9. Directions: The current official map by Michael Hertz Associates dates from 1979. It is not geographically accurate but makes Manhattan larger to accommodate for the borough’s having the most services. The earlier 1979 subway map by Massimo Vignelli is considered a modern classic but is flawed by its placement of geographical elements.
  10. Men working: Because the system does not shut down overnight, all track maintenance occurs while trains are running. It can account for delays and rerouting, as needed. (Well, some of them did inspire my novel now running as Subway Visions.)

 

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