Please Explain: The Subway

Friday, March 02, 2012

This week’s Please Explain takes a look at something familiar (yet still mysterious) to every New Yorker: the subway. John Tauranac, architecural historian and designer of city and transit maps, and Andrew Sparberg, former Long Island Railroad manager and director of the railroad technology program at Technical Career Insitutes, talk about how the subway was built and how it transformed the metropolitan area.


Andrew Sparberg and John Tauranac

Comments [16]


@ dan- from wash hts: i think that west 4th is distinct, because there is no real grid,in manhattan, below 14 st. it would not be necessary, to say west 42nd st,bec the grid is fairly geometric north of 14th st. west 4th makes sense, because it gives a more specific sense of geographic place,which is much more needed,when the grid collapses, because of the narrowing and resultant geographic compression, created by the topography of manhattan island at the southern end.

Mar. 02 2012 09:53 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Bus maps are much better for finding your way around the city than subway maps. The disadvantage is that each map shows only 1 borough, although it may include parts of another.

Mar. 02 2012 01:55 PM
gustavo bonevardi from M< Manhattan

Why do the doors open on the opposite side (Left side)of the expresstain at the 34th Street station on bothe the IRT and IND?

Mar. 02 2012 01:52 PM
Howard from NYC

Why do the 34th St. stations of the 7th and 8th av lines not permit local and express passengers to change trains, as in other express stations?

Mar. 02 2012 01:51 PM

Why did they switch the names of the D and the B in Brooklyn when they finally reinstated them?

Mar. 02 2012 01:51 PM
Smokey from LES

Why are there three platforms for the A/C/E and 1/2/3 at Penn Station? It's very inconvenient to not have the choice of taking the local or express train.

Mar. 02 2012 01:51 PM
Dale from Brooklyn, NY

It would have been nice to have the 6 train continue to Fulton, but I imagine that would be cost prohibitive to construct.

It would be nice to have an express line for the A from Broadway-Nassau into Brooklyn, to Jay Street-Metrotech. There is an express line after it gets out of Jay Street.

Mar. 02 2012 01:48 PM
antonio from bayside

Could a double decker car ever work?

Mar. 02 2012 01:46 PM

Most of the the IND lines have a 4-track system for local & express trains. Why does the 135th Street station on the west side (A, B, C, D lines) have 6 tracks?

I've heard that the two extra track were to be for another subway line in the Bronx. Whatever happened to that Bronx line, if there was to be one?

Mar. 02 2012 01:41 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Viaduct? Vy not a chicken? (for the Marx Bros. fans out there)

And as for zigzag subway routes, have you seen this week's New Yorker cover? If not, you can see it at (maybe only for the rest of the week).

Mar. 02 2012 01:41 PM
antonio from bayside

Was there some kind of environmental factor that prevented the growth or implementation of the subway on Staten Island?

Mar. 02 2012 01:37 PM
suzie from manhattan

what have we learnt from the building of this great public transport system that we can apply to new subway systems that are being built in fast growing cities in countries like india?

Mar. 02 2012 01:35 PM
JP from Brooklyn

How timely! For anyone who is interested in film + the subway system, check out the Subway Film Series this Sunday, which is part of the Queens World Film Festival.

Duration: 37min

Category: Going Rogue

Synopsis: This is the premiere of a series of 6 short films that's a confluence of New York poets and filmmakers on the always fascinating subject of a quintessential gritty icon...the New York subway. The Subway Film Series is a project conceived in 2011 by New York City poet George Wallace and Jack Feldstein, a transplanted neon animation filmmaker from Australia, after Wallace saw Feldstein’s ‘How To Be Romantic In New York’ at the Bowery Poetry Club. Their subsequent collaboration on Walt Whitman‘s ‘Manahatta,’ which was shown at the Angelika for two weeks, led to the duo deciding to pair some of New York’s freshest filmmaking talent with poems from Token Entry: Poems of the NYC Subway (Ed. Gerry LaFemina, Smalls Books, NY, 2012). Filmmakers in the series include Heather Spilkin (Claude MacKay/Subway Wind), Richard Shpuntoff (George Guida/Manhattan Bound F), Don Cato (Cornelius Eady/Dead Man Rides Subway), Jack Feldstein (Philip Dacey/Subway Services), Peter Haas (George Wallace/Men & Women on the Subway Line) and Gabriel Rodriguez (Cheryl Dumesnil/Q to the 6 train). Rodriguez’ film debuted Sept 7th, 2011 at New Filmmakers, Anthology Film Archives. A series of events is planned through 2012 to show the films in conjunction with presentation from the anthology.

Sunday March 4, 2012 | 4:00 pm | Renaissance Charter School

Mar. 02 2012 01:34 PM
John A.

Boston subway is older?
There is _hairpin_ turn down in there that I have to see again before I die. The train had to slow to a walking speed to go around it.

Mar. 02 2012 01:31 PM
Dan Kulkosky from Washington Heights

Why does West 4th Street get a directional label when there is no station on East 4th Stree? Elsewhere in Manhattan there are many instances where there are one or more stations on the West Side and one on the East Side on the same street. Yet none of these are called east or west.

Mar. 02 2012 01:30 PM
Joe Adama from Bergen County

About 50 years ago, I started noticing large, viscious attack rats on the Simpson Street station of what was then called the IRT division. Since then the rodents' presence seems to have spread to all divisions, all boroughs. Early this year a women was bitten. Could Mr. Hood tell us what besides perfunctory steps and admonitions from the authorities not to leave food around, has the City done, past and present, to eliminate if not reduce the problem or are feral rats one more menace the 99% has to live with?

Mar. 02 2012 09:06 AM

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