IF you happened to be hanging around New York City in 1904, and IF you happened to wish to go from Here to There, and IF “here” was City Hall and “there” was 145th Street, and IF you had an extra nickel (which was real money at the time), and IF you happened to be insistent enough to push your way to the front of the line, you might have been on the first ride of the New York City subway.
Actually, probably not. The then Mayor (George McClellan) was the “engineer” of the first run at 2:35pm (no idea how they chose that time), and one can only imagine that the first ride was full of dignitaries, wannabees, journalists, other hangers-on, and 70% of The City’s homeless.
The general public (that’s who you would have been) had to wait until 7pm to turn their nickel into underground transportation. That same ride costs $2.75 today.
A slice of New York City pizza (yum) tends to cost about as much as a ride on the subway. Seriously.
FACT: The world’s oldest underground train network was opened in London in 1863.
ANOTHER FACT: The first subway in the US was built in Boston.
YET ANOTHER FACT: NYC’s subway is bigger than either London’s or Boston’s because New York.
Until 1948, subway cost a nickel. That year the fare was raised to a dime (not two nickels because those wouldn’t fit in the new turnstiles).
Five years later, the fare was raised to 15 cents. But engineers couldn’t figure out how to create a turnstile that could accept two different coins. Enter the subway token.
For 50 years, tokens were the only way to pay to ride the subway and as fares rose, tokens changed—albeit less frequently than I would have expected. There were only 5 tokens over the years (not including the commemorative ones because I don’t want to include them).
ONE MORE FACT: Rather than pay for a token, thieves would sometimes jam the turnstiles and suck the tokens out of the slots. Kind of like slurping soup, but much more disgusting. To combat this, the MTA often sprayed the slots with chili powder.
These days, one uses a MetroCard to ride the subway. Which is much more efficient and much less fun.
AND STILL ONE MORE FACT: In 2008, 44 old NYC subway cars were dumped into the ocean off of the coast Maryland to serve as an artificial reef. To date, there have been no reports of fishy graffiti.
Happy New York City subway birthday day.