Commuters looked into this landscape in 1904, the year the New York City subway opened.

Photograph by the Detroit Publishing Co, courtesy Library of Congress

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  • On October 27, 1904, New York City’s first rapid-transit system, the Interborough Rapid Transit (IRT), opened with a 14-kilometer (9-mile) route between City Hall, Grand Central Station, Times Square, and 145th Street.

    The Great Blizzard of 1888 inspired the subway. This storm helped convince New Yorkers that an underground transportation system would be a good idea. Concrete-lined tubes were dug beneath city streets, and cast-iron tubes were used in tunnels running beneath the cities’ rivers. For a few cents, riders could purchase a token that would allow them to travel anywhere the subway went.

    Today, the city-owned New York City Subway is the busiest in the United States, and has more stations (468) than any other subway system in the world. Tokens have been replaced by electronic cards. More than 6,000 subway cars move people around the city in more than a billion individual subway rides each year.

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    blizzard Noun

    storm with high winds, intense cold, heavy snow, and little rain.

    city Noun

    large settlement with a high population density.

    concrete Noun

    hard building material made from mixing cement with rock and water.

    extensive Adjective

    very large.

    route Noun

    path or way.

    storm Noun

    severe weather indicating a disturbed state of the atmosphere resulting from uplifted air.

    subway Noun

    underground railway; a popular form of public transportation in large urban areas.

    token Noun

    material, usually similar to a coin, that may be exchanged for specific goods or services.

    transportation Noun

    movement of people or goods from one place to another.