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Why New York Stopped Building Subways

Today on CityLab
Also: How housing fuels inequality, and an intimate portrait of urban renewal.
Today on CityLab
apr 16, 2018

What We’re Following

Illustration from 'Why New York City Stopped Building Subways'
(Madison McVeigh/CityLab)

Days of our lines: New York City’s 6 million daily subway riders face constant delays, overcrowded cars, big gaps in service, and (today) rain-drenched tunnels. Yet long-promised funds and improvements never seem to come.

That wasn’t always the case. In the early 20th century, the system grew quickly, unfurling from just a single line in 1904 to a vast network hundreds of miles long by the 1920s. After World War II, that growth came to a hard stop, and the city hasn’t opened a new full-fledged line since 1940.

Why? In a gorgeous illustrated timeline, CityLab answers the question, charting the history of the subway’s sorry state both chronologically and thematically. (There’s a fantasy “map” of the system’s decline in there, too). Check it out here.

Taxing deadlines: Grateful for the extra time to file your taxes this year? You can thank a municipal policy for that: Washington, D.C.’s Emancipation Day, commemorating the 1862 congressional act that freed the district’s enslaved population of 3,100 people. The IRS observes the local holiday, shifting the tax deadline for everyone (See Time’s explainer from 2017). But don’t get used to it: This delay won’t happen again until 2029.

Laura Bliss and Andrew Small


More on CityLab

Self-Driving Cars Still Have a Lot to Learn

After the fatal Uber crash in Tempe, a leading AV researcher warns that big questions about testing and public safety are looming for the industry.

Andrew Small

Atlanta's Cityhood Movement Might be Out of Control

If Georgia allows the new city of Eagle’s Landing to form, it will set new precedents that could be racially and economically damaging to metro Atlanta.

Brentin Mock

Is Housing Inequality the Main Driver of Economic Inequality?

A growing body of research suggests that inequality in the value of Americans’ homes is a major factor—perhaps the key factor—in the country’s economic divides.

Richard Florida

Life in 'The Hub'

Street fashion trends spotted in this part of the Bronx often spread to the rest of the world. Its diversity and density make it beautiful and memorable.

Camilo José Vergara

The Future of College Looks Like the Future of Retail

Similar to e-commerce firms, online-degree programs are beginning to incorporate elements of an older-school, brick-and-mortar model.

Jeffrey Selingo


Urban Renewal, On Stage

Painting by Tim Obrien/Arena Stage
(Tim Obrien/Arena Stage)

How do you fit the titanic forces of urban renewal into an onstage drama? Set it in a diner, of course. August Wilson’s Two Trains Running captures the sweeping changes that came to Pittsburgh’s Hill District after Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, all without ever leaving the checkerboard-tiled stage that is Memphis Lee’s diner. As CityLab’s Kriston Capps writes, “The world seems only as large as the stories of the people who float through Memphis’s doors.”


What We’re Reading

Protesters rally outside a Philadelphia Starbucks after arrests of two black men (NPR)

What cities are doing to combat noise, “the new secondhand smoke” (Governing)

Tech needs architects (Fast Company)

Scooter company’s challenge shows the micro-mobility wars have begun (Forbes)


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