The New York Subway was created out of a number of individually constructed routes that aimed to take the earlier inhabitants of New York to various locations on the outskirts of the core city. Railroads that were created as a means to take people to the entertainment area of Coney Island, as well as tracks that ran in Manhattan and Brooklyn made up the first routes.
When several whole counties and some of others united to form the City of Greater New York in 1898, city planners decided that the most important form of transport would be the underground subway. However, the cost of creating such a huge project was well beyond the means of the city or a single private company. As such, the city contracted with the privately owned IRT (Interborough Rapid Transit Company) with an agreement to share the profits.
The first subway was built on a route running from City Hall to the Bronx in 1904, followed by numerous extensions over the years. Initially it was undecided how to run these subways – using either direct current as proposed by Thomas Edison, or Nikola Tesla’s alternating current. Today, however, the New York Subway works on direct current.
A series of contracts signed between the city and the private companies IRT and BRT (Brooklyn Rapid Transport Company) from 1913 onwards ensured that the lines continued to grow at a rapid pace, joining existing lines and improving on others.
In later years, the city decided to build and operate its own new system with investment from the private sector, which let to the creation of the Independent Subway System. The IND system, as the new system came to be known after the city acquired BRT and IRT in 1940, was the latest and most innovative subway development of its time. The city almost immediately began eliminating redundant lines throughout the city.
Lines continued to be built around New York, although many stations were not maintained and their conditions began to reach dangerous levels in the 1980s. Reconstruction and refurbishment began in the mid 1980’s and work continues to be done on many lines even until today. Ground has also been broken to begin the construction of future lines.