NEW YORK’S first regular street transportation, so tradition says, was by oxcart on Broadway as far north as Houston Street. Along this route at regular intervals passed slow-plodding animals drawing heavy, creaking wagons and carts, which were laden with farm produce on their way to town and with merchandise on the way north. The wretched condition of the Island’s roads kept the swifter horse-drawn stagecoach out of the transportation picture for a considerable period; but with the highway improvements carried on by the British Governor Lovelace and his successors coaches came into common use, connecting the city with the outlying villagesGreenwich, Chelsea, Harlem, and, a little later, Yorkville. The facilities offered by the various lines resulted in a great increase in suburban living; it is remarked that because of them Chelsea and Greenwich “were united.” The coach lines had their city depots in various inn-yards, where might be seen, on their departure or arrival, all the color and bustle of the scenes so dear to Dickens.
For almost a century the stagecoaches monopolized the rapid transit of Manhattan, giving way to omnibuses early in the nineteenth century. Since the omnibuses were themselves horse-drawn, the change was merely one of degree. The omnibus was a stagecoach grown larger and adapted to city needs, chief of which were greater capacity, and shorter runs. As the city expanded and its population increased, the congestion caused by these lumbering vehicles became, as the saying goes, intolerable. One Jacob Sharp, frequently referred to as “notorious,” made himself something of a nuisance by standing around on street corners, criticizing traffic jams and counting vehicles, in order to stir the city fathers to better things. In thirteen hours on one August day in 1852, he counted 3,035 up-bound omnibuses and 3,162 down-bound. In August, mind you, the deadest month in the year. At one time eleven companies were operating 345 omnibuses on twenty-three routes.
Agitation, however, has never cured traffic jams; they go on forever but are somewhat ameliorated by new inventions and accommodations. In this case, the horse car seemed to be the cure. The difference between a horse car and an omnibus is slight, indeed; put flanged wheels on your omnibus and run it on railspresto! there’s your horse car. The advantage is that fewer horses are needed and that the vehicle sticks to its tracks and snarls traffic less than the bus. New York entered the horse car in 1832, when the first street car in the world to run on tracks began to run on schedule along Fourth Avenue between Fourteenth and Prince streets. The fledgling New York and Harlem Rail-road soon took over that right of way, using horses to haul its trains south of its Twenty-sixth Street station. By 1855, there were horse-drawn street cars on four of the avenues; and in 1866, when New York’s population was above 700,000, twelve horse-drawn lines carried about 60,000,000 passengers. Though omnibuses still were plentiful, the horse-car lines were more profitable, because of their greater speed and comfort.
Once more conditions grew “intolerable” and New York awaited the next step. This was the “cable car,” drawn by a moving cable housed in a slot below street level, contact being established by the “gripman” in the front vestibule. The scene of this invasion of the new idea was 125th Street; the year, 1886. While horse cars continued in use in the older parts of town, they existed, from that time on, only because they had franchises and equipment which represented heavy in-vestment, much as electric trolleys continue to exist in competition with better means of communication.
Overhead electric trolleys, the common form, never came into favor here, because the wires were dangerous in the congested areas. As early as 1888 experiments with underground electric trolleys were being carried forward on Madison Avenue, then served by horse cars. Within the next ten years the new form of propulsion triumphed over the old cable car, supplanting the latter over nearly the whole of Manhattan; but many a small town had a system of electric trolleys before New York had. No major change in this method of street transportation occurred for the next twenty-five years; recently motor busses began to take over many trolley routes.
Elevateds. So much for surface travel. Obviously, there was not room enough on the streets of Manhattan for all the people who wanted to move swiftly on them. This became clear as day in the lush prosperity following the Civil War. One of the daring promotions of the “Flash Age” was the elevated railway. Though since discredited and under threat of dissolution in the downtown area, the elevated was a notable advance in rapid transit and continues in favor as a continuation of subways in the outlying sections.
In 1888 a brave body of men, bidding their tearful wives adieu, marched to the Battery to take passage on an experimental section of elevated railroad which extended up Greenwich Street to Cortlandt Street. Charles T. Harvey, its engineer, comes down in history as the inventor. A stationary engine with cables pulled the train. No accidents occurring, construction went on up Greenwich Street and Ninth Avenue, ultimately reaching Fifty-ninth Street in 1870, though with financial difficulty. The stationary engines and cables not proving successful, steam-driven dummy engines were installed the next year. By 1878 elevateds were in operation on all the avenues still served by themSecond, Third, Sixth and Ninth. Harlem was served by the Sixth Avenue “L” in 1880, with powerful effect on its real estate values. While the presence of the elevated is now reckoned a real estate liability, it was then reckoned a blessing, even though it was far noisier before it was electrified in 1902. Demands for elevated service roused rapid building; by 1880 there were eighty miles of elevated track on Manhattan, and the “L” was carrying close to 300,000,000 passengers a year.
Each of the transportation means mentioned had a stimulating effect on land values. The Horse Car era of the Fifties is credited with developing the East side, and pushing the settled area north of Twenty-third Street to Fifty-ninth on that side of town, and north of Sixtieth on the West side. Everywhere the “L” was installed it made real estate history, especially being a factor in drawing the important middle-class department store development to Herald Square. But the next step in urban transportationthe underground subwaywas destined to have an effect on values far greater than preceding innovations.
Subways. New Yorkers had been talking about sub-ways ever since the London tubethree and three-quarter miles longhad been opened in January, 1863; almost as long as they had been talking about elevateds. A subway project of 1864 was vetoed by the legislature. But the “L,” perhaps merely because it had shrewder promoters, perhaps because of lower costs and ease of operation, came in existence quickly and was an old, old story before New Yorkers secured sub-surface transport. Even Boston had a subway before New York did; but this would not have been the case if Alfred Ely Beach had succeeded with his subway experiment of 1870. This failing, New York waited until the turn of the century, when electric power was available as motive power, to start its present extensive system of subways.
Work was begun on the subway in 1900, and by 1904 it was in operation from Ann Street to 145th Street and Broadway. In 1908, when nearly one hundred miles of track were being operated, the subway system ran from the Battery to Grand Central, thence under Forty-second Street to Times Square, thence north on Broadway to 242nd Street, with a branch leading from Broadway at Ninety-sixth Street to Bronx Park. Full service to Van Cortlandt Park was opened in the fall of 1908; and about that time the tunnel was completed to Brooklyn permitting service to Borough Hall.
This oddly conceived routing, with its wide swing over in the middle of town, was soon seen to be in-adequate. On the East side work was begun in 1911 on the Lexington Avenue extension, and the Seventh Avenue subway was pushed through. In 1913 the city, which had invested heavily in construction, contracted with the Interborough Rapid Transit Company and the New York Municipal Railway Corporation for the operation of a dual system taking in the Seventh Avenue, Lexington Avenue, and the old Park Avenue lines and the Broadway line as far as Fifty-ninth and Sixtieth, together with the Steinway tunnel under Forty-second Street, the present “shuttle.” These arrangements permitted extension to Queens, and were followed by others which resulted in the coordination of transit facilities for all the boroughs served by underground transit. The B.M.T. (Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit Company), with extensive mileage in Brooklyn, thus received access to Manhattan, its Broadway line being opened in 1918.
With the change in the value of money which marked the World War, the finances of the operating companies were thrown out of gear and the city’s in-vestment in tunnel construction seemed unlikely to bring in any return save indirectly through increase in trade and land values and the convenience of the public. The five-cent fare had become so thoroughly fixed that no city administration dared to consent to its being advanced, with the result that the taxpayers paid part of the deficit of operations, along with the security holders of the operating companies. Even so, the demand for more subway mileage to serve new areas continued to rise, with the result that the new Independent subway, planned with extensions connecting all four of the city’s northern boroughs, is an out-and-out municipal adventure, built, equipped, and operated by the city. While it has relieved to some extent the rush hours during the boom period of the middle twenties, it has done so at the expense of the older transit lines, both surface and underground. Both in speed and in comfort the municipally owned and operated Independent surpasses its competitors.
The net economic effect of all this subway development has been to increase land values. On the one hand it has spread population for residence purposes more broadly on the outer circles of the great city, spurring local building and speculation in those areas. On the other hand, the subways have made possible a tremendous concentration of population for purposes of work in areas especially well served by underground routes. The skyscrapers in the financial district could never be filled except for the throngs which pour out of the subway entrances from Brooklyn, Jersey, Washington Heights, the Bronx. Likewise the new sky-scraper development around Grand Central is fed with compressed humanity from four directions.
Influence of rapid transit on population and land values is seen with especial clearness in the case of Queens. Between 1905 and 1929, when the whole city gained almost 160 per cent in land value, Queens gained 1,000 per cent. What had been fields came into the market for home and factory sites as soon as rapid transit was provided. Profits in dispersing population are apparently larger than in concentrating it for working purposes. Since 1905 the financial district south of Fulton Street has gained, through new lines and additional stations on old lines, more than twenty points of access to rapid transit. During this period the land values in the financial district have risen at an average rate of 2 per cent per year. Other districts, newer in business development, have gone ahead faster; but still other districts have languished. Because of its concentration of transit facilities the financial district has gained in value and maintained its prestige against pressures effective in shifting retail trade and bringing serious lags to areas quite as well situated otherwise.
So many factors enter into the accretion of land values that it is impossible to segregate causal effects as related to old, already built areas. All manner of influences enter into the creation of unearned increment, among them the general growth of population, the changing value of money, the borrowing power and activity of builders and the cooperation of landlords, as well as increase in transportation facilities. But with reference to subways, it is at least significant that the rise in land value over the entire city in the past thirty years has been most marked when subway extensions were being pushed most actively, whether on paper or through the rock, anticipation usually discounting the actuality. Of the 160 per cent increase in land value which occurred between 1905 and 1929, 47 per cent took place before 1911, six years of rapid subway development. The World War brought into play new factors making for uncertainty, and a draining of capital away from land investment and fixed improvements into industrial and government securities, with the result that New York land values went up only 1 per cent between 1911 and 1915 and fell off slightly from that point until 1919. Then land commenced to soar, gaining 75 per cent in value by 1929, after which came forced liquidation and shrinking values. It appears that subways were a strong factor in the first boom, and that the subway moves of 1918 were influential in renewing the advance.
Bridges. As an island Manhattan is dependent for transportation upon bridges and ferries. The latter were tremendously important in the old days but have since been declining in relative importance. Of the four outlying boroughs of the city, only one, Richmond on Staten Island, is dependent upon water transport for direct approach to Manhattan; and Richmond will eventually have a subway tunnel giving access to Manhattan by way of Brooklyn. Ferry service to Brooklyn is gradually being reduced to the vanishing point by the competition of bridges and tunnels; and the same influences are at work on the once tremendous ferry traffic from the Jersey shore. Great bites in that traffic have been taken by the Hudson Tubes, the Holland Vehicular Tunnel, and the George Washington Bridge; and work has been begun on another great tunnel under the Hudson between Thirty-eighth Street, Manhattan, and Weehawken, New Jersey.
On the eastern edge of Manhattan the East River is spanned by four great bridgesthe Brooklyn, at City Hall; the Manhattan, at the Canal Street Plaza; the Williamsburg, at Delancey Street and the Queensboro at Sixtieth Street. The first of these made history, and the other great suspension bridges in the world are in a sense its children. To it Brooklyn owed its initial development as a readily accessible home section for persons working in New York, a development which has gone on until the borough of Brooklyn has surpassed Manhattan in resident population and holds more persons, at night, than any city in the country except Chicago.
Agitation for a bridge to Brooklyn began when both communities were hardly more than village size, long before 1800. Whenever the river froze solidly enough to interfere with the ferry, clamor arose for a bridge; but not much use would have been found for it in those days, for it is recorded that in 1800 there were no more than a dozen carriages in New Yorkan estimate which seems incredibly small but is given for what it is worth. In 1745 the only coach in New York belonged to Lady Murray of Murray Hill. Later came a large increase in stagecoach and omnibus travel, and ferry traffic also multiplied, with the result that in 1848 serious men began to listen to William C. Kingsley of Brooklyn, the propaganda parent of the Brooklyn Bridge. Kingsley was a contractor by occupation, a resolute civic leader by choice and something of a politician under pressure.
Years of work by this indomitable man finally brought the project before the legislature as a metropolitan project in 1864, after an earlier drive had been quashed by the outbreak of the Civil War. The legislature, with its usual resentment of urban adventures, refused approval. Then Old Man Weather lent a hand by freezing the East River solid in the winter of 1866-67. New York business men resident in Brooklyn trudged back and forth across the ice, wearing ear-muffs against the frost. With the whole political weight of the two cities thrown against legislative op-position, incorporation of the New York Bridge Company was approved in April, 1867, for $5,000,000, with power to acquire real estate, borrow money, and administer the bridge when it was completed. New York or Brooklyn or the two cities combined could take over the bridge for free public use by paying the cost plus 33 per cent, and either municipality could sub-scribe for its stock. This last provision saved the day, for private subscriptions were only $500,000, $300,000 of which came from the firm of the ardent Kingsley. The municipalities came to the rescue, Brooklyn with $3,000,000, New York with $1,500,000. When additional funds were required, the two cities put up $8,000,000 more, assumed the stock of private owners and made the bridge public property.
The bridge took thirteen years to build, as many of the engineering problems presented by the huge structure were utterly new to science. Its first engineer, John Roebling, died as a result of injuries sustained “on the job” and his son, Washington A. Roebling, became an invalid through caisson disease, but continued to direct the work. The first wire of the suspension system was strung August 1, 1876, and the bridge opened for traffic May 24, 1883. With approaches it cost $25,000,000. For years it rated as the world’s largest bridge and was commonly referred to as a ninth wonder of the world.
The elevated railway began to use the bridge during the first year. The first trolley cars crossed in 1898. Tolls were charged until 1891 at the following ratespedestrian, one cent; cow and driver, five cents; horse-drawn vehicle, ten cents.
In real estate values all Brooklyn, and the lower district of New York to a lesser degree, felt the effect of this bold construction work. Traffic on the bridge increased year by year until the construction of the more northerly bridges drew many travelers to the new routes. At present it carries fewer vehicles than any of the other three East River bridges; but it continues in popularity among pedestrians, not only for the daily walk of Brooklynites to and from their offices, but also for visitors to the city and residents in love with one of the great city’s noblest promenades. There is a cathedral-like majesty in the two great Gothic towers from which the bridge is suspended; under them one catches the same lift of heart and mind which makes the Dom at Cologne the most impressive of all European buildings to the American traveler. Then, as one moves away from the arches he has superb views of two vast cities, the soaring sky line of lower New York, the wharves of the busy river, the serried bridges upstream, and downstream the lower harbor with liners passing, bound to and from all ports of the earth.
Brooklyn Bridge has passed its fiftieth milestone; and in a city which seldom waits for a structure to grow old before replacing it with another, it has become a cherished landmark. Long ago, as bridge architecture developed toward the light and airy forms so gracefully executed in George Washington Bridge on the Hudson, Brooklyn Bridge assumed an antique appearance, precious to those who love solid fixtures in the midst of change. Close inspection and frequent repairs keep it hale and hearty, although occasional doubts are cast on its safety and a few years ago, as a precaution, trolley traffic was withdrawn, the need having passed with the multiplication of subway tunnels in that area. Barring an earthquakeand New York seems immune to earthquake shocksBrooklyn Bridge seems likely to outlive its younger competitors, as London Bridge has done in the older metropolis.
The utility of all four bridges across the East River is reduced by their constricted approaches, due to lack of foresight on traffic futures. In the case of the newest one, Queensboro, this is especially unfortunate, as opportunity existed to widen Fifty-ninth Street, thereby creating a broad traffic artery directly from Queens to Broadway at Columbus Circle. Not only was this neglected; the city also delayed the purchase of a block between 59th and 60th badly needed for a commodious bridge approach. The result shows dearly the folly of dallying in such matters. The block in question was assessed in 1907 for $1,227,000, in 1914 for $1,442,000, and in 1926 for $2,212,000. All the property wanted in 1907 to round out the bridge improvement could have been acquired in 1907 for less than half what it would have cost twenty years later, assessed valuations of $6,185,00 in 1907 having risen to $14,859,000 in 1928. The cost has now become so large that effective interest in the project seems to have evaporated entirely.
Railroads. Although destined to be the chief beneficiary of American railway development, Manhattan took calmly the beginning of rail transport. Relying on its superb water communications, it even looked askance at the efforts of John Stevens to promote early railroad building with state aid. Not until steam engines on rails had proved their efficiency in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina, and Schenectady and Albany had been linked by rail, did New York act.
In December, 1831, a few months after the steam success upstate, the Common Council granted a right of way to the New York and Harlem Railroad from the Astor House through Park Row, Centre and Broome streets, up the Bowery and Fourth Avenue to the Harlem River. The Harlem’s first station was located at Chambers and Centre streets, and subsequent stations were built farther and farther uptown as the city grew; one at White Street, another at Broome Street and the Bowery. Soon the Harlem River was bridged and the line moved north through the Westchester hills.
The New Haven, reaching out from its Connecticut center toward Boston and New York, won an entry into Manhattan by securing permission to use Harlem’s trackage, the two roads erecting a new station at Twenty-sixth Street and Fourth Avenue, the site used later for the old Madison Square Garden. An engine house and repair shop was established on the present Grand Central site at Forty-second Street. After its construction, as the increasing street traffic in the lower part of the city rendered the operation of steam trains dangerous, strings of cars were pulled from the Twenty-sixth Street depot to the waiting locomotive at Forty-second Street by four-, six-, and eight-horse teams, a quaint custom continuing down to 1871, when the earlier Grand Central Station was built on Forty-second Street.
This joint use of facilities by the Harlem and New Haven still holds and has been of paramount advantage to the city as well as to the railroads. In this way the amount of land devoted to unsightly yards in the heart of town has been halved and the joint resources of the two roads have been available for electrification, underground construction, and depot building on the majestic scale of the present Grand Central Station. In 1912, the latter took the place of a ground-level station of the usual odorous and unattractive type which defiles a neighborhood rather than improves it.
By putting its tracks underground from Forty-second to Ninety-sixth streets, the New York Central, as successor to the Harlem, became one of New York’s greatest landlords, with a long stretch of Park Avenue frontage available for use. In anticipation of covering their tracks, the railroad had previously added to its landholdings along the route by buying many blocks on either side and thus secured for itself the accretion in land values which resulted from its own improvements.
Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, the bold and successful operator of Staten Island ferries, who was al-ready in control of the Harlem and the New Haven, organized the New York and Hudson River Railroad, under grant of May 6, 1847, to operate along the Hudson River shore. The route from the station at the corner of Chambers and Hudson streets followed Hudson Street to Canal and West streets, then ran along the river to Spuyten Duyvil. In due course, the Commodore and his successors pushed their rails north to Albany on both sides of the river and through a series of judicious combinations and purchases, organized a united railway system from New York to Chicago on the geographically favorable “water-level” route. From Spuyten Duyvil south to St. John’s Park, the old line is now used only for freight; and its presence has created a busy manufacturing and warehousing section, with no pretension to beauty. Along one stretch of Tenth Avenue may still be observed the red flag being carried before switching engines; but this and other nuisances will soon be only history, as long sections of West side trackage are being either elevated or depressed. Electricity will soon supplant steam in the operation of trains there. After years of neglect, the West side is looking up, an impressive feature of its revival being the Miller Highway, an elevated thoroughfare along the waterfront.
Meanwhile the rich traffic generated by the nation’s greatest port brought nine other railroads hurrying to the Jersey shore. The Baltimore & Ohio came up from Maryland; the Pennsylvania and the Reading, from Philadelphia; the Erie, finding its original Eastern terminal at Piermont, New York, too far north for business, crept down to Jersey City. The coal roads came in from the anthracite regions. The jersey meadows became a maze of tracks, connection with Manhattan being maintained by means of ferries, tugs, and lighters, a traffic which makes New York harbor one of the busiest in the world.
This worked well enough for freight; but the ferry trip proved an obstacle in competition for passenger and express business. Completion of the Hudson Tubes in 1909 proved a mighty boon to several of the trans-Hudson roads; but the Pennsylvania, chief competitor of New York Central for New York to Chicago passenger traffic, was not satisfied until it tunneled under the Hudson on its own account, building its mighty station between Seventh and Eighth avenues and Thirty-third and Thirty-fourth streets. Making physical connection there with the Long Island Railroad, it went on to establish a through service with New England, the crossing from Long Island back to the main-land being compassed by the erection of the imposing Hell Gate Bridge. Thus New York awoke one morning to find that it had become for the first time in its history a “way-station.”
The next great railroad system likely to gain a foot-hold on the island is the Baltimore & Ohio, which has already established itself on Staten Island and from the waterfront of the least populous of the five boroughs looks hopefully across at the towers of Manhattan. There is always a chance that B. & O. eventually will be able to compass its objective by tunneling under the Narrows from Staten Island to Brooklyn and then into the heart of the Greater City by means of another tunnel under the East River.
In handling the water transit of this vast traffic, originating not only in the immense daily needs of New York City but also in exports and imports passing between ships and railroads, an elaborate lighterage system has been created which makes the inner harbor one of the busiest in the world. Tugs by the thousand push and pull huge barges, some of them large enough to carry strings of freight cars, from point to point along more than a hundred miles of waterfront in New York and New Jersey.
The fact that the harbor lay in two states, each eager to capitalize its natural advantage, caused never-ending complications which after long agitation resulted in the creation of the Port of New York Authority, by treaty between New York and New Jersey. This body has been quite unable, however, to compose all the frictions between the rival interests, particularly on the vital points of freight and lighterage charges. Recently the Interstate Commerce Commission has ruled favorably to New York on the long-standing custom under which the railroads provide free lighterage from the New Jersey shore to points in New York City. Under this arrangement shippers pay the railroads no more for landing their goods in New York than they would have to pay for sending them to Jersey’s tidewater docks. This decision is a body blow to struggling and ambitious Jersey ports, which threaten to carry an appeal to the Supreme Court. The dispute is never likely to end while the present political division of New York harbor holds, but for the time being the preeminence of New York as a port has been saved.
Akin to this, and further proof that a goodly part of Manhattan’s wealth and trade are due to traffic differentials, is the long fight which other ports along the Atlantic seaboard, notably Boston and Baltimore, have waged in support of their claim that railroad rates unduly favor the metropolis of the country. Where traffic reaches such enormous totals as it does in this area, even a light leverage on rates produces a marked effect on the routes commodities take to market. Such advantages as New York enjoys in rates are of long standing, originating in the days when competition between carriers fixed rates without review by public authority; and readjustments since have been within limits narrow enough to save New York’s position. Whatever body attempts to change the terms on which goods move to and from New York is in for a fight against a business community which marshals all possible influence against disturbing the status quo. Usually the disputes end with New York victorious, as in the lighterage case.
The Port Authority, in spite of its bi-state character, has not been able to resolve these conflicts, for the simple reason that they affect the entire country and are subject to Federal review. If the Authority has proved something of a disappointment in this respect, it has nevertheless succeeded well in another direction. With conspicuous ability, it has been able to harmonize the interests of New York and New Jersey as regards large-scale improvements jointly undertaken, notably the Holland Tunnel, the two bridges from New Jersey to Staten Island, the George Washington Bridge over the Hudson, the Union Freight Terminal, and the newly begun vehicular tunnel between Weehawken, New Jersey, and Thirty-eighth Street, Manhattan. These great works are striking examples of a fruitful union between private capital and public supervision, under agreement whereby they will pass completely into public ownership when tolls have liquidated their bonded debts.
Precisely as railroads have been handicapped in securing Manhattan terminals by the high cost of land and Manhattan’s insular geography, so with aviation also. The chief airports are an hour distant by bus from mid-town Manhattan, which inevitably reduces the speed differential in favor of air travel. For years the city has been trying to get the Federal government to vacate its military post at Governor’s Island, off the Battery, to permit the development of an adequate air-port there in close touch with the city’s most elaborate network of subways. Another possibility, though perhaps still too expensive to be considered seriously, would be to develop an airport on the lower East Side, which is losing population and going slummy at a rate which may force clearance of wider areas for public purposes. A third possibility is the erection of a high building at the water’s edge, with a roof large enough to permit landings by airplanes while seaplanes are serviced at water level. Every improvement in reducing landing speeds increases the possibility of this innovation, which is today no more improbable than naval airplane carriers seemed a few years ago.
For ordinary human travel by the masses, New York City has developed in its subway system the safest, cheapest, and fastest transportation in the world. By this means one may negotiate up to twenty-six miles of track for a nickel at an average speed of forty miles an hour. Street travel for both goods and persons remains relatively slow, due to congestion and an outdated street plan. For short distances it is quicker to walk than take a taxi and the urban costs of goods carriage frequently exceed their freight charges over considerable distances. Next steps, if fortune smiles and money comes easily, are likely to be the building of more passenger subways across Manhattan and the development of underground systems for freight distribution, extensions of the pattern recently set in Rockefeller Center.
There may be limits to the speed at which persons and goods may be transported; but words and thoughts move faster. The telephone system is today the great city’s indispensable nervous organism over which minds meet at unprecedented speeds. The personal inter-view is today a minor matter in business and correspondence records rather than initiates decisions. With television and other electric-wave methods of communication in a fair way to be achieved, the strain on the streets and subways may be further relieved. It is a fact that, if all the messages which flit across Manhattan had to be personally delivered, there would not be enough street space to accommodate the messengers.
Consequently transportation progress on Manhattan is but dimly reflected by the phrase “oxcarts to subways.” These are merely vehicles. The three hundred years’ sequence in speed runs from the crack of the carter’s whip to the click of the telephone as the receiver comes off the hook.