There’s No NYC without the MTA

The 1 Train connects the Bronx to the rest of NYC. WIKIPEDIA/COURTESY

By Barbara Vasquez, Staff Writer

NYC has the largest transportation network in the United States, with well over 300 million annual riders of the city transit in 2021. With so much of NYC’s population using the many trains and buses around the city, it’s interesting to learn more about the evolution of the transit system- the subways in particular.

NYC originally had two different private subway companies, including the Interborough Rapid Transit (IRT) and the Brooklyn Manhattan Transit (BMT). The IRT was the company running number trains, and the BMT ran letter trains. 

In the 1930s, a city-owned and operated company called the IND, standing for the Independent Subway System, was opened to compete with these two private companies, until they were unified in 1940 to form one subway system under city control. In 1968, the MTA took over this company as well, leading to all subways being placed under the MTA’s jurisdiction- a system that has made little changes since then. The vice president of Manhattan College’s Train Club, Jadon Schneider, went in-depth into the reasons why these unifications began.

“The thing that really drove these unification decisions was money,” Schneider said. “You saw the BMT and IRT entering bankruptcy due to a city law forcing them to keep their prices at a nickel, which was the original price when the subway was formed in 1904. And because of inflation, by the time the 1920s and 1930s rolled around, especially through the Great Depression, that was just not enough money for them to keep the budgets balanced.” 

The decision to unify the systems was ultimately a positive one, said MC Train Club president William Reed.

“I would probably say it was for the better since it resulted in a unified system,” Reed said. “This way there’s the same fares and I guess you could say more options for connections between the number and letter lines… You now have essentially all the public transit under one agency in NYC.”

Since the subways were unified under the MTA, few changes have been made to its administration. Though many city-goers do agree that some updates need to be made to the trains and subways throughout the city, one of the more popular suggestions is better maintenance. Bronx native and MC student Aaliyah Cruz shared her opinions on some of the changes she wants to see.

“I would want them [the subway stations] to be cleaner- definitely clean up all the trash around them since so many are so dirty,” Cruz said.

Considering that the subway and bus systems in NYC see over 300 million riders annually, there is a question to be asked- could the city function without the public transit system? For many, the answer is a very simple one- no. 

“If we didn’t have this infrastructure capable of moving so many people the city couldn’t function,” Schneider said. “You can’t move that many people around in cars. It’s just not physically possible. And the ability to not dedicate all this space to cars because of our public transportation system is what allows New York City to be such a socially vibrant place.”

MC Train Club member and NYC native Maroon Hammonds elaborated on this point as well.

“It’s a lifeline that’s ingrained in you if you’ve grown up in the city, just taking the train and using public transport in general,” Hammonds said. 

People throughout the city, whether native or new, have different reasons for using the train. Reed shared his perspective on being an MC student with direct access to the 1 train.

“You have Manhattan College that is right next to two subway stations technically- 242nd and 238th- and with that, you practically have direct access to not only Manhattan, but the rest of New York City and the rest of the country because the 1 train stops at Penn Station,” Reed said. “And not only can you take the subway for commuting purposes, but you can also take it to go to conferences, meet with friends, have a nice dinner, go watch a play, do anything really.” 

Cruz shared some of her favorite places to go utilizing the transit system as well.

“Of course I use public transportation! I mainly do the 4 and 1 trains to go to fun places with my friends, like Dave and Busters,” Cruz said. “I also use the Bx9 a lot since it’s so close [to the school].”

A few students shared some advice for those new to the subways and gave tips about how to enjoy the Bronx. 

“You always wanna have a hand on whatever belongings you’re carrying with you,” Schneider said. “I’ve seen so many instances where someone runs by and just snatches something that was left unattended.”

Bronx native Vincent Lombardozzi gives some insight into his own favorite places around the borough and how people new to the area can see the full beauty of the Bronx.

“I’d say my favorite place to go is probably Arthur Avenue,” Lombardozzi said. “Probably biased for me since that’s where my parents grew up, but it has a lot of Italian culture, and, well I’m Italian. In addition to that, I think there’s a lot of culture in the Bronx, a lot to be proud of. There’s the Bronx Zoo, Fordham Road, Yankee Stadium, all these areas- Botanical Gardens too. So I would say visit all the places that the Bronx has to offer and be proud to be in the Bronx.”