Reflection on Clifton Hood’s “The Subway and the City”

Directly apparent in Hood’s story of the New York underground rail system is the true sense of wonder that new technology brings with its conception. Essentially, New York went from a city that was so expansive that one could spend all day crossing it, to a metropolis whose corners could be reached at high speeds through the dark overnight. New Yorkers had subway parties and rode the rail for fun in its early days as spectators rather than commuters. Most had never traveled as fast as forty miles an hour before and many didn’t have the courage to ride though they had purchased tickets (Boehm 334). According to Hood’s research, on Sunday, October 30, 1904, “almost one million people chose to go subway riding… (while) the IRT could only accommodate 350,000 a day, and many people had to be turned away” (Boehm 334). Fights and arguments broke out and the police were needed to restore order. New York was subway mad. It is funny to note that this subway “worship” lead to a harsh backlash when the IRT started installing their advertisements in the stations. They even had to defend themselves in court due to the uproar over how the ads were “cheap and nasty” (Boehm 335). It is interesting that today we see the ads as common and rather tertiary to the experience of being jettisoned to one place or the other by mass transit. Still, the subway remained a tourist destination and the gem of the city for years. And, due to its high speeds, the subway became the dominant form of mass transit linking parts of the city together that previously had been rather autonomous. The subway truly pushed New York to the forefront of cutting edge in the eyes of the world. What form of transport is more fitting for the ultimate metropolis?

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