If Today’s NY Post Editorial Board Were Writing in 1904…

Inspired by the bike-share screed in today’s Post and the excellent archive at nycsubway.org

August 1, 1904 – It’s time to admit that New York City should never have embarked on the folly of Subway construction.

Here we sit, four years after the work of excavating the city’s streets began, and while the taxpayer has taken on enormous debt to build the Subway, he has not taken a single ride on this fantastical underground train. The Tammany-appointed bureaucrats, whose mania for rail below-the-streets verges on psychosis, assure us that the tunnel and stations are nearing completion, but we have not seen them, and we are far past the point of taking the backers of this project at their word.

The vibrations will be so unsettling!

Yes, London has had its underground trains for 40 years, and Boston has operated a subway for seven, but those cities are not New York. New York already has our elevated trains rumbling by and rattling tenement windows. We do not need the Subway, and we should have known a long time ago that New York could not build it.

When the city granted a franchise to Commodore Vanderbilt in 1872 to build a below-ground railroad, and he proceeded not to lift a finger, we should have known that the Subway is not for New York.

When property owners rebelled against the Rapid Transit Commission’s 1891 plan to build a subway underneath Broadway, which also failed to attract a single credible construction bid, we should have recognized inevitable defeat when it was staring us in the face.

When the courts ruled that raising the necessary funds to build the Subway would exceed the city’s constitutional debt limit, that should have been the final warning sign.

When the winning bidder on the current Subway, John B. McDonald, was found to lack sufficient capital and had to be rescued by August Belmont, the city should not have proceeded to sign a contract.

When, on January 27, 1902, a dynamite explosion killed five workers and injured scores of other people, we should have abandoned the project, filled in the tunnels, and paved the streets back over right then and there.

It’s not too late to give up. It’s time for Mayor McClellan to abandon this boondoggle and admit that New York will never be a Subway city.

Meanwhile, back in the present…

It’s taking longer than expected to get Citi Bike software up to snuff. No public funds are at risk, and as far as I can tell, the worst-case scenario is that we’ll all have to wait a few months. I’m as disappointed as anyone that the public bikes aren’t available yet, but the phrase that comes to mind is: “Big deal.”

  • Larry Littlefield

    Better to get it right, as long as it is fully operational and has several months of operations before the next mayor can cancel it.

  • Mark Walker

    This post is funny — but the media-supported starvation of the MTA’s capital and operating budget is not. State pols get away with malign neglect of the NY transit system while that clown Greg Mocker of PIX11 runs around with his big checks and thousand-page printouts. Wow, Greg, you discovered that transporting five million people a day results in big payments and long documents? Whoop-de-do.

  • J

    Agreed that the Post is incredibly short-sighted on this, and in the grand scheme of things, the delay is not a big deal at all. It relieving to see this put into perspective, Ben.
    That said, bad news doesn’t get better with age, and if the system isn’t launching until the Spring, it’s better for DOT to tell us now and be honest about what’s going on. Otherwise, the din of speculation and rumors is only going to get louder. As an advocates, I find myself having a much harder time defending this situation, since I have no idea what the situation is.

  • Anonymous


    Yes, London has had its underground trains for 40 years, and Boston has operated a subway for seven, but those cities are not New York. 

    Haha. This isn’t Amsterdam, Beijing or Ho Chi Minh City either! 

  • J, if this is driven by litigation between Alta and their billing software vendor, then they will not be open with us about anything. It’s infuriating, but nothing anyone can do about it. And goes a long way to explain why Alta’s been so cagey about their expansion plans in Boston. 

  • Reader

    Jesus, the New York Post comment section is absolutely filled with knuckle-draggers. What a moronic bunch of brown-shirts these people are.

  • fj

    The pittance spend on bikeshare is laughable and the fact that 80% of this city’s public space – its public road system — is not safe from cars is a major tragedy since it is by the threat of bodily harm that the automobile and fossil fuel monopolies prevail.

    Simple mechanical collision avoidance systems for small bicycle-like vehicles existed way back in the 1880s and the capability to make vast, extremely safe, high performance net-zero transit systems at minimal cost has been possible for many years.

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