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Subway System of Berlin and New York Compared

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There are a few cities in the world that compare to the greatness and distinctness of New York and Berlin. One attribute that these two cities share in common are there incredible and unique Subway transportation systems. Growing population densities in both Berlin and New York and a need for an easier means for rapid transit planted the seeds for their subway systems, U-Bahn and the MTA Subway System for Berlin and New York, respectively. These two underground rapid transit systems evolved over time to the current subway systems through different determining factors including social, economic, and political causes that existed during the times these two systems were built.

These two subway systems served a pressing concern of increased traffic due to the growth of population densities in there municipal and business districts. Additionally, these subway systems placed both Berlin and New York in line as one of the major cities of the time, competing with both Paris and London who already had underground transit systems. A city's stature during the 1900's and today depend entirely on certain economic and social indicators that make it stand apart from the rest of the cities of the world. Some of these indicators are a little superficial although during the early 1900's one of the biggest and most important features which New York already earned was the construction of very tall skyscrapers. These created a major traffic problem and necessitated another major economic indicator of economic position for New York as a city that is compared to the cities of the rest of the world, mainly an underground rapid transit system. Daniel L. Turner, a consulting engineer in the 1920's explained the need for increased growth of the rapid transit system and the uniqueness which this demand stems from,

"There is no other place in the world except New York where a single business building during working hours has a resident population of 12,000 people. In this same building, the total number of people passing in and out a day was about 50,000, or measured in transit passengers coming and going, it amounted to 100,000 passengers that had to be carried to this one block and taken away during the day."

Berlin's U-Bahn and New York's Subway System, were both initially city planned and financed by private stakeholders. These stakeholders were later paid back by private companies that leased the subways from the city and operated the rapid transit lines for a profit. By this method of financing the projects, the cities which new that these new systems of transportation were necessary created a means for them to be constructed with little to no risk on their part. The construction costs of some of these lines in the range of 20-30 million dollars in early 1900's currency, which was an incredible amount of money [1].

Due to the high level of congestion and density of populations in these two large cities, public transportation, particularly an underground means became imminently necessary. In the years between 1900 and 1948 the traffic and need for rapid transit necessitated a means of transportation that was operable year round, unaffected by inclement weather. The underground rapid transportation system solved this problem by providing an easily accessible and rapid means of transportation in the winter times, while still easing congestion and providing an alternate method for getting from one place to the next. As a lead planner and advocate for the New York Subway system in the 1920's explained,

". . . There would be no dust. There would be no mud. They have simply to enter a station from the sidewalk and pass down a spacious and well lighted staircase to a dry and roomy platform. The temperature would be cool in summer and warm in winter. There would be no delays from snow or ice. . . . " [2]

Trip times on these newly proposed subways were estimated as fast as one-third the time it would have taken to travel the same distance by conventional horse and buggy during the early 1900a. The other advantages to a subway system included fewer accidents, fewer broken wheels and axles, and no frightened horses which would have resulted from an elevated rapid transit system [1].

Both Berlin and New York began their dreams of rapid transit systems in the late 1800's and finally opened their systems in the early 1900's. The excitement of a system such as this was incredible since the system was so new it became both a novelty and a major attraction for the crowds of New Yorkers who were waiting to ride this magnificent engineering feat. The New York Times on Friday, October 28th, 1904 reported,

"The official train made its run exactly on time, arriving at One Hundred and Forty-fifth Street in exactly twenty six minutes, and all along the way crowds of excited New Yorkers were collected around the little entrances talking about the unheard trains that they knew were dashing by below, and waiting eagerly for the first passengers to emerge from the underground passageways at their feet.

. . . Those who rode on these trains were the 15,000 invited guests and their friends. The general public would not be admitted until 7 o'clock, and its curiosity was vastly whetted all the afternoon by the unfamiliar appearance of crowds emerging from the earth." [1]




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