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New York City Subway

Location:4/5 toward Grand Central Station.

Yes, you read that right. Today, my topic is not about Washington DC’s beloved (or not so beloved) Metro system. Instead, I will be writing about it’s wrinkled older brother—the New York City Subway.

The folks in New York City opened their subway system in 1904. Back then, it was called the Interborough Rapid Transit (IRT). In addition, they also had an elevated train system (discontinued now). In contrast, Washington DC built the first Metro station in 1969 and opened the first segment in 1976. So, the DC Metro is actually more than 70 years younger.

Take a moment and compare the maps of the two transit systems:

NYC Subway

DC Metro

Notice the rat’s nest of lines, stops, expresses, and boroughs that make up the NYC subway’s map. Compare it to the clean (but limited) simplicity of the DC Metro.

More than 1.4 billion people ride the NYC subway each year. About 195 million ride the DC Metro. To put it in perspective, you could fit the number riding on the DC Metro inside NYC’s 7 times over.

While I was riding the 4/5 lines in NYC (don’t call it the green line—people will laugh at you) I noticed some differences between their attitudes and attitudes of the riders on the DC system. First of all, folks in NYC are not afraid to stare at you. They are also not afraid of sitting so close to you that you share their every bodily function (eating, farting, sweating, you name it). In DC, we are hyper-alert to the merest touch, screaming bloody murder when someone even accidentally brushes you.

I think there’s a real cultural difference here. While I was on the NYC subway, we were approached by panhandlers asking for money. They played music, sang something incomprehensible, and passed an hat around. This is something you would never see on a DC Metro, and if it happened, people would get angry. What does that say about the culture here in DC?

In any case, it’s an experience any DC Metro rider should go through. Take a cheap Chinatown bus up to NYC and zoom around on the NYC subway.

For more information about the histories of these two transit systems, take a look at these websites: DC Metro History at GMUNYC Subway History at SubwayWebNews.

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