Taking the Long View on the Ill-Fated Second Avenue Subway


For people who know its history, the Second Avenue Subway is the transportation equivalent of the perennially losing Chicago Cubs.

It’s the Gang that Couldn’t Shoot Straight, or Woody Allen’s hapless thief from Take the Money and Run.

First conceived in 1919, the Second Avenue Subway has been launched, postponed and relaunched multiple times. Last month, the MTA decided to divert $1 billion that was originally slated to go towards building the next segment. (The first segment, on the Upper East Side, is expected to open in a year.)

In an interview with WNYC’s Soterios Johnson, Clifton Hood, a professor of history at Hobart and William Smith Colleges and author of 722 Miles: The Building of the Subways and How They Transformed New York, said the specifics vary but there’s one underlying reason why the line has had such trouble.

“The problem with New York City from 1920 to today is that we’ve never been able to come up with a formula that would provide the subways with the money they need to maintain good shape,” he said.

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