In a word: history
The New York City Subway is the lifeblood of the city, yet it seems perpetually embroiled in crisis; though it’s currently caught in a terrible backlog of deferred maintenance, the city can’t function without it, as the mounting panic over next year’s L train shutdown makes clear. Yet as a circulatory system, it leaves certain limbs significantly undernourished. Why was there only one line for the whole East Side of Manhattan until the Second Avenue line finally opened last year? Why does the G train wind so lonely and awkwardly from Brooklyn to Queens? Why are the Downtown Brooklyn lines such a chaotic thicket of difficult transfers, while other densely populated parts of the borough, like East Flatbush, are devoid of service?
The answers are embedded in the subway’s historic origins. While you may know that the subway opened in 1904…
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