Those shuttle trains between Grand Central and Times Square can certainly get crowded during rush hour, so imagine bypassing the underground connection and hopping on a giant conveyor belt in clear, gondola-like cars? We’re not exactly sure if this sounds more or less appealing, but it’s exactly what the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company proposed in 1951, hoping to transport 60,000 New Yorkers daily a third faster than the subway thanks to a continuous loop.
Surprisingly, the New York Board of Transportation allocated $3.8 million to construct the belt system on the existing shuttle tracks. From its offices in Akron, Ohio, Goodyear spent a year testing its design, even making sure it could accommodate women in heels, shoppers with their arms full, and handicapped persons. A newspaper article described the conveyor belt:
Passengers would walk into a loading belt moving at one and a half miles an hour, one-half the normal walking speed. Parallel to this belt and moving at the same rate of speed would be a continuous stream of ten-seat cars. Passengers would step from the loading platform into the small cars.
As the cars were carried past the end of the loading belt they would enter upon banks of rubber-tired wheels. Here the cars would accelerate speed gradually to 15 miles an hour. At the far end the cars would ride into similar banks of decelerating wheels which would slow them down to one and a half miles an hour. Passengers could then step from the car to the parallel unloading belt.
But alas, just a few months after setting aside funding, the Board of Transportation’s budget director cut spending for transportation or hospital projects, and the Goodyear conveyor belt was never realized.
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