Despite the fact that NYC today has more than 8.5 million residents, the subway system had some of the highest ridership numbers back in the 1940s. In fact, a 1948 record was only recently beat in 2015 when 5.7 million rode the train daily, with annual ridership hitting 1.7 billion–another high not reached since the 1940s. To show just how packed the subway was 60 years ago, 6sqft has uncovered this 1949 film footage of daily subway operations from the New York Transit Museum Archives, which shows the crew working all the angles to keep trains running on time, while crowds jostle and shove to get to where they’re going.
“25 seconds delay; make it up before Bowling Green.” Things seemed to move pretty smoothly even though an estimated nearly seven million (5.5 million according to the video) people rode the subway on the average weekday–though elevated subway lines may have helped take some of the pressure off. The fact that our current subway still runs on an antiquated system built in the 1930s and the process of using pencil and paper to track train progress is just beginning to be replaced makes us wonder if things weren’t a lot more efficient back in the day.
- Annual Subway Ridership Hits 1.7 Billion, Highest Since 1948
- MTA board members admit subway service is terrible
- The NYC Subway Still Runs on 1930s Technology, Pen and Paper
- All NYC subway coverage