Rush Hour Blockade Jams Subway Crowds (1904)

From nycsubway.org

The New York Times · Saturday, October 29th, 1904

Other Delays, Day and Evening, Pack Many Stations
They Are Satisfied with Results - 350,000 Passengers Carried from Midnight to Midnight Yesterday

Three long delays and a number of shorter delays, due to defective working of electrical machinery, caused by what General Manager Headley described as the "newness of the equipment," occurred on the first complete day's operation of the rapid transit subway. The worst delay caused a wait of seventeen minutes for express trains at the Brooklyn Bridge station and twenty-three minutes at the Ninety-sixth Street Station, following the short circuiting of the motor on a south-bound express near One Hundred and Third Street at 4:53 o'clock in the afternoon.

This mishap, which had been preceded by two others of similar nature, came at a bad time -- the beginning of the evening rush hours. The crush that had been evident along the tunnel all day became so bad, especially at the down-town stations, that the police had to keep great throngs of people out of the stations until the service could be restored. Later, there were two short delays, during which the agents down town stopped selling tickets as the crowds piled up outside.

It was estimated by Mr. Hedley last night that about 350,000 passengers would be the total carried on the new road for the twenty-four hours ending at midnight. During the rush hours, barring the periods of delay, the maximum capacity of 25,000 an hour was accommodated, he said. Forty-five trains were in operation, each of five cars, twenty of them expresses and twenty-five locals. The local schedule - three minute headway - was maintained with only a few short lapses throughout the day. The express schedule, designated to be graded from four to ten minute intervals, was more erratic, but for the most part the trains were not far out of time.

The detailed reports for Thursday from 7 P. M. to midnight showed that 111,881 passengers, or 22,376 1/5 and hour, had been carried, making the receipts $5,594.05. The Interborough Rapid Transit Company announced that this money from the Subway's first five hours of regular operation would be distributed among the city hospitals as a gift.

While there were passengers on the elevated and surface railroads who thought they could detect great relief from the usual crowding, Mr. Hedley said that the west side elevated lines had not lost more than 75,000 out of the regular 500,000 daily patrons, and the east side lines have lost far less. That the surface cars' receipts suffered was apparent to everybody. Those lines near the subway route were never crowded, even during rush hours, and the effect of the tunnel was seen in diminishing ratio all the way across town.

That many of the Subway passengers yesterday were sightseers was certain. On the other hand, it was said by the officials that many who ultimately would be regular passengers of the road were dodging it now on account of the rush of the curious.

One feature of the tunnel about which comment -- always unfavorable -- was heard all along the line was the array of conspicuous advertisements on the station platforms. In addition to the ones which had been lined against the walls on Thursday there appeared many larger ones - higher than a man's head. They covered the artistic tiling of the walls almost from floor to ceiling at intervals. An inquiry into the legal status of the question showed that the Rapid Transit Commission could not prevent the company from disfiguring the entire walls with these cards, provided there was no interference with operation nor with "the easy identification of stations."

There were four accidents during the day and evening. All were caused by crowding passengers getting their feet caught in the spaces between the station platforms and cars. The worst was that of a woman who was taken to Bellevue hospital from the fourteenth street station with a broken thigh.

The First Day's Story

Short Circuit Makes Worst Delay - Ticket Men Give Up - Four Accidents.

"What was learned from the first day's operation of the tunnel?" General Manager Hedley was asked when he returned last night, after he had spent the best part of ten hours watching the trains between the City Hall and Harlem.

"Well," he said, "we had some trouble - some very annoying blocks."

After explaining that during the weeks of trial trains there had been a number of hitches on account of new equipment and new operatives, he said that he expected the delays to become less and less numerous day by day.

"They are things we have to look for at the start," he added, "but after we are well underway there's no more reason for them in the subway than on the elevated road."

On the whole he was satisfied with the showing of the tunnel. "I'd be an ungrateful cuss if I wasn't," he remarked, then explaining that the system of inspecting cars and tracks to ensure absolute safety was in good working order. One thing he had noticed during the day was that many people bought tickets by the hundred.

"Looks as though the people like it, doesn't it?" he said, "I think they'll keep liking it. It will run more smoothly every day from now on."

The worst block the General Manager had investigated was the one that followed the short circuiting of the express that was coming south into One Hundred and Third Street Station at 4:53 o'clock. The other two bad ones began at 12:45 and 4 o'clock, respectively, the first causing a delay of about fourteen minutes in the express service, and the last continuing less than ten minutes. These and most of the shorter delays were on the express tracks, and the only block of local trains that amounted to much lasted about fifteen minutes in the middle of the afternoon.

A look into the Brooklyn Bridge Station during the rush hours last night showed the worst view of the day's tunnel experiences. When the seventeen-minute delay following the big block was ended, the police were confronted by a regular mob outside the entrance, but less than five minutes afterward, as the express trains came by in rapid succession and hardly more than a minute behind each other, normal rush hour conditions had been re-established.

Crowding the Expresses. On the express platforms, the scene was similar to that witnessed on the City Hall station or Rector Street station of the elevated road any evening, except that the jamming into the narrow doors of the tunnel cars was worse than into the wider gates of the elevated. Platform guards stood ready to help push in the passengers, ordered a gates closed, and give the starting signal. Policemen were stationed at frequent intervals, pushing and being pushed, and as fast as one train pulled out, another waiting throng seemed to fill up the platform as if by magic.

When the expresses came regularly the locals were not so popular, and occasionally one would start north without any strap hangers, while every express had as many standing as sitting. After the long block, however, there were two very short ones that caused even a greater crush, for by that time the homeward rush was in full swing, and a minute's delay meant adding hundreds to those already on the platforms. During one of these delays - the train was not more than two minutes late - the ticket sellers had to stop work again, so speedily had the crowd accumulated outside.

The same scenes, with somewhat smaller crowds, were enacted at the Fourteenth and Forty-second Street Stations. At the same time the passengers bound down town from the Eighteenth and Twenty-third Street local stations had become so numerous that the police shut off access several times, although there was no block of the local trains at any time during the rush hours. The crowding was enormous at every point where evening traffic congestion would be expected. Even after the rush hours, in fact, there were instances of crowds too big for the station capacity at various places, and once late in the evening ticket selling was again stopped at the bridge just because the express trains were blocked for a couple of minutes.

Officials Happy. The officials of the road were all enthusiastic over the first day's record of the tunnel. Vice President Bryan and President Belmont both said they were delighted with the Subway. Contractor McDonald said he was especially gratified with the way the people show their appreciation and their forbearance at slight delays.

"I am gratified that the way they have up here to recognize my share in the work," he added. "I always knew it would be a success."

Mr. Bryan told how he rode down town from Forty-second Street early in the morning hanging to a strap. Mr. Hedley and Chief Engineer William Barclay Parsons of the commission had the same experience. Mayor McClellan said he was sure the Subway would be popular and a good business proposition.

"I liked my experience as a motorman," he added. "But I think it would become monotonous as a steady job. I'd rather be a chauffeur, I think."

It was after Mr. Belmont had received the report of Mr. Hedley that 111,881 passengers were carried Thursday night that he issued the following statement:

For the benefit of those who were suffering yesterday while the rest of the city was rejoicing, the Interborough Company will send the receipts from the operation of the Subway yesterday to the city hospitals.

No plan as to the exact distribution of the money was made. It probably will be turned over to the Mayor to divide among the city institutions.

The policing of the subway by the city continued all day, at least two officers being assigned to every platform. Commissioner McAdoo said the guard would stay on duty for several days, until the crowds got used to the tunnel and the company was prepared to do its own policing. He said he expected a lot of sightseers on excursions from out of town, especially to-day and to-morrow, but on Monday the number of policemen along the line might be decreased.

The "Subway rush" yesterday began in earnest soon after 7 o'clock as far as the up-town stations were concerned, but there had been not a few passengers all through the night. When the money collector, in a specially constructed steel car, passed along on his return trip to One Hundred and Forty-fifth Street between midnight Thursday and 1:30 A. M. the trains he passed were still well patronized.

How the Crowds Were Handled. At 5:30 the local trains, the number of which had been gradually diminished, began to run more frequently, and their ten-minute headway had improved to a four-minute schedule at 7 o'clock. Half an hour later the regular three-minute time table was in progress. The first express, after a recess of nearly six hours, left One Hundred and Forty-fifth Street, reaching the bridge twenty-six and one-half minutes later. It was followed by another in six minutes, but soon the time decreased to five and then to four minutes before 7 o'clock. There was not another expressed during the day, however, that made the through run in twenty-six and a half minutes, which is one-and-a-half minutes over the scheduled time allowed in the ante-opening calculations.

After the crowds had been increasing gradually until 7:30 expresses began to fill up fast, so fast that the strap hangers were soon as numerous as the sitters. From then until the end of the down-town rush hours, every station and every express train was packed, while many of the locals also had no empty seats. That there was no serious congestion was because the trains ran in good order. It was not until many hours later that the series of blocks began.

From down town, too, there was a morning rush, and at the Brooklyn Bridge Station 12,500 tickets had been sold before 10 o'clock, most of them in the one hour preceding. More than 3,000 were sold at the local loop station under City Hall Park in the same time, and before 8 o'clock there was a general rush for the Subway through every station, up town and down town, from there to Harlem.

Without any let-up, a steady stream of passengers wrote up and down through the less crowded hours. Many trains in the early afternoon had no seats empty. Others showed a few facant seats, but there was not one which wouldn't have been called "well filled." That many of the passengers were riding for the ride was evident, and all seemed to take the occasional delays of the afternoon with good nature.

Some Train Records. The following records of train runs were fair examples of the way trains traveled in the intervals between blocks. After the early rush, all locals made One Hundred and Thirty-seventh Street their northern terminal, while all express is went to One Hundred and Forty-fifth street, running as locals above Ninety-sixth Street.




Brooklyn Bridge-2:23:15
14th St.2:27:152:28:15
Grand Central-42d St.2:31:302:32:15
72d St.2:37:002:37:45
96th St.2:40:302:41:15
103d St.2:43:002:44:00
110th St.2:46:002:46:20
116th St.2:47:402:48:00
Manhattan St.2:49:402:50:50
137th St.2:56:452:57:30
145th St2:59:00-
Time from Brooklyn Bridge to 96th St17:15
Schedule Time14:30
Time from Brooklyn Bridge to 145thSt35:45
Schedule Time25:00
137th St.-3:18:50
Manhattan St.3:20:253:20:40
116th St.3:22:353:22:55
110th St.3:24:003:24:15
103d St.3:25:503:26:05
96th St.3:28:453:29:05
91st St.3:30:103:30:20
86th St.3:31:203:31:35
79th St.3:32:503:33:00
72d St.3:34:253:34:45
66th St3:35:453:36:00
60th St.3:37:153:37:30
50th St.3:39:253:39:40
Times Sq.3:40:453:41:15
Grand Central3:43:003:44:25
33d St.3:46:053:46:15
28th St.3:47:153:47:30
23d St.3:48:303:49:00
18th St.3:49:553:50:05
14th St.3:51:003:51:25
Astor Pl.3:52:353:53:00
Bleecker St.3:54:053:54:25
Spring St.3:55:253:55:40
Canal St.3:56:403:56:55
Worth St.3:57:353:58:00
Brooklyn Bridge3:59:153:59:50
City Hall4:00:30-
Time from 137th Street to City Hall41:30
Schedule Time38:00

The first accident and the only serious one as yet suffered by a Subway passenger occurred about 2 o'clock yesterday morning at the Fourteenth Street station. Miss Sadie Lawson, twenty-six years old, of 609 Jersey Avenue, Jersey City, fell between the platform and a local train, and received a fracture of her left hip. The train was not moving, fortunately, but the guards were closing the gates preparatory to giving the starting signal when the young woman fell, and had not her companions shouted to the nearest guard, the train would have gone ahead and probably caused a fatality.

Miss Lawson's companions, Miss Lillie Garrabrandt of 244 West Twelfth Street, William Hickson of 1441 Broadway, and William Quinn of 244 Sixth Avenue, pulled her up to safety, and Miss Lawson was taken to Bellevue.

During the evening rush hours at Times Square there were two small accidents, both occurring in the same way, on the north-bound platform. When an ambulance from Roosevelt Hospital stopped at the station there was considerable confusion, and hundreds of persons crowded on the platform to see what the trouble was.

While alighting from a train Hilda Rutherford, thirty-three years old, of Tottenville, S. I., slipped and fell between the car platform and the station platform. Her right leg was tightly wedged between the car and platform, and she was lifted out. She refused to go to the hospital. About five minutes after the ambulance which had attended Miss Rutherford had left Benjamin Jacob, thirty-five years old, who lives at the Hotel St. George in Brooklyn, was caught in the same way. He received a cut on the left leg and also suffered from shock.

The third accident at Times Square took place shortly after 9 o'clock last night. Domicco Sprina, forty-eight years old, of 110 Sands Street, Brooklyn, was attempting to board a north-bound train when he slipped and fell between the platform and cars. He was pulled out by guards and was found to be suffering from contusions about the legs and a dislocated right shoulder. He was taken to Roosevelt Hospital.

Travel last night was considerably interrupted by long stops that nobody could or would explain clearly. The effect was to not the schedule to smithereens.

As early as 6 o'clock, when the first evening rush was not yet over, a local train stopped for ten minutes had Astor Place and made the trip to Forty-second Street hardly any faster than it could have been made on the surface lines. At about 10 o'clock there was a block at Forty-second Street. The waiting crowd there grew to great size before the trains began to move again. Interruptions were frequent all over the road almost for the entire evening, in one or two instances trains being stalled for a time between stations. The crowd took these halts and interruptions with good grace, apparently without fear of consequences.

There was again a large crowd of subway sightseers who, not having been able to be "first-nighters" were content to be "second-nighters." They began to flock into the down-town stations at about 8 o'clock. The crowd was perhaps the largest at the Brooklyn Bridge and City Hall stations, but it was fairly large elsewhere. This crowd wrote up to One Hundred and Thirty-seventh and One Hundred and Forty-fifth Streets, as on the night before, and then down again, and home. On the down trip they met a little of the theater crowd. many stations were congested. Thereafter throughout the evening the traffic was moderate and easily managed.

Can't Stop Unsightly "Ads."

Manhattan-Bronx Subway Contract Permits Them - Brooklyn Escapes.

Mayor McClellan's comment upon the disfiguring of the handsome subway stations by covering parts of the tiled walls with gaudy advertisements was followed by general comment on the subject by the passengers who traveled on the road yesterday.

On Thursday, while the first official train was making its trip, workmen brought into the tunnel and placed against the station walls conspicuous cards about three feet in height, each in a gilded tin frame. All of the announcements were the same size. They rest on the floors and are not fastened to the walls.

A new size of card made its appearance early yesterday. It was shaped like the first, but three times as large, standing higher than a man's head and reaching from the platform almost to the ornamental frescoing around the ceiling.

When Albert B. Boardman, counsel for the Rapid Transit Commission, was asked if the company had a right to "decorate" the stations this way, he said it was his opinion that it had. He recalled the provision in the McDonald contract for the Manhattan-Bronx Subway, which reads as follows:

The contractor shall not permit advertisements in the stations which shall interfere with the easy identification of stations or otherwise with efficient operation.

Mr. Boardman said the Subway placards did not appear to interfere with the signs designating the location of the stations, and they did not seem to be in the way of passengers or operators.

"But as I recall Contract 2," he added, "it contains a more stringent provision, giving the board power to control the station advertising."

Contract No. 2 is the contract for the Brooklyn extension now being built from the Post Office, in this borough, to Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues, Brooklyn. The paragraph relating to the advertisements on the station's of this tunnel is as follows:

"No posters, billboards, or advertisements of any kind shall be allowed at or in stations except with the written permission of the board, (the Rapid Transit Commission,) revocable at any time, it being the policy of the city that public property shall not be obstructed, disfigured, or made ugly by advertisements."

No advertisements are allowed in the Boston Subway, and it was not until the New York tunnel was opened that the public knew they were on the programme here. During the rush of sightseers Thursday night many of the tin-framed placards were overturned by people waiting on the platforms.

Once or twice the guards caught passengers carefully turning the announcement store the wall. At one station a guard said yesterday that he was kept busy righting the advertisements half the night, but there had been no recurrence of the trouble yesterday morning or afternoon.

Day's Subway Loss - One Pin

It Was Worth $10 - Stray Parrot Rescued on Elevated

If one loses anything while travelling in the Subway it is not necessarily gone forever. The lost article department is located at 39 Greenwich Street, where is also that of the Manhattan Elevated.

Notwithstanding the multitude that has written in the underground, the department had less business yesterday from Subway them from elevated patrons. On the elevated a woman lost a poll parrot in a cage, but when she arrived at the end of the road the bird was already on its way to the lost article department. Several handkerchiefs, canes, a pair of eyeglasses, and a bundle were also returned to their owners.

The record for the subway was one lost necktie pin valued at $10.00.

Russell Sage Converted

Now Thinks Subway a Great Thing for the City.

Russell Sage yesterday said that he had taken a ride in the subway, that he was much pleased with it, and thought it would prove a great thing for the city.

Mr. Sage was one of those most opposed to a subway of any sort for many years. Among other things he said that it was an impossibility, and that if it were started it would never be completed.

nycsubway.org is not affiliated with any transit agency or provider.
Not mobile.