Transportation for Greater New York (1920)

From nycsubway.org

Electric Railway Journal · Vol. 56, No. 22 · November 27, 1920 · pp. 1095-1106.

Transportation for Greater New York. Civil Engineers Discuss Plans for Metropolitan District -- H. M. Brinckerhoff Recommends Balanced Development by East and West Lines -- Discussion Participated in by Representatives of Rapid Transit Commission, Transportation Companies and Others.

The transportation needs of Greater New York was the topic considered at a meeting of the New York Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers, held at the Engineering Societies Building, New York, on Nov. 17. An invitation to be present had been extended by this section to the Metropolitan Section of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and to the New York Section of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers. The subject, whose official title was "Urban and Suburban Passenger Transportation," was introduced by a paper presented by Henry M. Brinckerhoff of Parsons, Klapp, Brinckerhoff & Douglas, consulting engineers. W. J. Wilgus, consulting engineer, and formerly vice-president New York Central Railroad, acted as chairman of the meeting. Abstracts are given of Mr. Brinckerhoff s paper and of the discussions which followed it.


Let us first free our minds of our habitual ideas of New York as Manhattan Island and think rather of the great surrounding district extending even outside of the five boroughs of Greater New York. The population of Manhattan New York, by the 1920 United States census is 2,284,103, or nearly 50,000 less than in 1910. Old Manhattan New York as an independent, self-contained city no longer exists. Part of its residential population has been forced out and beyond its borders by the crowding in of business, and others of its citizens have been tempted to move across the rivers by the improved transportation offered by its enlarged rapid transit lines.

For our purpose we may take the New York Metropolitan District substantially as defined by the United States Census Department, which includes in New York State the five boroughs of Greater New York and Westchester County north to include Yonkers and New Rochelle. On the New Jersey side it takes in all of Bergen and Hudson counties and parts of the counties of Passaic, Essex and Union. This district is shown in the first accompanying map and is outlined by a heavily shaded broken line. Taking the intersection of Thirty-fourth Street and Fifth Avenue of Manhattan as the urban center of activity and describing circles with 5, 10, 15 and 20 mile radii we find that this Metropolitan District lies mostly within the 15-mile circle and all within 20 miles of the center. It is true that there are in this territory many entirely independent, unrelated classes of people and interests, but we also find a constant growth in the commoner functions of city life. The trains, for instance, not only carry workers morning and evening from Newark to New York, but also simultaneously from homes in New York to employment in Newark. The average population density of this district is 21 per acre, which is the same as corporate Chicago in 1916.

The conception of this whole district as a Metropolitan unit, a single city, involves an urban and suburban traffic view in which Manhattan Island figures as the central delivery district for this larger area, with subcenters of activity in Brooklyn, Newark, Yonkers, etc., but all related to one another by the common necessity of easy, frequent passenger intercommunication. Outside our central Metropolitan limits we must visualize a further zone of strictly suburban character, contributing daily riders to and from the center, but less closely tied to the city district in other respects.


Looking at our map we see that the axis of Manhattan Island north and south almost exactly divides this Metropolitan District in two equal parts. In Table I are given the areas in square miles of the boroughs and counties and parts of counties included. In each case the areas not suitable for residence, such as the marshes along the Hackensack River and bordering Jamaica Bay, have been omitted. This division shows New York with 333 sq.miles and New Jersey with 239 sq.miles.

Manhattan22 square miles14,000 acres
Brooklyn69 square miles44,000 acres
Bronx42 square miles27,000 acres
Queens105 square miles67,000 acres
Richmond48 square miles31,000 acres
Yonkers (Westchester)47 square miles30,000 acres
Total in New York333 square miles213,000 acres
Bergen County80 square miles51,000 acres
Hudson County24 square miles18,500 acres
Passaic County29 square miles18,500 acres
Essex County53 square miles34,000 acres
Union County48 square miles31,000 acres
Total in New Jersey239 square miles153,000 acres
Grand total area, Metropolitan District572 square miles366,000 acres

Table II shows the population for one hundred years by fifty-year periods of the Metropolitan District and the densities per acre at present.

 182018701920Population Per Acre 1920
Bronx  732,00027
Total in New York State163,6001,487,0005,830,000Avg.27
Bergen County9,00030,000120,0003
Hudson County9,000129,000630,00034
Passaic County 39,000220,00012
Essex County12,000133,000620,00018
Union County 31,000130,0004
Total in New Jersey30,000362,0001,720,000Avg. 11
Total for Metropolitan Area193,6001,849,0007,550,000Avg. 21
Ratio of New York to New Jersey5.45 to 14 to 13.38 to 1  

Two points are important to be noted from this table, i.e., the ratio between the population east and west of the river has been constantly decreasing during the past one hundred years. The denser and larger population groups were originally located close to the harbor shipping development, but this characteristic is passing with the increase in manufacture and distribution of population by the rapid transit lines. The eastern or New York territory shows particularly the wider distribution and the New Jersey side in points like Newark and Paterson has been affected by the manufacturing distribution.

This means that in the past New York harbor development as a port in a general way confined the location of dense population in districts close to the shipping activities. With the rapid transit development on the New York side came the ability to live at great distances from employment centers which then produced the rush to the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn.


When New York was limited to Manhattan Island the transportation lines naturally developed north and south the long way of the city. Generally speaking, business was downtown (south) and the residence sections uptown (north). So long as New York as a city was confined to this long narrow island this characteristic prevailed, but when the population began to overflow and inter-business relations among the neighbor cities grew closer a spreading-out process commenced. The great dual subway system financed by the city of New York followed the north and south idea on Manhattan Island but branched out north, east and southeast into the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn. We have now the further plans of our public service commissioner, the result of a long study by the chief engineer, Mr. Turner. Hampered by the limitations of state boundaries, he has followed to a logical conclusion the result of distributing further large population increases by lines built exclusively in New York State and leaving the New Jersey side to take care of its own problem.

Mr. Turner predicts that corporate New York (the five boroughs) will grow to nine million population by 1945. He finds by a further development of the idea of north and south rapid transit lines on Manhattan Island that at least two eight-track subway lines will be required. Each of these will have two levels of four tracks in a single street. The total number of north and south subways and elevated tracks on Manhattan Island following this plan will ultimately be forty-eight. This is shown to be necessary in providing for continued distribution of population along rapid transit lines in Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Richmond Boroughs on these general lines.

Turning to our population charts we see that from the standpoint of Manhattan Island as a delivery district sparsely settled areas are available west of the river at shorter distances than to the east, which should warrant their consideration.

From a general economic standpoint the fact is apparent that the vital necessities for the maintenance of a great city population, food, fuel and water, come to this Metropolitan District from the west and that the cost of transporting the two former from the west side of the district to Brooklyn and Queens is almost as great as hauling from Pittsburgh to Newark.


This line of thought naturally leads to the suggestion that from the Metropolitan standpoint at least a portion of future population increases should be provided for west of the Hudson. This can most readily be accomplished by east and west rapid transit lines running from Queens or Brooklyn to Bergen and Hudson counties in New Jersey and passing right across Manhattan Island. This is warranted and would bring about a better distribution of population relatively to Manhattan as the center of the whole Metropolitan area.

A rectangular system with transfers at the intersections would tend to distribute the business development more evenly across Manhattan Island instead of the great local congestion which must result along the avenues from four and eight-track subways built exclusively north and south. A shorter average haul to the delivery district would also be obtained and more balanced two-way traffic developed than by forcing the population growth entirely to the east.

On map Fig. 3 a general suggestion for such lines is shown to convey the idea of a gridiron system in relation to the whole Metropolitan area. These east and west rapid transit tracks could be fed by the transfer from the present or new surface lines.

The upper line crosses Manhattan at 125th Street, penetrating Bronx Borough in one direction and Bergen County, New Jersey, in the other.

The next line utilizes the Queensboro Bridge and reaches Flushing and vicinity, while in the west, after crossing the Hudson River, it crosses the southern part of Bergen County and extends to Paterson.

The third line from the north is located as an extension of the Steinway Tunnel across Forty-second Street, then under the Hudson and west to tap the territory of Bloomfield and Montclair.

A more southerly line connects with the B. R. T. Broadway Elevated and runs on the Williamsburg Bridge, thence across Manhattan to Jersey City, to Newark and the Oranges.

The lowest line is shown running from one of the Brooklyn lines across the tip of Manhattan Island and striking Jersey at the Central Railroad of New Jersey stations.

On the Jersey side is shown a north and south line intended as a connecting and distributing line to divert as far as possible north and south transfer from Manhattan and allow of operation into and across the city from many districts. This line reaches from some point on Staten Island under the Kill van Kull, then by elevated north probably west of Union Hill.

The general idea is short trunk lines east and west with feeders from a constantly widening area.


More interesting to the average man than the future is the question of how he is to get to and from his work now. Having analyzed the general conditions and pointed out broad lines for thought upon the general scheme, we can turn to our own troubles of today. Upon what transit facilities are we now dependent in Metropolitan New York? In the reverse order of their importance by volume of passengers handled daily they are as shown in Table III.

 Per Cent of Total for Whole Met. District
Buses, Fifth Avenue Company and City Buses2
Steam railways entering New York4
Surface lines33
Rapid transit, Elevated and subways54

This subdivision of traffic is peculiar to New York. In London the rates are as follows:

 Per Cent of Total
Bus 33
Surface cars 27
Rapid transit 40

In Chicago the situation is different again, the rapid transit lines being less developed:

 Per Cent of Total
Surface cars 73
Rapid transit 21
Steam suburban 6

Turning to the map Fig. 4 of our Metropolitan District we are shown the passengers delivered to the central (Manhattan ) delivery district by the "steam" railway lines from the west, north and east. To make the chart effective and easily read all the lines entering from the west are shown by a single band, and similarly for those from the north and from the east. The width of the bands in each case indicates the number of passengers per average weekday.

From the west 167,000
From the north 57,000
From the east (Including those delivered by the Long Island Railroad to Brooklyn and Queens) 74,000

The total traffic carried to Manhattan by ferries from all sources is shown in the table below. The number of passengers carried by these ferries originating in the districts adjacent to the ferries or brought to them by trolley or bus lines is shown in the second column of the following table. The attempt has been made to separate this travel from that shown as of "steam railway" origin. The various railroad companies have separated their ferry traffic for us in that manner.

From the west 142,000 67,000
From the east 29,000 29,000
From the south 30,000 30,000
Total 201,000 126,000

Map Fig. 5 shows bands to a uniform scale totalizing the previous figures and showing about two million passengers entering Manhattan below Fifty-ninth Street in a week day.


Into lower Manhattan, i.e., below Fifty-ninth Street, or an area of 10 square miles, there are daily poured two million people. This means almost doubling the population of the island. Judging from the fact that the resident population as shown by the recent census has decreased 50,000 in the past decade the influx of daily non-residents may be conceived of as forcing the residents off the island.

This daily inflow to lower Manhattan is equal to one-fourth of the population of the Metropolitan District, but of course a portion come from upper Manhattan and a small number from suburban territory beyond the limits selected. A study of the rate at which this centralized traffic has increased and the fact that it had developed largely coincident with the great rapid transit development of the past twenty years is cause for careful consideration before we adopt either the rate of increase shown or the growth of the traffic itself.

We know that the old law thought to be fundamental during the period of development of electric traction, that the riding per annum per capita of population increased as the square of the population, cannot be applied to an increase from 1,000,000 to 5,000,000, for instance. In dealing with this matter quantitatively we must, therefore, be on our guard.

Subcenters, like the retail district of Brooklyn and Newark, will grow in importance and a reaction must set in against such continued increased concentrations. Such a subcenter development will mean more local traffic of a type quite different from that carried by our long rapid transit lines.


The most expensive type of transportation used by urban and suburban travelers in the New York Metropolitan District is the steam railway penetrating to the heart of Manhattan and using a large terminal station. Fortunately for the later solution of the problem the volume of this travel is relatively small compared to the rapid transit and surface lines.

It is a fact, however, not generally realized, that as a city grows not only does its own local and suburban traffic into these great "steam" railway terminals increase, but the long distance travelers grow in number also at an equal or even greater rate. With limited track capacity for carrying these two classes of traffic both cannot increase indefinitely. One or the other must ultimately give way. From this type of transportation we cannot hope for present relief. On the contrary, part of their load may soon have to be taken over by city rapid transit lines.

A little consideration will show that subways cost per mile of single track thirty-five times as much as a bus line and can haul only seven times as many passengers per hour. This would seem a strong argument for buses. To try to haul a full subway load, however, on a bus system requires seven lines of buses in each direction, or a street twice as wide as Fifth Avenue at Forty-second Street. The cost of widening such a street would be fabulous and far more than the cost of a subway.

This simply illustrates by a comparison of extremes that each type of transit has a peculiar field of its own, and if we attempt to handle bus travel on a subway we will be just as wrong as to attempt to carry subway long-haul crowds on buses.


During the past ten years the miles of single track have doubled on the rapid transit system of Greater New York. The surface lines have increased their trackage only 5 per cent. This is explained by the great rapid transit program which has been put through in this time. As a result the rapid transit lines have taken practically all the passenger increase during this period and hence have produced an unusual division of travel as between different types of equipment.

The fact is that taking the whole district into consideration the best service to the public can be obtained by a unified co-ordinated system in which each type of transportation will function to the best advantage and as part of a well balanced whole.

This is a pretty big order, but as compared to the process of disintegration and dismemberment which is now taking place it is plainly the right direction in which to work.

The nearer we can approach to a single system distributing its load among its constituent parts in the must effective way for both service and economy the nearer we will attain to 100 per cent economy and 100 per cent service.

More subways are of course inevitable, but let us build them as long-haul trunks and feed them with surface lines and buses. Thirty-five per cent of the passengers in the Metropolitan District use surface electric cars today because they are the most convenient. A study of the needs of the Metropolitan District as a whole suggests a necessity for a combined system cheap enough in its outlying sections to permit of wide distribution of travel. If the engineers can put out such a plan then it will be up to the lawyers, city officials and bankers to solve their part of the Metropolitan transportation problem.


Accompanying chart, Fig. 8, is made up as illustrating the tendency of cost of transportation in the Greater New York district to increase more rapidly than the population. In other words, the cost per capita has an alarming upward tendency. This tendency is of course inevitable when we go into the period of city development requiring such expensive means of transit as subways. The desirability of carefully canvassing the possibility of utilizing the cheaper forms of surface and bus transit is obvious.

The chart also shows the great preponderance of private investment, so called, which is subject for thought. The comparison of smaller cities is also interesting. Detroit with about one million population and nothing but surface cars has a per capita investment of $40. Chicago with an elevated railway rapid transit system and a very extended surface car system shows $80 investment per capita. New York with its subways doubles this latter figure and seems headed higher.


We have analyzed here together the physical, the operating and the financial features of this subject, but I have purposely omitted mentioning the one great stumbling block in the way of a logical, sane solution of this Metropolitan problem, the political question.

Right down the center of the Hudson River we have an artificial political Chinese wall, the boundary between the State of New York and the State of New Jersey. Almost one hundred years ago an engineer designed a steamboat that could plow right across this Chinese wall on the surface of the Hudson. More recently engineers have built railway tunnels under this wall and river, and today engineers stand ready to build bridges over this wall and across the Hudson River.

As an engineer, let me point out to our political friends how this Chinese wall can be finally and forever removed. Let us add a forty-ninth state to the union and name it the State of Manhattan. Let it include the New York Metropolitan District as a single sovereign state; let us leave New York City, Jersey City, Newark, each with its own mayor, its own local government; but let us place matters of common interest to the whole Metropolitan area, such as transportation, water, sewerage and port development, in the hands of a governmental body representing the people of all Metropolitan New York.


The first speaker to discuss Mr. Brinckerhoff s paper was Daniel L. Turner, chief engineer Transit Construction Commission, New York. He complimented Mr. Brinckerhoff on the presentation of the topic and acknowledged that there was a Metropolitan District, but he declared that there was no metropolitan authority to deal with the problem from such a standpoint. Until such an authority was established, the problem had to be met of the increasing transit needs of New York City. Mr. Turner then outlined the main features of his recent recommendations, designed to accommodate the traffic growth of the city within the next twenty-five years and based on the following principles:

1. That rapid transit lines should precede the population not follow it.

2. That a prospective passenger should not be required to walk a much greater distance than half a mile to reach a rapid transit line routing toward the business center.

3. That all transit lines should enter and traverse the center and thus afford the same degree of accessibility to it.

4. That the transit plan should form the real basis for the city plan.

5. That the question of obtaining sufficient revenue to produce a direct profit upon the entire cost was a secondary matter the indirect profit which would accrue to the city was assumed to be the most important consideration.

These principles, in Mr. Turner's opinion, mean that municipal passenger transportation is a public function not a business proposition.

His "comprehensive" plan would increase the existing rapid transit mileage by 830 single-track miles and in twenty-five years approximately 5,000,000,000 passengers per year must be accommodated in the city's traffic, most of them on rapid transit lines. This means that enough new rapid transit lines must be constructed to serve about 2,600,000,000 more passengers.

Based on this traffic requirement, the twenty-five-year building program which has been developed (1) provides for approximately fifteen separate extensions to the existing lines; (2) furnishes two new four-track trunk line subways (both double-story subways) traversing Manhattan north and south through the center, one on the East Side, the other on the West Side; (3) includes three moving platform subways crossing Manhattan east and west through the center; (4) adds six single-track tunnel crossings connecting Manhattan with Brooklyn and with Richmond; (5) increases the existing rapid transit mileage by 200 single-track miles, and (6) assumes that the maximum capacity of the existing facilities, which advances in the art demonstrate to be practicable, will be developed by reconstruction and by new equipment.

The construction cost of the new lines, at present prices, will approximate $350,000,000, plus $90,000,000 for interest, administration, engineering and superintendence during the period of construction. This means an annual expenditure of about $20,000,000. The twenty-five-year cost for equipment would amount to about $260,000,000.

Mr. Turner declared himself in favor of public ownership and private operation, as at present, for carrying out this program. He then pointed out that there are two ways in which the money may be obtained, as follows:

1. Assuming a "give and take" modification of the dual contracts, the fare could be increased enough so as immediately to take care of all fixed charges, and thus secure the exemption from the debt limit of the existing rapid transit bonds. This would make available the necessary funds to an amount of $270,000,000. Additional exemptions would make more money available as new lines became self-supporting. Under this arrangement the entire burden of municipal transportation would be imposed on the passenger, although the public at large as a community benefits from adequate transit service as much as the passenger as an individual does. For this reason it does not seem to him equitable to impose the whole burden upon the passenger.

2. The new construction funds needed may be obtained by taxation, the necessary cost each year being assessed against the enhancement in value of city real estate. This would assess the construction cost against those chiefly benefiting. Under this plan, the building program could be financed without imposing any large burden upon the real estate holders of the city and would only be making use of a very small portion of the increase in value which the city has produced. The money for equipment should be furnished by the operator, and the revenue from the passenger fares should amortize it. Then the public at large, as a community, would pay the construction cost, and the passengers, as individuals, would pay the operating expenses and the equipment cost. This, the speaker declared, was the most equitable arrangement and the one he favored.


The next speaker was J. V. Davies, of Jacobs & Davies, Inc., consulting engineers, New York, who pointed out that suburban traffic of today may be urban traffic of tomorrow. This illustrates the absurdity of running a large number of rapid transit lines to the city limits and stopping them at those points. The suburban railroads, he declared, are not equipped for, nor are they the proper means to fulfill, the function of conducting urban transportation. These roads have other uses and necessities for their terminal facilities than to carry on urban transportation.

In speaking of New Jersey, Mr. Davies pointed out that its transportation needs had been ignored by the New York transit authorities on account of the political and fiscal boundaries, yet he pointed out the recommendation of the commission that future connections with Staten Island should be made by way of Hudson County. He queried how the Public Service Commission contemplated building and operating such a line and whether passengers from Bayonne and Jersey City would be accepted.

He then described the development of the Hudson & Manhattan Railroad, which in less than two years after it began operations had developed more traffic between Manhattan and Newark than had been handled between those points by all the railroads serving the territory on their through business. During the past year 21,500,000 through passengers were carried between Manhattan and Newark on this one artery alone. The future in sight for this transportation, in Mr. Davies' opinion, is a reproduction of this joint service over the Pennsylvania and Hudson & Manhattan railroads but applied to the other great arteries of suburban service. Connection through from Hudson & Manhattan terminals to points on the eastern side of Bergen Hill would enable the suburban traffic operated over the steam railroads to be intercepted in the same way that traffic is now handled at Manhattan Transfer with the Pennsylvania Railroad and that traffic delivered through into the city of New York. However desirable and necessary such connections may be, the amount of money needed for the construction and equipment of such lines will be enormous. The Hudson & Manhattan Railroad, even with its increased fare, can hardly afford to make them. At the same time such facilities are of vital importance to the steam railroads as they are up to the limit of their capacity now for through passenger and freight business and ought not to be called upon to devote any more of their terminal facilities and irreplaceable waterfront properties to their suburban passenger business.

In discussing the Brooklyn situation, Mr. Davies pointed out that there were some inconsistencies in the plan presented by the Transit Construction Commission. Thus, there are statements indicating the desirability for developing community centers, but the plan projects every line of traffic for now and for the future, into or through the congested section of the Borough of Manhattan. The speaker said that the New Jersey example showed the advantages of the distribution of community enters. Indeed, he doubted whether, when transportation systems were planned, it would not be better to check and retard the riding habit of the people by the building up of community centers over the territory its this would lessen the extraordinary growth in recent years in the riding habit.

Such community centers would have their own homes, places of amusement, markets, factories, offices and business, so that those resident within the community would not be under the constant necessity of spending hours each day riding to and fro to carry on their business. The Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company had urged the construction of some lines which would tend to serve Brooklyn in this way, but it had never received the favor of the commission.


George McAneny, formerly president of the Board of Aldermen, New York City, was the next speaker. Referring to Mr. Brinckerhoff's paper, he said that the author had put his finger on the vital points in the New York transportation problem. The consideration of the Metropolitan section as a whole is ideal, but there are difficulties in the way. These must be overcome by patient efforts, which will take time. If the business and industrial interests on both sides of the Hudson River will accept the fundamental principles outlined, much can be accomplished.

Recent developments have shown that the State of New Jersey is alive to its community of interest with New York City, because joint consideration is being given to such matters as sewerage, the development of the port and the vehicular tunnels. In New York City the "City Fathers" have at least considered the desirability of getting the mayors of the cities interested to meet and consider their common problems. The fact that so many hundreds of thousands of people come into New York from outside the city daily makes this very desirable. A joint commission might well be appointed to consider the whole situation.

Meanwhile, the city must continue to develop in its own way, although co-operation will help. As to the rapid transit lines, the dual system first applied the radial idea and invited the development of new community centers. This in part corrected the tendency toward concentration at the lower end of Manhattan Island.

The degree of concentration already attained is indicated by the fact that if all the buildings south of Chambers Street on Manhattan Island were emptied at once, the people in the street would be five deep from building line to building line. The original Interborough Rapid Transit line could not carry off the population of the Woolworth Building in less than one hour. Concentration brought about an impossible condition, so that lines were laid out to take people away from the congestion center, some going into such sparsely settled regions as to be nicknamed "cornfield lines."

Mr. McAneny expressed approval of Mr. Turner's scheme for developing the rapid transit system, but would have liked more cross lines, giving the plan more of the appearance of patchwork.

A practical difficulty in the way of rapid transit expansion is a financial one. Until the $270,000,000 already invested is removed from under the debt limit, due to the subways becoming self-supporting, financing problems will be acute. However, the engineers should keep on planning for the future.


Frank Hedley, president Interborough Rapid Transit Company, pointed out that New York City is already committed to public ownership of subway rapid transit lines and has used a substantial amount of its credit to build them. Hence, it was difficult to see where the city credit would ever be used to construct lines that would build up territory in New Jersey, especially when within the present limits of New York City there were many acres of vacant or undeveloped land. The policy of the city has been to have a single, uniform car fare within its boundaries because it encouraged the building up of the undeveloped areas.

The city of New York and the rapid transit lines are partners in business and they should both work together to make the transportation for the people satisfactory and sufficient. Public officials and representatives of the operating company must co-operate and work together with the view of making a success out of the enterprise, for the investing public will not put new money into railroad lines unless they are assured of fair and decent treatment on the part of public officials and a return on the capital invested.


Accord with Mr. Brinckerhoff's general point of view was voiced by Frank J. Sprague, consulting engineer, New York, who said that a development which ignores the great railway and residential territory to the westward of Manhattan, and which unduly intensifies localized routes and trackage, will invariably increase congestion, with all its attendant grave dangers. In his opinion it would be better to force a distribution of business activities instead of making rapid transit lines, which by their very existence build up traffic, unnecessarily tributary to concentration of real estate activities.

Mr. Sprague declared that the present system of three rapid transit lines was far from ideal, each being laid out with an eye to its own advantage, largely regardless of the city's needs. Even now, when there should be a whole-souled attempt by every public official to plan the future with an eye single to the good of the city, personal ambitions stand as a bar to constructive effort, while transportation is made the football of politics.

There is only one logical and sound method of development. It must begin with unity, which means that not a single foot of unnecessary trackage shall be laid down, but that a single system shall be developed without the introduction of engineering handicaps which will prevent whatever additions may be necessary in the future, and that all trackage shall be used to its limit. The basis of such a development are longitudinals on Manhattan Island on one level, with such loops and terminal extensions as may be necessary, but with transverse routes on a different level, some local to Manhattan and others reaching into the heart of the territory to the east and west. Transfer of passengers should be via double-level stations, stairway connected at the junction points of the routes. This plan would make it possible to add longitudinals and transverses at will, while maintaining the maximum possible facility of movement as a whole, and if there were a fair basis of transfer with surface lines, car and bus, much of the short-haul underground traffic would be eliminated and these lines be more available for cross-river transportation. Almost every one seems to look at the rapid transit problem on the basis of the requirements of hours of morning and evening business traffic, forgetting that facility of traffic to and from a limited area induces greater concentration of business buildings and employment in congested localities, whereas the better decision is to help make such localization of activities unnecessary.

Mr. Sprague then recommended for the operation of such rapid transit lines cars of the largest practicable size and carrying capacity, arranged for the most rapid loading and unloading and with a motor on every axle.


L. B. Stillwell, consulting engineer, New York, sent a contribution which was read by Col. F. A. Molitor. It described particularly a new type of moving platform proposed for the crosstown services on Fourteenth Street, Forty-second and Fifty-seventh Streets. The three elements will move respectively at 3, 6 and 9 m.p.h. with working widths respectively of 27 in., 27 in. and 57 in. The third platform carries seats for two passengers seated side by side, the seats occupying 36 in. of the platform width, while the remaining 21 in. is reserved as a walk or passageway. The seated capacity of the platform, therefore, is 31,680 passengers an hour in each direction.

The 3-mile and 6-mile elements of the platform will each consist of a continuous train of cars approximately 12 ft. long and 28 in. wide, each car comprising a channel arch steel plate filled with agasote with an anti-slip tread of the length and width named and approximately 1-1/2 in. in thickness, resting at one end upon a two-wheel truck or bogie equipped with wheels provided with ball bearings and running upon suitable rails in a track of 18-in. gage. The other end of the 12-ft. plate will be supported by the truck attached to the next adjacent car or unit of the platform element to which it will be connected by a bolt or king pin, permitting each car to take its proper position in rounding a curve. The high-speed platform overlaps the medium-speed platform and the medium-speed platform overlaps the low-speed platform. To secure the difference in elevation of the different platforms, 6-in. wheels are used on the low-speed, 7-in. on the medium-speed, and 8-in. wheels on the high-speed platform.

The system of propulsion comprises the elements of an alternating-current induction motor, but the circular form is abandoned and the secondary, consisting of the usual steel laminae and short-circuited windings which need not be insulated, is extended horizontally and suspended beneath the truck directly above the center of the track.

The primary elements, each consisting of steel laminae rigidly supported by a suitable casting, the upper face of the assembled laminae being in the same horizontal plane, have insulated windings supplied through suitable circuits with three-phase alternating current. The clearance between the upper face of the primary elements thus assembled and the lower face of the continuous secondary carried by the moving platform is approximately 3/16 in. The primaries being energized by currents supplied thereto from the source of power, currents are induced in the windings of the continuous secondary and the elements of the platform to which it is connected are moved by continuous and progressive magnetic attraction and repulsion. The elements of this system, Mr. Stillwell declared, have been subjected to thorough tests upon a commercial scale and there is no question that it will function as intended. The primaries are spaced beneath each element at distances depending upon the speed and therefore upon the energy required. In the case of the 3-mile platform the primaries will be approximately 400 ft. apart, in the case of the 6-mile platform 200 ft., and in the case of the 9-mile platform 60 ft. apart.

Mechanically, Mr. Stillwell said, this system is obviously ideal. Simplicity of design and construction can go no farther. From the electrical standpoint, the comparatively large air gap implies a rather low power factor, but the energy required for the operation of the platform is so little that the increase in electrical losses due to low power factor is negligible. The weight of the moving platform (all elements) per seated passenger is less than 400 lb., while that of a subway motor car is about 1,800 lb. It is estimated that the moving platform 10,500 ft. in length which has been proposed for installation on Forty-second Street will require for its operation less than 300 kw., say about 3,000,000 kw.-hr. per annum.


Dr. Delos F. Wilcox, the next speaker, made a plea for municipal ownership and operation of the transit properties. In doing so he declared that the demands made by private capital at the present moment as the price of embarking upon electric railway enterprises puts the use of private credit as the principal source of capital for the extension and equipment of future rapid transit lines quite beyond the pale of serious discussion. He explained that in taking this position he did not mean that the job of operating the unified transportation facilities of the Metropolitan District should be thrown at the head of Mayor Hylan or of Public Service Commissioner Barrett some fine morning without any preparation on the part of the community or on the part of these officials to make their successful performance of this function possible, did not assume either that public operation means the discharge at the outset of every transportation man who has learned his job in the school of experience, whether as manager or as motorman, and the recruiting of an entirely new personnel from the ranks of those who are profoundly ignorant and inexperienced in transportation matters. His reasons for favoring public operation may be summarized as follows:

1. Local transportation in a great urban community has come to be recognized as a public function; that is to say, the service rendered and the rates charged ought to be determined primarily on the basis of public need, not upon the requirements of private profit. This does not imply that in any particular instance the service should be rendered free or below cost, but it does imply that the extent and quality of the service and the rates charged for it shall be controlled ultimately by social considerations growing out of the community's policy of self-help and self-government.

2. The state commission plan involves the assumption by the regulatory authority of so great a responsibility for service, rates, financial policy and methods of operation with respect to the street railways under commission jurisdiction as to make the proper exercise of the regulatory function more difficult, in his opinion, than the efficient operation of the transit lines through a direct public agency. All of the dangers of ignorance, political pull and inefficiency which the opponents of public operation foresee as incidental to the adoption of that policy already beset the exercise of the regulatory power through commissions. Yet, so vital is the public interest in the operation of urban transit facilities that no one at this stage of municipal evolution seriously proposes that the hand of public regulation shall be withdrawn from the transit lines. In this matter a backward step is impossible.

3. As a means of protecting the private investments in transportation facilities, and as a means of procuring a readier response to the transportation needs of the community, the service-at-cost plan has been devised. Yet this plan, and state regulation as well, logically carried out, cut the heart out of the motive upon which the success of private operation and its alleged superiority over public operation are supposed to depend. The result is that private enterprise is paralyzed, while public initiative seeks to accomplish through indirect and circuitous methods the things which could be more easily accomplished directly.

4. The vital importance of transportation facilities increases with the increase in area and population of the urban community concerned. The very social and economic life of the community depends upon continuity of service. This means that more and more the function of fixing wages and the hours and conditions of service in the public transportation business is recognized as a function to be performed through some public agency. This involves another important encroachment upon the field of private operation.

Continuing, Dr. Wilcox said that when we consider that construction, equipment, the issuance of securities, the rates charged, the service rendered, the expenses incurred and the labor policy followed are all inevitably being brought under public control, it is obvious that those who oppose public operation on principle base their argument on assumptions that are now quite out of date. Moreover, the public cannot and will not permit the transportation service of a great community to be operated by private agencies under terms that will make successful private operation possible under present conditions or under conditions that will hereafter prevail. The job is too big and too important for any agency less than the municipality itself to handle.


The next speaker, 0. B. Willcox, vice-president Bonbright & Company, bankers, New York, took the position that the development of rapid transit in New York should be under private ownership and operation, and as nearly as possible brought under one control and direction. Private construction, ownership and operation of utilities, he said, require such earnings as will not only pay charges and a fair return on the capital invested but also attract new money for expansion. The permissible rate of return has a dual function the protection of the existing investment and the attraction of new money for expansion. The function of regulation of utilities in the public interest is to create such conditions as will provide adequate and efficient public service. This means that it must provide such conditions as will attract capital for expansion through the purchase of not only bonds and other fixed obligations but also the corporate stocks of the enterprises.

Government or municipal ownership and operation of public utilities are not desirable in the public interest and, measured by economic and financial standards, have not been successful. The field of politics; that is, of government, is mainly the regulation of conduct and the protection of rights. The field of economics is the production and utilization of material things. Utilities are economic and financial enterprises. Politics or government ownership does not approach the problem with the economic outlook and invariably has resulted in failure. The principal advantage claimed for public ownership, that new money can be raised more cheaply on public credit than on private corporate credit, would largely disappear if municipal securities become subject to taxation, as is now widely urged.

Mr. Willcox said he could not agree with the conclusion of one of the earlier speakers that private operation of utilities in America has been a failure. On the contrary, in provision of adequate service at reasonable rates for the convenience of the public and for the development of industry, lowering the costs of production and in every measure of successful service, privately owned and operated utilities in America have been a pronounced success. In many cases they have been limited in their usefulness and in their ability to expand and to provide the best service and to reduce further the costs of production through the application of labor-saving devices by the failure of public regulation to permit such earnings as would establish the financial conditions and credit necessary for the attraction of capital to continue expansion.

Referring to the New York situation, Mr. Willcox declared that the public interest required: (a) A fare that will pay charges and sinking fund on city money invested, as well as a return on private capital invested, and (b) a fare that will give the operating companies such credit as will attract new money for required expansion through the purchase by investors of the company's securities.

Mr. Willcox then raised the point of the desirability of the concentration of population in cities, which, he said, was encouraged by local utilities of all kinds, as these utilities provided, as compared with smaller communities, cheaper living in relation to income and opportunity and easier, softer and pleasanter living conditions. A survey might show the economic limit of population of cities without such transportation and public service facilities at perhaps 1,000,000 or 2,000,000. This is about the population of the great and old cities of Constantinople, Calcutta and Peking, and many others, all located with comparable natural advantages and in countries of much denser population. But in a modern city provided with ample transportation and other public utility service this same economic limit does not exist.

Continuing, Mr. Willcox said that while it is true that large cities create and offer opportunities to individuals, there does not seem at a cursory glance to be any decided advantage to the body politic, to the interest of the public as distinguished from the interest of individuals, in such artificial concentration of population. Its disadvantages are obvious. There is enormous economic waste in the transportation of large numbers of people long distances from home to work, often in both directions; in transporting and distributing water, food, fuel and other necessities, and in the overcrowding itself, which conceivably could become so great that eventually workers would be in each other's way or could not all find room on the city's streets. Such congestion is accompanied by great perils, as from contagion and epidemics, from famine and failure of essential supplies, from fire, panics and war, and notably from strikes, the entire population being at the mercy of a number of small fractions of the population engaged in purveying necessities. These disadvantages and perils must increase with increasing concentration, obviously in some unknown ratio to the population. Whether the increase of New York's population is largely artificial, not brought about by natural causes, but stimulated and made possible by all kinds of utility service, and particularly the rapid transit systems, is a question worthy of scientific survey and study.

The most conspicuous feature of New York's rapid transit systems brought out clearly by Mr. Brinckerhoff's discussion, as well as in the report of Mr. Turner, is the delivery of an enormous number of passengers daily from the outlying parts of the Metropolitan District to the heart of the city of New York below Fifty-ninth Street, and the resulting concentration on Manhattan Island of tremendous business activities in financial, manufacturing amusement and other enterprises. Without its rapid transit system the same population in the Metropolitan District, assembled in a number of communities, self-contained and adequate in provision for all social and business activities, might and doubtless could accomplish the same production and it may well be without the economic waste and loss and without the perils of the present and the progressive daily congestion in Manhattan Island.

Should the tendency to congestion in Manhattan be checked and can it be checked? Economists have sought in vain for some means to discourage the growth of cities at the expense of the rural districts so that the supplies of raw materials out of the earth may keep pace without excessive cost with the increase in the world's population. If it be true that the enormous growth of such cities as New York results not from natural causes but from artificial conditions such as rapid transit and other public utility service, permitting and inviting congestion, then perhaps some artificial checks to concentration must be found. Thus, it is conceivable that an increase in the cost of local transportation would operate as such a check, and indeed that it may be necessary in the public interest that such a check be established against the increasing tendency to concentration of population in such great centers.

In New York an increase of local rapid transit fares to 10 cents would probably not check congestion; it would, however, give the operating companies better credit for necessary expansion, besides greatly improving the city's credit position. A gradual rise in rapid transit fares above 10 cents must eventually meet a point where unnecessary traveling would cease and local centers would develop, self-contained, more economically supplied with necessities, safer in the assurance of a continuous supply of water, fuel, food and the like, and where work could be found near home, obviating many of the dangers and perils of great and increasing congestion; existing rapid transit might be sufficient for necessary travel between the several community centers of the Metropolitan District; a rapid increase in rapid transit facilities would probably be unnecessary; the further growth of the city would continue in and about the new centers without loss of economic capacity and political, financial and industrial power of the Metropolitan District; manufacturing could find sites and labor within walking distance not drawn away by cheap transit fares to the excitements of intense concentrated city life, and saner and more natural conditions should prevail in all the relations of life.

Engineers, Mr. Willcox concluded, may very well study not only how New York's transportation can be expanded with the inevitable growth of population of the city at the expense of the country and also the inevitable congestion in the heart of the city, but also the data on which some opinion may be formed as to whether the advantages or disadvantages of such congestion preponderate; whether we should seek a sound way to check this growth or continue to expand the population of the city through the expansion of its utility and rapid transit facilities.


R. S. Parsons, general manager Erie Railroad, took up the discussion of transportation in the Metropolitan District from the standpoint of New Jersey. He said that this State should awaken to its rights in the matter. The New Jersey section of the district contains fifty small municipalities, more or less, and if these would unite, they could exert a powerful influence. Stretched along the Hudson from Bayonne to Fort Lee are ten of these municipalities.

As to the relation of the steam roads to local transportation, Mr. Parsons said that the steam roads were never built for suburban business. Their function is long-haul passenger and freight traffic. At first they naturally took on suburban business for the reason that when lines were installed for freight and through passenger service they could serve commuters at low rat of fare with profit to themselves. However, this suited in the opening up of communities which in time became powerful enough to demand increased service This was unprofitable, but it has been impossible to increase commutation rates sufficiently to make then remunerative.

Referring to the local situation, Mr. Parsons said that the only thing that has prevented expansion west of New York City is the state boundary, but, like Mr. McAneny, he saw signs of co-operation which might in time eliminate this obstacle.

One thing urgently needed locally is a bridge across the Hudson River at 125th Street, a physical connection between two important sections which would assist in eliminating one of the main obstacles to good suburban traffic. This is the reluctance of passenger to change from one transportation agency to another. The steam railroad terminals in Jersey City and Hoboken are greatly overcrowded. Suburban traffic must be removed from them as much as possible. One suggested plan is the placing of a large union terminal in the Hackensack Meadows to serve as a terminal for the suburban traffic now taken to Jersey City, Hoboken and Weehawken on the various steam railroads, with a moving sidewalk connection to and across New York City.


P. H. Woodward, general passenger agent Long Island Railroad, the next speaker, first quoted statistics on passengers in and out of New York during 1919 as follows:

Long Island Railroad (Three terminals: Pennsylvania Station,
Flatbush Avenue (Brooklyn), and Long Island City; also to and from
subway and elevated lines at Woodside and Hunters Point
New York Central 25,361,499
New York, New Haven & Hartford 14,886,158
Pennsylvania Railroad 13,940,000
Central Railroad of New Jersey 16,720,600
Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad20,400,000
Erie Railroad 25,116,849
New York, Westchester & Boston Railroad 3,750,806
New York, Ontario & Western Railroad 538,692
Lehigh Valley Railroad 408,000
Baltimore & Ohio Railroad 510,000

The Pennsylvania Railroad, in addition to the 13,940,000 passengers carried in and out of the Pennsylvania Station and the ferry terminals at Cortlandt and Desbrosses Streets, handled during 1919 4,420,000 passengers at its Jersey City Terminal and transferred to and from the Hudson & Manhattan Railroad at Manhattan Transfer a total of 22,640,000. This would make a grand total for the Pennsylvania of 41,000,000 passengers. The Staten Island Rapid Transit handled on Staten Island a total of 10,205,000.

It is estimated that 50 per cent of the passengers of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad transferred to and from the Hudson tubes at Hoboken, and that 60 per cent of the passengers of the Erie Railroad transferred to and from the Hudson tubes in Jersey City. The Hudson & Manhattan Railroad handled 92,571,928 passengers during that year.

A summation of these figures, after duplications are deducted, show for the roads mentioned a total during 1919 of more than 250,000,000 passengers. In 1920, if all of the lines enumerated showed the same increase as the Long Island, or 14 per cent, the total would be 285,000,000. This compares with the rapid transit systems for 1919 as follows:

Interborough Subway529,471,097

Brooklyn Rapid Transit726,738,213

Of course all of the passengers handled by the steam roads are not daily commuters, but this traffic is growing enormously, yet this short-haul traffic blocks terminals and hinders the expeditious handling of through passengers, to say nothing of the congestion it causes to freight traffic. This situation presents an economic problem hard to solve. A steam road, such as the Long Island, cannot adjust its rates so as to make ends meet, due to this short-haul traffic that is continually demanding lower fares, which today are unremunerative. The terminal cost alone to handle a passenger is more than a standard subway or elevated fare.

Another thing to consider, according to Mr. Woodward, is that when the steam roads introduced the cheap rate commutation ticket, they expected to profit by collateral earnings, such as members of families and visitors traveling at a higher rate of fare, freight, press, mail, etc. The elevated and trolley lines, the motor trucks, the delivery to residences from all the department stores have taken away practically all of the collateral earnings outside of coal and building materials, leaving to the railroads only the commuter at a low rate, with nothing to carry the loss, and when the revenues derived from through freight and passenger business are too small to absorb such losses, poor service and slowing down of development is the natural result. Therefore, the remedy for the railroad is to be relieved of this near-by traffic and build up the sections beyond the rapid transit zones.


George A. Harwood, assistant to the president of the New York Central Railroad, the final speaker, first described the development of the New York & Harlem Railroad from a horse railway to a steam and electric railroad. He agreed with Mr. Brinckerhoff that the most expensive type of transportation for urban and suburban travel within the Metropolitan District is the steam railway. This is due largely to the expensive terminal on highly valuable land, which often results in fixed and operating charges per passenger exceeding the total rate per ride paid by the passenger, excluding entirely the fixed and operating charges for handling him between the terminal and his destination. The fact that most of this business has to be handled in morning and night peak loads still further adds to the cost of this transportation.

But the financial waste in this business is perhaps not the most serious aspect of the difficulty, because the continued increase in suburban travel ultimately prevents the steam railroad from performing its most important function, namely, providing the long-haul transportation for the city. In the period from 1909 to 1919 there has been an increase of approximately 60 per cent in the number of passengers handled in the Grand Central Terminal and in that same period an increase in suburban travel of over 100 per cent. In 1916 41 per cent of the passengers using the terminal were suburban travelers, and in 1919 56 per cent. As the long-distance travelers want also in general to arrive and depart in the morning and evening, the peak load of this service coincides with that of the suburban service, and it is only a matter of time, and a relatively short time, when a terminal such as the Grand Central, with its elaborate provisions for the separation of suburban and long-distance travelers, will be prevented from delivering the amount of long-distance transportation which the growth of population will require.

Some relief, Mr. Harwood said, can no doubt be provided by the introduction of transfer stations at outlying points where the railroad may deliver its load of rapid transit passengers to the strictly city lines. Thus, provision has been made in the plans of the New York Central Railroad, in conjunction with the Public Service Commission, for such a transfer point to be located in the vicinity of Mott Haven. This, however, can never solve the substantial part of the problem. It will take care of a portion of the travel going to the more northerly parts of Manhattan Island, but it can probably never be made sufficiently attractive to entice away from his seat the passenger whose destination is Forty-second Street or south thereof.

The solution, therefore, seems to be in the development of the rapid transit system of the city, not only to the city limits but to such distances into Westchester County as may be accommodated within the limits of reasonable running time which such a rapid transit line may provide. Mr. Turner, in his recommendations covering the extension of the present rapid transit system, estimates that such distance is 18 to 20 miles from the center of the city, providing sufficient tracks are constructed so that express service is permissible, but with improvements in the art it may not be unreasonable to suggest that these extensions ultimately should go to distances of 22 to 30 miles. Such initial extensions would enormously benefit the present situation. In conclusion, Mr. Harwood made definite recommendations in regard to certain of the routes proposed by the Transit Commission.
















Electric Railway Journal, McGraw Hill Company, Digitized by Microsoft, Americana Collection, archive.org.

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