Home View from Underground Infographic of the Day: The subway infrastructure

Infographic of the Day: The subway infrastructure

by Benjamin Kabak


A few weeks ago, GOOD Magazine unveiled a new series called Cities, Rethought. The feature, created in collaboration with IBM, explores the problems urban areas face and the ways in which these systems can be fixed through novel uses of technology.

As part of the introduction to the series, GOOD posted the above graphic on its website. The Oliver Munday creation delves into the pieces and systems that make up New York City. For a bigger and more interactive version, click here.

As you can see, the subways feature prominently in New York’s make-up. They cost nearly $8 billion a year to run and ferry 7.4 million people per day. Although the subways come in fifth in expenditures to government, health, education and utilities, this graph helps to underscore one of my overarching themes on Second Ave. Sagas: We need a more forward-looking transit policy in this city because the subways are vital to the economic well-being and future success of the New York Metropolitan area.

Without the subways, the city would cease to function. Yet, politicians begrudgingly fund the MTA, and New Yorkers treat it as though it is an unloved but necessary part of the day. With the right level of investment, with the right leaders pushing for the right reforms, the system could be faster, smoother, cleaner and more vast than it is today. To stay atop the global economy, New York will need a sensible transit plan for the next few decades, but until people — the 7.4 million of us who ride the subway every day — start urging our politicians to invest, we’ll be stuck with what we have.

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Josh October 8, 2009 - 5:57 pm

What’s the difference between “open space” and “vacant land”?

Benjamin Kabak October 8, 2009 - 6:08 pm

Park land vs. unused land.

Judge October 8, 2009 - 7:12 pm

7.4 million use the subway and the buses; ’08 subway ridership was 5.2 million.

Ed October 8, 2009 - 11:22 pm

Its an interesting thought experiment to consider what would happen if the subways really ceased to function. This could happen with a strike that didn’t get resolved for months, or a good part of the system could be shut down for safety reasons because of bad maintenance. There is also the possibility of a terrorist attack.

I actually think that the city could adapt, provided businesses were flexible enough not to have their entire work forces show up at the same time this morning, the city looked the other way as gypsy cabs sprang up, greater use was made of the waterways, and the population dropped by a couple million. If the attitude was we will keep doing business as usual, which seems now to be the national default response in every crisis, we would have a real disaster on our hands.

Cities in developing countries tend to have limited rail transit (though often much better bus transit than we have), but function on a combination of less traffic than the same sized cities in the US, what are essentially gypsy cabs, and a generally flexible attitude on the part of the people who live there.

Don Anon October 8, 2009 - 11:38 pm

” . . . and the population dropped by a couple million.”

Oh, that minor adjustment.

Paterson: MTA capital plan ‘unaffordable’ :: Second Ave. Sagas | A New York City Subway Blog October 9, 2009 - 2:45 am

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Gotham Gazette - The Wonkster » Blog Archive » Weekly Web Wrap October 9, 2009 - 7:10 pm

[…] Interactive Graphic of City’s Systems (GOOD via Second Ave Sagas) […]


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