History of Traffic in NYC

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Trolleys
Prior to 1936 moving around New York without a car was a breeze. Wherever subways didn't go streetcars did. In 1890 there were 24 major street railway companies in NYC. The streetcar system peaked in 1919 at 1344 miles of tracks, and carried more passengers than both the elevated lines, the subways and automobiles combined. Trolleys were such a ubiquitous part of the urban experience that Brooklyn named their beloved baseball team, The Dodgers, after the reputed skills of the residents at dodging them. Under Fiorello H. La Guardia's mayorship street cars were removed from New York City to make more room for private automobiles; This is possibly the worst mayoral mistake in New York City's history. The last streetcar operation in the city was the Queensboro Bridge Local, which ended service under Mayor Robert F. Wagner on April 6, 1957. Virtually nothing is left of this vast and intricate transportation network. Even the Transit Museum does not have a single Trolley car in its collection. Trolleys have completely disappeared from our landscape. Only a few archeological fragments remain.

Cut to New York City at the turn of the millennium. It has been 70 years since a new subway tunnel has been dug. Pedestrians are routinely hit by cars. Although the geography and meteorology is ideal for cycling, riding a bike in New York is so dangerous that people are right to think you're crazy if you ride a bike here . Which, when you consider the potential of this non-polluting transportation mode is really what's crazy.

Our sidewalks have been narrowed, and our streets widened again and again, all to increase traffic flow for privately owned automobiles, whose average speed through Manhattan is less than 5 MPH on a good day. But aside from inefficient average speeds through parts of Manhattan there is a much more fundamental issue that needs to be addressed.

Safety
The stats are pretty grim. 40 pedestrians are hit by cars every day. 5 die every week. And although hardly anyone cycles besides messengers, food delivery guys, and some hardened commuters, cycling deaths are up 57% from 1996 to 1997 and up another 75% in 1999. Pedestrians and cyclists don't have seat belts or air bags to protect them, yet they are involved in more than half of all automobile fatalities. Clearly our streets and sidewalks have to be made safer for the people who use them.

The fact that this has been going on for a Hundred years since Henry Bliss walked off a trolley on the evening of September 13 1899 and was struck by a speeding taxi so hard that his skull was completely crushed is stupid. We are so used to the sense of endangerment on our streets that we don't question it. We operate from the assumption that our public servants our looking out for us, when nothing can be further from the truth. Our public servants for the last hundred years have been hell-bent on transforming our public space from one who's main design element is a human being to one who's main design element is a car. Our public servants for the last hundred years have been hell-bent on transforming our public space from one who's main design element is a human being to one who's main design element is a car. A movement from “carchitecture” back to Architecture if you will and the philosophical foundation for citystreets.