kings college terra cotta chambers street subway stationTile from the Chambers Street Subway Station

Since the 1980s, the MTA has installed hundreds of site specific works of art throughout the subway system. These pieces of art have been designed by world famous artists in order to create a beautiful underground art museum for the millions of daily subway riders. The Arts for Transit program was a continuation of the philosophy established by the founders of the subway system that “every design element in the system should show respect for our customers and enhance the experience of travel.”

The original subway art, was composed of terra cotta and mosaic and often depicted scenes that once graced the surrounding neighborhood. According to one account, they served as a map for tourists and the illiterate. Here are some of the best examples that can still be found in some of the subways oldest stations.


subwaytalents.org subway performers-NYC-Untapped Cities.jpgImage via Ronald Andrew Schvarztman

How many performers have you seen in New York City’s subway stations? During peak hours, it seems like there’s at least one in every major station: dancers, instrumentalists, singers, and more, entertaining passersby and, if they’re lucky, attracting a crowd. New York’s subway performers are a city hallmark, as much a part of the subway commute as the mosaic tile stations signs and the off-key dings that the turnstiles make when activated.

Bens Hilaire, one of the founders of subwaytalents.org, is interested in preserving that tradition. Their new website, which launched earlier this summer, allows performers to connect with each other, communicate with clients looking to book them, and retain an audience by updating their most-visited stations.


Interactive via WNYC

A few weeks ago, WNYC released a real-time ‘agony index‘ of subway station ambient heat throughout New York City. The index was quite nice to look at, provided you were safe in the air-conditioned sanctuary of the glorious indoors instead of actually out in the subways, but also offered an interesting visualization of exactly how hot the city’s subway routes became during the worst months of the summer.

This week, WNYC has taken another step and mapped its findings of ambient temperature in the city’s subway stations mostly in Manhattan and south of Central Park. Aiming a temperature sensor at the platform away from the air-conditioned train cars, they found that while some stations are rather bearable at 80 or even 70 degrees Fahrenheit, some stations were upwards of 100 degrees.


untapped cities-photo pool-transportation-adritwnThe Subway by adritwn

One thing New York City is known for is its transportation, sometimes a welcome blessing, other times (especially this summer) a harrowing journey into 100-degree heat and close contact with strangers. This week, we looked for our favorite shots of the city’s transportation (missing: ferries!). To be featured in our weekly ‘Best Of’ Column, hashtag #UntappedCities on Instagram and Twitter. You can also keep an eye on what contributors and readers are checking out by browsing the live feed.


The New York Subway system opened to the public for the first time on October 27th, 1904 and changed the face of mass transit in the city forever. Today, it takes no less than 40 minutes to travel up Manhattan from South Ferry to Washington Heights two hundred blocks away (that is, if you take the right train), a journey that would would normally be five times as long on foot.

It’s a 24-hour system that ferries you and millions of New Yorkers around the city every day, but you may be unaware of the technology behind it. Did you know one of the main subway traffic controllers is housed in the West 4th Street station? Did you know that much of the machinery used to monitor the trains dates back to the 1950s and earlier? In an exclusive video exploring the antiquated system behind subway control, the MTA showcases its very old, very outdated, but still effective technology, and looks to the future of the subway commute with a brand new method of monitoring traffic. That method is called communications-based train control, and, once implemented in trains all over the city, will finally modernize the subway.


City Hall Subway Station-Before Opening-NYC 1904-2The original City Hall subway station in New York City

By reading first-hand accounts of opening day of the New York City subway, October 27, 1904, you get a picture of the excitement, madness, and sheer feat the construction of the underground system was. The first subway line, the Interborough Rapid Transit, ran from the glorious City Hall subway station (now decommissioned) to 145th Street, proclaiming “City Hall to Harlem in 15 minutes,” though as you’ll discover, even the first day wasn’t without delaeys.

Here are some of the fun facts that we found from reading reports from The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune about opening day: