Having lived through the bad old days of the 1970’s and 1980’s this story in the New Yorker is both incredible and understandable.
But the NY Subway’s problems started a long time ago, maybe even back as far as when the IRT was constructed. When the people engineering the IRT were sizing the cars that were going to be used, there was no way to determine the ideal size, because there were no other electric subways of the magnitude of the proposed IRT. There was also the problem of steel for railroad car construction never having been done before. Add to that the issues with the new technology of electrification and there were a lot of unknowns when the IRT was being designed. So the IRT went with a small car and a fairly conservative design. The problem is that all the IRT’s tunnel and stations are sized for those small cars with their lower carrying capacity.
Then you have the issue that the Lexington Avenue Line is doing the job of three lines since the 2nd and 3rd Ave Els were torn down in the 1940’s and 1950’s. supposedly the new 2nd Ave. subway was supposed to replace the Els, but that never happened. Here’s a map showing the Els as well as the Lex.
For most of the time that wasn’t a big issue since development of the city was low or happening in other parts of the city. So the 2nd Ave line was put off in the 1940 due to the war, the 1950’s because highways were the big thing and in the 1970’s because the city was broke and there were more pressing needs like total system collapse. So now we are in a fix.
Now the 2nd Ave Line is needed and we don’t have it. Which is going to be a very bad thing for Subway riders for a long time to come. Hopefully phase 2 will go very fast, followed by phases three and four. but considering how MTA has, unfortunately been managing things, I’m not going to hold my breath.