TRANSPORTATION PLANNING IN 1875: THE AMERICAN SOCIETY OF CIVIL ENGINEERS AND THEIR PLAN FOR RAPID TRANSIT IN NEW YORK CITY

This paper is concerned with an early example of urban transit planning. During much of the period before the Civil War, American cities were restricted in their spatial growth by the absence of a system of public transit. Cities such as Boston, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh were essentially "walking cities" with very high densities in their core areas. In the 1840's and 1850's, however, the development of omnibus lines, of streetcar systems, and of commuter railroads allowed a number of middle and upper class urbanites to move from the central city to less congested residential areas. Increased distance separated workplace and residence, and journey to work patterns by public transit developed. The omnibus and the horsecar, however, due to their relatively slow speed, did not solve the transit problems of large cities. New York City, especially, which more than doubled in population from 1840 to 1860, suffered from high population densities and congestion. The result of this situation was a plethora of proposals for rapid transit, some of which provided for subways, others for depressed roadways, and many for elevated roads. The profusion of plans for a New York rapid transit system motivated the American Society of Civil Engineers to appoint a committee in 1874 to investigate the question and to make recommendations. The ASCE committee examined seventy-five proposals and recommended the building of an elevated system, one line to run along Third or Fourth Avenue east of Central Park and one to run along Seventh, Eighth, or Ninth Avenues west of the Park. The report had a large impact on the deliberations of the New York Rapid Transit Commission of 1875 which authorized the building of New York City's first successful elevated rapid transit lines. These lines penetrated relatively unpopulated areas, allowing the city's population to spread beyond the previously built-up sections.

  • Corporate Authors:

    Planning Transport Associates, Incorporated

    P.O. Box 4824, Duke Station
    Durham, NC  USA  27706

    Planning Transport Associates, Incorporated

    P.O. Box 4824, Duke Station
    Durham, NC  USA  27706
  • Authors:
    • Tarr, J A
  • Publication Date: 1973-6

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Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 00051895
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Source Agency: High Speed Ground Transportation Journal
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Apr 9 1981 12:00AM