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  • Writer's pictureBecky Fifield

Transit Tuesday – The Elevated in NYC

The El still lives on in Chicago – I’m not sure that they could live without it.

But the El once was a vital part of New York transportation, an improvement on surface railways, pre-dating the underground subways, and discarded hastily during the rise of the automobile. The last elevated line in Manhattan was the 3rd Avenue line, at last abandoned in the Bronx in 1973. The Els were noisy and cast shadows on the streets below. There were once elevated lines on 3rd, 6th, and 9th Avenues . The broadness of those avenues explains the activity that once took place above them. It was estimated in the 1940s, you could travel from my neighborhood in the way east 70s to Times Square in 12 minutes on the elevated. Today, that journey would take closer to 35 minutes.

The demise of the elevated allowed property values in New York to sky rocket. There was a value in not looking out your window to see passerbys on a train staring back just a few feet from your window. But the elevated says “city” to me.

Elevated Train Platform, André Kertész (American (born Hungary), Budapest 1894–1985 New York City). Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1984.1083.26.

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