Metropolitan Transportation Authority

20-Year Needs Assessment | History

Aerial Image of the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge in 1939.
Our History

New York has demonstrated throughout its history that investment in transit is the key to unlocking economic growth for the region—and that failure to do so has dire consequences

Now it's our turn to confront upcoming challenges and secure the future for the next generation.

Click on the decades to explore our history.

A bold investment in mass transit made modern New York possible.

When New York became one of the first cities in the world to build a subway system in 1904, it was during a moment of profound transformation.

The advent of the subway enabled New Yorkers to spread out and reach jobs efficiently and safely, unleashing the development of new industries, opportunities, and neighborhoods and catapulting the New York region into the role of a leading global power. Between 1900 and 1950, as the subway system alone grew by 722 miles, the city's population more than doubled from 3.4 million to 7.9 million.

But over the next two decades, the nation saw a rise in suburbanization and automobiles. The transit network that had powered generations of growth fell into decline.