From a Nickel to a Token: The Journey from Board of Transportation to MTA

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Fordham University Press, 2015 - History - 178 pages
A must-read for transit buffs, From a Nickel to a Token chronicles twenty specific events in the history of New York City's mass transit systems between 1940 and 1968, including large numbers of rare photos.

Streetcars "are as dead as sailing ships," said Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia in a radio speech, two days before Madison Avenue's streetcars yielded to buses. LaGuardia was determined to eliminate streetcars, demolish pre-1900 elevated lines, and unify the subway system, a goal that became reality in 1940 when the separate IRT, BMT, and IND became one giant system under full public control.

In this fascinating micro-history of New York's transit system, Andrew Sparberg examines twenty specific events between 1940 and 1968, book ended by subway unification and the MTA's creation. From a Nickel to a Token depicts a potpourri of well-remembered, partially forgotten, and totally obscure happenings drawn from the historical tapestry of New York mass transit. Sparberg deftly captures five boroughs of grit, chaos, and emotion grappling with a massive and unwieldy transit system.

During these decades, the system morphed into today's familiar network. The public sector absorbed most private surface lines operating within the five boroughs, and buses completely replaced streetcars. Elevated lines were demolished, replaced by subways or, along Manhattan's Third Avenue, not at all. Beyond the unification of the IND, IRT, and BMT, strategic track connections were built between lines to allow a more flexible and unified operation. The oldest subway routes received much needed rehabilitation. Thousands of new subway cars and buses were purchased. The sacred nickel fare barrier was broken, and by 1968 a ride cost twenty cents.

From LaGuardia to Lindsay, mayors devoted much energy to solving transit problems, keeping fares low, and appeasing voters, fellow elected officials, transit management, and labor leaders. Simultaneously, American society was experiencing tumultuous times, manifested by labor disputes, economic pressures, and civil rights protests.

Featuring many photos never before published, From a Nickel to a Token is a historical trip back in time to a multitude of important events.

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Excellent ! Informative ! Maj.Gen.Hugh J. Casey is my deceased husband's Uncle and the Great Uncle of our 18 year old daughter. We learned something new in this Casey household. We did not realize the Gov.Thomas Dewey ( New York ) had "hand picked " Uncle Babe ( As my husband fondly called him) to lead the new NYC transit authority ,along with Henry K Norton. Thank You !!!! Always keep your pencil sharp !! Your writing of History is OUTSTANDING ! 

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About the author (2015)


ANDREW J. SPARBERG has spent forty years in the transportation field, starting at Tri-State Regional Planning Commission, and then for twenty-five years at the Long Island Railroad. Since retiring from the LIRR he has worked on transportation's academic side, most recently at St. John's University and the City University of New York. He served as an associate editor of The Encyclopedia of New York City, contributing numerous articles to that publication. He was technical editor of Long Island Rail Road, a 2007 history by well-known author Stan Fischler. For more than twenty years, Mr. Sparberg has conducted tours as a volunteer for the New York Transit Museum.

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