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Transportation in New York (state)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Transportation in New York State
LocaleThe State of New York and surrounding regions
Transit typeRapid transit, commuter rail, buses, private automobile, ferry, Taxicab, bicycle, pedestrian

Transportation in New York is made up of some of the most extensive and one of the oldest transportation infrastructures in the country. Engineering difficulties because of the terrain of New York State and the unique issues of New York City brought on by urban crowding have had to be overcome since the state was young. Population expansion of the state generally followed the path of the early waterways, first the Hudson River and then the Erie Canal. Today, railroad lines and the New York State Thruway follow the same general route.

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • ✪ Why Public Transportation Sucks in the US
  • ✪ The NYS Department of Transportation and CNSE Announce a Major Highway Improvement Initiative
  • ✪ NYU Hyperloop & The Future of Transportation
  • ✪ How do cities grow?
  • ✪ How to pass the New York State PE exam ( Professional Engineers )


This video was made possible by Skillshare. Learn anything, including how I make these videos, for free for two months by going to This is Indiana, and this is Scotland. Both have a similar number of inhabitants, a similar size, and a similar population density. But here’s Indiana’s public transportation system, and here’s Scotland’s. You want to get to Cupar, a town of 9,000 30 miles from the capital? That’ll take you 55 minutes on a train that leaves every 30 minutes or an hour and 40 minutes on a bus that leaves every 40. You want to get to Anderson, a town of 50,000 30 miles from Indiana’s capital? Well, you’re out of luck. The only option is the car. Antiquated technology, safety concerns, crumbling infrastructure, and nonexistence—it’s not hard to argue that the US public transportation network is just not good. Vast swaths of the US have no option but to drive because the alternative just is not there. This has consequences on the environment, on economic mobility, on where people live, the consequences of America’s lack of solid public transportation almost defines American culture. But it wasn’t always like this. The United States once had the best public transportation system in the world. It was a the admiration of countries worldwide and an essential factor allowing for the successful western expansion of the country. It all started with this—the horsecar. Now, there were urban transportation systems before these horse drawn trams came along, but they weren't cheap and they weren’t fast. Roads generally weren’t paved and there just wasn’t the economic demand for high frequency service because these carriages were rarely faster than walking. But on rails, these horsecars were fast and one horse could pull a full load of passengers thanks to the rails. In its heyday, there were over 6,000 miles of horsecar lines in the US. In comparison, the combined mileage of every tram, subway, light rail, and commuter rail system in the US nowadays is 5,416. In 1880, 50 million people lived in the US. Today, over 320 million. Around the turn of the century, many of those horsecar systems were electrified. There were then 11,000 miles of streetcar track nationwide. The systems were absolutely everywhere. Even tiny towns like Bangor, Maine and Berlin, New Hampshire had streetcars. So what happened? How did the US go from having 11,000 miles of streetcar to 200? How did the US go from having solid public transportation in towns big and small across the country to how it is today? The decline of the streetcar began just after the turn of the century. That was when the automobile came around. By 1920, the car was starting to get to an attainable price-point for the everyday individual. That was the real threat for the streetcar—not cars, but economical cars. The streetcar received another blow in 1929—the great depression. There were fewer people with jobs which meant fewer people who needed to commute and fewer people who had the money to pay for transport so many lines were just not profitable anymore and closed. But then the streetcar received a stay of execution—World War Two. You see, during World War Two, the US had the lowest unemployment rate in history—as low as 1.2%. There were tons of factory jobs to support the war so practically everyone who wanted a job had a job. That meant there were tons more people now going to and from work, and, even better for the streetcar, there were rations going on on rubber and gas which diminished the popularity of the car. But something else was going on through all of that. Something more sinister. Sometime in the 1920s, automobile technology became advanced enough that the bus became cheaper to operate than the streetcar. Streetcars cost very little to power, but they do require a lot of infrastructure from overhead lines to track. Buses were more flexible and required almost no infrastructure. And the bus had some powerful friends, the automobile companies, or more specifically, General Motors. General Motors went and bought dozens of small streetcar companies across the nation and turned them into bus companies. They removed hundreds of miles of track across the US and supported other companies doing the same, but its not like they didn’t have a good reason to do this. These streetcars were not economically advantageous. Buses were faster, cheaper, and at the time, they were the modern and fresh transportation method that the public wanted. Nearly every streetcar system nationwide was replaced with a bus system. In addition, the streetcar companies were almost all commercial so if and when they failed, many local governments set up public, subsidized bus companies. So that’s how transportation got bad, but why did it stay bad? Well, mostly because of the car. America is the country of the car. It grew up as the car grew up and so its cities were built for cars. Think Dallas, Phoenix, Los Angeles—you can’t survive in these cities without a car. Remember, the United States is centered around the idea of personal freedom. With a car, you can go anywhere at anytime, so politically, cars have historically been associated with the idea of personal freedom. Just like the Republican party votes to have strong national defense, allow gun ownership, and preserve small government in order to promote personal freedom, they have always worked to promote the usage and ownership of cars. This means they often voted in favor of subsidies helping the auto industry, most often in the form of indirect subsidies lowering the cost of gas. Now, that was fine when cities were small, highways were new, gas was cheap, and climate change wasn’t even a concept, but that’s not the case anymore. Cities are just of a size where they literally cannot support their entire population driving. You can’t fit more road infrastructure in many cites, but you can fit more public transportation. Cars were available to the common American much earlier than the common European, so the US set road policies early that allowed for large, smooth, well-functioning roads. While the US was building its magnificent roads, Europe was building their public transportation systems. The high car usage in the US even has to do with zoning. You see, European cities tend to have less strict zoning laws which allow for businesses and housing to intermingle. The US zones its cities much more strictly. Houses are next to houses and businesses are next to businesses which means that the distances between houses and shops in the US is much greater. Therefore, Americans have to go further more often. The most demonstrative fact is how the two places approach parking. In the US, zoning laws specify a minimum number of parking spaces per building. In Europe, the laws specify a maximum number of parking spaces. The three cities with the three lowest car-ownership rates in the US all have something in common. Boston, New York, and DC, are all old, rather compact cities with decent public transportation systems. Since they were cities before the car, they’re built much more like the European cities that have such good public transportation systems today. Simplified, public transportation gets worse as you go further west since western cities are newer. But here’s the most important sentence of this entire video: access to transportation is the single most important factor in an individual’s ability to escape poverty. That is not a subjective claim, that is a fact that emerged from a Harvard study. Someone who lives right by a subway stop is astronomically more likely to find a high-paying job than someone who doesn’t have a way to get around. Individuals in poverty generally live in poor neighborhoods with few job opportunities, but with reliable, accessible, and inexpensive public transportation these individuals can get all across their city to where the jobs are. So, a good way to evaluate the effectiveness of a public transportation system is by how well it serves the poor. DC, for example, does a good job of this. The poorest neighborhoods have the greatest proportion of their residents within a 10-minute walk of a metro station while the richest neighborhoods have the smallest proportion. Hand-in-hand with their move back into the cities, millennials are shunning cars. Car ownership among young people is at historic lows and the urban youth is relying more and more on public transport. Some cities like, Portland, Kansas City, Detroit, and DC are turning back to streetcars. Done right, streetcars can drive huge increases in economic development. They’re more of a symbol of modernization that entices residents, developers, and businesses to areas. Portland, for example, has had an estimated $5 billion in extra economic development thanks to its streetcar. New streetcar systems are being built all across the US in cities like Milwaukee and Oklahoma city since they’re finally making money again—not from their fares, but from the jobs brought by their existence. People didn’t want them a century ago, but streetcars finally make sense again. Public transportation is instrumentally important to the success of cities. You can almost be sure that a good city will have good public transportation and a bad city will have bad public transportation. Public transportation increases economic mobility, decreases carbon footprints, and increases economic development so the only question is, why not build more of it? One of the most common requests I receive is for a behind-the-scenes video and I’ve finally made one. I’ve partnered up with Skillshare to post it on their platform. The course is mainly geared to people who already do or want to create their own videos but it should be interesting for anyone. If you’re not interested in that in particular, Skillshare has over 16,000 classes about pretty much anything and everything which you can watch from anywhere including when you’re offline by using their IOS or Android apps. An annual membership gives you unlimited access to their classes for less than $10/month, but the first 500 people to sign up over at can learn whatever they want on Skillshare for free for their first two months including my behind-the-scenes course which is also linked in the description.



The Post Road in New York
The Post Road in New York

Transportation was used early on to support industry and commerce in New York State. The Boston Post Road, between what then the relatively small City of New York and Boston, began as a path to deliver the post using post riders (the first ride to lay out the Upper Post Road starting January 22, 1673), and developed into a wagon, or stage road in later colonial times. During the 19th century, pieces of the road were taken over and improved by turnpike companies. In the 1910s and 1920s, the Lower Post Road alignment (and realignments made to the route) was a National Auto Trail known as the Boston Post Road. Large sections of the various routes are still given the name Boston Post Road, much of it is now U.S. Route 1.

By the American Revolutionary War, the colonial Province of New York was still small and relatively sparsely populated. In the 1790 United States Census, the state had a population of 340,120, placing it behind Virginia (747,610), Pennsylvania (434,373), Massachusetts (378,787).[1] The state grew rapidly after this as New York City grew to become the country's shipping epicenter. On October 24, 1825, the Erie Canal opened and over the next century would make boom towns out of the Upstate cities of Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Rome, Utica and Schenectady. Use of the canal would only decline after 1950. Cities in New York State would frequently show up as amongst the largest in the United States during the 19th, and into the early 20th century.

The other major contribution to New York's transportation system was its extensive railroad network. The New York Central Water Level Route was advertised as the world's first four-track railroad, and connected New York City, Buffalo, and the cities in between.


Early transportation in New York State was primarily by rivers and canals. Today, the canals are primarily used for recreation.

Urban mass transit

One of the most famous urban mass transit systems in the world is the New York City Subway. New York City is also served by Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH), and an extensive bus system.

Besides New York City, many of the other cities have mass transit systems.

Buffalo Metro Rail serves Buffalo, the second largest city in the state. However, this service also resembles a light rail system.


Rochester had a subway system, although it is mostly destroyed. Only a small part exists under the old Erie Canal Aqueduct. In its day, the system would carry people underground on what were essentially streetcars. If the system still existed today, it would probably be described as a light rail service.

Rochester, Utica, and other upstate cities once had streetcar and interurban systems.

Commuter railroads

NJ Transit and Amtrak also serve New York City and its suburbs.

Intercity and International rail

Like most of United States, the only intercity rail passenger service is provided by Amtrak. New York City's Pennsylvania Station is the busiest of Amtrak's rail stations. The most successful of Amtrak's routes, the Northeast Corridor, operates between Washington, D.C., and Boston, Massachusetts. The most popular and heavily used routes in the Amtrak system are those on the Northeast Corridor, which include the Acela Express, Metroliner, and Regional.

Amtrak's Empire Service trains provide frequent daily service along the 460-mile (740 km) Empire Corridor between New York City and Niagara Falls. The route was formerly the Water Level Route of the New York Central Railroad to Buffalo and then the former Buffalo and Niagara Falls Railroad. One train, known as the Maple Leaf, continues beyond Niagara Falls to Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Recently, the state has taken more interest in increasing the frequency and speed of intercity rail, going so far as to propose the creation of a statewide high-speed rail network.

Intercity Bus

New York City is a hub for intercity bus networks in the northeastern United States. The rest of the state is served by intercity buses run by companies such as Megabus, Greyhound Lines, Trailways of New York, OurBus,[2] North Fork Express[3], Hampton Jitney, Coach USA Short Line and others.

Automobile transportation

New York Thruway

New York State Thruway

The largest single artery in New York State is the New York State Thruway, which is more than 400 miles from The Bronx to Buffalo. It follows the Hudson River between New York City and Albany with an Interstate 87 designation and the Erie Canal between Albany and the Pennsylvania border with an Interstate 90 designation.


New York is home to many parkways built by Robert Moses. Among his projects are the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, the Staten Island Expressway, the Cross-Bronx Expressway, the Belt Parkway, the Laurelton Parkway, and many more.

Other parkways include the Cross County Parkway in Westchester, the Taconic State Parkway, the Palisades Interstate Parkway, the Northern State Parkway and the Southern State Parkway (the latter two both in Long Island).


New York City

Elsewhere in New York State


Most tunnels in the state of New York are within New York City.


North-South Interstates

The principal north-south highways are as follows:

  • I-81.svg
  • I-87.svg
  • I-95.svg
  • I-99.svg

Interstate 81 has two auxiliary routes, Interstate 481 and Interstate 781.

Interstate 87 has three auxiliary routes: Interstate 287, Interstate 587, and Interstate 787.

Interstate 95 has three auxiliary routes: Interstate 295, Interstate 495, and Interstate 695.

East-West Interstates

The principal east-west highways are as follows:

Interstate 78 has four auxiliary routes: Interstate 278, Interstate 478, Interstate 678, and Interstate 878. All were planned to connect to Interstate 78, but none of them currently do that.

Interstate 84 has one auxiliary route, Interstate 684.

Interstate 86 and Interstate 88 have no auxiliary routes.

Interstate 90 has nine auxiliary routes: Interstate 190, Interstate 290, Interstate 390, Interstate 490, Interstate 590, Interstate 690, Interstate 790, Interstate 890, and Interstate 990.

Other highways


Between 2010 and 2014, NYS has between 1039 and 1202 yearly road traffic fatalities, that is between 8 and 8.3 fatalities by billion miles traveled. Pedestrian fatalities are between yearly 263 and 336[6].

In the NY state, pedestrians are one out of 4 fatalities, each year. Those fatalities are due to unsafe actions both from motorists and from pedestrians[7].

NY state is one of the fives US states with the most pedestrian fatalities: 879 fatalities of which 294 (33%) occurred at intersections[8].


New York has a system of numbered state bicycle routes.[9]

Transportation in New York City

New York City boasts one of the most extensive urban transportation systems in the world, including two distinct mass transit systems:

New York City's automobile network is also extensive. It includes many bridges and limited access highways built by Robert Moses, and is integrated with a street grid that dates to the early 19th century.

While extensive, much of New York City's infrastructure is aging and in need of capital investment. Despite the lack of expansion and investment during the past few decades, many infrastructure projects including the Second Avenue Subway, 7 Subway Extension, Fulton Center, and the East Side Access have already started construction during the 2000s.

Transportation on Long Island

Every major form of transportation serves Long Island, including three major airports, railroads and subways, and several major highways. There are historic and modern bridges, recreational and commuter trails, and ferries as well.

The Long Island Expressway, Northern State Parkway, and Southern State Parkway, all products of the automobile-centered planning of Robert Moses, make east-west travel on the island straightforward, if not always quick. Indeed, locals refer to Long Island Expressway as "The World's Longest Parking Lot".

There are currently ten road crossings out of Long Island, all within New York City limits at the extreme western end of the island. Plans for a Long Island Sound link at various locations in Nassau and Suffolk Counties have been discussed for decades, but there are currently no firm plans to construct such a crossing.

The Long Island Rail Road is the busiest commuter railroad system in North America, carrying an average of 282,400 customers each weekday on 728 daily trains. Chartered on April 24, 1834, it is also the oldest railroad still operating under its original name.[10]


Commuter rail


Mass transit

Proposed light rail systems

New York presently only boasts the Buffalo Metro Rail, which is arguably a light rail system. Proposals include:

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Port Authority of New York and New Jersey - George Washington Bridge". Retrieved 2010-03-25.
  5. ^ George Washington Bridge turns 75 years old: Huge flag, cake part of celebration, Times Herald-Record, October 24, 2006. "The party, however, will be small in comparison to the one that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey organized for 5,000 people to open the bridge to traffic in 1931. And it won't even be on what is now the world's busiest bridge for fear of snarling traffic."
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ "New York State Bicycle Maps". New York State Department of Transportation. Retrieved February 2, 2011.
  10. ^
This page was last edited on 29 December 2018, at 02:00
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