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722 Miles: The Building Of The Subways And How They Transformed New York
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722 Miles: The Building Of The Subways And How They Transformed New York

3.74  ·  Rating Details  ·  165 Ratings  ·  34 Reviews
As the population of New York - and specifically Manhattan - grew throughout the 19th century, boundaries grew strained and surface transportation increasingly difficult. However, through the vision and financial backing of a handful of wealthy investors, by the early part of the 20th-century New Yorkers were living in the outlying boroughs of The Bronx, Queens and Brookly ...more
Paperback, 335 pages
Published September 1st 1995 by Johns Hopkins University Press (first published 1993)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 480)
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The New York subway system, much like the city itself, mocks hyperbole. The tracks, if stretched end to end, would travel from New York City to Chicago. It has its own police force of 4,250 employees, larger than that of Atlanta of Boston, and it has 469 stations. Forty-six percent of New Yorkers use it to travel to work and Wall Street would cease to function without it.

The book recounts the numerous physical and political barriers that need to be surmounted in accomplishing the huge feat. It's
Jan 01, 2015 Dakota rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This was a frustrating read. The intro suggests that it was a PhD dissertation, but it read like a general urban history without a specific theme or focus. Perhaps the main point was how the subways contributed to the 'suburban' development of NYC outside of Manhattan Island, which the author showed fairly well. But otherwise it bounced around from a rah-rah urban transit praise piece to Tammany Hall politics to the virtues of subsidized transit to a sudden but incomplete focus on labor/class hi ...more
Sep 03, 2013 Zahir rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
For anyone who has taken New York City transit for granted, this book is a must read. In this work, Hood combines historical narrative, political history, geology and engineering together in a seamless manner to produce this excellent work. Most of all, Hood points out just what a staggering feat of engineering was the planning and construction of the NYC Subway system.

Hood starts off by describing what New York was like in the 19th century, describing the mix of ethnic neighborhoods, the extre
Feb 08, 2015 Du rated it liked it
Shelves: planning
3.5 Stars. This is a well researched and interesting look at the development of the NYC subway system. There is a lot of attention paid to the early politics and dream that took place. The entrepreneurial start up was intriguing compared to the fallout that occurred later in the timeline. It is interesting to review the fare rates and the infighting that happened. On the political front the back and forth of changes in theory and political practice was almost nauseating.

Downside of the book is
Linda Gaines
This book was interesting because the history of the NY subway is interesting. While it was easy to read, it tended to wander a bit. Also, the author is extremely opinionated, essentially says so in the prologue, and I felt like it skewed the book a bit more than it should. The book lacked all technical details about the building and operation of the subway. It also left huge gaps in details about what was built where. The maps are laughable due to lacking do much detail to be almost useless. Th ...more
Nicholas Baker
Jun 12, 2012 Nicholas Baker rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating account of the building of the New York subway system, from the 19th century until 1953. At 250 pages, however, it feels a little rushed given the amount of material to cover.
Paul Marchesano
Mar 09, 2015 Paul Marchesano rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A well-written, well-researched book on a fascinating history. Rather than a long list of things that happened, Hood brings us insight to life in New York leading up to the building of the subways and places the development of the world famous subway system in perspective and in relation to life as it happened. Understanding how integral the subway system was to growth of New York City, and understanding how innovative the system was in mixing the classes from the very beginning. Their are enjoy ...more
Jun 19, 2011 Emily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good, but wanting of more detail for the particularly interested
Frank Stein
Jul 29, 2012 Frank Stein rated it really liked it

This book takes a complicated narrative and turns it into a readable and comprehensible story with engaging characters and real drama.

The first character here is Abram S. Hewitt, the New York iron-manufactured who introduced the "open-hearth" process to the United States and, despite his reformist credentials, got himself elected mayor of the city in 1886 under the Tammany banner (they were worried about losing out to either the radical Henry George or a young Teddy Roosevelt). Two years later h
May 03, 2016 Conor rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: new-york
This was more a history of the city of New York told through the construction of the subway system than the other way around, but I found it digestible and interesting. The most interesting aspect was the way the private sector actors were portrayed: rapacious and greedy, but efficient and determined. These are hoary and I don't think very universally accurate stereotypes, but it's rare that we see such wholesale control of something we might now regard as a utility being catalyzed and shaped so ...more
Jun 01, 2015 Paul rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Anyone who's lived in New York City long enough will recognize many of the names Steinway, Belmont, Hylan, and LaGuardia. But who knew they (and many others) were so key in building, developing, and changing our city's subway system?

722 Miles is terribly informative, but can become overly dry at times, and a little repetitive of certain facts. A recommended read for anyone fascinated by public transit, the subway, and NYC history. You'll just have to be a bit dedicated to reach the end.
Apr 08, 2015 Batya7 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I am fascinated by the New York City subway system and this book was a really good overview of how the system was established and evolved. It described the politicking and machinations behind the 3 systems and their starts, history writ large in subway tracks. More than an academic read.

It took me over a year to finish, not because of the writing -- it is well-written -- but because I kept picking it up and putting it down because it required a bit more concentration than I usually give for fluf
Aug 25, 2015 Noah rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book is about 15% a history of New York subways, and 85% a history of municipal financial instruments. Not particularly good unless you REALLY care about the New York subway.
Bridget Carroll
It's an interesting read, although it gets a little dry. The bits about the city at the turn of the century, and in particular about my neighborhood, are most appealing to me (big surprise.) But when you're spending 10 pages on which company is going to get the building contracts and which assemblyman opposes said companies, you're bound to get a little bored.

I bought this book a few years ago when I worked in midtown and took the subway everyday and was completely fascinated with the history an
An enjoyable look at the early years of the New York City subway system. The author gives nice biographical sketches of the relevant political actors and does a decent job of explaining the interactions of different interest groups. The text got a bit dry sometimes and never quite came together as an overarching story instead of just a bunch of isolated historical decisions. Still, I learned quite a bit about how the lines developed and how the city's character was changed by the changing modes ...more
Feb 19, 2009 Lisa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Kind of disappointing-- I thought it would be more about the more recent history of the subways (the 1970's-80's decline), but it's all about the construction and early years. This would be fine but the author focuses way too much on the bios of the people who dreamed up the subway and the mayors of NYC at key times-- I don't really care about these people. There should have been more emphasis on the construction itself and on how the individual lines were constructed (i.e., and then they decide ...more
James Alvino
I wanted to like this book a lot more then I did. It is very informative but can get boring and dry at times. I have to admit while the amount of pictures is lacking the pictures they do have are cool. My main gripe is that the author, when talking about old subway lines, doesn't relate them to what they are called today. Sometimes it is hard to figure out exactly what he is talking about, especially since line and station names have changed dramatically since the early nineteen-hundreds. This c ...more
Nov 09, 2012 Emily rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really wanted to like this book, but it fell short of what I was hoping for. It focused entirely on the local politics that lead to the building of the subway, rather than a split between the politics and the engineering. Maybe as an engineer I'm just expecting too much from my histories, but I was really excited to learn how such a large subway with so many water-crossings was built.
Worth a read if you're curious, but if you struggle with nonfiction it may be hard to get through.
Jan 17, 2014 Ian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent history of the New York subway, enjoyable read if the subject interests you.
Shaneeza aziz
Mar 17, 2014 Shaneeza aziz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book on the construction of the NYC subway system.
JZ Temple
Sep 07, 2007 JZ Temple rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This is another one of those books that I think will go into detail on how things are built, but instead go on endlessly about local politics, financing and social impact descriptions. It just never clicked for me, although I did get through the whole book. Just not an easy or interesting read.
Jan 10, 2013 Shek rated it really liked it
Probably the best layman's history available on the subject, although since it ends the urban renaissance of the '1990's, its outlook for the continued viability of mass transit is pretty dismal even by today's austerity-obsessed standards.
Ben Kintisch
Jul 17, 2007 Ben Kintisch rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: strap hangers
Ever wonder how they built the NYC subway? This popular history tells the tale with a special focus on political alliances, social progressives, and real estate magnates. After reading this, you will never take a ride for granted.
Feb 15, 2016 Charles rated it really liked it
Aside from the history of the construction of the subway, this book has some interesting background on some of the attempts to insulate public services from the whims of politicians, including the founding of the Port Authority.
Dec 19, 2013 Mariah rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Really interesting content, if a little dry. Definitely has it's focus in the politics and people that allowed the subway to be built and operated as opposed to how the subway changed the make-up and neighborhoods of NYC.
Margaret Sankey
Jul 23, 2011 Margaret Sankey rated it liked it
In honor of our visiting historian, the byzantine political, topographical, social and economic development of the New York subway system
Nov 24, 2012 Brent rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
It was incredibly boring. Not a narrative form, but strictly dry, historical material - More useful for researching.
Aug 01, 2011 Andrea rated it it was amazing
Easy to read, engaging history of the greatest mass-transit system in the world
May 03, 2013 Marcie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting if you are interested in New York. An update would be appreciated.
Jan 11, 2010 columbialion rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Any New Yorker
Recommended to columbialion by: Self
Historical account of the engineering marvel that is the NYC subway
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