The commissioner’s grid did more than lay out a plan for streets and real estate. It also provided the roadmap for the rapid movement of people underground that would make life in a city as large as New York possible.
The impact of the street grid was seen clearly in the evolution of the subway. The first subway, the IRT, ran in a sort of S-shaped line, but largely followed the path of Broadway as it headed north from City Hall. The earliest additions to that line turned that S into an H, with one line stretching up Park and Lexington to the east and another traveling north along Broadway and Seventh Avenue to the west—connected by a key crosstown line in Midtown.
That crosstown link, running along 42nd Street and shown in the picture above, remains an important backbone of the subway system today. Both the shuttle between Times Square and Grand Central, and the No. 7 train, between Manhattan and Queens, serve as critical links connecting East and West Side subway lines. KA