New York, London, Paris and Berlin Transit Compared (1923)

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Transit Expert Reviews Situation Abroad

Electric Railway Journal · Vol. 60, No. 23 · December 2, 1922 · pp. 883.

D. L. Turner, of New York Transit Commission on Recent Trip Abroad Was Impressed by the Relation Between Size of Buildings and City Transportation Problems.

At a meeting of the New York Chapter of the American Association of Engineers, held at the Hotel McAlpin, New York City, on Nov. 14, the speaker was Daniel L. Turner, consulting engineer of the New York Transit Commission. Mr. Turner had recently visited Glasgow, Liverpool, Edinburgh, London, Berlin, Paris, and other cities in Great Britain and on the Continent. He gave statistics of track mileage and the riding habits in a numberj of cities, together with running comments on his observations of electric railway construction and operating methods, including the allied subject of buses.

Contrasting conditions in New York City with those abroad, he said that the terrific congestion due to the construction of very high buildings, which threatened to make transportation an impossible problem in New York in a few years, is absent in the foreign cities. In the latter, five-story buildings are considered plenty high enough in the business districts, with the result that the traffic offered by the occupants of these buildings is fairly well distributed.

In Liverpool, said Mr. Turner, there is subway and surface transportation, with a few buses, with little belief in the usefulness of the last named. The great development there is in the direction of "arterial ways," which are wide highways with provision for tramways in the center. On these highways the cars can make such good speed as to bring them into the class of rapid transit.

Glasgow, wth 500 miles of single track, is much overbuilt from the tramway standpoint. Frequent service is given, with the result that the traffic at one time exceeded 500 rides per capita per annum. Fares are collected on the zone system, nearly 60 per cent of the passengers paying the minimum fare of 14 cents. The municipality manufactures its own cars, under individual contracts with the workmen, and paints them different colors for the several routes. The property is in excellent condition and has reduced its indebtedness to $1,500,000, after paying which the city will own the property free of encumbrance. The manager, James Dalrymple, is buying in small lines for the city, and expects to electrify a seven-mile subway which is now operated by cable.

Edinburgh presented little of interest from the transit standpoint, as it is now being changed over from cable operation to the overhead trolley. There was great difficulty in bringing the citizens around to approve this change, but the changeover will soon be complete.

In London Mr. Turner was impressed by the fact that there is no competition between the buses and the rapid-transit lines, which serve different districts. The London County Council operates surface cars but is not permitted in the center of the city, where buses handle all surface traffic. A dozen or more different companies operate the rapid-transit lines. The buses work in well with the general transportation system of the city.

The London buses seem to be almost innumerable, and they follow many routes. It is, however, very easy to get around with their aid, as the routes are convenient and the buses are plainly marked with route signs.

One thing about London transportation is the alacrity with which passengers board and alight from the cars. They are expected to be prompt and not get hurt. Crowds of people desiring transportation are much more amenable to reason and control than in this country. Their reasonableness is shown further in the fact that they do not demand all-night transportation.

On the Continent Mr. Turner found conditions interesting, but with few features of great novelty. In Greater Berlin, which was formed in 1920, there are few rapid-transit facilities in the new sections. Much traffic is handled by the Stadtbahn, which is steam operated. The Ringbahn, a suburban system, carried considerable traffic, but rapid transit is not considered important and involves but 12 per cent of the total traffic. Six-car trains are the maximum. Eighty-five per cent of all traffic in the city is carried on the tramways, buses being very little used. Train operation is common, this plan being preferred to that of providing a large number of places per operating unit by the use of the double-deck plan which is common in England. The zone fare seems to be operating satisfactorily.

New York, London, Paris and Berlin Transit Compared

Electric Railway Journal · Vol. 61, No. 2 · January 13, 1923 · pp 79-84.


Map of the Cities Considered, Drawn to the Same Scale and Showing Rapid Transit Lines.

While Social and Other Conditions Greatly Affect City Transit Methods There Is Much that Can Be Learned from the Properties Abroad, Especially Methods of Merchandising Transportation More Passengers Are Carried Annually on the City Systems of New York than on Those of Any Other City.

By Daniel L. Turner, Consulting Engineer, New York Transit Commission.

Abstracted from the first part of a report just presented to the New York Transit Commission. Mr. Turner spent last summer in Europe studying city transit conditions. An abstract of the second part of Mr. Turner's report, comparing operating practice, will appear in a later issue of this paper. The portion on buses is given in greater detail in Bus Transportation for January.

The transit conditions in this country and in Europe are unlike physically, socially and psychologically. In comparing them, it is a matter of pointing out their contrasts. Generally, it is fair to say that municipal transportation has been developed farther here than abroad, but in some particulars, as we shall see, London and Paris lead us.

The painted platforms is one illustration of the psychological difference in conditions. The mental attitude of the passengers toward the operators of the transit lines is different. Also, the mental attitude of the public authorities toward those responsible for the operation of the facilities is different. The passengers are more amenable to suggestion and control than they are here. They expect to have information furnished to them in such a way that they can conveniently use it. They seek out the information for themselves, and from our point of view, the strange part of it is that they endeavor to be guided by the directions given them. They are willing to do what they are told to do. On some of the London Underground station platforms, painted white lines were observed. They were guidelines within which the passengers were expected to form queues so that they might board the trains in the order in which they arrived at the station, and in an orderly manner. Without protest, the passengers formed up within these painted lines. Here we have to mark out such spaces with 2-in. pipe railings, and we have to have policemen on hand to compel the passengers to keep in formation behind the railings.

The practice which is very generally in vogue abroad of permitting passengers to open the car doors themselves, and to debark from the train before it has stopped, and also of opening doors and boarding trains after they have started, is an illustration of the difference in mental attitude of the public authorities over there and over here. If we permitted our companies so to equip the cars as to enable passengers to open the car doors and enter and leave the trains at their will, and injuries occurred, there would be a hue and cry about indicting the railroad officials and others responsible for permitting such a thing to happen. Over there, the rules are against the passenger leaving and entering the train while in motion. If he is injured under such circumstances, he the passenger is to blame, and is held responsible, not the operators of the line. In other words, over there the fool is punished. Over here, those responsible for not making things foolproof are punished.

The difference in mental attitude may be well summed up in a statement made to me by one of the railroad officials, which was to the effect that their idea was to train the individual to use his head, and to do what he should do and when he ought to do it. He was speaking of training railroad operating men and was objecting to our tendency to develop all kinds of mechanical devices which automatically control the operations and take the responsibility out of the hands of the operatives themselves. In other words, their idea is that since we must always deal with the human element, we should train the human machine to be as perfect a human machine as possible, and require it to function and not destroy the efficiency of the human machine by taking all control away from it, and setting up a mechanical device in its place.

While I admire the principle, I am convinced it cannot be applied under our conditions. For example, the train crews must lock our train doors, and thereby stop most of the passengers, who could easily and safely do so, from getting on and off the trains as they please, in order to prevent the fools from getting on and off at the wrong time and in the wrong way. That is to say, with us, in municipal transportation, as well as in every other human activity, the liberty of action of the great majority must be restricted to safeguard the incompetents and fools.


When I first saw the red and gray and green toy towns on the banks of the Mersey as we approached Liverpool, and compared them in my mind with the skyline of upper Manhattan, I realized at once the outstanding difference in the social conditions over here and abroad. There were the home areas of a great city, consisting of two- or three-story garden homes, as compared with the ten- or fifteen-story family barracks of New York. Each little family had a separate little home. There were trees and shrubs in plenty. Compare such a picture with our conditions here in New York, where we house forty or fifty families under a single roof, in a barracks, for it is just that. And where there are no gardens, no shrubs and no trees. The same contrast prevails in the business parts of London, Paris and Berlin. In those cities the maximum height of the buildings is five or six stories; here, we have gone to forty stories and have not yet reached the limit. There, by restricting the building heights, they have compelled the diffusion and distribution of the home and business activities. Here we are superimposing six or eight cities on one and expect the circulating and distributing systems designed to serve the one city serve the six or eight cities.

When they were told in London and Paris that we would build a subway, and then some one would come along and build a single building on a single block that would absorb one-third of the subway capacity, they were astonished. They have no such problem to contend with.

Average densities of population do not disclose these conditions. It is the concentration of living and business activities which intensifies and complicates the municipal transit problem. Paris has the greatest average population density, with 151 people per acre. This is nearly six times the average density of New York City and two and one-half times the density of London. Berlin comes next to Paris, with a density of 118 people per acre (municipal Berlin, I mean). Its density is four times that of New York and two times that of London, and London has a density of sixty people per acre, which is two times that of New York, with an average of twenty-eight per acre. But in Manhattan Borough of New York the population density is 163 per acre on the average, even greater than in Paris, and in some parts of New York the congestion of population is very great. Reduced to blocks, there is a single block within the most congested area, which had a population of 2,963 in 1920, or a net population of 1,650 people per acre; and the whole area in which this block was located, consisting of about 100 acres, had a population density of about 500 per acre.

There is no other place in the world except New York where a single business building during working hours has a resident population of 12,000 people. In this same building, the total number of people passing in and out a day was about 50,000, or measured in transit passengers coming and going, it amounted to 100,000 passengers that had to be carried to this one block and taken away during the day. In another part of the city, a single big shop is visited during the business day by approximately 60,000 people. Or, going to and from the building, transportation has to be provided for 120,000 passengers per day, again only in a portion of a single block. That is to say, more than the entire population of Albany, of the capital of the state, has to be transported on the transit facilities to and from a single shop every working day throughout the year, and this is only one such shop. Innumerable instances such as these might be cited.

We cannot compete against this kind of thing. Transit cannot be provided for such concentrated demands. Something must be done to compel a better distribution of our living activities. We must exercise a more drastic control over the height of buildings and our various community activities. We have our zoning laws, but they are not effective enough. The lid must be clamped down so that our population cannot grow up into the air. Then it will utilize the transit facilities and distribute itself over the whole city.


New York, London, Paris and Berlin differ physically in many particulars. They differ not only in their populations and the size of the cities, but they differ with respect to the character of the transit facilities supplied for the accommodation of the people, the use made of the various types of facilities, and the manner in which they are operated in the public interest

Each of these great cities has a municipal entity. In other words, there are central areas, municipally governed, which form the nuclei of great metropolitan areas or greater cities. One cannot reasonably compare the municipality of New York with the greater cities of London, Paris and Berlin. Such comparisons as are made will either be comparisons between the municipally governed areas, that is, the cities of New York, London, Paris and Berlin, or between their metropolitan districts.

In area, New York is the greatest city of them all. In fact, these three great capitals of England and Europe all together only aggregate about 176 square miles, and are only a little more than half as large as New York City with its 315 square miles of area. London with its 117 square miles is just about the exact area of the Borough of Queens. Paris and Berlin. with their 30 and 29 square miles respectively, are only about 50 per cent larger than Manhattan Borough, or only about one-half the size of Richmond Borough. By Berlin is meant the old city as it existed as late as 1920. In that year a Greater Berlin was created.

Dealing with the metropolitan districts surrounding the great cities, Greater New York is assumed to mean the area included under the Port Authority control, the only legal entity now in existence. Greater London is the area under the control of the Metropolitan Police, and Greater Paris is the area within the Department of the Seine. Greater Berlin is assumed to be the area which was included within the city under the consolidation effected in 1920. Even in comparing these greater cities. New York again stands out as being larger than any of the others. Greater London with its 693 square miles is only a little less than half of New York with its 1,463 square miles. Greater Paris with its 188 square miles is only a little more than one-tenth the size of Greater New York. Greater Berlin with its 339 square miles is about the same size as the New York City of today. But the most important thing from the transit standpoint is not the area of these communities, but the radii which circumscribe them. This measures the distance which passengers have to he carried from the business center of the city to the outlying sections. New York City is a semi-circular city, whereas the three other cities, London, Paris and Berlin, are approximately circular cities. The greater area of New York as compared with those of the other cities is accentuated from the transit standpoint because of the fact that its area is included within a semi-circle, while that of the others is included within a circle. To reach the outermost limits of New York, passengers have to be carried 20 miles; that is, to outer Richmond. The outer limits of Manhattan are about 13 miles from the center; Brooklyn 11 miles; Bronx and Queens both 16 miles. The most populous part of London is the part north of the Thames, which is about double the density per acre of the area south of the Thames. The circumscribing radius of the area north of the Thames is only about 6 miles, and 10 miles will include all parts of the area south of the Thames in other words, the greater part of London is not any further away from its business center than from City Hall to Eighty-first Street in Manhattan. The maximum distance away from the center is no further away than from City Hall to 190th Street in Manhattan. The outer limits of Paris are only 3 or 4 miles away from the center, or a distance of only from City Hall to Sixty-fifth Street at the most. In the case of Berlin, any point in old Berlin can be reached in a ride of a similar distance as from City Hall to Sixty-fifth Street.

When we consider the "greater cities," they are all approximately circular in form, but the circumscribing radius of New York is 31 miles, London 16 miles, Paris 10 miles, and Berlin 16 miles. In fact, from the transit standpoint, to reach the outer limits, passengers have to be carried a greater distance in municipal New York City than they have to be carried to reach the outer limits of the greater cities of London, Paris or Berlin.

These limitations emphasize the relative simplicity, from a transit standpoint, of distributing the populations of London, Paris and Berlin, when compared with the problem of distributing New York's population to the outer limits of the city.

The population of municipal New York was 5,620,000 in 1920; London, 4,483,000 in 1921, 80 per cent of New York; Paris, 2,906,000, 52 per cent of New York, and Berlin, estimated at 2,200,000, or 40 per cent of New York. The population of Greater New York is estimated at 8,000,000; Greater London, 7,476,000; Greater Paris, 4,500,000, and Greater Berlin, 3,804,000.


There are three general types of municipal facilities in use in New York, London, Paris and Berlin. These are (1) the rapid transit lines, operating either underground, overhead, or along railroad rights-of-way, (2) the trolley or tramway lines and (3) the autobus lines. Then there is still a fourth class of facility, the suburban service over the steam trunk-line railroads. This service will be dealt with separately.

The best measure of the importance of any particular type of facility is the traffic which it develops. Table I gives the traffic on the various types of municipal facilities in the four cities being considered.

Table I, Municipal Fare Passengers in Millions, and Percentage of Total Traffic
Type of FacilityNew YorkLondonParisBerlin
Rapid transit145155152960
Trolley or tramway978688372390





The figures in this table do not include any steam railroad suburban traffic, nor are they intended to include any transit traffic in the extra areas of the several cities. They are only approximate figures for the cities themselves, that is, the municipal areas. They are only approximate for the reason that in London, Paris and Berlin the transit lines serving the municipal areas usually, in varying degrees, extend out into and serve in part the extra areas, so that the figures as they are available apply rather to the greater cities than to the municipal areas. The municipal area figures have been deduced, therefore, from these general statistics, and while they are only very approximate, they are believed to represent a better comparison between the conditions in the several cities than can be obtained in any other way.

Instead of the figures given in Table I, if all of the transit traffic were included for the several metropolitan areas, the numbers with the percentages of distribution of the traffic would be as in Table II.

Table II, Total Fare Passengers In Millions, and Percentages of Total Traffic
Type of FacilityMunicipal New YorkGreater LondonGreater ParisGreater Berlin
Rapid transit145156652996
Trolleys or tramways9781009613669
Steam railroad, suburban106





No figures are available for Greater New York since Greater New York includes the traffic figures for several counties in New York State and New Jersey, outside of the city, in which counties are included a number of cities of considerable size. The statistical information with respect to the transit facilities in this extra area not being available, the statistics for greater New York City cannot be compiled. The figures in Table II not only include the traffic on the rapid transit and tramway lines in the extra areas of the several cities, but they also include the approximate steam railroad suburban traffic. It is not intended to enlarge upon the suburban transit conditions at this time. Additional information from abroad is awaited before doing this. But generally it appears that the steam railroad traffic in Berlin is more important than that in any of the other cities. This Berlin traffic is the traffic that is carried on the Stadt-Bahn and Ring-Bahn systems, which are steam lines operated by the state, and over which the suburban railroads deliver their traffic into the heart of Berlin. This is one of the outstanding features of the Berlin transit system, and it will be considered more fully at another time.


Based on the separation out of the municipal traffic for the municipal areas, it appears that London has the greatest number of rides per capita per year, 484, as compared with 435 for New York, 395 for Paris and 214 for Berlin.

If the total traffic (including the steam railroad traffic) and the greater city area are considered, then the rides per capita become 382 for Greater London, 357 for Greater Paris and 372 for Greater Berlin. There is no corresponding figure for Greater New York, but for New York City the figure is 454 rides per capita.

The fact that the riding habit in London is greater than in New York is a surprise. The figure for New York has heretofore been compared with that for Greater London that is, New York's 435 compared with Greater London's 382.


In Berlin the tramway system is relatively more important than in New York, London or Paris. This does not mean that the tramways in Berlin carried more passengers than in these other cities. The traffic in Berlin is only a little more than one-third of that carried in New York, about one-half of that carried in London, and only about the same as that in Paris. But 83 per cent of the total municipal traffic is tramway traffic. If the total traffic (including the steam railroad traffic) in Greater Berlin is considered, the tramways carried about 47 per cent of the total. Therefore, the tramways are the most important transit element in Berlin. In New York, London and Paris the tramways are about of equal importance in the transit scheme. In all three of these latter cities about one-third of the traffic is carried on the tramway lines. Curiously enough, the tramway system of Paris carries the long-haul traffic from central Paris to points outside of the fortifications in extra Paris. In others words, the tramways, instead of the subway lines, are used for long-haul business in Paris.

In Berlin the tramways operate over the entire city and out into the greater city. In New York they operate throughout the entire city. But in London and in Paris there are small areas in the business center from which the tramway lines are excluded. In London this area is about 3 square miles, about 2 miles long by 1-1/2 miles wide, and it is about the equivalent of Manhattan below Eighth Street. In Paris the area is only about three-fourths of a square mile in area, 1 mile long by i mile wide, or only about one-fourth of the area in London. It is contended that in the business center, where the vehicular congestion is relatively very great, the tramway lines cause a serious interference with traffic. It was stated in Paris that the tendency was to exclude the tramways more and more from the center of the city, in order to relieve the traffic congestion on the streets. This is a principle with which I agree.

All of the tramways in Berlin have the overhead trolley, whereas in all of the other cities both underground and overhead trolleys are in use.

The tramway cars used in London are the exception as to type. They are all double-deck cars, and most of them with the upper deck closed in. All the tramway cars throughout England and Scotland run to this double-deck type. In contrast with this type, the single-deck type is used in New York, Paris and Berlin. The advantage of the double-deck type is that it enables a car to be developed with a maximum seating capacity and minimum weight of car per seat-- even less weight than our one-man cars.

The use of trail cars in Europe, where the single-deck cars are in vogue, is very much more common than with us. Peak loads are taken care of by trains of surface cars, and trains with as many as three cars have often been noted.

The double-deck car is a very desirable type of car. It is a wonder that the type has not been utilized in this country. They have not been used in New York City because of the difficulty in developing a double-deck car that would travel under the elevated lines, where the clearance is limited.


The importance of buses as a transit element is recognized in London and Paris, whereas, by contrast, their use is negligible in New York and Berlin. The bus system in London carries the largest number of passengers. The annual traffic amounts to 932,000,000 passengers. This is nearly four times as many as are carried in Paris, more than eighteen times as many as in New York, and more than forty-four times as many as in Berlin. In London, 43 per cent of the total municipal traffic is carried on the buses. The bus system renders an excellent and most convenient service. It is the outstanding transit element in London. Because of the convenience of the facilities and of the cheap short-haul fares, it is believed that the bus lines create their own traffic; that is, if the bus operation were stopped, possibly only a small part of the traffic would flow to the other transit lines, particularly when these lines are subway and elevated lines. The London bus system is the only transit facility which serves all of London. Only parts of the city are served by the tramways and by the rapid transit lines.

In the type of bus used, Paris is the exception. Its buses are all single deck, whereas in New York, London and Berlin they are all double deck of the same general type, that is, with uncovered upper decks. Paris is developing a six-wheel bus which will carry forty-eight passengers, forty sitting and eight standing, but this is a very long bus and takes up a great deal of room in the street, although it is easily manipulated through the traffic by reason of the six-wheel design. The double-deck bus is preferable. It develops the maximum seating capacity for the minimum space occupied in the street.


New York has a larger rapid transit traffic than London, Paris and Berlin all together. Fifty-nine per cent of all of the transit traffic is carried on the rapid transit lines. The rapid transit lines or subway and elevated lines are by far the most important of all the transit facilities of New York City. In Paris also, the rapid transit lines are the most important transit element. But the New York rapid transit system carries nearly three times as many passengers as are carried on the Paris system. The Paris and London systems carry about the same number of passengers, but the rapid transit system of London is the least important transit factor. In Berlin the rapid transit facilities are relatively unimportant. New York carries about twenty-four times as many passengers as are carried on the Berlin system.

New York, Paris and Berlin all have a shallow type of subway construction, and all have elevated lines. London, on the other hand, has no elevated lines. Although it has some shallow underground construction, its underground lines are mostly deep-level tube lines, from 20 to 193 ft. below the surface. London also has rapid transit lines constructed on the ordinary steam railroad rights-of-way; that is, so-called surface lines running in cut and on embankment. The sub-surface conditions in London the London clay has favored the construction of its deep tube lines; but these deep tubes do not furnish as convenient transit facilities as the shallow subways. Short stairways provide access to the shallow subway lines, whereas elevators or escalators are necessary in the case of the deep level lines. The time consumed in traveling from the surface to the station platform on the London underground system greatly detracts from its convenience. All of these lines are two-track lines. No great effort has been made to make the structure ornamental, although on the newer lines the stations are plainly finished in tile. The stations are approximately 3,200 ft. apart on the average, about 50 per cent greater distance apart than the average stations in New York.

The exceptional feature of the New York rapid transit system is its four-track express lines. The systems in London, Paris and Berlin are all two-track lines, and provide for no express operation except such as can be obtained by skipping stations when the intervals between the trains will permit it.

In London, the Inner Circle Loop is the most interesting feature of its rapid transit system. Most of the tube lines operate independently. That is, the trains operating on each particular line do not operate on the tracks of any other line; but the Metropolitan District and the Metropolitan companies operate a joint service on a circular route known as the Inner Circle. The route is irregularly elliptical, about 5 miles long by 2 miles wide at its widest portion. Neither Paris nor Berlin has a circular route of just this kind. Paris has two circular lines but no routes which operate completely around these circles, and Berlin has one, a steam line, but two routes operate a shuttle service over it. So the Inner Circle route is a route peculiar to London alone. The through routing of rapid transit trains over the steam railroad lines and then over the rapid transit tracks is another interesting feature of the London rapid transit system.

The Paris subway system is not really a rapid transit system in the sense of providing quick transit for long rides. It is made up of short independent routes which intersect and afford a free transfer to each other, thereby providing a convenient and relatively short-haul underground transit system. It is a short-haul system because the longest ride from the center does not exceed the distance from City Hall in Manhattan to Forty-second Street. The Paris subway system is admirable for its purpose.

The feature of the Berlin rapid transit system, or subway and elevated system, is the large amount of shuttle service that is operated. Practically 50 per cent of the total route mileage is served by shuttle trains only. The service probably accommodates the traffic or the needs of the community, otherwise the public would not permit it to continue. The rapid transit lines in Berlin are all two-track lines, as in London and Paris. Stations are about 2,500 ft. apart.

The maximum train length in Paris is five cars. In London and Berlin it is six cars, except that there are a few eight-car trains in London. In New York it is ten cars. So that the rapid transit systems abroad are only utilized to about half of their potential capacity gaged by what we do in New York.

We need in New York a circular route similar to the Inner Circle Loop in London to articulate our radial lines together. With the completion of the proposed Brooklyn crosstown line such a route will be obtained. We also need to profit by the idea of direct routing which obtains in the Paris subway system, and not continue the policy of routing too many different kinds of trains over the same tracks. That is, we should not require trains to interchange from one line to another. Instead, we should require the passengers to change or transfer.


On the theory that every citizen should not be more than 1/2 mile away from a rapid transit line, or 1/2 mile from a surface line, wherever he may live, to be conveniently served by such facilities, New York requires about 500 route-miles of rapid transit lines and about 1,000 route-miles of tramway and bus lines together. It has 205 rapid transit route-miles and 637 surface line route-miles-- mostly trolley lines, but a few bus lines-- in other words, New York's rapid transit system has been developed to only about 41 per cent efficiency and its surface system to only about 65 per cent efficiency.

From the same convenience standpoint, municipal London should have 185 route-miles of rapid transit lines instead of the 89 now serving it. Or its rapid transit facilities have been developed to about 48 per cent of its requirements. The surface facilities conveniently to serve London should amount to about 370 route-miles. It has 408 route-miles of tramway and bus lines all together, which means that its surface system is 10 per cent more than it requires from a convenience standpoint.

Paris only needed about 50 route-miles of rapid transit lines conveniently to serve its area. It has 63 route-miles or 26 per cent more than it needed. In the case of the surface system, it needed about 100 route-miles of tramway and bus lines. It has 259 route-miles, or it has 159 per cent more surface facilities than required.

Berlin theoretically requires 45 route-miles of rapid transit lines and has 10. So it only has been developed to 24 per cent of its requirements. It needs 90 route-miles of surface lines and has 125 route-miles, so it has 37 per cent more surface facilities than it requires, all from a convenience standpoint.

The convenience standpoint is the first requirement to be satisfied. But later on the capacity requirement must be satisfied also. As the population of a city increases, the capacity requirement becomes the factor controlling its transit development. For example, capacity instead of convenience now controls the transit requirements in Paris on both its surface and rapid transit systems. In New York, the transit requirements in the central part of the city are determined by capacity. In the outlying sections, we have not arrived anywhere near a convenience standard of development up to the present time.


In London and Paris a great many maps and direction signs are used with good results. This information is placed on the station platforms of the rapid transit lines and also in the cars, and it is placed in the cars of the tramway lines and in the buses. In London small pocket maps giving detailed information about the rapid transit lines and tramway lines and bus lines are furnished freely to all passengers who request them. In Paris the same kind of maps are furnished for the tramway lines and the bus lines. In London and Paris, in providing information to the passengers, the management seems to start with the theory that the passengers know absolutely nothing about the transit systems, and the maps and signs and other information are prepared and located accordingly. This is particularly the case in Paris, where it is almost impossible for a passenger to go astray, whether he knows the language or not. This is what makes the Paris subway system the most convenient subway system in existence from a passenger standpoint. In New York, on the other hand, the management seems to start with the theory that the passengers know all about the transit system, and only such information is furnished the passengers as cannot be avoided.

The railways in New York could greatly benefit the public by adopting the policy of giving information to the passengers, in vogue in London and Paris. In other words, we can sell the transit service to the public as they do-- to advantage.

Except on the Fifth Avenue bus line, all transit facilities in New York, the subway, elevated and trolley lines, furnish an all-night service. On the other hand, in London and Paris, the transit lines only operate about nineteen or twenty hours. Service is suspended on all the transit lines from shortly after midnight until the workers begin to travel in the early morning. What would happen if we should suspend the all-night service in New York?

Part 2

Electric Railway Journal · Vol. 61, No. 4 · January 27, 1923 · pp 153-156.

Part 2. This Section of Mr. Turner's Report Compares Operating Conditions, Such as Fares, Types of Cars Used, Headways, Etc., on the Rapid Transit and Surface Lines in the Four Largest Cities in the World.

In New York all of the fares are flat fares. It is a 5-cent fare on the rapid transit and trolley lines and a 10-cent fare on the Fifth Avenue bus lines. In New York the passenger can ride about 24 miles on a rapid transit line for 5 cents.

In London all of the fares are zone fares, on the rapid transit lines, tramways and buses. On the rapid transit lines operated by the "Combine" the ordinary fare varies from 1-1/2d. (2.8 cents) for a mile ride to 12d. (22.6 cents) for an 18-mile ride, as compared with 5 cents for a 27-mile ride in New York.

On the tramway lines the fare varies from 1d. (1.9 cents) for a ride of one section of 0.6 mile to 5d. (9.5 cents) for a ride of twelve sections or 7.2 miles. For a ride longer than twelve sections the charge is 6d.

On the buses the fare varies from 1-1/2d. (2.8 cents) for a ride of two stages of 1/2 mile each, or a mile in total distance, to 14d. (26 cents) for a ride of twenty-seven stages or 13-1/2 miles total distance.

There is only one class of fare in London, except in the Metropolitan District, where a first-class fare is also charged. This fare is about twice the ordinary fare on the rapid transit lines.

In Paris the fares on the rapid transit lines or subway systems are flat fares, first and second class. It is 50 centimes (3.8 cents) for first-class fare and 30 centimes (2.3 cents) for second-class fare. For this fare a passenger can ride by transfer over the whole Paris subway system, including the lines of both companies, so that so far as the passenger is concerned, although two companies operate the subway lines, they are operated as one under the fare system. The hauls are relatively short on these systems as compared with New York and the London system; the maximum ride from the center to the outer limits of the city is less than 4 miles.

On the tramways and buses zone fares are in force and there are first-class and second-class fares. The fares on both the tramways and the buses in Paris are the same. The routes generally have three sections, although in a few cases there are four or five sections. The fares are: for one section, 40 centimes first class and 25 centimes second class; two sections, 55 centimes first class, 40 centimes second class; three sections, 70 centimes first class, 50 centimes second class. The suburban tramways operating outside of the fortifications charge 12.1 centimes first class per kilometer of ride and 8.8 centimes per kilometer of ride for the second class. If one has paid his fare and then wishes to increase his ride, he must pay his fare all over again, just as if he was starting a new ride. For example, suppose he paid a one-section fare, first class, amounting to 40 centimes, then decided he wanted to ride two sections; he would have to pay 40 centimes more, or a total of 80 centimes for his entire ride, not 15 centimes more, or the 55 centimes for a two-section ride.

In Berlin, as in Paris, the practice is not uniform as to fares. The rapid transit lines and the buses use a zone fare, whereas the tramways use a flat fare. On the rapid transit lines there are two classes of fare, second and third class, and there are two zones. For a zone of five stations the fare is: second class, 3 marks; third class, 2i marks. For anything more than five stations; that is, including all the stations on the line, the fare is: second class, 3-1/2 marks; third class, 3 marks. Only two classes of cars are run.

On the tramway lines a flat fare of 5 marks is charged, but monthly and pupils tickets are issued, which considerably reduce the fare to the users of the tickets. On the buses there are usually three sections to the lines and there is one class. The fare for the first section is 5 marks; for the second section 7 marks, and for the third section 8 marks.

On the Stadt-Bahn and Ring-Bahn lines operated by the steam railroads the fare is: second class, 4-1/2 marks; third class, 3 marks. But this is a flat fare and will carry a passenger anywhere on the Stadt-Bahn or the Ring-Bahn, free transfers between the systems being exchanged.


Although zone fares are pretty generally in vogue in London, Paris and Berlin as compared with the flat fare in New York, it is to be noted that the practice is not uniform. London is the only city in which all the different types of facilities employ zone fares, Paris having flat fares on the rapid transit lines and zone fares on the other services, and Berlin having flat fares on the tram lines and zone fares on the other services.

All transit fares have increased greatly as a result of war conditions except in New York, where there has been no change.

I still believe that a flat fare must be maintained in New York City, particularly on the rapid transit lines, if the city's rapid transit system is to be effective in properly distributing its population. Such a flat fare, however, should not only include the ride on the rapid transit line, but should also include the ride on the supplementary facilities, the tramway and the bus lines, which are used as feeders or distributors for the rapid transit lines. But considering the surface facilities, that is the trolley lines and the bus lines, separately, I believe that a zone fare might be worked out to advantage. If a cheap short-haul fare were available on the tramway lines, and particularly on a bus line service, an enormous amount of short-haul traffic would be developed which is not now obtained by any of the transit systems.

In London, Paris or Berlin there are no free transfers from one line or system to another except on the subway system of Paris, which is a flat-fare system. Whereas in New York, although not as extensive as formerly, there is still a large amount of free transfer traffic.


On the London rapid transit lines two types of cars are in use. The cars used on the Metropolitan District lines, the shallow subway lines, are generally similar to those in New York in that they have three doors, one in the middle and two near the ends of the car, but there are no vestibules in these cars, and such end doors as are available are not usable by the passengers going from car to car, so there is no circulation between the cars. On the tube lines, however, the cars have two end doors entering into vestibules, some of the cars having middle doors. On the District line trains all the doors in the car are operated independently and are opened by the passengers leaving the train or entering the train. On the tube trains the doors are opened by guards stationed on the platforms, one guard serving two adjoining car platforms, which is similar to the system in use in New York on many of the trains. There are both wooden and steel cars in operation on the London underground system, the older cars being wooden cars and the newer cars being steel cars.

The Paris cars also have three doors, middle doors and quarter-point doors. An effort is made to use these doors for one-direction traffic only. That is, passengers are invited to enter by the middle doors and leave by the end doors, but the practice is not generally followed. Also, there is no vestibule on these cars and passengers cannot circulate from one car to the other in the train. The doors are not operated by any mechanical means, each door being operated independently, although I noticed on some of the trains that the doors of the car can all be closed by the guard simultaneously. Usually the doors are opened by the passengers leaving and entering the car, although where the guard is on the car he opens the door. On the Paris trains there is usually a motorman and three guards on a five-car train, one guard for each car. The central car is usually the first-class car on these train. Both wooden and steel cars are in operating on the Paris subway lines. The most modern cars are very beautifully finished.

The Berlin cars have only two doors, near the ends. They also have no vestibule, so that there in no circulation between the several cars of the trains. They are operated almost entirely by the passengers entering and leaving the trains, as there is only a single guard on a five or six-car train. He rides on the first car, having a cabin beside the motorman's cab. The Berlin subway cars are composite cars steel and wood, the substructure only being steel.

As stated in the first article, the general practice in London, Paris, and Berlin is to permit the passengers to open the doors in leaving and entering the car. This greatly shortens the station stop, because frequently the trains are almost unloaded before they come to a stop, and often times passengers board trains after they have started to move. But the conditions of congestion on these lines is very different from that in New York. The station platforms are never crowded to the extent that our station platforms become crowded, so far as my observations went. In other words, there was no pressure of people on the platforms against the trains sufficient to prevent the passengers from easily getting off. In Paris a passenger is not permitted to enter a station when a train is standing at a platform, or even when a train is entering a platform. Frequently long queues of passengers extend up the stairways and way into the passages waiting for a train to depart and enable them to enter the platform. This same method of excluding passengers from a platform while the train is there is in vogue in London, particularly at some of the busier stations. It was not observed in use in Berlin, however. The result of the practice is that there can be no last-minute rushes to board the train, and it does facilitate the movement of trains under the conditions prevailing.

From one of the busy stations in Paris trains were observed leaving the station with passengers hanging out of the doors, on the second-class cars; very much like we see passengers hanging on the steps of our trolley cars. The first-class cars on the same trains would only be carrying small standing loads.

The dimensions of the cars in use are as given in the following table:

Dimensions of Rapid Transit Cars
 LengthWidthNo. of SeatsNo. of Standing Places
New York: I. R. T.51 ft 1/2 in.8 ft. 10 in.44165(d)
New York: B. R. T.67 ft10 ft78(a)225(d)
London: Metropolitan District49 ft9 ft. 8 In.48(d)
London: Tubes50 ft 10 in8 ft 11 in42(d)
Paris: Motor cars46 ft.7 ft. 10 in.13(b)21(b,e)
Paris: Trail cars43 ft. 10 in.7 ft. 10 in.33(c)46(c,e)
Berlin: Motor cars41 ft. 11 in.7 ft. 5 in.30-3536(e)
Berlin: Trail cars41 ft. 11 in.7 ft. 5 in.37-3936(e)
(a) Ninety if only one door is in use. (b) Second

class, (c) First class, (d) No restrictions as to standing, (e) Restrictions as to standing not strictly enforced.

There is considerable variation in the number of cars in the trains in the rapid transit systems of the various cities. For example:

  • New York, Interborough, 10-car trains
  • New York, B. R. T., 8-car trains
  • London, Maximum on the Metropolitan District, 8-car trains
  • London, Mostly, 6-car trains
  • London, On tube lines, 6 car trains
  • Paris, 5-car trains
  • Berlin, 6-car trains

The train makeup with respect to motor cars and trail cars is also very variable. In New York the Interborough system varies from two motors to a threecar train to seven motors for a ten-car train. In the case of the B.R.T. trains, they are all motor cars. In London the makeup of the trains varies from one motor car to a two-car train to four motor cars to an eight-car train. In Paris most of the trains are five-car trains, and two motor cars are used, one at each end of the train. In Berlin there is a motor car for every two cars in the train.

The train interval in New York theoretically is placed at a minimum of one and one-half minutes, but in practice the minimum obtained on the express tracks is about one minute forty-eight seconds. The minimum interval is only reached during the non-rush hours when traffic congestion does not obtain. In London and in Paris the very minimum interval is about one and one-half minutes. In London as many as forty-two trains an hour have been operated past the Victoria Station. This has only been accomplished by employing what is called an "automatic hustler." This consists of a siren whistle which is blown by the platform man on the station as soon as the thirty-second stopping time expires. Immediately the train is started. It is a warning to passengers and train crews that the train is going to start forthwith. By using this device, the company has been able to reach its maximum operation per hour. The general minimum interval on these lines, however, is about two minutes. In Berlin the minimum interval is about two and one-half minutes. There is no express service operated in London, Paris or Berlin similar to the express service operated in New York over the four-track lines. They do operate in London so-called express trains which skip stations as some of the B.R.T. express trains do which are operated on the elevated system.

The express tracks on the New York system permit a higher average speed to be attained than on any other lapid transit system in existence, the schedule speed being 25 m.p.h. The maximum speed of trains on the local service is 18 m.p.h. At the height of congestion, however, in New York these speeds are not obtained. The speeds of the subway systems in London, Paris and Berlin are generally less than in New York. In London it is estimated to be about 16 m.p.h. on the average. In Paris the average speed is only about 12 to 15 m.p.h. and in Berlin somewhere between 12 and 15 m.p.h. is obtained. All these speeds include station stops.

Trains on the rapid transit lines in London and Paris do not operate all night. Usually the service is suspended from about 1 o'clock to 5 o'clock in the morning. Information as to all-night operation on the rapid transit system in Berlin is not available. In New York once a rapid transit service is inaugurated on a new line it never stops. Service is provided all day and all night on weekdays, Sundays and holidays.

On the rapid transit systems in New York the method of ticket control is in the transitory stage. The automatic turnstile is generally being substituted for the old ticket booth and ticket chopper box control. There are no turnstile systems in vogue in London, Paris or Berlin. The ticket system is used. In London, which has a zone fare system, a passenger purchases a ticket to his destination. This ticket is punched as he enters the station and is taken up at the debarking station. There are automatic ticket-selling machines installed at some stations, in which a passenger can deposit the necessary coin and obtain his ticket. In Paris, with a flat fare system on the subway lines, the ticket system is also used. The tickets are stamped with the name of the station where purchased, the day of month and time. The ticket is supposed to be used within the hour and is punched as the passenger enters the train platform. If he is a first-class passenger, he gets a ticket of one color; a second-class passenger gets a ticket of another color. If he is riding first class the guard on the first-class car, which is at the center of the train, inspects his ticket and punches it to be sure that a first-class fare has been paid. On the second-class cars the tickets are not examined. The tickets are not taken as the passengers leave the stations, but receptacles are provided into which they can throw the tickets away if they desire to do so. At most transfer points bodily transfer is used.

In Berlin, where the zone fare operation also prevails, a ticket is purchased to destination. It is punched on entering the station and taken up when the passenger leaves the station. It may also be inspected on the train. In Paris two methods of -indicating the routes are utilized in the cars. One is to place on the door jamb, just over the door handle, a list of all of the stations from terminal to terminal. The other type of sign is a Iriangular sign placed transversely on the car ceiling, with a diagrammatic map of the lines on each face, with the stations in bold figures and the transfer stations indicated. Usually one of these signs is placed opposite each door, so that each passenger on the car, by looking up, sees the whole route of the line clearly displayed, and sees the relation of the station to which he is bound to all the other stations on the line. The passenger follows the stations on the signs on the cars, and thereby determines when he is to get off; for generally there is no announcement of the stations by the guards, except in the London tubes, where the guards call off the stations just as on our lines.


In New York all of the trolley cars are single deck. In London and throughout England the double-deck cars are used. Most of the cars in London have the upper decks inclosed in glass, although some open-deck cars are operated. In Paris and in Berlin, single-deck type of cars are used exclusively, but trail cars are used in Paris and Berlin to take care of the rush-hour traffic. In some cases three-car tramway trains were noted, particularly in Berlin.

In New York the trolley car lines stop at every cross street except under a few special conditions and the cars stop on the near side of the crossings. In London, Paris and Berlin the practice is to designate the stopping points on the tramway lines. The distances apart vary, but there are always several blocks intervening. In London and Paris the stopping points are designated by special post signs. Usually on these posts there are signs which indicate the routes which pass and stop at such stopping points. The routes of the tramway lines are usually designated by numbers. In London and in Paris small folded pocket maps are supplied to passengers, upon which all of the routes of the tramway lines are indicated and described. Those in London are given to passengers free. In Paris the map costs the passenger a few centimes. There is another practice in Paris which is a very commendable one. At all of the stopping point posts a set of numbered tickets is posted. Each passenger tears a ticket off as he arrives at the stopping point. When the car stops the passenger is permitted to board the car in the order of the number which he holds, so that if there is not room enough on the car for all of the passengers those who come first are served first. Where the traffic accumulating at a point is too great to permit this system to be utilized, then the passengers are lined up in queues.

In New York there is no restriction on standing in any of the surface cars.

In London the double-deck type of cars generally in use seat seventy-eight and sixty-two respectively and limit the number of standees to ten and eight respectively. Standing is permitted only on the lower level.

In Paris the cars are of relatively small seating capacity, ranging from twenty-four to thirty-six. The twenty-four-seat cars permit twenty-five to stand; the thirty-six-seat cars, eighteen standing. These cars are all of the center-door type. When motor cars are operated alone, the front half of the car is reserved for first-class passengers and the rear half of the car for second-class passengers. When motor cars and trailers are operated together, the motor car is reserved for first-class passengers and the trailer for second-class passengers.

In Berlin the cars seat twenty and thirty and carry sixteen and twenty-one standing, respectively. I do not believe, however, there is any restriction on the number of standing passengers in Berlin.

The weight of the New York cars empty varies from 843 lb. per seat, for the New York Railway cars, to 500 lb., the minimum weight per seat, of the one-man cars. Compare these weights with the double-deck cars in London, which vary from 423 lb. to 390 lb. per seat. In Paris the weight of the cars varies from about 770 to 1,060 lb. per seat. These weights are large compared with the weights of the heavier New York cars. The weights of the Berlin cars are not available. It is very obvious, from the foregoing, that there is a great advantage in utilizing double-deck cars where it is possible to operate them, because of the possibility of reducing the weight per passenger to the minimum.

In New York the speed of the trolley cars through the most congested areas gets as low as 5 m.p.h., although it gets as high as 9-1/2 m.p.h. in the residential districts. The slower speeds are slow as compared with the corresponding speeds of the tramways in London, Paris and Berlin. The speed attained in the outlying sections, however, compares favorably with those in the other cities mentioned. In London the tramway cars reach a speed of 8 m.p.h. in the congested areas and 10 m.p.h. in the residential areas. In Paris the corresponding speeds are 7-1/2 m.p.h. and 8.4 m.p.h. respectively. It must be borne in mind, however, that in London and Paris the tramway lines do not operate into the most congested part of the center. In Berlin the speeds vary from 4.5 m.p.h. to 10.3 m.p.h. in the congested and idential sections, respectively.


There are three companies operating the rapid transit lines in New York, and they operate about forty-seven routes all together, main-line and short-line routes. In London there are thirteen companies that operate about thirty routes. The deep tube lines are all operated independently, but there are a number of joint routes operated over the Metropolitan District lines. In Paris there are two companies operating twelve routes and in Berlin one company operating seven routes.

In London and Berlin the city owns and operates the tramway systems. In London I am referring to the tramway systems serving the municipal area. All of the other facilities, that is the rapid transit lines and the bus lines in these two cities, are privately owned and privately operated. In New York the city does not operate any of its facilities. But the city owns all of its new rapid transit facilities and leases them to private operators. All of the trolley lines and the Fifth Avenue Bus line are privately owned and privately operated. But Paris is the only city where city ownership of all the facilities and the operation of them by private companies practically prevails. There is only one exception to this universal program, and that is the Nord-Sud rapid transit line, a very small part of the Paris transit system. The Paris Rapid Transit are owned by the city and operated by one private The Paris tramway and bus lines are owned by the city and operated by another company. In other words, rapid transit operation is consolidated under one operator, practically, and surface line operation is consolidated under a single operator. There was talk of the possibility of both rapid transit lines and the surface lines being consolidated under a single operator. In other words. Paris has made the greatest advance in municipal ownership and private operation. Paris has practically attained what New York City is endeavoring to attain under the Transit Commission's plan.


Electric Railway Journal, McGraw Hill Company, Digitized by Microsoft, Americana Collection, archive.org.

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