As the recent debate over congestion pricing has made clear, the way New Yorkers get around is becoming a hotly contested topic. And for good reason: New York's transportation options determine the lifestyle of its citizens, and, by extension, the character of the city. How do transit options affect the way the city changes over time?
The majority of Brooklyn's subway lines were first built as elevated rail lines by private companies in the 1880s and 1890s, as competing services to the resort at faraway Brighton Beach. A massive building boom followed suit along the lines, creating most of the neighborhoods in central and southern Brooklyn in only a couple decades. Today, Brooklyn is the outer borough best served by mass transit, as well as most densely populated.
Queens, meanwhile, didn't receive any subway lines until after the city consolidated its mass transit system in the 1920s. Lacking funds to cover the entire borough, the City built only two physically separate lines: the main "trunk" line out to Jamaica, and the 7 train to Flushing. As in Brooklyn thirty years earlier, high density development followed these lines - but the rest of the borough wasn't to be built out until the highway network allowed car owners to easily commute. The result: lower-density, suburban-style neighborhoods throughout much of eastern and southern Queens.