The “moving sidewalks” the city never built

It probably sounded like a civilized solution to the increasingly congested New York City of the 19th century: to ease crowded streets, “moving sidewalks” or “moving platforms” would be built underground.

The idea was first proposed in 1871, then more seriously in 1902 for the Brooklyn Bridge.

Widely debated in newspapers at the time, it went no where: Mayor Seth Low killed the project.

But it popped back up again around 1910, this time as a network of moving sidewalks at a top speed of about 10 miles per hour that would replace the new subway system.

So why didn’t the idea fly? Perhaps the subway companies had too much political clout to let it happen. Or maybe subterranean roller coaster cars didn’t move people as efficiently as a subway car could. 

In the end, the idea kind of lives on—inside city airport terminals.

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12 Responses to “The “moving sidewalks” the city never built”

  1. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    Reminds me of the underground streets of Chicago. They were pretty scary.

  2. petey Says:

    “the speed will be from 5 to 9 miles per hour.”
    sounds like a pleasant activity!

  3. Brandon Says:

    Perhaps this was where Walt Disney found his inspiration for the Peoplemover (which consequently is installed at Disneyland, Walt Disney World, and an airport in Texas).

  4. Future New York: “The City of Skyscrapers” « Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] The moving sidewalks dreamed up in 1871 and then again in 1910 also never came to fruition. […]

  5. Thankfully, these were never built in Central Park | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] few examples? Moving sidewalks in Mahattan, a subway tunnel to Staten Island, a bridge spanning 125th Street to New Jersey, and 100-story […]

  6. The 1950s plan for a Washington Square Highway | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] history of New York City is littered with never-realized proposals: moving sidewalks, a burial ground in Central Park, and these 100-story apartment houses meant for […]

  7. marilyn fish Says:

    The outdoor escalator system in Hong Kong is wonderful. (Especially because there are so many hills.) These however are not buriedunderground.

  8. Washington Square Parkerz | The 1950s plan for a Washington Square Highway Says:

    […] history of New York City is littered with never-realized proposals: moving sidewalks, a burial ground in Central Park, and these 100-story apartment houses meant for […]

  9. What if the West Side Airport had been built? | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] planning stage, such as a speedway in Central Park, a 100-story housing development in Harlem, and moving sidewalks to whisk pedestrians to their […]

  10. The bizarre 1916 plan to fill in the East River | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] like moving sidewalks, a West Side airport, and 100-story housing developments in Harlem, and an even weirder 1934 plan […]

  11. The bizarre 1916 plan to fill in the East River ⋆ New York city blog Says:

    […] like moving sidewalks, a West Side airport, and 100-story housing developments in Harlem, and an even weirder 1934 plan […]

  12. The bizarre 1916 plan to fill in the East River | Holiday in New York City Says:

    […] like moving sidewalks, a West Side airport, and 100-story housing developments in Harlem, and an even weirder 1934 plan […]

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