If New York City subway cars were a horror in the 1970s — covered in graffiti and falling apart — 40 years later it’s the entire system that’s a horror, a crumbling infrastructure plastered over with shiny new trains, wifi, arrival times, and cheerful new stations. In the cover story for The New York Times Magazine,Jonathan Mahler traces the unseen factors that turn an already-grueling commute into a nightmare. He also looks at how the subway reinvented inequality in the city, making a few people very rich and establishing how new areas would gentrify, pushing residents beyond the reach of public transportation. “The case for the subway is the case for mobility,” Mahler writes “physical mobility, economic mobility, social mobility.” Without mobility, what will New York become?

New York won’t die, but it will become a different place. It will happen slowly, almost imperceptibly, for years, obscured by the prosperity…

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