The Launch of the New York City Transit Authority

June 15, 1953

The New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA) came into existence at 12:01 a.m. This entity remains the largest and busiest transit system in North America. NYCTA, which operates under the governing body of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority MTA), is responsible for rapid transit and bus lines throughout New York City. Until 1956, NYCTA also oversaw streetcar operations in that metropolitan area.

The origins of transit services that are now part of NYCTA can be traced as far back as the early part of the 20th century. New York City’s subway lines, for example, originally consisted of three different companies: the Interborough Rapid Transit Company (now known as the IRT) founded by August Belmont, Jr. in 1902; the Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit Corporation (BMT), a conglomerate of subsidiaries that grew considerably during the early years of the 20th century; and the publicly-owned Independent Subway System (IND), planned by Mayor John Hylan in the 1920s, and opened in 1933. IRT and BMT were acquired by the city in 1940 and merged along with IND into the city transit commission known as the New York City Board of Transportation (NYCBOT).

The New York State legislative measure replacing NYCBOT with NYCTA was signed into law by Governor Thomas E. Dewey in March 1953. This change took place in large part to address the financial problems that had been plaguing NYCBOT. It was also hoped that getting rid of that commission in favor of a public authority would significantly insulate those transit operations from everyday city politics. The organization of NYCTA was closely modeled after the Port of New York Authority (the present-day Port Authority of New York and New Jersey) and the Triborough Bridge Authority (now part of MTA Bridges and Tunnels as the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority).

The inauguration of NYCTA early on a Monday morning that June was very low-key, but it was preceded throughout much of that previous weekend by NYCBOT personnel working feverishly to get ready for that large-scale transfer of duties. The New York Times confirmed that the commission’s three board members kept busy “adopting and signing scores of formal resolutions required to complete the intricate paper work in winding up the board’s affairs and clearing the way for the state-mandated authority to take over.” (The chairman of the board was Sidney H. Bingham, with G. Joseph Minetti and James F. Dulligan serving as the other members.)

In addition, the New York Times reported that NYBOT’s counsel Harold L. Warner spent much of that Saturday “drafting resolutions and other documents involved in the transition.” In yet another important step for the big changeover, NYBOT design engineer Harold Sandifer created a seal for NYCTA that was adopted by the new agency.

The original seal for NYCTA (designed by Harold Sandifer)

NYCTA currently oversees the following public transportation systems: the New York City Subway in the boroughs of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx; Staten Island Railway (SIR), which is based on the borough of Staten Island and run by the Staten Island Rapid Transit Operating Authority; and New York City Bus, a wide-ranging network that serves all five boroughs and is run by MTA Regional Bus Operations. The vehicles within NYCTA’s extensive system include approximately 6,400 subway cars; 4,450 buses; and 60 SIR cars.

Photo Credit: AEMoreira042281 (licensed under Creative Commons)

For more information on the history of NYCTA, please check out


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