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photo of subway historian Stan Fischler looking out subway window

Tunnel Vision
"The New York City Subway system, once considered the best in the world, has become the noisiest, dirtiest, and most rapidly deteriorating of them all," wrote city official Ethan C. Eldon in THE NEW YORK TIMES on July 2, 1976. A point of civic pride in the 1960s, a decade later the subway was ridden with graffiti, poorly maintained, and plagued by crime and track fires. As Eldon wrote, it was a system "worthy of a Second Dante."

An author and MTA employee since 1967, Gene Sansone recalls his frustration watching the system fall like "the Roman Empire." Transit historian Stan Fischler, who has been riding the subway since the 1930s, says that for him the system's decay in the 1970s was like someone had stepped on his electric train set.

Today the subway is safer and cleaner than it's been in years, sporting a new fleet of high-tech cars. But now that the city and the MTA are facing budget troubles reminiscent of the bad old days, will the subway go back down the tubes?
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