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The following vocabulary words may be useful in facilitating or participating in transportation-related activities found in the Lesson Ideas area of this site.


articulated bus Also known as a bendy bus or accordion bus, it consists of two passenger carrying sections in which the rear body section is flexibly but permanently connected to the front section in a manner that allows the bus to bend. In New York City, articulated buses began operating in 1997 and are used along busy crosstown routes as they can carry twice as many people as a standard bus.  [ print ]

bedrock Hard, solid rock that underlies softer rock, sediment, or soil. During subway construction in upper Manhattan, miners blasted through bedrock in order to construct underground tunnels.
blasting Shattering by explosives.
BMT Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit, one of two private companies to build and operate subway lines in New York City. The BMT was taken over by the City in 1940 during the subway consolidation. Today’s J, L, M, N, Q, R, W and Z trains travel on BMT lines.
BRT Brooklyn Rapid Transit, the company that operated almost all Brooklyn transit prior to the Dual Contracts, at which time its name changed to the BMT.
cable car Streetcar that ran on tracks and was operated by underground steam-driven cable conduits. Cable cars operated in NYC from 1883-1909.  [ print ]
commute To shuttle regularly from one place to another, as from a suburb to a city and back.
conductor In the case of mass transit (subways), the conductor is the person responsible for safely closing the doors, making announcements regarding passenger transport and safety, and signaling to the driver that the train is ready for departure. Aboard commuter trains, the conductor also collects fares and checks tickets. [ print ]
cut and cover The method of constructing subway tunnels just below the surface of the streets. A shallow trench was dug just deep enough for train tracks and stations, a watertight concrete and steel tube structure was constructed, and then it was covered up and the street was replaced. [ print ]
destination The place to which someone or something is traveling.
dual lines Separate tracks in a rail system for express and local trains.
Dual Contract System The second stage of NYC’s subway construction, approved in 1913, integrated the IRT with the BRT (later renamed the BMT). It more than doubled the total rapid transit mileage and extended lines into new parts of the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn.
elevated railway  A system of trains that operated on above-ground tracks. Elevated trains operated in NYC from 1869-1955. [ print ]
engine (1) Any machine that converts energy into mechanical work. (2) A railroad locomotive.
engineer (1) The driver of a train. (2) Someone who builds railroads or locomotives.
express Refers to trains that travel rapidly and make limited stops. In the New York City subway system, express trains travel on the inside tracks of the dual lines system.
fare The sum paid for riding public transportation. The fare for riding public transportation in NYC is $2.
gauge The width between the two rails on a railroad track. In North America and most of Europe, the gauge is 4 feet 8 ½ inches.
horsecar  Horse-drawn streetcar that ran on tracks. Horsecars operated in NYC from 1832-1917.  [ print ]
IND Independent Subway System, the lines built and operated by the City with public money to be “independent” of the interests of the IRT and BMT. The IND began operating in 1932 and contributed six major lines to what is now the unified NYC subway. Today’s A, B, C, D, E, F, G and V trains travel on IND lines.
IRT Interborough Rapid Transit, the original subway company. The private company began operating in 1904 and consisted of what are today the numbered train lines. The IRT was taken over by the City in 1940 during the subway consolidation.
kiosk  When used within the context of the NYC subway system, a kiosk refers to a freestanding, covered entrance to a subway station. A restored IRT kiosk can be seen at the uptown entrance to the Astor Place station on the #6 line. [ print ]
local  Refers to trains that make all stops along a route. In the NYC subway system, local trains travel on the outside tracks of the dual lines system.
locomotive An engine powered by steam, electricity, or diesel, used for pulling trains along railroad tracks. [ print ]
MetroCard A thin, plastic electronic card used as the current payment method for New York City rapid transit. MetroCards were introduced to the transit system in 1994 and became the only form of fare, replacing tokens, in 2003. [ print ]
metropolitan Describes a large population nucleus, consisting of a city and surrounding suburban areas.
mosaic Art consisting of a design made by small pieces of colored stone or glass. [ print ]
motor bus  Fuel-powered vehicle that runs along a fixed route. Motor buses began operating in NYC in 1905.  [ print ]
motor truck  Assembly of parts under a train car which include wheels and axles.  [ print ]
MTA Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the agency responsible for most mass transit in lower New York State. The MTA consists of six agencies: New York City Transit (which includes the Department of Subways, the Department of Buses, and the Staten Island Railway), Long Island Rail Road, Long Island Bus, Metro-North Railroad, MTA Bus Company, and Bridges and Tunnels (seven bridges and two tunnels in NYC).
omnibus  Horse-drawn carriage that ran along a fixed route. Omnibuses operated in NYC from 1827-1907. [ print ]
passenger  A person who travels in a vehicle without participating in its operation.  [ print ]
pneumatic Operated by air pressure. The first “subway” built in NYC consisted of a giant pneumatic tube constructed by Alfred Beach in 1870.
public transportation Any form of transportation that can be used by the general public, in which the passengers do not travel in their own vehicles. Public transport generally refers to rail and bus service and is also called mass transit, especially when referring to service in urban areas.
rapid transit Any type of mass transit that has its own right-of-way and does not compete for space with other vehicles. The most familiar examples are elevated railways and subways.
riverbed The bed or channel a river flows through.
rock tunneling  The method of deep-tunnel, hard-rock mining used in the upper Manhattan neighborhood of Washington Heights in order to construct subway tunnels through bedrock. [ print ]
rolling stock Generic term for rail vehicles.
route An established line of travel or access.
rush hour The times at the beginning and end of the working day when many people are traveling to and from work.
sandhog  The name that refers to workers who construct underwater subway tunnels.   [ print ]
shuttle Regular travel back and forth over an established, often short route.
signal  A mechanical or electrical device that indicates to train drivers information about the state of the line ahead, and therefore whether they must stop or may start, or instructions on what speed they may drive their train.  [ print ]
span The distance between the two ends of a bridge.
straphanger  (1) One who grips a hanging strap or similar device for support while riding as a passenger on a bus or subway. (2) One who uses public transportation.   [ print ]
streetcar  A vehicle that runs on steel rails sunk into the surface of the road. Horsecars, cable cars, and trolleys are all streetcars that operated in NYC. [ print ]
submerged tunnel A tunnel built underwater.
subway  An urban rapid transit system of underground railways. Subways began operating in NYC in 1904.  [ print ]
terminal (1)Either end of a railroad or other transportation line. (2) A station at the end of a transportation line.
third rail (or contact rail)  A length of rail built beside the tracks that transmits electric power to the engine. [ print ]
token A metal disk used as a substitute for coins. Fare tokens were used in NYC for fifty years, from 1953 – 2003. [ print ]
track A pair of parallel rails on which trains run.
train operator  In the case of mass transit (subways), the train operator is the person in front who controls the movement of (or drives) the train. This person is also known as a motorman on some electric railways or streetcars and as an engineer on railways. [ print ]
transfer To change from one public transport to another.
transit The moving of people from one place to another, especially on a local public transportation network.
trolley  Streetcar that ran on tracks and was operated by overhead or underground electrical power. Trolleys operated in NYC from 1887-1957. [ print ]

turnstile  A mechanical device that serves as a gate, set in the passageways of subway stations for monitoring the entry and fare of riders.  [ print ]

underwater tunneling The method of subway construction used to build the submerged tunnels under the riverbeds of New York’s East River and Harlem River. It combined deep-rock mining with the use of compressed air needed for working underwater.
urban planning City planning which deals with design of the built environment, including land use, transportation, housing, open space and recreation, and public and human services.
vehicle Something that carries and moves people or goods.
vestibule  The area at the ends of train cars delineated by a partition between the door openings and the seats.  [ print ]
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