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How Transit Shaped Coney Island

A century of mass transportation transformed the beach attraction from a rich-man’s playground to a more universal park.
The Subway Sun, Vol. XXV, No. 9, 1958.
The Subway Sun, Vol. XXV, No. 9, 1958.Illustration by Amelia Opdyke Jones, New York Transit Museum Collection

Wide-open spaces have long kindled developers’ imaginations and attracted stifled city-dwellers looking for a change of scenery and pace. But betting on something near the far reaches of a transit system presents its own set of challenges. Visitors have to get there. If you build it, how will they come?

Coney Island is a great example. A new exhibition at Brooklyn’s New York Transit Museum traces the trajectory of the transit routes that shuttled urbanites to the shore, and, in turn, how the park grew in tandem with the system.