The vast cities of London and New York are served by two old, vast subway systems. London of course came first. The line between Paddington and Farringdon opened for service in January 1863. That would have been the same January 1863 in which Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
New York's system is a relative baby. Though there were predecessor train lines, both under and above the ground, the commonly accepted beginning of the subway system is October 1904, when the IRT line opened between City Hall and 145th Street/Broadway. The Russo-Japanese War was going strong then.
There are loads of good histories of both systems, but what follows here is a comparison of the two systems based on personal observation. I've rode the NY Subway since forever, and have seen and used the London Underground a number of times since I first travelled on it in the 1970s.
Here, we'll compare them on the basis of:
- Comprehensiveness of the network
- Ambience, Cleanliness
- Ease of Use
- Hours of Operation
- Fares and Fare Collection