Netflix features an interesting PBS documentary called The Race Underground dealing with the technological, political and social challenges of building the first U.S. electric subway, in Boston, in the late 1800s.
The project had a lot of naysayers. Some were concerned about the destruction of the historic city (especially Boston Common, America’s oldest public park); others about the enormous financial risk described as “… a jump into the unknown.” The superstitious and the religious feared that going underground meant getting close to “the netherworld”. Then there were the dangers of electricity.
A vote “by the narrowest of margins” brought the matter to a close and the subway was built. The people loved it. The subway cars were clean and clothes ceased being fouled by sooty coal-fired steam engines. Congestion in downtown Boston disappeared and allowed even more people to come in. The suburbs grew rapidly. Not lost on anyone was the presence of far fewer stinky, slow horses on the streets. For investors, the new system was more profitable than the old one.