My husband, a long-time NYC resident, has this to say about subways:
"Leather straps probably went out in the 1920's.  When I moved to NYC  in 
1969 the oldest cars in the transit fleet were the R10's on the IND  lines.  
They still had wicker seats and the straps were metal handles with  spring 
mechanisms that riders grabbed and held just as they did when the leather  
straps were in use.  All other cars in the system had metal "straps" that  
were simply stainless steel tubing in a simple loop.  I'd say in the mid  1990s 
the newer cars came only with metal rails overhead instead of the  straps.  
Clearly, without the spring mechanisms there was nothing that  would break 
and probably more importantly the rails are much easier to clean  than the 
dozens of separate handles hanging from the ceiling of the cars.   The 
advantage of the individual straps was that if a strap was empty it meant  there 
was a place in which you were entitled to stand whereas the railing are a  
bit more chaotic in determining were the riders stand.  Also, with  individual 
straps (handles) each rider could swing at an angle that was most  
comfortable as the car swayed and turned.   The rails are "one size  fits all" and 
for shorter or taller riders are probably less comfortable. 
Susan Rosenberg
In a message dated 7/7/2009 11:10:41 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time,  
[log in to unmask] writes:

It has  been a few years since I rode the subway and I find there are no 
straps,  and hence no real "straphangers." Does anyone know when the last 
straps  were retired? Were they removed for a particular reason or merely 
omitted  as newer cars replaced those with  straps?

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