December 29, 1947 was the subway’s most crowded day ever

December 29, 2017

After battling the mad crush of pre-holiday shoppers on city sidewalks, frenzied honking and general rudeness on streets and highways and endless airport queues, it’s a little scary to think the worst might be still to come in the normally quiet days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve–and on the subway, no less. The New York City subway system racks up 1.8 billion rides a year. The average ridership tally in 2015 was 5.7 million people daily; that number is the highest it’s been since 1948. The New York Times tells us, though, that the actual record-setting day for subway rides was December 29, 1947, when a staggering 8,533,468 riders were counted. So, what drove so many into the subway’s multitudinous depths?

The city had just experienced its biggest snowstorm ever—a blizzard that dumped 26.4 inches of snow and ground the city’s normally well-oiled machine to a halt; snow-bound streets froze traffic above ground including the entire bus and trolley system. Long Island Railroad trains weren’t moving. Subway stations were forced to close briefly because they were packed to capacity–though the trains reportedly–and miraculously, given today’s complaints–remained more or less on schedule. Then, as now, though, commuters demanded answers.


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  1. G

    5.7 million rides x $2.75 = $15,675,000/day. OK. So let’s say that with all the monthly/weekly passes, that brings the average cost of a ride to $2.00. Turnstyle jumpers would obviously not be counted in the 5.7 million figure. That gives us $11,400,000/day x 365 days = $4,161,000,000/year. (That’s BILLION!) Where does this money go? Why are the NYC subways falling into ruin again?