Photo: Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit on Flickr
Roughly a billion fewer passengers entered the New York City subway system in 2020 than in 2019, according to new data released this week by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The annual total ridership on the subway in 2019 was 1,697,787,002 passengers and 639,541,029 passengers in 2020. When the coronavirus pandemic hit last spring and Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered all nonessential businesses to close, both city subway and bus ridership hit record lows. In April 2020, subway ridership hit just 8 percent of what it was in 2019.
The MTA calculates ridership by including all passengers who enter the subway system, including transfers. For buses, ridership includes all passengers who board buses, except for children who ride for free.
When looking at the data by borough, Manhattan saw the biggest drop in commuters entering the subway system when comparing 2019 and 2020, with a roughly 66 percent decline, or about 632, 828,151 fewer trips last year than the year before. Stations near major business and tourist hubs in this borough, like Grand Central, Wall Street, and Chambers Street, saw some of the biggest declines.
However, eight of the ten busiest subway stations in 2020 were Manhattan, with 74-Broadway in Jackson Heights and Flushing-Main Street being the exceptions. These include Times Square-42nd Street, Grand Central, 34st Street-Herald Square, 14th Street-Union Square, Fulton Street, 34th Street Station (both the 1,2,3 and the A, C, E platforms), and 59th Street-Columbus Circle.
As the city reopened, more New Yorkers returned to the subway and bus. By the end of 2020, subway ridership recovered to 31 percent of 2019 ridership.
Now, as the city’s coronavirus case rate continues to plummet, the number of vaccinated residents grows, and 24-7 subway service is back, ridership continues to trend upward. On May 21, more than 2.3 million New Yorkers rode the subway, a record high for a single day during the pandemic.
“This new record shows people are returning to their everyday lives and returning to the subway for their commuting needs. There is more progress to be made, more milestones ahead, but we are very encouraged to see this trend continue into the summer,” Sarah Feinberg, interim president of New York City Transit, said in a press release.
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