Ridership on the New York City subway reached a new pandemic-era milestone last week, the Metropolitan Transporation Authority announced. On Thursday, 3,497,122 riders swiped into the system, surpassing the last record set during the pandemic in December 2021. While the new record is a positive sign for the city’s recovery, Thursday’s ridership is still well below the 2019 weekday average of 5.5 million straphangers.
“As we continue our comeback from the pandemic and remain laser-focused on making our subways safer, we are turning the corner on subway ridership,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said. “The subway is the lifeblood of New York City and this new milestone sends a strong message that New York is back and better than ever.”
When Covid first hit New York in March 2020, and former Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered all nonessential businesses to close, ridership hit record lows across all transit systems. In April 2020, ridership dropped by 95 percent to about 300,000 daily trips. By the end of that year, ridership recovered to 31 percent of 2019 ridership, totaling roughly a billion fewer passengers in 2020 than the year before.
On Thursday, May 5, the subway carried 3,497,122 riders, beating the previous pandemic-era record set in December 2021 of 3,420,000 riders in one day. Thursday’s ridership also exceeds the 3,491,000 riders who took the train on March 13, 2020, just days before the city shut down.
According to the MTA, ridership needs to increase steadily in order to avoid a deficit, as Crain’s reported last month. A rising number of coronavirus cases and reports of crime throughout the system, including the mass shooting in Brooklyn last month, have stymied progress.
Earlier this year, the MTA rolled out a new fare-capping pilot aimed at luring commuters back to the transit system. Under the program, subway and bus riders who use the OMNY contactless payment system 12 times within a seven-day period will be automatically upgraded to an unlimited pass for the rest of that week.
“These growing ridership numbers show that New Yorkers are ready for a post-pandemic future for our city and that means returning to the public transportation system,” Sarah Meyer, chief customer officer at the MTA, said.
“We continue to listen to the voices of our customers by addressing their concerns, improving service, and encouraging riders to tap their phones or payment cards for a swift journey to their destination.”
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