NYC subway surpasses 1 billion riders for the first time since 2019

December 28, 2022

Photo by Charles16e on Flickr

Ridership on the New York City subway hit 1 billion this year for the first time since the pandemic. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Gov. Kathy Hochul on Tuesday announced the subway carried more than a billion passengers in 2022, up from 760 million riders in 2021 and 640 million in 2020. While it’s a significant milestone for the system as it recovers from Covid, ridership remains at roughly 60 percent of pre-pandemic levels.

MTA Chair & CEO Janno Lieber, NYCT President Richard Davey, and Acting Chief Customer Officer Shanifah Rieara recognize Bronx resident Sasha Salazar as the one billionth subway rider of 2022 at the 161 St-Yankee Stadium station; Photo credit: Marc A. Hermann / MTA

“We have been working hard to bring customers back by providing safer, cleaner, and faster service, and hitting one billion riders in 2022 is evidence that our work is paying off,” Hochul said in a statement. “New Yorkers and tourists alike continue to flock to the subway, proving there is no better way to get around New York City than mass transit.”

More riders returned to the system this year than last, with ridership up 38.6 percent compared to 2021. But the agency continues to struggle to return to pre-Covid ridership levels.

According to the MTA, the system carried 1.68 billion riders in 2019. That year, weekday ridership was around 5.5 million; since March 2020, that number has not topped 4 million.

The milestone comes a week after the MTA announced plans to modify service next year on certain lines to better accommodate ridership trends. Starting in June there will be an increase in scheduled trips on the weekends and a decrease in trips on Mondays and Fridays, two days where ridership recovery has been the slowest because they are popular work-from-home days in New York. There will also be reductions on Mondays and Fridays to 1, 6, 7, E, F, L, and Q service.

Weekend ridership has recovered faster than on weekdays, hitting about 77 percent of pre-pandemic levels. Scheduled trips will be added to the G, L, and M trains on weekends.

The MTA said the service adjustments could save the agency roughly $1.5 million a year, which could chip away at its current $600 million budget gap as it runs out of federal funding that it obtained during the pandemic.

“In 2022, customers have voted with their MetroCard swipes and OMNY taps, and hundreds of millions have returned to the subway,” MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber said in a statement. “Hitting this milestone, one billion subway riders in 2022, demonstrates again how essential mass transit is to New York City’s economy and continued recovery from the pandemic.”


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