Hochul Points to New Pandemic High in MTA Ridership as Sign of New York’s Recovery

The newly reconfigured 42 St Shuttle was revealed at a press conference and ceremony at Times Sq-42 St on Fri., September 10, 2021. (Marc A. Hermann / MTA)

(The Center Square) – New York City’s recovery from COVID-19 continues, Gov. Kathy Hochul said Friday, as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority reported a post-pandemic high water mark on Thursday.

For the first time in more than 18 months, more than 3.2 million people rode the city’s subway system on Thursday. That was about 50,000 more than the previous bench mark established a week before.

Not only are more people riding the subways, but Hochul pointed out that the system is operating more efficiently as well. Through the first two weeks of the month, the MTA had 92% of its subway trains running during peak service hours. Delays are also down by 13%.

The ridership numbers still pale in comparison to the pre-pandemic era, when 5.5 million passengers would frequently take subways on a daily basis. However, the governor still sees it as good news, as her release noted as few as 300,000 passengers used the system in April 2020.

Other MTA systems are showing progress as well. The Staten Island Railway carried more than 7,300 passengers on Thursday, a post-pandemic record. Meanwhile, the Long Island Rail Road is averaging 150,000 daily riders this month, and Metro-North is serving more than 120,000.

When the rail service is combined with bus riders, more than 5 million people relied on public transportation in the region on Thursday.

“Record-breaking transit ridership sends the signal that New York’s comeback is only growing stronger,” Hochul said. “Bus, subway and commuter rail systems are the backbone of our economy as people return to the workplace, and we will continue working with the MTA to keep this promising momentum going.”

New York’s subways were an issue of concern for Hochul in the days after she took over for Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Less than a week after she was sworn in, half of the subway network went down late on Aug. 29 because of a power surge.

More than 80 trains were knocked offline.

Less than a week later, the remnants of Hurricane Ida ripped through the city, sending torrents of water into the system and shutting it down again.

However, despite those issues, the numbers for October show that confidence is growing in the system.

“New Yorkers are voting with their feet to show they feel safe and comfortable using transit, and we’re thrilled to welcome them back,” said Janno Lieber, the authority’s acting chair and CEO.

As the pandemic has continued, the MTA has implemented a new cleaning system for its buses and trains and also distributed masks to riders needing one as the federal government has mandated their use on all public transportation systems.

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The Center Square was launched in May 2019 to fulfill the need for high-quality statehouse and statewide news across the United States. The focus of our work is state- and local-level government and economic reporting. A taxpayer sensibility distinguishes our work from other coverage of state and local issues.