NYC subways record highest daily ridership since start of pandemic

·2 min read

NEW YORK — New York City subway ridership hit its highest level since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic as the school year kicked off.

The system’s turnstiles on Thursday clocked 3,641,033 million entries, the most since May 18, when transit officials reported 3,605,606 entries.

Thursday’s figures were promising for officials at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which relies on rider fares to balance its books.

But they reflect a new normal in which fewer people ride to work — and they show ridership remains far below prepandemic levels. The subways recorded 5,738,724 entries on the first day of school in 2019.

“Public transportation is the lifeblood of New York City, and we will build on this progress as we continue working to return to prepandemic ridership levels,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a statement.

September is historically the busiest month for the city’s transit system with the return of students and the end of peak vacation season. The MTA has previously recorded more than 6 million daily subway entries during the month, transit officials said.

The MTA uses data from MetroCard and OMNY readers to calculate ridership figures, so anyone who skips the fare won’t be included in the agency’s daily counts.

A survey published by the agency earlier this year estimated 12.5% of subway riders skip the fare. If that estimate held true Thursday, the system actually saw more than 4.1 million entries over the course of the day.

The Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North on Wednesday also saw their highest ridership numbers since March 2020, with conductors on those trains punching 203,983 and 179,268 tickets, respectively.

MTA officials reported 1,412,574 entries onto the agency’s buses on Thursday, which is about 100,000 fewer than what was reported on weekdays during the summer months but a figure transit officials said is preliminary and is likely to grow by roughly 15%.

NYC Transit president Richard Davey said he’s “looking at ways to increase the frequency of buses and trains and reduce travel times” in order to convince more people to take mass transit. That’s a tricky task, as the agency still faces a shortage of bus drivers and subway crews that’s hampered service across the city for more than a year.

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