- By Christian Wade | The Center Square contributor
- April 25th, 2023
(The Center Square) — New York Gov. Kathy Hochul is touting new passenger data as a sign ridership on the nation’s transit system has returned to pre-pandemic levels.
Hochul said New York City’s subway system reported more than 4 million paid rides last Thursday, the highest number in three years. Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s contactless fare payment system also set a single-day record with more than 1.6 million “taps” or 42.5% of all subway rides, she said.
“Surpassing four million riders for the first time since the start of the pandemic is a testament to the resiliency of New Yorkers and the importance of supporting the nation’s largest transit system,” Hochul boasted in a statement.
The MTA’s Metro-North Railroad also set a new ridership record on Thursday, with its three-day average ridership hitting over 193,000 riders or 73.5% of post-pandemic levels, the Hochul administration said.
Meanwhile, Long Island Rail Road ridership is also returning to pre-pandemic levels. Between April 9-15, the LIRR carried an average of 168,726 daily customers, the best seven-day average since March 2020, the Hochul administration said.
MTA Chairman and CEO Janno Lieber said the latest ridership data shows the resilience of New Yorkers “and a reminder that mass transit is the lifeblood of this city.”
“At the height of the pandemic, ridership dropped by 90%, but we kept the system running full tilt to make sure that essential workers could get to hospitals, pharmacies, grocery stores and distribution centers,” Lieber said.
The uptick in ridership comes as the MTA seeks hundreds of million dollars from the city and state governments to close budget shortfalls due to ridership losses during the pandemic.
In December, the MTA’s board of directors approved a $19 billion budget that increases fares this year for the first time since 2019, with bus or subway rides possibly exceeding $3 by 2025.
As part of her budget plan, Hochul proposed increasing a payroll tax on employers and self-employed workers in New York City and the seven suburban counties served by the MTA’s system.
The governor said the move would drum up an estimated $800 million a year to improve the solvency of the MTA, which operates the city’s fleet of subway cars, trains, and buses.
But the Democratic-controlled state Assembly and Senate rejected Hochul’s MTA bailout proposals in their versions of the budget, which is still tied up in negotiations three weeks past an April 1 deadline to approve the spending plan.
Instead, lawmakers have pitched other proposals to drum up more money to prevent the MTA from falling over a “fiscal cliff.” Among them are raising the MTA’s corporate franchise tax and increasing transit surcharges on Uber, Lyft and other ride-hailing services operating in Manhattan’s central business district.