Subway Ridership is on the Rise; Community Board 7 Considers Ways to Get More People on Trains

Photos via MTA.

By Mariel Priven

When New York City became the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, the subways emptied out in a hurry. Polls of New Yorkers continue to demonstrate concern over using public transportation — though it’s not clear that subways were a major source of infection. The MTA is looking to ease those worries. The subway is a crucial part of New York’s reopening, particularly for a neighborhood where only 27% of households own cars — and 5-10% of them use those cars regularly.

With phase one of reopening NYC on Monday, June 8, the MTA returned to its regular service, apart from a few subway lines being restored, and the continued overnight shut-down and cleaning of subway cars. On Tuesday, CB7’s Transportation Committee convened for a webinar discussing MTA updates.

The committee shared the following statistics:

Ridership hit 800K on Monday, for the first time since the pandemic started, a 17% increase from the previous week
. Manhattan (20%) had the highest increase, followed by Queens (18%) and Bx (12%). Buses were up 12%, according to The City news website.

Panelist Andrew Albert, Chair of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA, explained that the MTA is working hard to make New Yorkers feel confident and safe using public transportation. This includes:

An overwhelming majority of passengers are wearing masks, and Albert quipped that the social pressure and dirty looks have aided in that regard. “Take a ride. I feel absolutely safe saying that,” he said.

Subway stations are getting extra cleanings.

Albert also touched on the MTA’s current projects aimed at making public transit feel safer. He noted:

Panelist Sarah Kaufman from the NYU Rudin Center for Transportation reported that between March and April, there was a drastic decline in ridership across all boroughs, with the most significant drop (94%) in Manhattan. Citi Bike ridership, on the other hand, increased by 67%. This illustrates the widespread shift to micro-mobility—the use of individually-controlled vehicles, like bicycles, scooters, and skateboards.

Masks and sanitizer are being handed out at some stations.

Micro-mobility comes with the need for more street space, an ongoing conversation in New York City. Mayor de Blasio reported Monday that in addition to creating 20 miles worth of bus lanes, he intends to add at least nine miles of protected bicycle lanes. This announcement came just five days after he said that restaurants can add outdoor seating options on sidewalks, parking spaces, and open streets.

These decisions may mean less space for car owners, and possibly more congestion ahead. Kate Slevin from the Regional Plan Association highlighted that managing traffic congestion remains a primary concern and recommended congestion pricing and eliminating placards [that let officials including police park without getting ticketed or towed] to prepare for the rise in congestion that will accompany the ultimate return of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers to their offices.

Are you comfortable getting on the subway yet?

View Results

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NEWS | 19 comments | permalink
    1. Mark says:

      Lest we forget how the subway was as recently as last month. Empty.

    2. ben says:

      N95 mask and I’ll be hopping on a subway to get back to work tomorrow!

    3. Paul says:

      On the UWS subways take us south to the central business and financial districts.
      Existing bike lanes in Central Park, on Columbus and the Hudson River Greenway replicate that and are adequate to meet demand. Coming home, the Greenway plus Amsterdam and CPW are more than adequate.
      Riding the residential one way streets east and west is easy, and safe. Very little traffic, almost no obstructions.

      We need bike routes across Central Park, and that is what the Community Board should be emphasizing.

      • Lisa says:

        We need crosstown protected bike lanes as well. Ways to connect people from the Hudson River Greenway to Central Park and the East Side. These lanes would allow more and more bike commuting, especially for new riders.

        • Paul says:

          Commuting from the UWS is overwhelmingly a north-south thing.

          I ride the east-west side streets almost daily. They’re completely safe and there’s zero reason to disrupt the lives of the residents of these streets other than the anti-car mission of the Open Plans conglomerate. Just ride them, take them and drivers adjust.

          If you want safe riding stop the people who ride the wrong way because they’re too lazy to pedal one block over.

          And the prevalence of wrong way riding shows how little use the bike lanes get; if they got constant use then people seeking to ride the wrong way would find it impossible and move over to the next street or avenue.

          • Boris says:

            That’s absolutely not accurate. I often ride a short distance in the opposite direction of traffic and there’s plenty of room. Other cyclists rarely care enough to complain and put up with it because it works. Two-way bikes lanes are not non-existent in the City. The loudest complainers are pedestrians looking to be outraged by anything.

      • Wijmlet says:


        Cross-park bikes routes are an excellent idea.

    4. RB says:

      Another maneuver to get more bike lanes. Proves again. Cyclist Oligarchy rules.

    5. nycityny says:

      “…though it’s not clear that subways were a major source of infection.”

      It is hard to prove the negative but using common sense would tell us that crowded subways were likely a way that the virus spread in this city. I mean, an enclosed space where people were breathing on top of each other, as well as sneezing and couging. It’s the textbook definition of how to spread this virus. How could subways NOT have been a major source of infection?

      That said, with less crowding, mask wearing,
      people covering their faces when sneezing or coughing, and knowledge now that the virus exists it should be much safer riding now than in February. And fewer residents are now infected than in the early days when “we didn’t know.”
      Everyone will have to make their own decisions but I don’t know how millions of people each day get around without it. And I don’t see millions on bikes each day no matter how much proponents advocate that.

      That said, the NY Stock Exchange seems to have decided for their own employees – they will not allow any employee in the building if they have taken mass transit to work. Talk about a vote of confidence!

    6. UWSer says:

      Took the subway yesterday — it’s literally never been cleaner.

    7. Sandy says:

      When will Senior citizens be able to use their metro cards on the OMNI readers? We have discounted senior cards which won’t work at present.

    8. Yona says:

      I’ve been on the subway 3 times in the past few days and felt completely safe!

    9. Marcia Newfield says:

      what happens to people not wearing a mask….most of the time I don’t feel comfortable saying anything to them and if they’re there what good does it do….

    10. robert says:

      Not only am I comfortable taking the subway now I have been taking it everywhere over the past months. They have never been cleaner, may the MTA keep doing this high amount of cleaning. The 149 GC station for the first time in decades doesn’t reek of urine and feces on the platform.
      CB & and others can have a “think” on this but subway ridership will increase exponentially daily till we are quickly back at normal capacity. People need to get to work etc and just aren’t going to wait for the next train as they need to be at work at a certain time.
      The easiest thing would be to get the surcharges on cabs going south of 96th street and the proposed congestion pricing
      Ops sorry that would incur the wrath of the bike pressure lobby groups and their CB7 member allies

    11. chris says:

      As long as most buses are “free” people who are not going very far and who are not afraid of getting on public transport are just going to jump on that bus instead of getting on a train.

    12. Kathleen says:

      I appreciate that the MTA is keeping trains and stations so clean, as people are saying (I haven’t been on the subway myself since this began). But I have to ask why are masks and sanitizer only being given out at “some” stations. And in the photo above, it looks like the MTA employee is holding a box of masks and allowing the passenger to take one out himself. So he may very well have touched another mask in the box which someone else will put on their face! Doesn’t seem like a good plan to me!

    13. Wijmlet says:

      Still wary…

    14. Tim says:

      I’ve taken it three times in the past week and it seems so clean and running smoothly. Happy to see more people moving around.

    15. paulofnyc says:

      I found out the hard way that the MTA is not replacing lost or expired Metrocards. I have an expired half fare card that requires me to deal directly with the MTA-not the machines. I now have to pay full fare-NOT FARE.