Almost two dozen subway stations ended 2022 on a high note, with subway swipes and taps exceeding the numbers in the halcyon pre-pandemic days of 2019.
According to Comptroller Tom DiNapoli's subway ridership dashboard — which tracks ridership by station and compares the numbers each month to the number of riders in February 2019 — there are 21 stations around the system that had more riders in December 2022 than in February 2019.
The ridership recovery was found in all four boroughs with subway service, although the Manhattan stations that saw the boost were far from the borough's core. Per DiNapoli's office, the stations that saw more December ridership compared to the more bustling pre-pandemic days were:
- 233rd Street (2,5)
- 176th Street (4)
- Bedford Pare Blvd-Lehman (4)
- Longwood Avenue (6)
- 36th Street (D,N,R)
- Bergen Street (F,G)
- Sutter Avenue (L)
- Jefferson Street (L)
- Clark Street (2,3)
- Eastern Parkway-Brooklyn Museum (2,3)
- Ocean Parkway (Q)
- 59th Street (N,R,W)
- Bay 50th St (D)
- DeKalb Avenue (B,D,N,Q,R)
- 96th Street (6)
- Dyckman Street (A)
- 145th Street (A,C,B,D)
- 103rd Street/Corona Plaza (7)
- 21st Street-Queensbridge (F)
- 69th Street (7)
- Junction Boulevard (7)
Some of the stations were not merely reestablishing their numbers, and were instead seeing huge increases. Ridership at Longwood Avenue, Bay Street and 145th Street was over 130 percent higher than in 2019 and it was 128 percent higher at 103rd Street/Corona Plaza. Many of the stations also were carrying on strong ridership trends from earlier months, with 15 of the subway stations also seeing better than pre-pandemic ridership numbers in November.
Researchers at the comptroller's office didn't have an exact reason for why these particular stations were busier than they were before the pandemic, though they noted that the stations further from Manhattan's central business district were more likely to be serving riders that couldn't work from home.
"The increases could be impacted by the continued recovery of certain industry sectors like restaurant, retail and hospitality as we have seen great reliance on transit for workers in these industries who live in the outer boroughs and Upper Manhattan," said Deputy Comptroller Rahul Jain, who specializes in New York City issues. "Generally neighborhoods with lower median household incomes tend to have higher subway ridership when compared to wealthier neighborhoods. Neighborhoods with higher shares of health care and social assistance employment have also experienced a faster ridership return throughout the pandemic. In higher-income neighborhoods, residents are more likely to be employed in areas that can more easily adapt to remote work models, such as financial activities and business services."
The plethora of riders continuing to ride the rails in working class neighborhoods has also been noted by MTA leadership itself, as agency executives have spent the last six months asking state legislators to fill the agency's fiscal hole and help avoid service cuts as total ridership struggles to break through 70 percent of pre-pandemic swipes.
"There are dozes of working class communities, many of them communities of color and immigrant neighborhoods, where transit ridership is back at the 80- and 90-percent level relative to pre-pandemic levels," MTA Chairman and CEO Janno Lieber noted in remarks to the MTA Board in November. "Here's how I see it: these New Yorkers deserve the same frequent, safe reliable service that they've come to depend on over time, even if more affluent New Yorkers are not using mass transit as frequently. Folks who are dependent on mass transit, it doesn't make sense to me that they should suffer with much less service."
The MTA has already announced it would tweak service in response to the ridership patterns across the system favoring midweek and weekend service, which the agency has called small adjustments and critics have called preludes to service cuts. While some lines will see an increase in service during the weekend, peak service on multiple train lines will be trimmed to force riders to wait an average of 30 seconds more between trains. Some of those lines include the 6, 7 and L trains, where ridership has bounced back according to the comptroller's numbers.
One state legislator who represents a stretch of the 7 train said she wasn't surprised to hear that the line was seeing such a bounce back across multiple stations, and that it was another reason for the state to fund six-minute off-peak subway service in this year's budget.
"That and more," State Sen. Jessica Ramos, who represents Jackson Heights and Corona, said in terms of what the subway system needed. "Yes the 7 line is booming, shocker. My neighbors are the ones who do work that they can't do from home, especially when you work in the service sector, like so many immigrants do."