NYC subway usage rebounds faster on weekends than weekdays

(Bloomberg)—It’s rare for Sonah Lee-Lassiter to take the subway on a Tuesday these days, but the Brooklyn resident recently took the train to Manhattan for a doctor’s appointment. Now that she’s working remotely, she’s a weekend commuter who takes the train to the beach or to meet friends in other boroughs.

Lee-Lassiter, 35, is part of a bigger puzzle the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is grappling with: Fewer New Yorkers are taking the train to work on weekdays. Instead, they take the subway on weekends to visit a museum, go to a bar, or go hiking upstate.

America’s largest transit provider has struggled to grow ridership as many office workers have settled into working from home, depriving the MTA of what was once a crucial source of revenue – millions of weekday commuters. On Monday this week, about 2.7 million people rode the New York City subway, about half the ridership on a comparable day before the pandemic, according to agency data.

The MTA may not find 100% of pre-pandemic crowds in its entire system until around 2035, according to a senior agency official. Still, weekend ridership for the subway is around 70% of pre-pandemic levels, while weekday usage is around 60%, as concerns about crime and the coronavirus still suppress people. public transport at all levels.

“I’m working entirely remotely right now, and my husband and I end up taking more weekend trains,” Lee-Lassiter said. “We’re going to take it to the gym, down to the beach, Brighton Beach, traveling to different parts of town to meet friends and do something social.”

Organizations are grappling with how to get workers into the office when Covid variants continue to emerge and employees are reluctant to give up remote work. Only 38% of workers were at their desks in New York during the last 10 days of April, according to a survey conducted by The Partnership for New York City, a business-backed group that promotes economic growth in the region. And the MTA itself has encouraged passengers to use the system more often by offering commuters free rides and the chance to win free meals and hotel stays.

Across the Hudson River, weekend trips are even more important. Average weekend New Jersey Transit ridership is around 80% to 90% of pre-pandemic levels, with some trains at 100% of 2019 levels, while weekday transit is d about 55%. Weekend ridership for Port Authority PATH trains in New York and New Jersey is also between 80-90% of pre-pandemic levels, while weekday traffic is around 50% .

“Weekday ridership is so suppressed largely because people have fewer places to go,” said Danny Pearlstein, spokesman for Riders Alliance, a transportation advocacy group. “People still really want to connect with friends and family and enjoy the city and the region during their free time and on weekends.”

The MTA is looking to improve subway service on weekends while it does maintenance and construction work on those days. The transit agency will appoint a weekend service czar in the coming weeks to plan, coordinate and implement subway service, Richard Davey, MTA’s chief subway and bus operator, said during a briefing. a committee meeting on July 25.

Weekends were historically used to do maintenance and upkeep that can’t happen during peak hours, but now service disruptions are inconveniencing some of the most crucial passengers, Pearlstein said.

The trend is not limited to the New York metropolitan area. In California, San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit’s recovery was also stronger on weekends than it was on weekdays. In June, weekday BART ridership was about 34% of pre-pandemic expectations, with Saturday at 56% and Sunday at 65%.

Meghna Rao, 29, a frequent commuter on Brooklyn’s Subway C, said she’s been working from home since the pandemic began and just started returning to the office last month. But Rao, who works in the film and TV industry, still doesn’t have a full office schedule and works from home on Fridays.

“For two and a half years I had been working from home and so I was really staying in Brooklyn more on the weekends, walking around and then I tended to take the train more on the weekends to go into the city to meet people. friends to go to shows,” Rao said.

–With the help of Michelle Kaske.

© 2022 Bloomberg L.P.

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