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Subway Use Still Well Below Pre-Pandemic Levels Even With Ridership Spike This Week


Ridership on the New York region’s major train lines rose to its highest level since the start of the coronavirus crisis, though there are still far fewer people using Metropolitan Transport Authority systems when compared to pre-pandemic.

“No stone is going to go unturned to incentivize riders to get back into the system,” MTA acting Chair and CEO Janno Lieber said, Crain’s New York Business reports.

There were nearly 3 million daily riders on the subway this week, per the publication, a pandemic record. In normal times, some 5.5 million people would use the subway on weekdays. Metro-North ridership also reached a new high since the start of the pandemic, with 122,500 riders each day. Long Island Rail Road had 150,900 riders daily, hitting a pandemic record.

Between June and September, MTA subway ridership was between 53% and 58% below pre-pandemic levels during the week, per Crain’s. McKinsey & Co. predicted in 2020 that ridership would not return to 80% of its pre-pandemic levels until 2024.

School started back up this week and Broadway reopened, likely driving more people back to using public transportation. However, the daily office worker commute is a major part of the MTA offerings, and the post-Labor Day return to work has been sluggish. RXR Realty CEO Scott Rechler told Bisnow this week his buildings were around 40% occupied and he’d expected that to be closer to 80% if the delta variant hadn’t taken hold in the country.

It is a similar story across the country. Chicago actually saw its public transit ridership drop slightly in the days following Labor Day as workers continued to shy away from the office. Two-thirds of companies pushed back their return dates, according to a survey of 238 executives conducted in late August by human resources consulting firm Gartner. Plus, even as offices and workplace put measures in place to make workers feel safe, some say they are concerned about the return to work, The Wall Street Journal reported this week.