Then-MTA head Lee Sander, left, with Mayor Bloomberg, Jorge Posada and Brian Cashman during the May unveiling of the Metro-North Yankee stadium stop. Photo by Benjamin Kabak.
For the New York Yankees, the first season in the team’s new stadium ended in grand fashion. A week ago, the team captured the franchise’s 27th World Series Championship with a victory at home. As part of the new infrastructure supporting the stadium, Metro-North began train service to the area, and the transit agency says that it too had a season for the ages.
According to numbers released by the agency, 6009 people — or 12 percent of the total stadium attendance — took Metro-North to Yankee Stadium for Game 6 of the World Series. That record day capped a season well within the projections, and Metro-North officials were pleased with the ridership levels and revenue streams from the new station. “Overall, for the first season, the results are very good. It is a big success,” Howard Permut, president of Metro-North, said.
Long a part of the plan to use construction of a new Yankee Stadium to help aid in the revitalization of the South Bronx, the Metro-North stop was nearly discarded when the MTA and the City could not agree to a funding plan. In May 2007, two years before the projected opening date, though, the City agreed to pay $38 million in construction costs as long as the MTA footed the bill for the other $53 million. The Yankees, prime beneficiaries of the station, contributed nothing.
In late May, the station opened for service, and as the Yanks’ successful baseball season wore on, the station grew in popularity. For weekday games, ridership averaged to 2900 people per game. During the weekend, that number reached 4000, and prior to the playoffs, the single most popular game was the Saturday, August 8 affair against the Red Sox. Approximately 5600 fans took Metro-North to that game. During October, the station’s popularity hit its peak. For the eight playoff home games, Metro-North averaged 4800 riders per game.
Amidst these numbers, Metro-North officials all but guaranteed the future benefits of the Yankee Stadium stop. “The success of this station is assured as more and more people try the service,” Permut said. “Those who have left their cars behind are generating very positive word-of-mouth evidence that the railroad is safe, easy, fast, reliable, and beats driving and parking.”
Yet, despite these assurances, these ridership totals are lower than initial projections. During the build-up to the station’s opening, Metro-North documents believed that between 6000-10,000 fans per game would flock to the commuter rail station. Although Metro-North officials blame a rainier-than-usual summer and the fact that the Yanks rarely sold out their stadium as causes for their low ridership totals, I’m willing to chalk that up to Year One. Fans were not aware of this new option, and as word-of-mouth spread, more left their cars at home and turned to the trains.
Still, the real test for the Metro-North stop at the country’s most transit-accessible baseball stadium will be next season. Coming off of a World Series title, the Yankees will again draw between 48,000-50,000 fans per game, and the station should see ridership figures approach that projected average. With just 100 riders per day passing through the station on non-game days, more Yankee fans will have to turn to the station for it to meet projections.
Even with these numbers, though, the station is providing revenue for Metro-North. The agency drew in approximately $200,000 in advertising and expects to net another $10,000 in vending machine sales. And that is good news for the cash-strapped MTA.