Brian Cashman and Jorge Posada pose last May at the opening of the Yankee Stadium Metro-North stop. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)
For twenty years, MTA officials and city politicians spoke about securing Metro-North access to the South Bronx. The tracks were there, and the draw — a popular baseball stadium — ensured high demand for a good portion of the year. But as long as the Yankees threatened to leave the Bronx, no party wanted to commit to spend $90 million on a station that wouldn’t see much traffic otherwise.
When the Yankees announced plans for their new stadium, though, everyone sprang into action. The city paid $39 million to help build the station, and the MTA covered the remaining $52 million. Since then, as Judy Rife explores in the Times Herald-Record this week, the station has seen increased ridership and has been deemed a success so far. She writes:
Metro-North Railroad’s statistics are something of a wowser, too. In June, the first month when a year-over-year comparison was possible, about 44,500 fans took the train to the game — a whopping 45 percent increase. The new Yankees/153rd Street station opened last year.
And, yes, there were two more games this June than last, but Metro-North is still registering significantly higher average ridership for the season to date — 3,219 for weekday games and 3,819 for weekend ones. Not bad for a year-old service to a 51,800-seat stadium, where attendance is usually in the mid-40,000s.
Bob MacLagger, Metro-North’s vice president for planning, shamelessly calls the new station a “grand slam” and waxes promotional in recounting the reviews it’s received: “It’s better, faster, quicker, cheaper, easier — no driving, no traffic, no parking, no brainer.”
Transit advocates too have praised the station for its high ridership in its infancy. “There are all sorts of spin-off benefits to the station,” Jeff Zupan of the Regional Plan Association said.” But I think what it has done, perhaps more than anything else, is introduce people who may not have used public transportation before to the train.”
The new station certainly has made getting to and from Yankee Stadium easier for many people, and it’s opened up the new Gateway Center at the Bronx Terminal Market to transit as well. Yet, although we should be praising this new station, its success and its long and tortured history showcases how integration between the city’s commuter rail lines and the five boroughs is generally lacking. It shouldn’t take a baseball stadium to provide Metro-North service to the South Bronx just as it shouldn’t take a massive real estate complex to ensure a Metro-North access point at West 60th St. and the Hudson River.
As a Yankee fan and a transit supporter, I’m certainly pleased to see this Metro-North stop siphoning cars away from the South Bronx and providing the neighborhood with another alternate means of transportation. Next time, hopefully, it won’t take twenty years for a station so obvious to see the light of day.