Stations along the J/M/Z, G and L trains saw ridership growth during 2009. (Source: The New York Times’ Interactive Ridership Maps)
As New Yorkers travel around the city, swiping MetroCards at one end of our trip and passing through a turnstile at another, New York City Transit collects piles and piles of data. Every turnstile has a counter that clicks upward with an entrance and another one that tracks exits, and every year, the agency releases the ridership totals for individual stations to the public. For those of us who love the transit minutiae found in the data, the release is akin to Christmas in April.
Over the weekend, Transit put the 2009 ridership information available online in this table, and I spent a bit of time last night looking for trends. So too, it seems, did Michael Grynbaum of The Times, and his article spots the same trends I found. Overall, ridership for 2009 was down from 2008. Transit reported 1,579,866,600 total subway riders in 2009 with a weekday average of 5,086,833, a Saturday average of 2,928,247 and a Sunday average of 2,283,601. In 2008, total ridership topped 1.625 million with averages of 5.229 million during the week and 2.98 million and 2.312 million on Saturday and Sunday respectively.
On a more micro level, as expected, the bad economy — and subsequent decline in tourism and jobs— had a negative impact on ridership. Total figures for stations in midtown and the Financial District were down from 2008, and those areas heavily favored by tourists such as the 42nd St. corridor and Herald Square saw traffic decline by five to ten percent.
Yet, other areas, as Grynbaum notes, saw an increase in riders. For example, the BMT Nassau St. stop at the Bowery saw annual ridership increase by over 12 percent as more than 1 million people headed to the once-maligned J, M and Z trains. Overall, as a Times infographic shows, nearly every station along the J/M/Z in Queens and Brooklyn saw increases in ridership.
In fact, as Transit gears up for its June service cuts, I believe those lines will see an even greater increase in ridership this year. With the M train slated to run from Middle Village to Forest Hills via the Chrystie St. Cut and Sixth Avenue, those who live in Bushwick will now have a one-seat ride to jobs in Midtown. Even with longer waits, the trains should see more riders this year.
Some, though, aren’t as optimistic as I. With cuts looming, Andrew Albert, head of the New York City Transit Riders Council, fears that the overall decline in ridership will continue. “It remains to be seen whether people stay,” he said to Grynbaum. “If they have interminable waits or have to change lines, maybe they’ll leave the system altogether.”
Stadium Attendance and Ridership
As Grynbaum notes in his article, ridership through both Mets-Willets Point (the former Shea Stadium stop) and 161st Street-Yankee Stadium declined in 2009. Willets Point saw traffic dip to 1,862,720 from 2,036,355, a decline of 8.5 percent while even with an additional eight postseason games, traffic at Yankee Stadium declined 1.9 percent from 8,576,546 to 8,410,256. The reason, though, is not because the Mets struggled.
Rather, ridership was down because capacity at these two new stadiums was significantly lower than at what Citi Field and new Yankee Stadium replaced. The current Stadium in the Bronx can fit, on its best day, just over 52,000 — a number that includes standing room and one the team never attained last year — while the old park could fit 57,545, a ten percent difference. Citi Field can fit 45,000 while Shea packed in over 57,000, a difference of over 20 percent. In that light, then, the declining ridership numbers are actually lower than expected.
The Top Ten, Compared
I’ll leave you to muse over the differences in the top ten stations from year to year. Interestingly, 86th St. on the Lexington Ave. IRT entered the top ten as traffic at the Citigroup stop at 53rd St. fell by nearly ten percent to 11th in 2009.
|Times Square||58,099,313||Times Square||60,880,668|
|Grand Central||42,002,971||Grand Central||44,600,738|
|34 St-Herald Sq||36,945,680||34 St-Herald Sq||39,040,943|
|Union Square||34,245,245||Union Square||35,545,653|
|34 St-Penn St. (1/2/3)||27,196,195||34 St-Penn St. (1/2/3)||28,343,889|
|34 St-Penn St. (A/C/E)||24,182,097||34 St-Penn St. (A/C/E)||26,013,432|
|Columbus Circle||20,418,815||Columbus Circle||20,858,197|
|59th St./Lexington Ave.||18,924,005||53rd St./Lexington Ave.||20,475,053|
|86th St. (4/5/6)||18,891,890||59th St./Lexington Ave.||20,053,574|
|Fulton St.||18,845,513||Fulton St.||19,813,040|