Home New York City Transit Ahead of service cuts, Transit releases ’09 data

Ahead of service cuts, Transit releases ’09 data

by Benjamin Kabak

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.

2009   2008  
Station Ridership Station Ridership
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

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Alon Levy April 26, 2010 - 2:16 am

One of the exercises I do once in a while is try to see which stations are predominantly used by commuters and which are not. We know that systemwide, weekday ridership is a little less than Saturday plus Sunday ridership. On the individual station level, it may be different. A station that’s mostly used by commuters – e.g. anything in Lower Manhattan – will have many more weekday than weekend riders. A station that isn’t – e.g. Coney Island, Yankee Stadium – will be the opposite.

Andrew April 27, 2010 - 11:30 pm

As AlexB points out below, the station that serves Yankee Stadium also happens to serve the governmental center of the Bronx. It’s also in a residential area. Head on over when the stadium is closed – you’ll still see a pretty busy station – it’s a busy origin and destination for commuters.

The same can’t be said for Willets Point, which, aside from CitiField, serves a park and a bunch of auto shops. Not much of a commuter origin or destination.

Streetsblog New York City » Today’s Headlines April 26, 2010 - 8:25 am

[…] Subway Ridership Declined 2.7 Percent in 2009 (NYT, SAS) […]

Larry Littlefield April 26, 2010 - 9:12 am

The real story is the long term trend. Subway ridership is way, way up. It was around 1 billion per year for some time, and is now 1.5 to 1.6 billion — with no new lines an in an essentially built out city.

SEAN April 26, 2010 - 10:20 am

What about the fact that Yankee Stadium has a NNR stop. If I want to go to a game from home I no longer need to go to 125th Street & take the 4 train. At worst all I need to do is switch at 125th to a Hudson Line train. Door to door is 45 minutes instead of an hour plus.

Jonathan D. April 26, 2010 - 12:21 pm

I thought many many of the trains from the other two MNR lines actually swang through the stadium stop on game days (which is why they built the rather complicated wye there). Have they already stopped doing that?

SEAN April 26, 2010 - 7:37 pm

Yes, last season Weekday & weeknight games didn’t have direct service through the Y junction unless it was after the evening rush. That way you could go directly home.

This season there are direct trains both ways reguardless of start time.

Berk April 26, 2010 - 10:26 am

I’d really like to know how they calculate the # of people leaving stations which have ‘Exit only’ turnstiles that don’t ‘click’. For example: the 1 train 79th st station northbound platform – the exit for the north side of w79th st (which many people at the station use) has just one of those really old exit-only gates (and an emergency exit which many people have to use due to the really big crowd that gathers around the exit during rush hours). Clearly the MTA has no clue how many people are leaving this station on a daily basis since they have no means to accurately count here as they do elsewhere.

Benjamin Kabak April 26, 2010 - 10:28 am

That’s why the exit data isn’t made available publicly. It’s not nearly as accurate as the entry data.

Marc Shepherd April 26, 2010 - 10:43 am

How do they count entrances at station complexes that serve multiple lines?

Benjamin Kabak April 26, 2010 - 10:45 am

Aggregate all entrances. They don’t break it down by line because of that problem. It’s impossible to tell where, say, someone entering at Times Square is going.

Berk April 26, 2010 - 11:20 am

And that Times Square # is just entries…. now add in everyone who transfers at Times Square…

Jonathan D. April 26, 2010 - 12:23 pm

Well, exit data is collected through O&D studies, and it’s not particularly worse than the entrance data. Think about this, if approximately 5% of riders are fare beaters, then O&D data collected by survey at the standard +/-3% error rate of say, an election poll is almost exactly as accurate as using turnstile swipes to measure ridership.

Alon Levy April 27, 2010 - 5:23 am

The actual percentage of fare beaters is way, way less than 5% with faregates. When you exclude people who swipe illegally, it’s probably less than 1%.

Al D April 26, 2010 - 11:19 am

What additional percent is attributable to transferring riders? For example, I use Union Sq many days, but do not enter or exit the system there?

Marc Shepherd April 26, 2010 - 11:45 am

What they’re counting is the number of subway trips, ordered by the station where the trip begins. Every trip has a starting station, an ending station, and one or more transfers. They’re just counting where trips start, as it is the only reliable measure.

AlexB April 26, 2010 - 12:08 pm

I know a lot of people going to Yankee Stadium are going to the game, but I’d think the majority would be commuters going to/from the South Bronx. It is the governmental center of the borough after all. There isn’t a Yankees game every day.

Joe from SI April 26, 2010 - 3:09 pm

How come they do not have any data for the SIRR? I would have loved to see the numbers at St. George.

Subway ridership down for Yankee Stadium in 2009 | River Avenue Blues April 26, 2010 - 4:31 pm

[…] drop in ridership due to the eight playoff games in the Bronx. I posited at Second Ave. Sagas that smaller capacity ballparks were to blame. After all, Citi Field and new Yankee Stadium hold 20 and 10 percent fewer fans, […]


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