Home New York City Transit A glimpse at the way we rode in 2012

A glimpse at the way we rode in 2012

by Benjamin Kabak

For fans of subway ridership data, this time of year is always a joy for it is when New York City Transit unleashes the 2012 station-by-station ridership figures. We can see which stations are the most crowded and which have enjoyed big bumps in riders. We can drill down on Sandy’s impact on subway ridership — Queens, for instance, saw a bump of only 379 total riders over 2011 — and we can see which subway stations are losing riders. The data, in other words, is tremendous so let’s dive in.

First up, we get the usual suspects. In the MTA’s glance at the top overall stations, only one station from the 2011 top ten fell out of the list. Times Square, with over 62 million riders, and Grand Central with just under 43 million, occupied the top two spots with Herald Square, Union Square, the two Penn Station stops, Columbus Circle, Lexington at 59th St., Lexington at 86th St., and the 53rd St. station filling in the rest. The 53rd St. station, in fact, hopped over Flushing-Main St. to claim the tenth spot, and for the first time since 2009, the top ten most popular subway stations are all in Manhattan.

Now, that’s the boring stuff. I certainly know how crowded Times Square is; I see it every day on my way too and from work. The real story here though is that ridership at Times Square jumped by 2.4 percent and has increased by 3.5 million since 2007. The sheer number of people entering the system that is practically off the charts.

While 2.4 percent increase in riders is impressive — it’s well above the systemwide average of 0.9 percent over 2011 — it pales in comparison with some stations seeing massive growth. I always find more interesting to list these stations instead. Maybe we can see partners relating to New York City development or transit usage in certain areas; maybe we can see the impact of a nearby station closure forcing straphangers to hoof it a few more blocks.

To start, I usually weed out stations that were closed the year before. Elder Ave., for instance, saw growth of 168 percent in 2012 over 2011, but that’s because it was partially closed the year before. So which station took home the crown? That would be one whose need I’ve questioned before: 21st St. on the G train. Ridership at that station jumped by 28.7 percent last year, but it’s still just the 405th most popular station. In other words, only 13 stations have lower ridership, and most of those are on the Rockaways. In fact, many stations along the G train witnessed high growth, including Beford/Nostrand and Flushing Ave. with increases over 6 percent and Fulton St. with a jump of over 8 percent.

Another station showing intriguing and obvious growth was Rector St. In the weeks after Sandy, as straphangers streamed from the ferry terminal to the nearest 1 train station, overall ridership eventually jumped by 15 percent at Rector. Howard Beach, the A train’s terminal since the storm, also saw entrances jump by 15.7 percent as well. Other notables included Carroll St. (due to the nearby Smith/9th Sts. closure), Queensboro Plaza and New Utrecht Avenue.

Finally, the last bit of interesting information concerned the Atlantic Ave./Barclays Center station. The arena opened during the last weekend in September, but its first three months were enough to help push ridership up that station by nearly 800,000 riders or 7.5 percent. I’d imagine we’ll see even more of an increase after a full year of arena customers.

I’ll probably be breaking down some additional numbers over the next few days. The weekend ridership figures in comparison with weekday totals help highlight popular nightspots and the biggest 9-to-5 job centers. For now, feel free to peruse the raw data for annual riders right here. See anything particularly interesting?

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Bill April 9, 2013 - 7:52 am

21st/Van Alst’s increase is no doubt tied to the fact that Court Square on the 7 line was closed for about 3 months in 2012. Customers wishing to connect from the G to the 7 got out at 21st/Van Alst and transferred above ground to nearby Hunterspoint Avenue on the 7. (Court Square had a drop of 15% last year as a result).

Eric Brasure April 9, 2013 - 10:37 am

Good catch.

Interesting to see the G numbers. Smaller year-over-year increases for stations in Greenpoint but bigger increases for stations between Greenpoint and downtown Brooklyn. Anecdotally in 2012 it seemed like the G ridership continued to increase, nice to see that borne out in the stats.

The numbers for the L continue to astound. 7.8% increase for Bedford Ave, while the gentrification keeps moving east.

Looks like the Barclays Center has driven some ridership growth as well.

Marc Shepherd April 9, 2013 - 3:58 pm

It would be useful to list the top ten stations by organic growth, i.e., growth not explained by a special circumstance, such as re-opening after a prior period of closure, or the temporary elimination of a nearby station (South Ferry, Smith/9th, Rockaways).

Ryan April 9, 2013 - 7:58 am

Knickerbocker Avenue on the M’s ridership dropped by 38.2% due to its closure for half of the year.

Flatbush Depot April 9, 2013 - 8:42 am Reply
Ryan April 9, 2013 - 8:45 am

There’s an error message on both of those sites.

Benjamin Kabak April 9, 2013 - 9:26 am

Do those claims of errors take into consideration the fact that the first release is largely preliminary and Transit sends out updates?

Jason B. April 9, 2013 - 10:19 pm

Perhaps not, but you also didn’t say it in your analysis above. I didn’t realize this was preliminary until you commented with this.

JJJ April 9, 2013 - 8:28 pm

Where do PATH stations fit in for comparison? And the newark subway?

JJJ April 9, 2013 - 8:29 pm

And staten island?

Ryan April 10, 2013 - 8:05 pm

They don’t have stats for these.

JJJJ April 11, 2013 - 12:37 am

I know they dont, Im wodnering who does

tacony palmyra April 10, 2013 - 9:28 am

With more people using these crowded stations the MTA needs to rethink its policy on allowing (encouraging?) loud, disruptive musical performers to block key transfer points during rush hours. The most direct route from the 1/2/3 to the N/Q/R in Times Square is always congested with tourists crowded around somebody playing music, and the crowd around Union Sq and Grand Central dance troupes are sometimes as bad. I’m all for encouraging art and music but not when it’s seriously disrupting the movement of people in the system, which it is.

llqbtt April 10, 2013 - 9:41 am

NYPD also bears responsibility for this

llqbtt April 10, 2013 - 9:39 am

The increase at 21 St on the G is likely due to the lack of xfer to the 7 during the construction. Therefore, Hunters Point Ave should also record a slight increase and Court Sq as a xfer for the G, should probably be unchanged from a count perspective (given that no swipes are required)


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