Home Asides MTA announces record ridership on Metro-North, LIRR

MTA announces record ridership on Metro-North, LIRR

by Benjamin Kabak

In what has seemingly become a regular rite of passage for the region’s commuter rail lines, the MTA yesterday announced record ridership on both Metro-North and the LIRR for 2015. Metro-North saw 86.1 million customers last year, and the LIRR carried 87.6 million customers, the highest total since 1949. Metro-North’s ridership has doubled since the agency came into being in 1983.

The MTA believes that a mix of a younger ridership base that doesn’t want to drive (coupled with how miserable it is to drive into New York City) along with a strong regional economy has led to this higher ridership levels. “When ridership set records back in 2008, many said it was because of high gasoline prices, and that certainly is one factor,” MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast said. “But gas prices have sunk to low levels and the trend is continuing. We are seeing the confluence a strengthening regional economy, healthier downtowns around the region, a new generation of millennials who values public transportation, and greater productivity on board our trains through the proliferation of smartphones, tablets and laptops. Customers are also responding to improvements we have made, including more frequent trains, improving on-time performance, a fleet of modern new electric cars, expanding availability of real-time information, and more channels for customer communication.”

Interestingly, the MTA notes that Metro-North’s gains in non-commuter trips is increasing faster than its regular commuter base, and the railroad reports that its stations west of the Hudson are seeing higher spikes in ridership than those to the east. The Port Jervis Line and Pascack Valley Line saw gains of nearly 5 percent. Meanwhile, the MTA notes that ridership should continue to increase over the next six years when the East Side Access project comes online, and Metro-North begins service into Penn Station shortly thereafter. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s main line expansion project as well as local pols’ push to introduce a Freedom Ticket could lead to higher ridership numbers as well. It’s all part of an improved mobility picture for the New York region. Now how about that capital funding?

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Larry Littlefield February 3, 2016 - 11:12 am

Generation Greed is going to let the system collapse after plundering it financially.

Even as it squeezes poorer, transit riding generations to provide the old age benefits it promised itself but was unwilling to pay for.

SEAN February 3, 2016 - 3:15 pm

Curious – why are you so obsessed with this? I
don’t disagree nessessarily, but I need to be enlightened.

Chris C February 3, 2016 - 3:37 pm

Larry please give it a rest with this generation greed stuff.

Makes me want to just skip over anything else you post which is usually quite interesting.

smotri February 3, 2016 - 5:00 pm

It’s simplistic to simply say ‘Generation Greed’ did this or did that. Back in the 1970s, when the City was on the verge of bankruptcy, it’s the same ‘Generation Greed’ and in particular, the unions that stepped up and helped to bail the City out. People forget about how the unions – with their ‘big, fat pensions’ – actually contributed significantly to the effort to stabilize the City’s finances. In addition to the pension system purchasing Municipal Assistance Corporation bonds, City employees were laid off, salaries cut, and salary increases were kept below the inflation rate – in this last case this was no small matter given the relatively high inflation of that period. So, to say that ‘Generation Greed’ will let the system collapse is to show your ignorance of what ‘Generation Greed’ has done, at significant sacrifice, in the past. This term ‘Generation Greed’ is equally applicable to us – all of us – now, many of whom whine loudly when any mention of tax increases, user fare increases, and the like, is made.

Bolwerk February 3, 2016 - 11:14 pm

Seems to me “Generation Greed” (or what I’d see as some of the greediest fucks ever, no matter what generation they actually were) really took over with the neoliberal zeitgeist in the 1980s. It started with Thatcherite UKKK in the 1970s, I suppose. Well-paying jobs stopped being seen as a worthy public policy goal and fiduciary responsibility to corporations’ long-term viability gave way to maximizing shareholder value and golden parachutes.

It’s topped off by vampire policing, especially starting in the 1990s, as urban neighborhoods that lost their economic bases became targets for confiscatory fines by cash-strapped municipal governments. This is against the backdrop of urban revival that also quietly started in the 1980s, at least in New York, as first-generation suburbanites found cities more affordable, if not yet hospitable. 20+ years later wild gentrification ensues.

Larry Greenfield February 3, 2016 - 11:17 am

The term “customers” is not appropriate in this context because it refers to individuals. Ridership, rides, fares or trips would be more accurate.

VLM February 3, 2016 - 11:24 am

Of all the banal arguments to make over how the MTA uses words, yours takes the cake. Congrats, I guess.

SEAN February 3, 2016 - 3:09 pm

Did that cake come from Whole Foods Market?


anon_coward February 3, 2016 - 12:09 pm

i’ve taken the LIRR at 1am and 2am out of Penn and the trains are as full as some of the peak trains i’ve been on

SEAN February 3, 2016 - 3:06 pm

There was a time when MNR didn’t have much in the way of intermediate travelers, but over the past decade or so you are as likely to see someone go between Fordham & White Plains or Stamford as you are likely to see them go to GCT. NJT is moving in a similar fashion, but the LIRR is moving a bit slower on that front & isn’t quite there yet.

On the off peak side of things – trains are fuller on all three systems. Try taking an NJT train to New Brunswick on a Saturday afternoon. They are as crowded as rush-hour especially during Scarlet Knights football games.

According to Mileposts the MNR newsletter, weekend ridership is growing around 6% a year. As a result of this growth off-peak service is at 30-minute headways or better even on Sundays. For some reason to my eyes that 6% figure seams a bit low to me, but if it keeps cars off the road, I say keep’n coming.

Duke February 3, 2016 - 6:03 pm

Part of that is due to development patterns. Quite a few stations in Westchester and CT are in areas where there are jobs and other destination points within easy walking distance. Long Island, not so much – the development patterns out there are decidedly not transit-oriented.

adirondacker12800 February 3, 2016 - 6:45 pm

The population density of Nassau County is 4704 per square mile, Westchester County 2204 and Fairfield County 1467. just like in Westchester and Fairfield the railroad station was and is the place where “downtown” is.

Douglas John Bowen February 3, 2016 - 6:52 pm

What Duke says it true. But that does not tarnish Metro-North’s proactive efforts to grow its ridership beyond traditional “commuter” patterns — including banishing the word “commuter” from its name quite a few years ago.

I realize one can play “what’s in a word” to extremes, and I myself have been a commuter for most of my life. But I’m glad ridership of all kinds is contributing to the numbers health of New York’s REGIONAL railroads — with Metro-North leading the way (but no longer alone?) in transcending the limitations of “commuter” thinking.

SEAN February 3, 2016 - 7:46 pm

Duke is correct.

Despite having half the density of Nassau, Westchester has managed to build strong village & city centers around most train stations. Fairfield has done the same with few exceptions. This has also allowed for connections between trains & busses in most communities.

In New Jersey, there are also several communities that would qualify such as Red Bank, Asbury Park, Summit, Ridgewood, Montclair, South Orange, Milburn & Morristown. Nassau on the other hand has Minneola, Garden City, the villages along the Port Washington line & a smattering of communities along the south shore lines. Interestingly or regrettably, two villages Hicksville & Hempstead failed to develop in such a manner & yet they were so ripe for it.

adirondacker12800 February 3, 2016 - 9:37 pm

Have you ever been on Long Island? Or New Jersey?
Just because the New York Times real estate section trumpets the return of Asbury Park doesn’t make it less of a burnt out slum.

SEAN February 4, 2016 - 10:01 am

I might as well ask you the same.

Quit trolling.

johndmuller February 4, 2016 - 7:12 pm

There is still quite a long way to go in Westchester (and I presume also the other suburbs) despite the quite decent service of MN. First of all, there is very poor ‘crosstown’ service between cities and villages that are not on the same north-south corridor – i.e. between points on the Hudson line and points on the Harlem line or those on the NH line. White Plains, Yonkers and New Rochelle are kind of mini-hubs via bus, but the east-west roads are rare and generally inadequate, so the buses don’t do that great speedwise, even as they are haphazard as to which villages can connect with which others.

You can take a MN train between stops on different lines, but you would nearly all the time have to go down to 125th st. and then back out; even getting fare information for those trips is challenging. Some of the rapid transit portions of the Tappan Zee Bridge project that were summarily dropped by Gov. Cuomo in his rush to get something done would have at least made for some connections along I-287.

Even to take advantage of all the mid-day frequent schedules require people out of walking range of the stations to drive to MN parking lots, which thee days are usually filled up by early morning commuters. The Bee Line buses only serve some of the MN stations – the Hudson line stations are along the river, the bus lines not so much (pretty steep hills, no fun to walk to bus, even if it went where you want to go) – the Harlem line somewhat similar with the rugged Bronx River valley and the Bronx River Pkwy blocking a lot of cross traffic – NH line probably not as bad in this respect as those stops tend to be in larger towns.

So before we pat ourselves on the back about how well the suburbs are doing, think about how far they are to anything even slightly resembling what one would want before giving up owing a car. Some places not so awfully bad; others, just no way.

adirondacker12800 February 4, 2016 - 8:31 pm

There are no connections on I-287, unless you are in a car.

johndmuller February 7, 2016 - 2:08 am

(as you probably know) Most of the various proposals that were summarily dropped or had already been winnowed out were for different variations of transit approximately along I-287 including some kind of transfer points on the 3 MN branches. The full monte would have had mainline rail from Portchester to Suffern.

AG February 3, 2016 - 11:57 pm

I just rode the Harlem Line on MNRR at 1032 coming out of GCT…. I was surprised how many people were on the train.

SEAN February 4, 2016 - 10:04 am

It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.

AG February 4, 2016 - 9:32 pm

Why shouldn’t it be? 12-15 years ago riding that train at a similar hour was fairly empty.

SEAN February 5, 2016 - 1:06 pm

I’m talking about now – not a dozen years ago.

AG February 5, 2016 - 5:37 pm

Point is I haven’t ridden it in that long… So why exactly shouldn’t I be surprised??? It’s not the subway.

SEAN February 15, 2016 - 3:23 pm

It’s do to several factors…

1. reverse commuting
2. the desirability of reaching numerous town centers without fighting highway traffic & parking
3. and despite what was said about transit in the burbs above, Westchester’s bus system is better than most, even when you factor in the lack of cross county travel options do to the road network. NICE cant even compare do to the loss of routes recently that caused huge service gaps countywide.

R.V. February 3, 2016 - 10:06 pm

Record ridership is not surprising considering how much the tri-state are has added in population.

As a side note not sure if you saw by NYT is reporting that DeBlasio is going to announce plans to build the streetcar by the East River tomorrow.


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