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NYC subway sees highest ridership since start of COVID pandemic

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More than 1.9 million people rode the New York City subway on Friday — the transit system’s busiest day since the city went into COVID-19 lockdown last March.

New Yorkers made some 2,184,296 subway trips on March 16, 2020 — the day before Mayor Bill de Blasio shut down city schools, bars and restaurants.

Ridership in the following weeks plummeted to less than 10 percent of pre-pandemic levels — forcing transit officials to spend the better part of 2020 and early 2021 begging for money from Congress, which in turn provided nearly $14 billion.

MTA consultants have estimated the ridership will take years to rebound — and may top out at a “new normal” of between 80 and 92 percent pre-pandemic levels due to permanent changes to commuting patterns.

People exiting a subway car on March 15, 2021.
Passengers exiting a subway car on March 15, 2021.
James Messerschmidt

Despite the dour forecasts, ridership has increased since the end of last summer to around 30 to 40 percent what it was before COVID-19.

MTA data shows increasing numbers of New Yorkers are willing to take transit: Subway ridership stood at 1,916,277 on Friday and 1,884,706 on Thursday — the first- and second-highest totals since last March, officials said.

“It is so great to see more and more New Yorkers riding the subway again. To set back-to-back record highs in the same week is an indicator that people are eager to return to their normal lives,” Interim Transit President Sarah Feinberg said in a statement.

“Our team will continue to keep the system as clean as it has ever been and as safe as it has ever been as New York City comes back.” 

People entering a subway in Manhattan on March 15, 2021.
People entering a subway in Manhattan on March 15, 2021.
James Messerschmidt

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