The first three long-awaited subway stations along Second Avenue on the Upper East Side have reduced overcrowding on the Lexington Avenue line in their first month of operation, according to reports of new MTA ridership numbers. But usage on the Second Avenue Subway is still below the 200,000 daily riders MTA officials predicted.
According to the MTA, there were 155,500 riders per day on average along the new line last month, including new stations at 72nd, 86th and 96th streets. WNYC reports that these statistics are based on MetroCard swipes, as well as surveys by MTA staff.
On Lexington Avenue, the MTA documented a dip in ridership during peak commuting hours. According to the authority, there have been on average 46 percent fewer riders between 8:00 and 9:00 a.m. at the four stations parallel to the SAS, compared to January 2016.
Assessing the entire day, including less-busy hours between commuting peaks, the MTA reportedly documented a 25 percent dip in weekday ridership. But these four Lexington Avenue stations—which are decidedly less airy and spacious than the new stations along Second Avenue—still bear a greater burden: 327,400 riders a day, according to WNYC.
Taking the entire line into account, Lexington Avenue is still the most crowded in the system, with ridership hovering around 1.6 million people daily.
"It's all anecdotal at this point, but overall what we have heard from riders is that there is still crowding, but there's not been that sort of wait-for-three-trains-before-you-get-on-at-rush-hour experience, which is great," said Jaqi Cohen, an organizer with the Straphangers Campaign.
The New York Times conducted its own ridership analysis of the new SAS stations, tallying MetroCard swipes and turnstile exits between 63rd and 96th Streets for the first 27 days of January. There were more than 150,000 trips along Second Avenue last Wednesday, they found, up from 83,000 on January 1st, the line's first day of operation.
The paper also took a wider view of Lexington Avenue ridership, comparing trips at all stations between Grand Central and 110th Street, January 2017 versus January 2016. At those stops, ridership fell about 11 percent last month, or close to 88,000 trips, on an average weekday.
A release on SAS ridership is forthcoming from Governor Cuomo's Office, according to MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz. We will update accordingly.
Ben Lowe, 34, a political analyst and member of the Riders Alliance, lives on 85th Street and York Avenue on the UES, and now commutes almost exclusively on the SAS to Midtown and Downtown. "It's great, because not only is there now twice as many subway lines, but we're the second stop on the line, which means there's always a seat. Even at rush hour," he told Gothamist on Wednesday.
Still, Lowe adds, "They don't come as frequently. It's a reminder that the next step needs to be modernizing the system and taking care of the things that are falling apart."