There were 29.4 million fewer trips on the subway in 2017 than the previous year, the second year in a row that subway ridership decreased, according to the MTA. A presentation to the MTA board last week revealed that ridership was already down 2.1 percent in 2018. The drop in ridership is the greatest on weekdays between 12 a.m. and 5 a.m., followed by evening ridership between 9 p.m. and 12 a.m.
While the decline occurred in all the boroughs, the drop was the largest in the Bronx and Queens, and the report notes that for-hire vehicle growth was the strongest in the outer boroughs.
"I can't tell you how many people who walk down into a station see a wall of diversion notices and say, 'I'm not dealing with this,' and go up and hire a car," MTA Board Member Andrew Albert said Monday.
Even New Yorkers with unlimited monthly or weekly Metrocards were using the subway less often,Tim Mulligan, the executive vice president of New York City Transit, told The New York Times.
MTA chairman Joseph J. Lhota blamed the decline on poor subway performance, the rise of ride-hailing apps like Uber, and fare evasion. But the report states that subway evasion was "not a major contributor to the overall share in declining subway ridership."
MTA officials made it clear that they believe customers are leaving the subway for ride sharing companies, and it's costing the cash-strapped MTA millions. Subway and bus revenue is already down $55 million (2.9%) from what the MTA had projected for 2018.
Meanwhile, Uber has been vigorously fighting a City Council bill that would cap the number of For Hire Vehicles in New York. The ride-sharing company has argued that its services are all the more needed as subway service continues to decline.
“I think it’s worrisome because we’re continuing to create jobs, the population is increasing, we’re building new housing — there’s no objective reason for subway ridership to be down, other than people are so frustrated with the service that they’re looking for other options,” Nicole Gelinas, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, told the New York Times.