For the first time since the omicron-fueled surge of COVID-19 cases, the MTA's weekday subway ridership has hit 3 million.
On Tuesday, 3,004,655 customers took the subway and 6,247 customers took the Staten Island Railway, for a 3,010,902 total riders according to the MTA. The last time subway ridership was over 3 million was on December 17, 2021, when there were 3,118,492 total riders. The lowest weekday ridership during the omicron surge was on December 27, 2021, with 2,011,675 total riders.
The news came hours after Governor Kathy Hochul announced that she was lifting the state mask mandate on businesses, citing the decline in COVID cases and hospitalizations. In a statement, the governor said, "Let this ridership record be a clear signal – New York is coming out of the omicron surge and we have numbers to prove it."
Even with 3 million commuters, the MTA is still at around half of its pre-pandemic weekday ridership levels — those were trending closer to 60% before the omicron surge. With its fare revenue devastated by the pandemic, the agency has had to rely on $16 billion in federal relief money to keep going.
However, weekend subway traffic has been an encouraging sign. During a Tuesday night appearance on NY1's Inside City Hall, MTA Chairman Janno Lieber said. "Ridership is much stronger in the discretionary periods, on weekends and night times. It's in excess of 70 percent pre-COVID. So the message is when New Yorkers have somewhere to go they're comfortable using transit."
To lure subway riders back to the system, the MTA is rolling out its fare-capping pilot on the OMNY contactless payment system—rides are free after the 12th ride of the week — at the end of February.
Reporting from Stephen Nessen