As more people get vaccinated and parts of the economy reopen, subway riders continue to return to the subway system. For the first time since the pandemic started, more than 2 million people rode the subway on April 8th.
"Seeing more and more riders return to the subway system gives everyone in New York a sense of optimism, and hope—it's a return to normalcy," Sarah Feinberg, interim president of NYC Transit, said on Friday at a press conference at the Fulton Street Transit Center.
The MTA said that 2,009,025 subway trips were recorded on Thursday. Bus ridership also hit a new high since September 2020—the first full month after buses returned to charging fares—with 1,155,405 rides on April 7th. (At this point, the agency's preliminary data shows that there were 1,118,319 bus trips on April 8th and expects the number to grow after adding more data.)
Feinberg did not explain the reasons behind the increase, though they come as 24% of NYC adults are fully vaccinated, with 39% of all NYC adults having had at least one dose since shots became available. The increase also coincides with indoor dining allowed at 50% capacity, baseball stadiums reopening to fans for the season, and arts and entertainment venues allowed to reopen this month at 33% capacity.
Before the pandemic, average weekday subway ridership was typically over 5.5 million; it dropped by as much as 93% in April 2020, just as employees were allowed to work from home, with just 420,000 riders per weekday. Bus trips also fell by about 75% in April 2020 to around 600,000 riders a day. Ridership has been trending up so far this year.
Subways remain closed between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. for train cleaning (MTA officials initially shut the system down for cleaning from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. in May last year); the service had run 24/7 up until May 6, 2020, sparking controversy over the removal of street homeless seeking shelter in the system over a shelter. There has been no timetable on when full service will return.
Of course, while ridership is a far cry from what it was 14 months ago, New Yorkers—many of them essential workers—from lower-income neighborhoods are relying on mass transit. A study last month from State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli found that, for instance, outer-borough neighborhoods with greater numbers of immigrants, working families, and those who work in health care had busier subway stations.
The MTA, which is celebrating the $6.5 billion it is receiving from the federal American Rescue Plan, which allows it to avoid making drastic "doomsday" cuts, wants to remind anyone who takes the subway and/or bus to wear a mask. The MTA has free masks available at stations, on buses, and through its Mask Force, a group of volunteers that distributes masks one day every month.
Jake Dobkin contributed to this report.