NYC Transit Needs Its Commuters Back

With ridership still at less than half of pre-pandemic levels, the region's transit agencies face billions of dollars in budget shortfalls after federal assistance runs out.

2 minute read

July 18, 2021, 5:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Crowded Subway Platform

Joe Tabacca / Shutterstock

Without the crush of pre-pandemic commuters, write Elise Young and Raeedah Wahid, New York City's public transit providers, who "rely heavily on fare revenue for day-to-day expenses," will have to make massive cuts in staff and service after federal pandemic relief dollars run out. With less than half of its typical ridership, New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority faces a shortfall of billions of dollars.

"The non-profit Regional Plan Association, which researches New York City-area economic and environmental issues, predicts an eventual ridership recovery. But some commuters will trade the 9-to-5 workday for more flexible hours, driving up off-peak travel -- and potentially creating chaos, according to Tom Wright, the association’s president." Off-peak travel, says Wright, "actually puts more pressure on the transit agencies."

According to Redfin, "[r]eal estate in popular New York City suburban commuter hubs continued to soar during the pandemic, but the hotter single-family home market is in areas with little to no mass transit." Workers who are making their return to the city "are finding increased crime rates and vacancies among office towers’ street-level businesses that once teemed with commuters," evidence of the trickle-down effects of reduced workforces in central business districts, whose corporate offices created the need for a wide variety of ancillary services. If, as Richard Florida predicts, central business districts will transform into multi-purpose hubs and "15-minute neighborhoods" less dependent on daily commuters, transit agencies may once again need to readjust their service to cater to new needs and schedules. 

Monday, July 12, 2021 in Bloomberg CityLab

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