Tracking the New York Subway's Uneven Recovery

Ridership on the New York Subway has a long way to go to return to pre-pandemic normal, and the setbacks of recent months haven't helped the cause.

January 19, 2022, 5:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


New York City Subway

Kits Pix / Shutterstock

The New York Times on Sunday published a big feature by Michael Gold, Ana Ley, and James Thomas that digs into the current status of subway ridership around New York City, nearly two years after Covid-19 emerged in its first, brutal wave in the Big Apple and produced one of the first obvious signs of the intersecting concerns of planning and the pandemic.

According to the article, the return of riders to the nation's premier subway system has been uneven depending on location. "Stations in lower-income areas in Brooklyn, Queens and Upper Manhattan, where residents are less likely to be able to work from home and typically depend more on public transit, have rebounded far faster than stations in office-heavy sections of Manhattan, including some that were once the busiest in the system, where many workers are still able to work remotely," write Gold, Ley, and Thomas.

Overall, ridership is still far below pre-pandemic levels. Average daily ridership in November was at 56 percent of pre-pandemic levels—a marked improvement from the 90 percent reduction in trips recorded in spring of 2020, but still far from normal. Recent challenges have worsened ridership—the Omicron variant has sickened Metropolitan Transportation Authority employees, leading to service cuts, and kept more potential riders at home.

"The system is also contending with fears about crime and public safety that were amplified after a woman was shoved to her death in front of a train on Saturday by a man at the Times Square station," according to the article.

Focusing on the varied experiences of the subway in 2022—depending on location and the surrounding economic and demographic factors—the article surveys multiple stations around the system for data and human interest anecdotes. Time lapse video at each station help capture some of the effect in the aggregate.

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