By Philip Newman
Although Hurricane Sandy forced a shutdown of the New York City transit system and caused monumental damage, the number of riders using subways, railroads and buses increased by more than 0.5 percent last year, including the highest number of weekend subway riders since 1946.
“MTA ridership has been growing for 20 years, and this positive trend reflects New York state’s improving economy and continuing improvements to the MTA’s services,” MTA Interim Chairman Fernando Ferrer said.
“With capital program investments of nearly $78 billion since 1982, riders today enjoy shiny new trains and buses. Train cars have clear automated announcements and visual displays that show your current location. Crime has plummeted,” he said.
“Many stations have digital signs letting you know when the next train is due. As the MTA has rescued the system from the days of graffiti and breakdowns, riders have continued to come back,” Ferrer said.
The largest numerical increase was on the city subways, which provided 13.7 million more trips in 2012 than 2011, an increase of 0.8 percent. The subway’s annual ridership of 1,654 billion was the highest in 62 years. The average weekend ridership on the subways rose by 0.3 percent to the highest level since 1946, when a record was reached.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said the Long Island Rail Road also rose in numbers of riders last year, boosted by a steadily improving economy and the new service to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
LIRR usage had risen for 13 consecutive months until October, when Sandy ravaged the region, forcing temporary service reductions.
The MTA estimated that it lost 49.7 million trips because of Hurricane Sandy, including 43.8 million in New York City Transit, 2.4 million on the LIRR, 1.8 million on Metro-North Railroad, 1.6 million on MTA Bus Co. and 1 million on the Staten Island Railway.
The MTA said the highest percentage of ridership increase came on bus routes operated by the MTA Bus Co., which reported growth of 1.2 percent, or more than 1.45 million riders. The MTA Bus Co. was established in 2004 through 2006 by consolidating seven private bus companies long operated with subsidies from the city.
Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at email@example.com or phone at 718-260-4536.