The 9-to-5, Monday-through-Friday commuting pattern is on the wane and a new kind of commuter has been on the rise, according to data the Partnership for New York City released Tuesday.
As weekend ridership reaches post-World War II levels, commuters today are increasingly riding during off-peak times and working in the outerboroughs.
Over the past decade, Brooklyn has seen a 24% increase in the number of workers that both live and work there, while the Bronx saw a 28% jump in the number of people who work there. Meanwhile, there are 150,000 daily commuters between Queens and Brooklyn, half of whom drive to work. The city’s public transit users face an average 48-minute commute.
“If these commuter patterns continue to grow, the next administration really needs to take a look at what services are needed to promote that growth and get people to where they want to work and live,” said Merrill Pond, senior vice president of research and policy at the Partnership for New York City.
A 2011 study from the Center for an Urban Future showed that the growth of outerborough New Yorkers who travel within their county or to an adjacent one between 1990 and 2008 far outpaced the growth of people who commuted to Manhattan.
David Giles, the director of research at the Center for an Urban Future, said fast-growing sectors in the city are education, health care, and retail — fields evenly spread across the city. Meanwhile, Manhattan-centric jobs in finance and administration are on the wane.
That is creating new job centers outside of Manhattan. But commuters still have to rely on a century-old system engineered with Manhattan as its center.
“New York City’s economic geography is changing,” Giles said. “It is a big deal and it really is wrecking havoc on the city’s transportation system.”
The MTA is planning for the new demand the system faces in the coming decades. Last month, William Wheeler, an MTA planning director, explained to the agency’s board that the millennials are the first post-war generation that embraces public transit because they are unaccustomed to a dirty system plagued by graffiti and breakdowns. “What times people are on our system and where they want to go is very different than it was 20 years ago,” Wheeler said.
The MTA can add capacity with better train signals and run more trains to meet demand at different times of the day. But given that building a new subway line is complicated and expensive, increasing Select Bus Service can help move commuters between the boroughs without having to travel through Manhattan.
The MTA is planning Phase II of the bus rapid transit system. With five SBS routes in place and several more on the way, the MTA has identified nearly two dozen corridors in the outerboroughs.
Meanwhile, Councilman Brad Lander of Brooklyn last month sponsored a bill to create a citywide SBS plan over the next 10 years. “We need to treat it as a system and we need a real comprehensive plan,” he said.
Giles, of the Center for an Urban Future, said buses are the most efficient way to move people to neighborhoods outside Manhattan, but that the system needs to be beefed up “We need a lot more SBS corridors in the city,” he said. “They need to work like a network and not just be sort of one-off isolated SBS routes.”