Op-ed | MTA ridership is up, and so is service on many subway lines

MTA chair and CEO Janno Lieber
MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber at the Union Square station on April 28, 2023.
Marc A. Hermann / MTA

You’re not imagining things – trains and buses are getting more crowded as students return to school and employees start heading back to the office more frequently. Ridership is up roughly 15% this summer, and we’re expecting the surge to continue this fall, boosted by the best subway service in 10 years.

We’re not only running as much subway service as pre-pandemic, we’ve even been able to increase service on eight lines in eight weeks — thanks to the budget delivered by Governor Kathy Hochul and the State Legislature. Their investment is having a huge impact on weekend and midday travel – discretionary periods where we’re seeing the strongest ridership recovery. 

Service on the commuter railroads is even better, with sustained on-time performance (OTP) well above 90% for LIRR and Metro-North. Long Island customers especially have more options than ever since we started running 40% more service with the opening of Grand Central Madison. And we haven’t forgotten about Paratransit (a/k/a Access-A-Ride) – the MTA service carrying the highest percentage of passengers compared to pre-COVID. Customer satisfaction rates are through the roof now that OTP consistently exceeds 94%, up from 85% in 2021. 

In addition to being faster and more efficient, the transit system is also much safer, nearly a year after we launched the Cops, Cameras and Care initiative with Governor Hochul, Mayor Eric Adams, and our partners at the NYPD. Despite some recent high-profile incidents, stats show crime has dropped well below pre-pandemic levels, and we’re taking additional steps to address quality of life and safety issues like fare evasion, track trespassing and teenagers riding outside of subway cars. 

On subway surfing, we teamed up with Schools Chancellor Banks and the City’s Department of Education for the ‘Ride Inside, Stay Alive’ campaign – which includes messaging in schools and online – to put a stop to this dangerous and deadly behavior once and for all. 

By now, you may have heard the audio announcements in stations — recorded by high school students, for high school students – that warn against riding outside subway cars. We’re also successfully pushing social media companies to take down photos and videos of subway surfing; they’ve developed algorithms that can identify posts to be removed immediately.   

Our team at MTA is determined to start this new school year and fall season delivering more amazing service. We need to be firing on all cylinders for upcoming gridlock alert days, when the UN General Assembly is in town. Every New Yorker knows mass transit is the best way to avoid all the traffic, not only this month but every month, and that mass transit is the one surefire antidote to climate change. See you on the rails and buses.

Janno Lieber is MTA chair and CEO.