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Op-ed | MTA sensing optimism over the reopening of NYC

MTA Chairman Pat Foye with Executive Vice President of Subways Demetrius Crichlow (left) at the Columbus Circle station on May 16.
Photo by Mark Hallum

There’s finally a palpable sense of hope and excitement in the air now that New York has turned the corner on COVID-19 after suffering through one of the worst years in more than a century. With more than 70% of New Yorkers on the way to becoming fully vaccinated, this summer is set up to be one of normalcy. 

Our subway system is once again open 24/7 to support the city that never sleeps along with our vast network of buses. Live sports and concerts are welcoming fans at full capacity, restaurants are filling up, businesses are reopening offices to employees, and the bright lights of Broadway will soon be illuminated again.

With New York coming back to life, public transportation — as it always has — will play a key role in this revival.  

With every new development, ridership has rebounded at impressive rates across the MTA. Earlier this month, the subways and commuter railroads broke pandemic-era records on three consecutive days. This momentum reflects the pace of our regional recovery. The highs surpassed 2.57 million riders for the subways, 122,000 for the Long Island Rail Road and 104,000 for the Metro-North Railroad. Buses also continue to carry more than one million customers day. 

This is amazing news and we’ve made it our mission to keep this streak going through the summer. To coincide with the start of the season, Metro-North last week implemented its first comprehensive service increase since schedules were modified due to the pandemic more than a year ago. 

Another more significant adjustment is planned for August. It will bring the railroad to 83% of pre-COVID weekday service just in time for an expected post-Labor Day rush of commuters. To put that in context, Metro-North ridership dropped to less than 5% during the height of the pandemic – a precipitous decline that would have been inconceivable in the past. 

Throughout this crisis, the MTA has been constantly monitoring ridership at all agencies with an eye toward increasing service when the time is right. For example, LIRR is currently operating at 81% service and full service is already in place on the subways and buses after both saw reductions in 2020.

As COVID restrictions are lifted, we’re looking beyond the traditional commute as we work to win back more customers. We’ve seen a notable uptick in leisure travel on the weekends, especially on the railroads. We want to ride this trend to not only further improve our ridership, but help New Yorkers celebrate and make this year a summer to remember. 

The MTA is announcing a series of partnerships that will help you take advantage of all the region has to offer. The LIRR is promoting escorted tours to Montauk and the North Fork, with stops at various vineyards, breweries, and local landmarks. Both railroads are also running discounted ticket deals with the stunning Immersive Van Gogh exhibit at Pier 36. You can find all the details on our discounts web page, new.mta.info/daytrips

I am confident there’s a fantastic summer ahead for all us. And whether it’s the beaches, a ballgame, or just a night out in the city, our heroic employees stand ready to do what they have done for more than a century — get you wherever you want to go. 

Patrick Foye is chair and CEO of the MTA.

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