Subway Ridership Highest in 62 Years

Despite Sandy MTA Ridership Rises Again in 2012

Despite the historic disruptions caused by Hurricane Sandy, annual ridership on the subways, buses and railroads operated by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) rose in 2012 by more than half a percent. The agency provided more than 2.6 billion trips to customers throughout the downstate region.

The largest numerical increase came on the New York City Subway, which provided 13.7 million more trips in 2012 than 2011, an increase of 0.8%. The subway’s annual ridership of 1.654 billion was the highest in 62 years. Average weekend ridership on the subway grew by 3.0%, matching the all-time historic high for weekend ridership set in 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,” said MTA Interim Chairman Fernando Ferrer. “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. 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.”

“Our ridership growth has been strongest among discretionary riders and during off-peak times,” said Thomas F. Prendergast, MTA Interim Executive Director. “Recent trends, like the younger ‘millennial’ generation increasingly gravitating toward transit around the country, are building on older trends, like the introduction of unlimited cards and free transfers between subways and buses, to continue the long-term ridership growth over 20 years.”

The largest percentage increase came on bus routes operated by the MTA Bus Company, which had year-over-year ridership growth of 1.2%, or more than 1.45 million rides. The MTA Bus Company was created in 2004-2006 by consolidating the operations of seven private bus companies that had previously operated under subsidy from the City of New York. The MTA Bus Company has worked in the years since then to improve route performance by amending service plans through routings used, frequencies of service and hours of service.

Metro-North Railroad last year had its second highest ridership in history, providing nearly 83 million rail rides. The increase in 2012 was not quite enough to allow the railroad to top 2008 when, Metro-North provided a record-breaking 83.6 million trips. Metro-North estimates it lost 1.8 million rides because of Sandy, the most severe weather impact on ridership it has ever experienced. Had Sandy not occurred, the railroad was on track for a new record of 84.9 million rides. Ridership on the New Haven Line did set a new record in 2012 with 38.8 million rides, up 1.3% breaking a record set in 2011, when the line carried 38.3 million people.

Long Island Rail Road ridership also rose last year, boosted by a steadily improving economy and popular new service to Barclays Center. LIRR usage had risen for 13 straight months until October, when Sandy ravaged the region, forced temporary service reductions. With service restored and new service investments implemented in March, the LIRR is poised for further growth in 2013.

The preliminary table below shows ridership growth for each of the MTA’s services.


2011 Total

2012 Total


Percentage Change

New York City Subway





New York City Transit Buses



- 3,066,858

- 0.5%

MTA Bus Company





Metro-North Railroad





Long Island Rail Road





Staten Island Railway



- 138,340

- 3.0%

The MTA estimates that it lost 49.7 million trips because of Hurricane Sandy, comprised of 43.8 million at New York City Transit, 2.4 million on the Long Island Rail Road, 1.8 million on Metro-North Railroad, 1.6 million on the MTA Bus Company, and 100,000 on the Staten Island Railway.