A recent study found that nearly one-fourth of NYC commuters, who used the subway frequently before the CCP virus pandemic (Chinese Communist Party), could never return to public transportation. This will threaten funding and force managers to look at rate increases to make up for budgetary gaps.
A new analysis by consulting firm McKinsey & Co. predicted that ridership of the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) subway system in New York City would likely rise to only 74 percent of pre-pandemic rates by late 2024, down from a previous prediction for 86 percent ridership for the same period. The study also forecasted that system-wide ridership would remain at 80 percent of pre-pandemic levels into late 2026.
Currently, subway ridership is at 61 percent of 2019 levels, though it has nearly recovered to pre-panemic levels in some working class neighborhoods. Ridership is still low in Manhattan, as well as other central areas, such as many neighborhoods of the upper and middle classes. Whereas the MTA saw about 5.5 million rides on an average weekday in 2019, that number is currently closer to 3 million daily rides–threatening the MTA’s ability to generate sufficient revenue to sustain its operations.
There are many factors that contribute to the decline in subway ridership.
As crime continues to rise in recent years, and people continue to be infected by the CCP virus in some cases, commuters have become distrustful of subway systems, and are reluctant to use them.
Crime has risen drastically since the beginning of the virus, with robberies increasing by 71 percent in the period from April 2021 and April 2022, accompanied by well-publicized incidents of violent assault and incidents of hate crime against Asian-Americans, leaving many commuters feeling unsafe in the subway system.
This issue has been exacerbated by the increased availability of remote employment opportunities. Many urban professionals, who used to rely on the subway to get to work, no longer need to take the subway or commute only a few days a week.
The loss of commuter traffic is threatening the revenue stream for the New York MTA. It already faces funding shortages due to the end of pandemic-era funding. Federal pandemic relief funds are expected to be depleted by 2025, leaving the MTA system with a deficit of $2.5 billion on account of reduced ridership.
The MTA could have to reduce the service’s income stream without making any significant changes. This would be a problem for workers living further from the center of the city who rely on it as their daily transport.
In response to the crisis, MTA may consider rate increases, but this will not entice commuters who use other modes of transportation to get around the city.
The last time the MTA raised the subway fare was in 2015, when the cost of one ride rose from $2. 50 to the current rate of $2.75.
Such rate hikes have been criticized as a “regressive” means of generating revenue, meaning that they have a disproportionate burden on the lower and middle classes, who spend a greater portion of their total income on necessities such as transportation.
Nicholas Dolinger works as a reporter in the business section of The Epoch Times.