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There is finally a palpable sense of hope and excitement in the air now that New York has passed the COVID-19 milestone after going through one of the worst years in more than a century. With more than 70% of New Yorkers on the verge of being fully immunized, this summer is shaping up to be a summer of normalcy.
Our metro system is once again open 24/7 to support the city that never sleeps with our extensive bus network. Live sports and concerts are throwing fans at full capacity, restaurants fill up, businesses are reopening their offices to employees, and the bright lights of Broadway will soon be on again.
As New York City returns to life, public transportation – as it always has – will play a key role in this revival.
With each new development, ridership has rebounded at impressive rates across the MTA. Earlier this month, subways and suburban railways broke pandemic-era records for three consecutive days. This dynamic reflects the pace of our regional recovery. The highs exceeded 2.57 million passengers for the subways, 122,000 for the Long Island Rail Road and 104,000 for the Metro-North Railroad. Buses also continue to carry over a million customers per day.
This is incredible news and we made it our mission to maintain this streak throughout the summer. To coincide with the start of the season, Metro-North implemented its first full service increase last week since schedules were changed due to the pandemic over a year ago.
Another larger adjustment is planned for August. That will bring the railroad to 83% of pre-COVID weekday service just in time for an expected commuter rush after Labor Day. To put that in context, Metro-North’s ridership fell to less than 5% at the height of the pandemic – a steep drop that would have been inconceivable in the past.
Throughout this crisis, the MTA has constantly monitored traffic at all branches with a view to increasing service at the appropriate time. For example, LIRR is currently running at 81% service and full service is already in place on subways and buses after both saw reductions in 2020.
As COVID restrictions are lifted, we are looking beyond traditional commuting as we work to win back more customers. We have seen a noticeable increase in leisure travel on weekends, particularly on the railways. We want to follow this trend not only to further improve our ridership, but also to help New Yorkers celebrate and make this year a summer to remember.
The MTA is announcing a series of partnerships that will allow you to take advantage of all that the region has to offer. The LIRR promotes guided tours of Montauk and North Fork, with stops at various wineries, breweries and local landmarks. Both railways also have discount ticket deals with the stunning Immersive Van Gogh exhibit at Pier 36. Full details can be found on our discounts web page, new.mta.info/daytrips.
I have no doubts that a fantastic summer awaits us all. And whether it’s the beaches, a football game or just a night out on the town, our heroic employees are ready to do what they’ve been doing for over a century: take you wherever you want. .
Patrick Foye is Chairman and CEO of the MTA.