Monday, April 26, 2010

NY Subway Ridership

by Dick Mac

The New York subway system is one of the modern wonders of America.

Massive numbers of people are moved around four of the five boroughs, to and from work, school, hospitals, theaters, museums, concerts, sporting venues, and every other imaginable event that makes an American life an American life.

I take the F train to the E train to 53rd Street & Lexington Avenue each workday. Lex & 53rd handles 51,000 commuters a day!

The F train stop near my home handles 3,800 commuters a day, and has a lot more platform space than 53rd & Lex.

Although ridership is down since the Bush Recession, the subway is still crowded, vital, and amazing.

Having been in NYC for 12 years, I have been paying attention to how they count the riders. I am impressed that they really use counters! Employees stand at entrances or exits, or the bottom or top of escalators, with clickers in their hand actually counting the people that pass. Counting is also done in concourses that connect different lines, as well as on the cars themselves.

Of course there is a chance of inaccuracy, but I think this data must be gathered in conjunction with counting turnstile numbers to get a complete picture of ridership. A turnstile will tell you how many people came into a station, but it can't tell you a rider's destination or transfer.

I have noticed a disturbing trend in the counting in the past eight years. These clicker/counters are generally in stations, on platforms, and riding cars at times when ridership is distinctly lower than usual.

They are counting during rush-hour, but they are counting on days that guarantee smaller numbers than usual. You will see them clicking/counting on the Friday before a long-weekend, when many people use a vacation day to extend the long weekend. You'll see them riding a subway car through Brooklyn on the Friday after Passover, when many New Yorkers are not even leaving the house. You'll seem them at the bottom of an escalator on a morning during school vacation week when a remarkable percentage of parents take their vacations.

You never see them on a Wednesday morning in the middle of March, when everyone is working. You never see them on a non-long-weekend Friday when most everybody is going to the office.

It's odd, and I can't quite decide why they are using these numbers for anything.

This miscounting of ridership is so blatant that I can't believe mainstream media haven't written about it.

I know that public transportation is considered a drain on the taxpayer, but it is actually a vital part of American capitalism. Still, we have decided that public transportation is too expensive. That it needs to be reduced. We have, of course, reached the wrong conclusion.

Google provides maps for just about everything, and the link below is a ridership map published at the New York Times. Check it out, it's pretty cool.

New York City Subways: Mostly Fewer Riders

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