MTA commuter railroads set pandemic-era ridership records

May 16, 2022
The surge in ridership follows added train service and new fare offerings for customers.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority's (MTA) Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) and Metro-North Railroad (Metro-North) experienced record ridership the week of May 9, at the highest levels since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On May 10, Metro-North had an estimated 158,798 riders, 61 percent of the 2019 daily average, while on May 11, the LIRR had an estimated 178,100 riders, which was 62 percent of the 2019 daily average. The last time either railroad surpassed this level of ridership was March 12, 2020.

"Strong and dynamic transportation infrastructure is key to our recovery, and we are working hard to maintain our progress in returning to pre-pandemic levels," said New York Gov. Kathy Hochul. "This ridership milestone sends a strong message that New York's comeback is right on track, and our mass transit systems will continue to power our economic recovery."

The surge in ridership follows the MTA's pilot fare programs and additional train service to encourage customers to return to mass transit. On March 1, both LIRR and Metro-North rolled out fare offerings including a 10 percent discount for monthly passes, a new 20-trip ticket that saves 20 percent on regular peak one-way fares, and City Ticket, which offers a reduced, flat fare for rail travel within New York City on weekends, was extended to include all weekday off-peak trains at a fare of $5.00. On Jan. 3, LIRR restored several peak trains in both directions, and on March 27, Metro-North added an additional 14 Hudson, 18 Harlem and 34 New Haven Line weekday trains.

"Customers are returning to the rails for work, school and to enjoy all that the New York metropolitan area has to offer. The ridership milestones we reached this week are further evidence of the region's comeback and the pivotal role transit plays in powering our economic recovery," said MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber. "I'm especially encouraged by the dramatic increase in the use of discounted City Tickets by NYC residents for intra city commuter rail travel since its expansion for weekday travel."

Since the launch of the 20-trip ticket program, a total of 75,709 tickets were sold through May 8 on both commuter railroads combined. This translates into more than 1.1 million trips. Since the expansion of the City Ticket, approximately 300,000 weekday City tickets have been sold. In 2019, the total number of City Ticket rides made up 1.2 percent of total rides, and in 2021, City Ticket rides accounted for 1.6 percent of total rides. In April 2022, just weeks after the City Ticket promotion began, City Ticket rides grew to 3.8 percent of total rides. 

Metro-North President and LIRR Interim President Catherine Rinaldi said, "It is encouraging to see ridership recovery gaining strength as our customers respond to increased peak and off-peak service and to new fare incentives like the flexible new 20-trip tickets, discounted monthly tickets and expanded City Ticket. As we head into the summer months, we look forward to having more customers beat the traffic and travel by train, which is the easiest and most sustainable way to get around the region."