As pandemic wanes, subway cars remain half-empty

This week, New York subway officials announced that they had caught a woman going through the turnstiles at the 161st St.

That seems like a lot, until you consider that the New York City Subway carried 1.7 billion passengers in 2019 before the pandemic.

Many urban restaurants, taverns and sidewalks have returned to normal life, especially in the evenings and weekends. But the country’s great subways haven’t fully recovered from the ghost train dystopia of COVID-19.

Passenger numbers fell 60% to 640 million in 2020, making it the busiest subway system in the United States and the lowest ridership in New York City in more than a century. increase. So between 2019 and 2020, New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority lost his 1 billion passengers. Most of them have not returned.

The Chicago and Washington, DC subway systems, the second and third busiest in the United States, are getting worse.

Fall passenger numbers are running at about half the 2019 numbers for Chicago’s ‘L’, which had a record 87 million passengers through October. Washington Metro carried about 225,000 daily riders through October, two-fifths of 2019 ridership.

Remote work is the obvious reason why subways are half empty. The percentage of people who work primarily from home has tripled from 6% in 2019 to 18% in 2021, according to Census data.

Big cities have lots of virtual workers. Nearly half of Washington, DC workers now work primarily from home.

Bringing teleworkers back to the subway is a big problem for transport authorities.

Another issue facing urban transport is safety, and it’s not just masks and hand sanitizers.

Young subway patrons wear masks less often. This trend has alienated some elderly and immunocompromised passengers. In 2022, he will often be seen wearing three or four masks on a packed New York subway train.

Potential subway users also fear violence. In a recent article on subway safety, The New York Times described a system of “few riders, but many insecure riders,” a time when New Yorkers largely avoided Central Park and subway stations after dark. Evoked a faint memory.

Crime on the New York subway is far from the historic levels of 30 or 40 years ago. Records serious crimes. In the subway, he had 26 murders that year.

But the Times cited “a series of stabbings, stabbings and shootings on trains” that made subway safety an issue during this year’s New York gubernatorial election. also found that crime was on the rise. By 2022, there will be approximately 1.2 violent crimes per million rides, double the number before the pandemic.

The New York subway system had recorded nine murders by November this year, The Times reported. The pre-pandemic year averaged less than two.

The DC Metro system witnessed two shootings in the space of 15 hours this month, killing one and injuring four. “It’s the latest in a string of high-profile incidents in recent months that have frustrated commuters and transportation officials,” said the Washington newspaper. Your post has been reported.

One incident occurred at 6:30 on Wednesday evening at the system’s busiest downtown Metro Center station. A man pushed his off-duty FBI agent against a railing, causing both men to plummet off the Red Line platform, police said. Police said the agent drew a gun and shot the suspect. Metro patrons fled to the streets.

According to The Washington Post, assaults and robberies are more common on Metro premises now than in 2021.

Violent crime on the Chicago L train has declined this year, but is now more than double what it was before the pandemic, according to an analysis by the Chicago Tribune.

The Tribune found 6.2 violent crimes per million liter rides by November 2022, compared to 6.8 for the same period in 2021, the highest rate in a decade. Meanwhile, the arrest rate for these crimes has fallen to the lowest level in recent years.

Traffic officials say they have increased security on all three systems. Yet stories of unconfirmed crimes in half-empty, unpatrolled subway cars quickly circulated on social media.

Sam Bergman, 22, told the Tribune, “When crimes of this sort occur on trains and they are not arrested, nothing seems to deter them.

The Chicago native said he avoided L after seeing a suspected burglar break into the Redline car he was riding with his girlfriend one night in October.

In a metro system in a big city, less ridership means less revenue.

Federal COVID-19 aid supports the city’s subway system. Earlier this year, New York’s Metropolitan Authority predicted that he would face a $2.5 billion budget deficit in 2025 when the bailout money runs out.

The biggest problem is occupancy. Forecasters for the New York subway predict that passenger numbers will reach only 80% of his 2019 levels by 2026.

The Chicago Transit Authority is counting on federal relief funds to close its projected $390 million budget deficit in 2023 without raising fares.

The DC Metro system plans to raise fares and offer more frequent service to increase ridership and close a $185 million budget shortfall. Once the federal bailout fund runs out, Metro’s deficit will exceed his $500 million.

“This is a staggering percentage of overall operating costs that defies any shrewd budget,” opined The Washington Post.

Metro leaders hope that shorter wait times will keep passengers coming back, and that few will notice the slight fare increase. At least the latter seems more likely. Metro has perhaps the most complex fare system in the country.

Smaller rapid-transit systems across the country seem to be recovering better as big cities struggle to lure subway riders back. Across the country, the pandemic-era diorama of empty buses and vacant transit systems is all but gone.

Public transit ridership across the country, including buses and trains, plummeted to 20% of pre-pandemic levels in April 2020, according to a report from the American Public Transportation Association. Passenger numbers he recovered to about 40% of normal in the summer of 2020. With the advent of the COVID-19 vaccine, passenger numbers across the country were pushed up to nearly 60% of his 2019 levels by late 2021, and today he has reached 70%.

Public transport usage is higher in smaller cities where remote work is less common and passenger numbers are lower to begin with. Bus systems recovered lost passengers more quickly than rail lines.

The relative success of bus routes speaks to the subtle socioeconomic differences between bus and train customers. “In general, bus lines serve more essential workers, while rail lines serve more office commuters,” says the report. Amid the pandemic, “rail passengers are more likely to have the option to work from home.”

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