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Record-Breaking Subway Ridership Numbers May Pose Safety Concerns

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Subway use is now the highest it has been since 1948

The recent increase in subway ridership has raised several challenging questions for both commuters and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) alike, and the New York Times has now taken a closer look at some of these issues in a new report about the congestion.

With close to 1.8 billion rides per year, subway ridership is now the highest its been since 1948. The last time the subway system was confronted by such a glut of passengers was during the Great Depression and subsequently during World War II.

Six million people ride the subway everyday compared to about four million back in the 1990s, and this has of course led to several safety concerns. For one, the NYPD is concerned that overcrowding on subway platforms may lead to people falling on to the tracks. There are also concerns that overcrowding on trains leads to more assaults —an issue that is likely to snowball during the summer as the temperatures on platforms become increasingly unbearable.

Overcrowding has also led to more delays — in fact they've quadrupled since 2012 due to the increasing ridership.

The MTA is trying some quick fixes — some platforms like the one serving the L train at 14th Street-Union Square and at 86th Street on the 4,5,6 trains now have platform controllers to manage crowds better.

The agency is also exploring some new options like open gangway subway cars, but that hasn't gone down too well with New Yorkers.

All that aside, the subway infrastructure is still severely lacking. Installing a modern signal system to allow for more trains is quite some time away, according to the Times.

The opening of the Second Avenue Subway this year might finally ease up the commute on the Upper East Side, and an approval of over $14 billion in funds for the subway might also address some other key infrastructural concerns, but all of that remains to be seen.

London is another city with overcrowding issues. The subway stations there simply close when the crowds become unmanageable, and only let people in once traffic has eased up. A representative for the MTA told the Times that such a measure was not under consideration for NYC.