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MTA reports NYC subway ridership drops for the first time since 2009

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The drop is relatively small but significant

Flickr/Jim Pennucci

The MTA has seen a steady surge in annual ridership over the past few years but that streak has finally come to an end. For the first time since 2009, the agency saw a decrease in ridership over the last year, leaving agency officials in search of ways to bring the numbers back up, reports AM New York.

At a recent MTA board meeting, it was revealed that a total of 1.756 billion subway trips were taken last year, compared to 1.762 billion taken in 2015. While it may not seem like a drastic dip, it amounts to about six million rides and, as AM New York points out, is the equivalent of the one weekday of subway trips for the MTA. With Governor Cuomo planning to cut $65 million from the agency’s budget, it’ll be even more difficult to recover ridership figures.

Though a single cause hasn’t been pinpointed, it’s not hard to tell what could be causing the decline. Overcrowded trains and platforms cause delays, which then cause angry passengers who may eventually turn to other methods of transportation. Though the MTA knows what its issues are, addressing them is a solution that has yet to be foreseen.

Services outages play a big role in the decline in ridership, however, they are a necessary evil, explains MTA’s chief of subways, Wynton Habersham. But that isn’t the MTA’s only problem. “[T]he subway is bursting at the seams. When you can’t fit more people on the subway, you’re not going to attract more people to the way,” states John Raskin of the Riders Alliance advocacy group. Much of the current signal system is outdated and just can’t accommodate more trains running on its line, making overcrowding inevitable. The MTA is investing close to $4 billion towards a modern signal system but it’s a lengthy conversion and one that could be potentially jeopardized if funding cuts do happen.

Others believe the decline isn’t merely a result of poor service but a conscious decision made by passengers. “People are voting with their wallets and their feet,” said a spokesperson for TransitCenter, suggesting that other transit options like CitiBike or ride sharing apps are being utilized as a viable alternative to the MTA. Nevertheless, the MTA is working towards creating both short-term and long-term solutions to provide better service all around.