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Subway Ridership Rises, Despite Sandy Shutdowns

By Jill Colvin | March 11, 2013 4:08pm

NEW YORK CITY — Ridership on the city's subways rose in 2012 to its highest level in 62 years, despite the massive closures caused by Hurricane Sandy, transit officials announced Monday.

Straphangers logged 1.65 billion trips in 2012 — a nearly 1 percent bump up from the 1.64 billion trips in 2011 — according to new Metropolitan Transportation Authority stats.

While the number represented a smaller jump than the increase last year, it came despite the historic disruption wrought by the storm, which shuttered the subways at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 28 and kept them closed through 6 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 1.

To try to boost ridership as the system limped back into action, Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered all fares waived that Thursday and Friday, but MTA board members still sounded surprised by the gains.

“With capital program investments of nearly $78 billion since 1982, riders today enjoy shiny new trains and buses. Train cars have clear automated announcements and visual displays that show your current location," MTA acting chairman Fernando Ferrer said in a statement.

"Crime has plummeted. Many stations have digital signs letting you know when the next train is due. As the MTA has rescued the system from the days of graffiti and breakdowns, riders have continued to come back."

The jump in subway ridership mirrored a larger system-wide increase across the MTA. Combined, the system's subways, buses and railroads logged more than 2.6 billion trips last year — up more than half a percent from 2011.

The increase was especially notable on the weekends, when subway ridership grew by 3 percent — matching the all-time historic high set in 1946, officials said.

Metro-North Railroad also logged its second-highest ridership in history, with nearly 83 million rail rides logged, despite a loss of an estimated 1.8 million rides because of the storm.

Ridership on the city's regular buses and the Staten Island Railway, however, declined, with 0.5 percent fewer bus trips and 3 percent fewer train trips logged than in the previous year.