Working from home is the main reason for the slowdown in the return of MTA ridership: Lieber


Working from home is the biggest factor keeping transit ridership below pre-pandemic levels, MTA Chairman Janno Lieber said Wednesday.

Safety concerns are also to blame, Lieber said, but transit data shows New Yorkers in blue-collar areas have returned to subways and buses in greater numbers, even though they live in neighborhoods with higher crime rates.

Residents of the city’s wealthier neighborhoods with lower crime rates – who are more likely to have jobs with a remote option – have been slower to return to the office for work, the transportation chief says in common.

“We know safety is on people’s minds, we know COVID is on people’s minds. The demographics or geography of our loss of ridership suggests it stems more from the work-from-home issue,” Lieber said on The Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC Aug. 17.

Boroughs outside of Manhattan have higher rates of commuting, where many city workers live who have no choice but to report to work in person.

“People who are in neighborhoods that maybe have more crime, but they are essential workers, in the boroughs – especially in the Bronx and Brooklyn and Queens – they come in at a higher percentage compared to the pre -COVID than people who live in neighborhoods with less crime,” Lieber said. “In those more affluent neighborhoods, there are more white-collar workers working from home.”

“All of these issues play a role in the loss of ridership we are experiencing,” he added.

MTA President and CEO Janno Lieber speaks at Grand Central Terminal on March 16.Photo by Kevin Duggan

Ridership returns have been uneven throughout the pandemic.

Travel to outer boroughs and travel by essential workers rebounded faster in 2020, according to a 2021 report by then-City Comptroller Scott Stringer.

Daily commutes hit 90% of 2019 numbers in some working-class areas of the Big Apple, while citywide rates held steady at just under 60, according to a May MTA report. % During months.

Weekend ridership rates did better at nearly 80% in June, and a transit advocate said the state needs to beef up service outside of traditional rush hours, without cutting existing schedules .

“Weekend service right now is a good thing for ridership, but it’s miserable for passengers,” said Danny Pearlstein of Riders Alliance Group. “Passengers suffer from very elaborate construction detours and regularly wait 20 or 30 minutes for a weekend train.”

“People from the neighborhoods [Lieber] speaks, many of whom don’t work in offices, nor do they work nine to five,” Pearlstein said.

A train stops on an empty subway platform.Photo by Dean Moses
Photo by Dean Moses

Office occupancy in the city hit 40% for the first time in the COVID era in June, the city reported.

As the pandemic has emptied the MTA of passengers, city and state officials have often focused their blame on crime and homeless people seeking refuge in the subway system.

Earlier this year, when the Omicron variant raged across the five boroughs, Lieber saw a decline in daily commutes for fear of subway homelessness and crime.

Mayor Eric Adams has deployed a record number of cops to the system to create an “omnipresence” of underground law enforcement.

Subway riders consistently rated safety as their number one concern in a survey released by the MTA last month.

While public transit accounted for less than 2% of citywide crime so far this year, according to NYPD statistics, a series of high-profile subway attacks rocked the city as she was trying to come back from the pandemic.

In January, a man pushed rider Michelle Go in front of a subway train in Times Square; in April, a gunman opened fire on a crowded train in Sunset Park, Brooklyn; and in May, another gunman killed Goldman Sachs employee Daniel Enriquez on a train crossing the Manhattan Bridge.


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