In an unprecedented decline since 2009, New York City’s subway witnessed a drop of about 3% in ridership in 2016, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) most recent report. Although it’s a ‘a little bit’ of a drop, as MTA’s Acting Chairman Fernando Ferrer described to New York Times reporters, and ‘there’s no reason for alarm,’ other locals and academics have been worried about the situation. They’re afraid the ridership decline may translate into traffic jams in the near future.
“The secret to success in New York City over the last 20 years is the transit system’s ability to absorb the growth in travel from population and economic growth,” Bruce Schaller, a former senior official at the City’s Transportation Department, told the New York Times. “If all that growth translated into more use of private cars or taxis and Ubers, it’s not a sustainable way to grow the city.”
Civil Engineering Professor David Levinson explains to The Atlantic that as the economy expands and oil prices plunge, people are buying more cars and driving them more often, both to work and to weekend activities that are better served by vehicles. “American cities continue to suburbanize, and as they do, taking transit often becomes a less attractive option,” he added.
Meanwhile around 46,000 out of 8.4 million New Yorkers are registered on Uber and other ride-hailing apps, but after the airport protests in January and the concerns that Uber tried to take advantage, many New Yorkers deleted the app in disapproval.
On January 28, as Americans protested against the immigration ban at Kennedy International Airport, a taxi drivers union issued a statement refusing to pick up passengers at Kennedy Airport from 6PM to 7PM. At 7:30PM, Uber offered its rides without the “surge,” a function that increases the price of the ride during rush hours and times of high demand. Since then there has been a cyber-war against the ride-hailing app under the hashtag #DeleteUber. Uber later announced that their offer has been misunderstood.
On the other hand, other New Yorkers have resorted to another more sustainable and environment-friendly alternative; cycling. New Yorkers have booked 14 million trips with Citi Bike in 2016, an increase of about 4 million trips compared with 2015.
New Yorkers have been suffering from rising subway delays since 2012 and sometimes weekend maintenance impedes their commutes. The New York Times reports that more than a third of subway delays are caused by overcrowding, which accounted for nearly 30,000 delays in November 2016.
Several MTA members blamed Governor Andrew M. Cuomo for cutting $65 million in state aid to the MTA in his executive budget. But the governor’s office has argued that overall state funding for the authority, including tax revenue, would increase by about $30 million. However the MTA officials responded by saying that the funding changes would not lead to fare and toll increases or service changes.
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