NYC Subway Ridership Falls to a Record Low: Riders Losing Faith in the Subway System and Their Safety.


Jonni Huynh and Wilson Zheng

New York City’s subway faces one of the highest numbers of daily ridership in the United States, accumulating over five million riders per weekday before the pandemic. However, after the pandemic struck, ridership has dramatically decreased and city crime, especially in the subway itself has spiked to record high levels. Ridership has fallen to an average of 2 million riders per weekday, which is about a 60% decrease. According to the New York Post, robberies in the subway are up 72% from 2021 and violent assaults are up 28% as of April 2022.

Many New Yorkers do not feel safe in the subway anymore following the pandemic and the subway’s ridership decrease. Subway cars are frequently empty and with increasing crime in the city and underground, there is no reason for riders to not find alternatives to get where they need to go. Following the lifting of school restrictions relative to online learning, students are forced to return to school and a majority of them rely on the subway to get to school. 

We asked a few New Yorkers–primarily students – for their thoughts on our city’s subway safety, as well as their opinions on subway crime that has occurred during the pandemic such as the 36th Street subway shooting in Brooklyn earlier in 2022–where a 63 year old subway shooter–Frank James shot and injured 23 people on an N train approaching the station.

Students at Baruch College Campus High School often rely on the subway to get to school. Many students have different opinions and feelings on their safety in the subway– “pretty safe, though not as much when an angry homeless man comes between the cars” shared by Ethan Cirrito, a brilliant subway enthusiast and student at Baruch. 

Even though the subway is mostly a safe place where you commute from where you are to the place you need to go. It is mostly safe but the presence of a homeless man may threaten that safety, which is a huge problem for the increase of the homeless population in the subway that leads to many of these types of encounters. “It depends, sometimes I feel safe but other times I do feel a bit scared when I feel like I’m being followed or something like that. A few times older men have taken pictures of me while on the subway so at times it is certainly not safe.” said Ella-Sophie Ballard, another student at Baruch.

There are a few “solutions” that the city and Mayor Adams proposed and put into effect in an attempt to lower the crime rate in the subway such as increasing the police presence in certain stations and moving homeless people to shelters. However, this did not significantly decrease the homeless presence in the subway at all.

“The city needs to invest more in mental health and housing for the homeless. Then we can address the other problems. Platform screen doors won’t help and will be a waste of tax money. This will just make the mentally disabled people who push others on tracks to other parts of the city” said Ethan Cirrito, reacting to the city’s proposal to add platform guards to platform edges.

As of October 2022, ridership is starting to pick back up in the subway, averaging about 3 million riders per weekday–although numbers are not as high as pre-pandemic periods, they are seemingly recovering slowly. We can’t predict what will happen to the subway’s crime rate and if New Yorkers will eventually regain their trust for the transportation authority, but despite crime rates increasing, it seems like there isn’t really a different alternative for students and New Yorkers to get from Point A to Point B cost efficiently. Our city’s safety is essential and so is our subway system; with a new mayor and new transportation authority chairwoman, it is now their responsibility to attend to the safety of New York City and the subway.