April Transit Falls to 58.7% of Pre-Pandemic Levels


Transit ridership in April 2022 was 58.7 percent of April 2019, according to data released yesterday by the Federal Transit Administration. This is down from March, when ridership was 61.0 percent of March 2019. When I reported on March numbers, I predicted that April’s numbers would fall below 60 percent of pre-pandemic levels because April 2022 had one fewer business day than April 2019, while March had two more than in 2019.

For comparison, airline numbers exceeded 90 percent of pre-pandemic levels (which I also predicted) while Amtrak ridership grew to 73 percent (though that’s a drop from November, when ridership was more than 77 percent of November 2019). Driving numbers won’t be out for another week or so, but will probably be around 100 percent.

It’s beginning to look like transit ridership may level off at not much more than 60 percent of pre-pandemic numbers. A data analyst named Todd Schneider has posted daily and weekly New York City subway turnstile numbers through early June, and they indicate that ridership has not grown much since March. His numbers also show that ridership in Manhattan has recovered less than in the other boroughs, showing that people are not returning to downtown jobs. New York’s subway carries almost 30 percent of all transit riders in the nation and it is actually doing a little better (April ridership was 64 percent of April 2019) than most other systems, so its lack of growth must have transit officials worried.

Of course, these numbers must be tempered by the fact that fare evasion has grown considerably since the pandemic, which means actual ridership is higher than turnstile numbers, but if fares were enforced some people would take fewer subway trips. Some people say that the solution to that is to let everyone ride free. But if your service is so bad that you can’t get people to pay even a quarter of the cost of providing that service, there can’t be much justification for increasing the subsidies still further.

Read the rest of this piece at The Antiplanner

Randal O'Toole, the Antiplanner, is a policy analyst with nearly 50 years of experience reviewing transportation and land-use plans and the author of The Best-Laid Plans: How Government Planning Harms Your Quality of Life, Your Pocketbook, and Your Future.

Graph: While airline and Amtrak numbers grew in April (as a percent of 2019 levels), transit numbers fell.