New Yorkers are notorious for their enthusiastic use of public transportation, a fact that was reflected in a recent traffic study conducted using data from GPS devices placed in New York City taxicabs. According to the study, traffic in the city has begun moving faster over the past couple of years (about 13 percent from the fall of 2007 to the fall of 2009), while the total number of cars driving into congested areas like Midtown has decreased—thanks to more people taking mass transit.
But big changes are in the works in the world of New York City public transport, which includes the biggest subway system in the country (open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year). In a tough economic climate, subway ridership fell last year, to 1.58 billion rides (a decline of 2.7 percent after a record 1.62 billion rides in 2008); the areas hardest hit by layoffs, including Midtown, dropped at a much more precipitous rate.
This year’s ridership will be impacted greatly in the latter half of the year by proposed service cuts approved by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), which manages buses, subways, trains, bridges and tunnels in New York City and surrounding areas (including Long Island). After falling almost $800 million short on their budget for this year, the MTA board approved a number of service cuts. Look for the following changes to take effect on June 27, 2010:
-W and V trains will be eliminated, along with 33 local and express bus routes; overnight service will be halted on 15 bus routes and weekend service on another 16.
-In general, subway riders will have to wait longer for trains, and there will be fewer seats once they get on.
-Among the other cost-cutting measures are planned layoffs of station workers and the elimination of free MetroCards for students (though this last controversial measure won’t be voted on until June).
Devotees of public transit hope these cuts don’t drive commuters away from subways and buses, but only time—and traffic—will tell.