MTA Survey Shows Spike in Crime, Dip in Ridership as Agency Works to Get NYC Back on Trains

Tags: Currents Brooklyn, NY, COVID, COVID Relief Bill, covid testing, COVID VACCINE, Media, MTA, Queens, NY

By Jessica Easthope

New York City and its subway system are evolving around the pandemic. Crime is up, ridership is down and now the MTA is pulling out all the stops to get people back onto the trains.

Train after train, the cars are nearly empty. At the Bowling Green station in Lower Manhattan, people appeared to be socially distant on the platform. But one question remains — are there just less people?

“The negative impact on ridership and revenue is orders of magnitude worse than the Great Depression,” said MTA Chairman and CEO Pat Foye. “During the Great Depression, subway ridership, at the bottom, went down 13 percent. In March or April of 2020, subway ridership was down 95 percent.”

Pat said the last year has been the most challenging ever for the agency. Ridership was still down 35 percent and it’s not only because of COVID-19.

“The subway system is safer than it was five, 10 and 15 years ago,” Pat said. “But the increase in crimes, like the stabbing spree on the A train three or four weeks ago that resonates and frankly terrifies New Yorkers. No one wants to go back to the bad, old days of rampant crime.”

According to a survey of more than 25,000 active riders released by the MTA this week, only 26 percent were ‘satisfied’ with safety on trains. Crime and harassment was the top concern: 72 percent say they’re ‘very concerned’ about safety on their commutes.

“In the later hours of the night, there’s hardly anyone else on the train, so it’s concerning,” said commuter Ameena Caesar.

“I’m very cognizant of my surroundings,” said Liz Murray who commutes from Brooklyn. “I keep my back to the wall. Before, you really didn’t have to think about it and now you have to pay attention.”

To address safety concerns, the MTA added 600 more NYPD officers to its subway patrol, but the officers are spread out among 472 subway stations. Many riders say they haven’t seen an increased police presence.

“Honestly where I live in Brooklyn,” Liz said, “I don’t see police ever.”

But the MTA’s disinfecting efforts on trains and platforms are being noticed.

“They’re very clean,” said commuter Ben Thompson. “It’s been commendable on the MTA. It’s been well-managed and maintained.”

If it wasn’t for federal aid, the MTA would have lost $5.6 billion dollars this year, which is why Pat said getting riders back is the priority.

“The goal for this coming year is for us to be fully prepared to welcome New Yorkers and tourists from around the country and the world back to the subway system,” Pat said. “We want to present to everyone a safe environment.”

One move that’s expected to generate more than $116 million dollars for the MTA is happening: raising the toll prices on bridges and tunnels. As for subway fares, that increase has been postponed for several months.