Transit officials say that even after the pandemic is history, ridership will not fully rebound, squeezing the MTA's budget and likely possibly causing a reduction in service.
"But perhaps a bigger challenge for us is right sizing MTA to meet the new normal in 2024," Robert Foran, the MTA's chief financial officer, said at Wednesday's agency board meeting. "We're going to have to match our service structure and service level to equal rider demand."
That new normal anticipates fewer transit trips by New Yorkers like Joan Pulupa, who have learned to get around without a bus or subway.
"I'm taking it up to get my COVID test at my new job, up at Columbia University, so that would probably be a seven minute subway," Pulupa said. "Now, it's going to be a 15 minute Citi Bike."
The way Pulupa sees it, a Citi Bike provides more fresh air than a subway car, reducing the risk of becoming infected. Plus, it's a cheaper ride.
"I think it's going to be a mix," she said. "I think I'll probably be trying to mix Citi Bike in, especially when it's beautiful. I really enjoy it in the fall."
It's decisions like this that have an MTA consulting firm, McKinsey and Company, projecting an erosion of ridership even under a rosy virus scenario.
The firm predicts that with a successful vaccine, ridership would only rebound to 92 percent by 2024.
The biggest reason: more New Yorkers will work from home.
"It's true that remote work has caught on, but it's expected that that's not gonna amount to more than about 15% of the work force," said Kathryn Wylde, president, Partnership for New York City. "Some of that will be that people are working from home, working remotely maybe a day or two a week, back in the office for the balance. So that's going to reduce the pressure or the demand on mass transit."
McKinsey also projects that an increase in online shopping and a decrease in international tourism will reduce the number of trips by as much as 5%.
And up to 3% of trips will be replaced by another mode of transportation, like bicycles.
For Gabriel Metzger, Citi Bike was a replacement for the gym when they closed.
"I'd like to continue using the bikes, since it takes about the same time and it's just a healthier commute, he said.
He's now using a CitiBike, instead of the B train, to commute to work.