Riders probably won't notice it during jam-packed rush hours, but subway ridership has dipped, putting a strain on the MTA's finances. NY1Transit Reporter Jose Martinez filed the following report.
The city's population keeps going up, as does the number of new jobs.
But after years of increases, subway ridership is falling, and the number of bus riders is dropping, too, continuing a long term trend.
The declines are depriving the MTA of badly-needed revenue, with fare hikes already looming in 2019 and 2021.
"It is messed up," one woman said. "Not a little — it's a lot messed up."
All of this makes for another financial challenge for the eternally cash-strapped MTA, which on Wednesday presented its proposed budget for next year.
"Ridership between '16 and '17 is down about two percent," MTA CFO Robert Foran said. "In total, that hits us and reduces us about $40 million to $45 million a year on transit."
But MTA Chairman Joe Lhota refused to blame overcrowding and a surge in delays for driving riders away from the transit system.
"If you break the day out into 24-hour periods, we're not seeing a decline in rush hour," Lhota said. "We're seeing a decline in-between. We're seeing a decline on the weekends."
The latest MTA figures show that average weekday ridership in September dropped to 5.7 million. It was 5.8 million a year ago.
John Raskin of transit advocacy group Riders Alliance says the falloff points to more trouble ahead.
"It's a bad sign that people are abandoning a troubled transit system, and an indication that we need to modernize public transit quickly so people will want to use it," Raskin said in a statement.
Ridership isn't the only area where the MTA's finances are taking a hit; ad revenue fell by $143 million, and its income from real estate taxes also declined.
Officials insisted the shortfalls are not significant enough to speed up the MTA's timetable for fare hikes.
But the declines make it more unlikely that the agency will be able to delay those scheduled increases.
"You have to stop at some point," one straphanger said.
"If people can see the improvements happening, then it would be worth it," another opined. "If they can't, it would be frustrating."
The MTA board is expected to vote on the proposed budget at its next meeting in December.