The LIRR’s three year decline in ridership come to an end in 2012 with the railroad serving just under 82 million passengers, up from 81 million.
Why is this important? Increased transit ridership helps reduce traffic congestion by taking motor vehicles off the road. An efficient transit system can provide quicker access to jobs, reduce air pollution and help to improve the overall livability of our communities.
How are we doing?
The LIRR’s ridership grew in spite of the interruptions and damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, although ridership is still well below its 2008 peak of 88.5 million passengers. Metro North maintained its spot as the busiest commuter railroad in the nation, serving almost 83 million passengers, only about 600,000 less than its pre-recession high. Across the river in New Jersey, NJT saw its growth slow from its 2010-2011 pace of 8% and was unable to pass the LIRR for the title of the region’s second busiest commuter railroad. NJT was especially hit hard by Sandy, whose floodwaters damaged hundreds of rail cars which were left in low lying yards during the storm by the agency.
2012 also saw the introduction of a new bus service in Long Island, the Nassau Inter-County Express (NICE), which took over the routes previously run by the MTA’s LI Bus and is run by the private company Veolia. NICE served almost 29.5 million passengers in its first year of operation, about 3% less than the MTA’s LI Bus did the year before. In February 2012, NICE cut back service on many routes which likely accounts for a good portion of the loss in ridership. Sandy, which severely damaged portions of Nassau County’s South Shore, also contributed to the drop. Sandy is also the likely culprit for Suffolk County Transit’s 3% drop in ridership. Outside of Long Island, NJT bus and the Westchester County Bee Line both saw their ridership increase from 2011 by 3% and 2% respectively. The Bee Line’s growth brought it within 200,000 riders of its record ridership giving the service an excellent chance to set a new record in 2013.