MTA Metro-North Railroad provided 82 million rides last year, up 1.4% over 2010, with ridership gains on all lines and in all markets from traditional AM inbound commutation to nights, weekends, middays and holidays.
On the three main lines, Hudson, Harlem and New Haven, ridership was up 1.7% over 2010. But West of Hudson, where the Port Jervis Line was shut down for three months after Tropical Storm Irene devastated the tracks, ridership declined 11.4% from the previous year.
Still, overall ridership last year was the second highest in Metro-North history, exceeded only by 2008, before the economic downturn, when annual ridership was 83.6 million.
“This growth is gratifying because people have a choice in travel. They are voting with their feet by taking Metro-North because of the value we provide,” said Railroad President Howard Permut. “This growth is the continuation of a long-term trend and is a result of our unwavering focus on reliability, cleanliness, customer service and safety.”
In December, East of Hudson ridership increased 6.4%, the fastest growth rate observed in 2011 and the largest monthly ridership growth rate since September 2000, when ridership jumped up 6.7%.
Permut pointed to on-time performance as a major reason that people choose Metro-North. Of the 209,020 trains operated last year, 96.9% of them arrived on time.
“Reliability, as measured by on-time performance, is the result of all departments working together to maintain the trains, track, power and signal systems. And this includes coordinating construction projects and track outages with schedule planners and crew schedulers. It also requires a multitude of back office employees in areas such as training, purchasing, inventory control and environmental compliance to work together with a singular focus on providing excellent train service,” Permut continued.
In addition to train trips, Metro-North provided 555,000 rides on the two Hudson River ferries that feed customers to the Hudson Line and on Hudson Rail Link, the west Bronx bus service that brings customers to Riverdale and Spuyten Duyvil stations.
Ridership also was boosted by big increases during the holidays, with records set for Thanksgiving weekend and weekends in December. Also, New Year’s Eve was the highest ridership since the mid-1990s.
Metro-North ridership is projected to grow at a rate of about 2% in 2012, continuing a trend that began in 1983, when Metro-North was created. Since then, ridership has doubled.
The annual ridership growth for 2011 is even more impressive considering the extraordinarily challenging weather that included record snowfall in January, a heat wave in July, Tropical Storm Irene in August, which completely shut down service for two days, and a snowstorm in October.