Growing Metro-North ridership outstrips LIRR
After nearly three decades of almost continuous growth, Metro-North Railroad reached a milestone by overtaking the Long Island Rail Road in ridership from September, with the New Haven Line leading a recovery of passengers lost during the Great Recession, railroad officials said.
Overall ridership on Metro-North rose 2.7 percent between September 2009 and last September from 6.7 million trips to 6.9 million this fall, according to numbers provided to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board this week.
The Long Island Rail Road saw ridership fall from 6.9 million in September 2009 to 6.8 million this fall, according to the MTA.
This September, ridership on the Metro-North New Haven Line grew from 3 million to 3.16 million year over year, a 3.8 percent increase, and overall revenue on the railroad's three lines was up four percent from 2009.
Metro-North Railroad President Howard Permut said that Metro-North's higher ridership numbers reflect decades of work since the agency took shape in 1983 that have doubled ridership on the Harlem, Hudson, and New Haven line regions from 42 million to over 84 million.
"I think the achievement in September was a terrific milestone for the entire Metro-North team," Metro-North Railroad President Howard Permut said. "I think this is the result of 27 years of really good work across the organization that reflects market research that tells us what people want and where they are travelling so we can make schedules that reflect their goals and desires, as well as our customer service. There are a lot of factors." Quicker growth on the New Haven Line reflects the correlation between capacity improvements in rail service to and from the Stamford and Greenwich area in the past decades, which have attracted businesses to the region.
An average of 25,400 people travel to and from the Stamford railroad station each weekday, and 8,700 from the Greenwich station, according to the railroad.
This year, the Long Island Railroad has suffered a series of setbacks which have chipped away at ridership, including a fire which has impacted signaling systems in Jamaica, and service suspensions over the Labor Day Weekend which led to suspension of service to many areas.
Connecticut Rail Commuter Council Chairman Jim Cameron said that a more robust growth rate on the New Haven Line than on either the Harlem or Hudson service might indicate Connecticut's economic centers like Stamford are recovering more quickly than others served by the railroad.
The gradual arrival of the New Haven Line's new fleet of M-8 rail cars will only boost the popularity of using the trains to travel to work or for discretionary travel for shopping, shows, or events, Cameron said.
"It is clearly the largest single division of Metro-North and growing faster than the others," Cameron said. "It would be safe to predict that that will only improve and ridership expand with the arrival of the new cars and more frequent service because of more cars available." Bob MacLagger, vice president of planning for Metro-North, said that the railroad has gradually been catching up to LIRR for many years, and expect a modest growth in peak time ridership on the New Haven Line in coming years.
The new M-8 cars will also reduce crowding on M-2, M-4 and M-6 cars, which is one of the foremost complaints of New Haven Line riders, MacLagger said. Metro-North Railroad trains travelling peak times are on average 95 percent full, according to the railroad.
Metro-North has also kept an impressive record of on-time performance service in recent years, with 97.9 percent of trains arriving on schedule this year, MacLagger said. By the same measure, Long Island Railroad arrives promptly 92 percent of the time.
"The New Haven Line is growing 2 percent faster than the Harlem or Hudson line," MacLagger said. "Even with the older fleet the way that it is, we've seen slow but steady growth on the New Haven Line." MacLagger said the opening of a Yankee Stadium station and regular one-seat service to home games has boosted ridership, with nearly 300,000 people taking trains to Yankees games this year.
"A lot of that comes from the New Haven Line and those are the type of services along with shopper specials that people want and help drive ridership," MacLagger said.