You don’t have to tell anyone from The Bronx that the number of people taking the subways to work has dramatically increased in 20 years since the MTA began releasing station-level data.
In a piece in the New York Post today talking about the future of New York depending on the subway, it is reported that the number of workers commuting to work by subway in the South Bronx neighborhoods of Melrose, Mott Haven, Hunts Point, and Longwood has more than doubled while the city as a whole as only increased by 30%.
Ridership is also up by 71% in the area outpacing the city at slightly over 40% growth.
The opinion piece describes that this increase isn’t just solely due to population growth but the biggest force behind it is the city’s workforce.
In the South Bronx there are thousands more people working since the 90s where in these neighborhoods where the labor force has grown by 38% since 1990.
Back then, less than half of the adult population was working whereas now you have it’s at an even 50%.
These workers rely on subways. In 1990, 65 percent of the area workforce commuted via public transit; by 2016, the figure was nearly 70 percent. The number of people commuting on public transit to work from these South Bronx neighborhoods has more than doubled since 1990, from 17,500 to 35,600.
This may seem obvious: Don’t all New Yorkers take the subway to work? Nope. Wealthy Lower Manhattan is similar in size and population growth to the South Bronx. It grew by 30 percent since 1990.
In 1990, 50 percent of its commuters took public transportation; by 2016, 53 percent did. Yet that hasn’t translated into soaring subway-ridership numbers. The number of people taking transit to work has increased 30 percent, compared with the South Bronx’s more than 100 percent growth.
Behind the difference is residents’ participation in the workforce, which has not grown in lower Manhattan as it has in the South Bronx. Back then as now, 75 percent of adults worked.
Because the percentage of people working has not grown and because such a high percentage of residents walk to work — 27 percent, versus 10 percent in the South Bronx — the number of people taking public transportation hasn’t grown as much.
The difference is reflected in ridership at stations in each area. In the South Bronx, between 1998 (the first year for which the MTA made station-level data available) and 2016, ridership grew by 71 percent, far faster than the city as a whole during that period. In lower Manhattan, ridership grew at 40 percent, slightly below the city’s overall rate.
It’s not tourists who are crowding our subways; it’s poorer and middle-class New Yorkers who work.
Can you imagine how packed these subways and stations will be beyond what they already are as thousands of more apartments are completed in the South Bronx? What about the thousands more that will arrive thanks to the Jerome Avenue Rezoning?
If our city’s current infrastructure can’t handle our existing population, how are we expected to deal with tens of thousands of more residents?
The closing remarks says it all:
New York can’t continue this workforce miracle if subways keep falling apart. Even as late as 1998, the subways had space to absorb New York’s new workers.
Now, they’re full, and most residents of the South Bronx don’t have other options. Without the ability to afford a car, or to walk to a good job, it’s take the subway — or don’t work at all.