The Lexington Avenue line is the most crowded in the system, but subway riders across New York City are finding themselves on platforms and trains that are beyond crowded. L train stations in Brooklyn are routinely overwhelmed. In Queens, No. 7 train riders regularly endure packed conditions.
Subway use, now at nearly 1.8 billion rides a year, has not been this high since 1948, when the fare was a nickel and the Dodgers were still almost a decade away from leaving Brooklyn. Today, train delays are rising, and even a hiccup like a sick passenger or a signal malfunction can inundate stations with passengers.
Delays caused by overcrowding have quadrupled since 2012 to more than 20,000 each month, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
Subway ridership in New York is in the midst of a resurgence almost unimaginable in the 1970s and ’80s, when the system was defined by graffiti and crime. Ridership has steadily risen to nearly six million daily riders today from about four million in the 1990s.
But the subway infrastructure has not kept pace, and that has left the system with a litany of needs, many of them essential to maintaining current service or accommodating the increased ridership. The authority’s board recently approved $14.2 billion for the subway as part of a $29.5 billion, five-year capital spending plan.
On the busiest lines, like the 7, L and Q, officials say the agency is already running as many trains as it can during the morning rush. Crowds are appearing on nights and weekends, too, and the authority is adding more trains at those times.