Alex Goldmark is a senior producer in the newsroom for New Tech City and Transportation Nation.
Subway ridership rose 2.3 percent in 2011. New Yorkers and city visitors took 1.64 billion trips, the most in any year since 1950.
The fastest growing subway stretches were in Brooklyn along the L and the J lines that go into Williamsburg and Bushwick, where new residents and nightlife are drawing straphangers. Several stations on the G train had more than 10 percent growth, but that's partly because of construction closing nearby stations. Still, the strong ridership supports making the temporary G train extension into Park Slope a permanent feature.
But, MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz points out, it was the M train that had a true banner year. "That's due to the continuing effect of the June 2010 service changes when we rerouted the M line via 6th Ave. into Manhattan and Queens Blvd in Queens," he said. Before the re-route, the only access to the Bedford-Stuyvesant stretch of the line originated in lower Manhattan. Now, far more riders can reach the area without a transfer.
The head of the MTA, Joe Lhota, has acknowledged the new patterns of ridership growth could require adjustments, such as additional stairwells at newly popular stations. He's mentioned the narrow exits on the Bedford stop of the L train in several speeches. Ridership at that station, the 46th busiest in the system, grew 4.3 percent last year to just under 8 million trips. No firm plans are in process for expanding stations in the fast growing neighborhoods.
Most ridership remains where you'd expect it: midtown. Times Square topped the list with more than 60 million subway swipes followed by Grand Central with 43 million. The only station not from Manhattan to crack the top 10 busiest stations (measured by turnstile entries) was Flushing-Main Street in Queens, with just shy of 19 million trips.