Empty Trains

Working from home has not only been a welcome reprieve for overworked employees. It has also brought much-needed recuperation of all the time people commuted to and from work. As someone who spent 11 years commuting 2-hrs daily, I can personally attest that it will slowly rot your soul.

This found time due to COVID has been brutal for the NY Transit Authority. The MTA is the main commuting system for New Jersey, Long Island and Westchester NY employees who work in Manhattan. Reporting by Matthew Haag and Patrick McGeehan at the NYT found the MTA saw a 75% drop in monthly commuter passes. That is an accurate gauge for the tons of people who work in Manhattan but live elsewhere. The MTA, which has a history of mismanagement and unreliability outside of the NYC subway system, is operating on a hope and a prayer.

“We’re about to find out what the new year is going to bring,” said Janno Lieber, the acting chairman and chief executive of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. “We are a $16 billion business that has lost half its customers and we are going to go out there and get them back.”

NY Times

I love that "we are going to get them back" strategy. It's not a strategy. You can't convince people to spend hours on a train going into an office for a job that now is done from home. No amount of marketing, implementation of perks, or fare cuts can make someone reconsider. If you commuted daily and it was two hours daily on the train, how does an agency market to you? Maybe one way is touting recent on-time performance due to the low ridership. However, the MTA also shoots itself in the foot with this gem: "high on-time performance numbers 'are not representative of a normal operating environment.'" Womp womp.

I personally believe the NYC subway system is one of the best transit networks in the world. I have found it to be reliable, inexpensive, and fast. It's the reason most people who live in Manhattan don't own a car. The subway eliminates the need. Commuting from outside the city is another story. Trains often are late, the schedules are awful (miss your train and you have to wait an hour for the next one) and the fares are too high. Plus there have been examples of employees ripping off the system with overtime scams.