NYTIP – transforming commuter rail: introducing regional rail by leveraging weekend ridership

Welcome back to my NYTIP series! This post serves as my brand-new introduction to “regional rail” improvements on NY’s commuter rail systems – Metro-North (MNR), Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), and NJ Transit (NJT). Many advocates – myself included – use the term “regional rail” to describe systemwide improvements such as lower fares (and fewer fare zones), service increases, and “through running”; an excellent report by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign (TSTC) describes each of these elements in detail.

While it’s true that COVID-19 has decimated weekday commuter rail ridership in NY, a different picture is beginning to emerge on weekends:



[Figs. 1, 2] Screenshots from MTA’s website taken on 10.14.2022 showing MNR and LIRR ridership over the last 7 days.

That’s right – weekend commuter rail ridership has not only fully recovered – it is now exceeding pre-pandemic levels! Surprisingly, I have not heard MTA or local politicians highlight or celebrate this fact. (If they did, I must’ve missed it.) In this post, I will explore ideas for using these weekend ridership gains to jump-start regional rail improvements in – and through – NY.

[Let’s begin!]

Simplified Summary

This post describes three key ideas for improving NY's commuter rail network. These three ideas are reducing fares, increasing service, and through-running. Weekend ridership now exceeds pre-pandemic levels, which affords an opportunity to implement these ideas. In doing so, the Tri-State Area can begin the transition from commuter rail to regional rail.