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NYCT explains how riders are counted

At the March 22nd NYCTRC meeting, Robert Hickey, NYCT Unit Chief – Revenue Analysis, Office of Management and Budget, and William Amarosa, NYCT Manager – Ridership and Revenue Analysis, Office of  Management and Budget, discussed the process of developing ridership statistics for the subway system.  They explained that the components in counting riders are the MetroCard, the turnstile and a Station Controller.The MetroCard has two fields: fixed, that holds the serial number, authority code and expiration date; and variable, that holds the monetary value, date, time and place of last use, and transfer information.  The turnstile performs 3 actions during each MetroCard swipe:
-Reads the information on the card and validates the transaction
-Writes to the card (e.g., changes the remaining value on a valuebased MetroCard)
-Verifies that correct information has been written to the card

A Usage Transaction record is created by the turnstile; then batches of usage transaction records are transmitted from the turnstile to the Station Controller after a certain number of transactions are accumulated in turnstile. There is one Station Controller in each subway station and it sends accumulated usage information to the Area Controller which serves the whole NYCT system.

Various NYCT departments can download specific data, including ridership and revenue data. Subway ridership includes all passengers except NYCT employees. A ride is counted each time a passenger enters a subway station:
-All MetroCard/Single Ride Ticket swipes, including free transfers
-Paid non-turnstile entries, such as seniors using return-trip tickets, school groups, or cross-honored railroad riders.

Ridership does not include exiting passengers, transfers between subway lines (unless the passenger passes through a turnstile for an out-of-system MetroCard transfer), or fare evaders.

Many factors cause systemwide ridership to fluctuate such as weather, time of year, students, holidays, etc.  Analyzing ridership requires choosing an appropriate measure to avoid getting misleading results.  Hickey and Amarosa noted that ridership has been growing on both weekdays and weekends since the early 1990s.  They indicated that service has improved dramatically because:
-Crime is down significantly
-MetroCard has reduced fares
-Jobs and the economy have grown
-Tourism is strong
-Demographics have changed
-Off-peak activities have increased
-Riders making multiple trips per day
-Work hours are now more flexible

Their full presentation can be found by clicking here.