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NYC Needs the Commuting Crowds That Have Yet to Fully Return

Subway and trains need a ridership boost before federal aid runs out

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At least twice in the past two weeks, Lincoln Tunnel traffic was so light that the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey cut operating hours for the 2.5-mile bus-only lane, a rush-hour necessity since 1970. Swaths of New Jersey Transit train seats are unoccupied, while New York City’s subway breezes around town with less than half its typical passenger load.

Sixteen months into a pandemic-fueled remote-work revolution, New York City’s famously cutthroat commute remains a relative joyride. While the thinner crowds can be an upside for riders, mass-transit operators face a harsh truth: Packed trains and buses are the systems’ lifeblood, and they need the masses to return before billions of dollars in federal budget aid run out around 2024.