1. Home
  2. Articles
  3. New York on the move

New York on the move

Exploring subway ridership during iconic events
Updated November 28, 2023 1:30 p.m.

Get ready to dive into the fascinating world of New York City’s subway ridership! One of our most popular open dataset releases this year was the publication of Subway Hourly Ridership, which allows any member of the public to explore paid ridership at each of MTA’s station complexes by hour. In a city that never sleeps, this dataset provides a front-row seat to the ebb and flow of commuters and adventurers, letting you peek behind the curtain of the iconic NYC subway system. There are so many possibilities for how to use this data, and in this blog post we explore the impact of three major, classic New York City events on 2023 subway ridership: the NYC Pride March, the US Open, and the New York City Marathon.

The NYC Pride March

The NYC Pride March is an iconic celebration of the LGBTQ+ community that takes place annually at the end of June. The march is one of the largest pride events in the world and the largest in the United States; according to organizers, 2023’s march, which took place on June 25, consisted of 75,000 marchers and around 2 million spectators. This year’s march started at 26 St and 5 Av and ended in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan at the corner of 15 St and 7 Av.

We can drill into how the march impacted subway ridership by looking at the nearby 23 St station on the  line. Typically, every Sunday in June witnesses a dip in ridership at the 23 St station. However, on Sunday, June 25, the trend was interrupted. Data shows a noticeable increase in ridership compared to other Sundays in the month.

A line graph of ridership trends at 23 St station on the 1 line for each day of the week in June 2023. On each week, ridership is lowest on the weekends and highest from Tuesday to Thursday. However, on the Sunday of the Pride March, there was an increase of approximately 15,000 riders compared to previous Sundays in June.

Figure 1: The graph shows a consistent pattern across all weeks where ridership peaks around midweek and declines through the weekend. On Pride March day there was an increase of approximately 15,000 trips compared to previous Sundays of June 2023. This substantial increase in traffic due to the Pride March festivities, highlighting the event's influence on subway ridership at 23 St (1).

A line graph of hourly ridership at 23 St station on the 1 line for each Sunday in June 2023. Each Sunday, the ridership rises from near zero at 5 a.m. to around 2,000 to 3,000 around 3 p.m. and then falls again, however on Pride March day, June 25, the peak is much higher, almost 5,000 riders at 3 p.m.

Figure 2: On Pride March day, the event began around 12 noon. Peak ridership occurred midday when it attracted the largest crowd between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. Also, the graph illustrates a decrease in ridership as the day progressed into the evening, suggesting a steady dispersal of attendees as the event concluded.

The US Open

The US Open Tennis Championships takes place annually in Queens, New York. The venue, named the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, is in Corona Park and is conveniently accessed by subway via the  line using the Mets-Willets Point station. The US Open takes place over a two-week period starting at the end of August and has a clear impact on subway ridership.

A line graph of daily ridership at Mets-Willets Point station on the 7 line in August and September 2023. Ridership varies from less than 5,000 to about 15,000 per day, except during the US Open from August 22 to September 10, when ridership peaks at near 40,000 per day around late August.

Figure 3: Around late August, ridership peaks near 40,000 riders a day. Post-August, the numbers stabilize and level out, averaging between 5,000 to 15,000 by mid-September when the US Open concludes.

We can zoom in even closer to the highest peak of the US Open subway ridership on September 2.

A line graph of hourly ridership at Mets-Willets Point on the 7 line on September 2, 2023. Ridership begins to climb from near zero in the middle of the day, increasing to 5,000 by 6 p.m., falling to 2,500 by 8 p.m., and then peaking at nearly 8,000 at 10 p.m.

Figure 4: At 10 p.m. there is a pronounced peak in ridership, aligning with the end of the 7 p.m. matches (half of the 7 p.m. matches ended around the three-hour mark). Neat to see how the timing of the matches themselves get reflected in the ridership data!

The New York City Marathon

The New York City Marathon is the largest marathon in the world. It takes place annually on the first Sunday in November. The course takes runners through all five boroughs and starts by runners crossing from Staten Island to Brooklyn on the Verrazzano-Narrows bridge, which is typically only open for vehicular traffic. In 2023, the marathon boasted 51,000 runners crossing the iconic finish line in southwestern Central Park. 

According to the course exit map from New York Road Runners, the non-profit organizer of the race, runners are directed to exit the course on the Upper West Side. For those taking the subway after the race, 72 St , 66 St-Lincoln Center , and 59 St-Columbus Circle  are the closest subway stops, and this is clearly reflected in the ridership data.

A bar graph comparing ridership at three stations, 59 St-Columbus Circle on the A C B D 1 lines, 66 St-Lincoln Center on the 1 line, and 72 St on the 1 2 3 lines, on October 29 and November 5, 2023. On November 5, ridership increased by 28,000 or 192% at 59 St, 14,000 or 192% at 66 St, and 24,000 or 146% at 72 St.

Figure 5: Columbus Circle was a major hub for spectators and participants leaving the race. There were approximately 28,000 additional riders on the date of the NYC Marathon in 2023 compared to the previous Sunday. Neighboring stations, 66 St-Lincoln Center and 72 St, also show notable increases in ridership. These stations experienced heightened transit activity, likely due to their proximity to the finish line of the marathon route.

In our data, we are also able to distinguish between riders who paid with OMNY, the MTA’s contactless fare payment system, versus MetroCard. OMNY set a new record on marathon Sunday, with 56.2% of all rides paid via the tap-and-go system. We can zoom in to one of the stations that experienced the most growth on Sunday, 72 St , and observe how OMNY was the preferred payment method for runners and the crowd.

A line graph showing MetroCard vs. OMNY payment at 72 St station on the 1 2 3 lines on the day of the New York City Marathon. While MetroCard and OMNY use are about equal in the early morning, when ridership is low, OMNY use rises much faster than MetroCard use around the busiest point of the day in the afternoon, with about 2,000 MetroCard swipes and 7,000 OMNY taps at the ridership peak at 4 p.m.

Figure 6: During the busiest hour, we can notice OMNY adoption at its peak, indicating a preference for contactless payment. MetroCard interactions experienced a more subdued and steadier climb, peaking at roughly 35% of paid ridership at the busiest point in the day.

Lisa Mae Fiedler smiling and wearing an orange New York Road Runners poncho in front of the 59 St-Columbus Circle A C B D 1 subway station after finishing the 2023 New York City Marathon.

One of the co-authors, Lisa, before tapping in at the 59 St-Columbus Circle station after the race. She can confirm that the train was packed!

We hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into three iconic New York City events and their impact on subway ridership! If you are interested in making the charts displayed in this post yourself, or even analyzing an event of your choosing from 2023, check out our Subway Hourly Ridership dataset on our Open Data portal.

In this post, we used the open-source Python libraries Pandas and Plotly to create the visuals. If you make something cool with our data, using these tools or others, we’d love to hear from you! Email the open data team at opendata@mtahq.org.

About the authors

Antonita Racheal is a post-graduate intern with the Data & Analytics team, specializing in MTA ridership data.

Lisa Mae Fiedler is a manager on the Data & Analytics team, leading the MTA’s Open Data Program.