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Photo: LWYang/Flickr

New York City Subway ridership peaked in the 1940s before taking a big hit between the late 1970s and early 1990s. But the system’s glory days may not be behind it for long — new ridership records could be set in the coming years.

Those are just a couple of the interesting points revealed earlier this month in a New Geography article by Wendell Cox, principal of Demographia. The post lays out a variety of statistics on transit use in New York City, focusing in particular on how the city stacks up when compared to other American cities.

One key takeaway is the city’s “utter dominance of the well-publicized national transit ridership increases of the last decade.” As Cox points out, between 2005 and 2015, New York City Subway ridership rose by almost 1 billion trips, while ridership of all US transit services excluding the New York City Subway decreased by nearly 200 million trips.

In other words, the New York City Subway was single-handedly responsible for the rise in overall transit use in the US from 2005 to 2015. It was also largely responsible for the record 10.8 billion trips on public transit that Americans took in 2014.

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Chart: New Geography

Providing more perspective on those figures, Cox notes that the New York City Subway has nearly 2.5 times the annual ridership of the other nine largest metro systems in the US combined. What’s more, its ridership is about 10 times that of the Washington Metro and the Chicago “L,” and more than 50 times that of the Los Angeles Metro.

Issues with the transit systems in other cities are partially to blame for the New York City Subway’s impressive performance. For example, safety concerns have caused problems for the Washington Metro; however, that’s not the case in every city — the Los Angeles Metro has lost ridership even with an “aggressive rail program.”

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Chart: New Geography

It’s also worth noting that New York City’s subway system is not the only transit system in the city that saw increases in use between 2005 and 2015. While it’s the dominant transit system in New York City at 67 percent, other modes of transit, like commuter rail systems and the Metro from New Jersey, saw their use rise by 15 percent during the period.

For Cox, the stats on the New York City Subway show that while transit in the US is not only a New York City story, the city has played a major role in boosting transit use in the country for the last decade. “After decades of decline, the revival of the New York Subway is a welcome development,” he says.

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