“The standardized 9-5 commute into a central business district, that pattern, has been broken,” said Kathryn Wylde, the president of the partnership.
Transit officials have already begun tinkering with schedules to fit new ridership patterns, like adding trains during rush hours that now begin earlier in the morning and afternoon, a reflection of the work schedules of essential workers who compose the bulk of current ridership. Subway ridership has remained at around 30 percent of prepandemic levels in recent months, while bus ridership is around 40 percent of usual.
On the Long Island Rail Road, the M.T.A. has replaced some express service, which caters to suburban white-collar office workers, with more local trains that service riders who live near stations usually bypassed by express routes. The agency is also exploring new fare structures aimed at office workers who will not return to offices five days a week and may not want to buy monthly passes, according to Mr. Foye.
Tsamchoe Dolma, 53, who lives in Bayside, Queens, and uses the Long Island Rail Road to reach her job as a nanny in Stamford, Conn., said she has commuted by bus in the past because it is cheaper, but prefers the comfort of train cars.
Standing on a platform in Flushing, Queens, on a recent afternoon, she said she was thrilled that the Long Island Rail Road would discontinue service cuts — which she says has led to increased crowding — and that her line would provide more local service.
Her station is on a local stop and to get home she usually has to take an express train past her stop and then double back. “I want to save the time,” she said.
Still, the ability of the M.T.A. and other transit agencies to improve service and attract more riders will depend on restarting plans put on hold during the pandemic to modernize aging rail networks that are prone to breakdowns and delays.