In late October 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit New York and New Jersey. It was the second most destructive storm to ever hit the United States, after Hurricane Katrina.
The PATH system between New York and New Jersey incurred severe damage. It took nearly a month to restore service to Exchange Place and World Trade Center, and weekend closures on that line continued until December 2014.
Weekday ridership, which exceeded 260,000 a day before the hurricane, has still not recovered to that level. Saturday and Sunday ridership levels have seen similar drops.
Lower Manhattan, Midtown, Newark, and Jersey City are all growing, so why is ridership down? In 2011, the Port Authority board voted on a series of fare increases that would raise the fare from $1.75 to $2.75. Fare increases have kicked in every October since then.
The orange lines on the chart represent fare hikes. Right after each fare hike, ridership drops, but not just because of the fare. The new fares took effect every October. November and December are both lower-ridership months because of major holidays.
The fare hikes have undoubtedly suppressed ridership growth on the PATH. While it has had no real ridership growth since 2012, ridership on other systems has been only going up. NJ Transit posted systemwide ridership growth of 4.8% between June 2014 and June 2013. In New York, the MTA reported subway ridership increased 2.6% in 2014.
Nonetheless, PATH fares are still the cheapest way across the Hudson River. New Jersey Transit buses charge $3.20, and that’s about to rise. Their low-cost jitney competitors charge an even $3. Train fares start at $5. The cheapest ferry fare is $6.
While there are no more planned fare increases, PATH ridership may continue to suffer. In fall of 2015, the Port Authority will begin weekend closures of the uptown tubes, shutting service between 33rd Street and New Jersey.