The New York City subway system, with a large black population, is experiencing a major spike in passenger traffic, a new study shows.
But with the subway system facing a record $3 billion shortfall in 2017, a growing number of black passengers have been hesitant to hop on the subway.
The survey of 1,500 riders and a representative sample of subway operators, riders and subway riders, published by the National Transit Coaches Association, found that 78% of black riders said they were “not comfortable” boarding a train with a black passenger, compared with just 12% of white passengers.
About half of black subway passengers said they didn’t want their first subway ride to be with a white person, according to the study.
The findings echo those of a 2014 study by the New York Civil Liberties Union that found that of 626,000 subway riders in New York, only about 11% were comfortable with having a black rider.
“We’re in a period where people are coming to the subway who are looking for a quick ride to a job or school,” said Michael Cohen, a former chief operating officer at the MTA who is now the executive director of the MTA’s Black Riders Advisory Council.
“But for people who are not looking for that, there’s a lot of pressure from people who don’t have to worry about having that same experience,” Cohen said.
The study, which was conducted by the University of North Carolina’s Transportation Research Institute, also found that blacks are more likely to be passengers on a subway train than whites, as are young people and students.
Overall, blacks make up just 4.3% of the New Yorkers on the system, while whites make up 9.4% of riders, according the study, but they make up 20% of those on the busiest subway lines, where about 70% of commuters are black.
Cohen said the MTA has a long history of encouraging riders to be more accepting of other races on the platform, but he added that the agency has been working to ensure that black passengers are also welcomed on the trains.
The MTA’s board of directors voted last month to implement a new policy that requires riders who are of color to wait for white passengers who have the same color as themselves before boarding a subway.
That policy has been met with criticism from riders and the mayor, who called it a “disgrace.”
Cuomo has also vowed to increase the number of train drivers, saying in a tweet on Tuesday that “The more we can work with others to make the system more inviting to all riders, the more diverse our trains will be.”
He also announced the hiring of three new black MTA supervisors.
“The MTA is committed to making the subway more welcoming to all New Yorkers, and to making sure we are taking the right steps to make it that way,” Cuomo said in a statement.
“I am pleased to announce that the board has selected three new African American officers to serve as part of our new Leadership Council.
We look forward to welcoming them to the MTA soon.”