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Subway hits 51-year high with 1.4 billion straphangers

"This is the highest annual subway ridership in 51 years," said Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Peter Kalikow. "It's a sign that the service increases, higher levels of reliability and the capital improvements we've made over the years are paying dividends and riders are taking notice."Transit officials said Tuesday subway ridership totaled 4.6 million on an average weekday in 2004, the centennial of the New York subway system, an increase of 2.2 percent - or 100,000 trips - from 2003, making it the highest weekday ridership in at least 35 years. Weekend ridership also set a record, up 4.9 percent over 2003 to an average of 4.6 million last year. That was the highest weekend ridership in at least 35 years.The Transit Authority said there were a number of reasons for the increase, including an improving economy in New York City and an additional day in 2004 because it was leap year, but it gave particular credit to the MetroCard.The year 2004 was the first full year in which more than half of all non-student trips were made with unlimited ride MetroCards."The fact that more than half of all trips are taken with an unlimited ride farecard shows just how well MetroCard discounts are working for riders across the board," said New York City Transit Authority President Lawrence Reuter. "With an average fare of $1.24, a ride on a New York City subway or bus truly is a bargain, one that New Yorkers are taking advantage of in record numbers."TA officials said that over the past 20 years, subway riders had benefited from reduced crime, favorable immigration and economic trends, including the renovation and revitalization of neighborhoods and increased tourism Meanwhile, the Transit Authority said its $10.1 million project to upgrade tracks may delay E and F train passengers en route to Manhattan from 71st/Continental Avenue to Roosevelt Avenue between 5 a.m. to midnight for the next few weeks. The track work, which will slow down trains, will end on April 1.Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 136.

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