New Report: The Dynamic Population of Manhattan


In our new report, we look at the 24-hour flow of people into Manhattan, including the 1.6 million commuters who enter Manhattan every weekday, and the hundreds of thousands of visitors who use Manhattan’s tourist attractions, hospitals, universities, and nightclubs. This island, measuring just 22.96 square miles, serves approximately 4 million people on a typical weekday, 2.9 million on a weekend day, and a weekday night population of 2.05 million. Manhattan, with a residential population of 1.6 million, more than doubles its daytime population as a result of the complex network of tunnels, bridges, railroad lines, subways, commuter rail, ferry systems, bicycle lanes, and pedestrian walkways that link Manhattan to the surrounding counties, cities and towns.

This report analyzes the volume of people flowing in and out of Manhattan during a 24-hour period; we provide an upper estimate of the actual number of people in Manhattan during a typical work day.

Click here for the full report.


Over the past few years, New York City has become an emerging high-technology cluster as a wide swath of Manhattan stretching from 42nd Street to SoHo has been given the namesake “Silicon Alley,” with the arrival of many tech start-ups such as Foursquare, located near Union Square and the establishment of new offices for corporate titans such as Google in Chelsea and Facebook in Midtown. There are distinct differences between “Silicon Alley” and its West Coast counterpart in Silicon Valley. While high-tech companies are mostly located in sprawling office parks along arterial roads in Northern California, offices of tech firms in Manhattan, both large and small, are situated mere blocks from each other. While start-up companies in Palo Alto are 45 minutes away from the region’s primary financial district in downtown San Francisco, their Manhattan counterparts are a
short subway ride away from Midtown or Wall Street. Given the major presence of financial services, media, and advertising companies in Manhattan, New York City has become a preferred destination for ambitious, forward-looking start-up technology firms.

Technology companies along the "R" subway line


This past weekend, The New York Daily News reported that numerous start-up technology firms seemed to be oriented around the “R” line of the New York City subway that travels from Brooklyn, up Broadway in Manhattan, and to Astoria, Queens. The Daily News referred to the “R” as the city’s “Silicon Subway,” as many firms have decided that a location with good accessibility to mass transit is appealing out of consideration for how their employees, many of whom live in Brooklyn, commute to work. This map above from The New York Times shows where the hundreds of tech startups that have secured venture capital funding over the past year were located. I drew in the R-train’s route to illustrate how these start-up tech firms appear to be oriented around the subway and along Broadway.

Since 2002, Brooklyn has become a popular place to live for Manhattan’s high-income creative professionals: estimates based on US Census population and worker-household dynamics data reveal that the number of Manhattan workers earning more than $75,000 per year living in Brooklyn has increased by 217%, and the number of Manhattan workers in professional and technical services (a broad category that includes most high-tech occupations) living in Brooklyn has increased by 29%. Since about 4 out of every 5 Manhattan workers commuting from Brooklyn take the subway to work, and this reliance on mass transit in commuting continues to shape where employers choose to locate in New York City, as these maps have illustrated. Just as financial employers migrated to Midtown Manhattan to be closer to major transit hubs that their workers use when traveling to work from the suburbs, these start-up technology firms have also oriented themselves near mass transit, along the “Silicon Subway.”

Beyond the ARC: Is the Gateway Project a viable alternative for Trans-Hudson access?

About one year ago, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie abruptly cancelled the nation’s largest infrastructure project: the construction of two Trans-Hudson tunnels to double the capacity for rail access to Midtown Manhattan. The plan would have provided for direct services to Penn Station from the Main, Bergen, and Pascack Valley lines of NJ Transit, significantly shortening commutes for Manhattan workers living in Bergen and Passaic counties in New Jersey as well as Rockland and Orange counties in New York. As of 2009, approximately 86,000 Manhattan workers live in these counties. However, Gov. Christie, citing cost overruns, decided the price of the Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) project was too steep for the state to afford.


While the increasing financial burden to New Jersey taxpayers was a very important downside to the project, there is little doubt that the ARC tunnel would have addressed an increasingly important issue: the need to accommodate the growth in commuting from New Jersey to Manhattan. Since 2002, the number of New Jersey residents working in Manhattan has grown by approximately 21%(increase of more than 40,000). Currently, there is only one Trans-Hudson rail tunnel that exists (the North River Tunnels) and has been running at full capacity since 2003, with 24 Manhattan-bound trains crossing the tunnel during the peak morning rush hour. Since Amtrak and NJ Transit trains both use the tunnels as a Trans-Hudson crossing, any problem in or near the tunnels can create significant delays not just for local travelers, but also regional

Photo Credit: Amtrak

travelers. The derailment of a NJ Transit train in the North River tunnels during a busy commute last August created travel chaos, leading to significant delays on Amtrak, NJ Transit, and even LIRR trains that share tracks west of Penn Station. Given the demand for access and the current bottleneck that exists, the expansion of Trans-Hudson rail capacity is long overdue.

Last month, the Amtrak-sponsored Gateway Tunnel project, pitched as an alternative to the defunct ARC Tunnel, received $15 million in federal funding from Congress for engineering and design studies. With the support of both Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), the Gateway project now appears to be much farther ahead, at least in terms of financing, than its closest competition for Trans-Hudson access, the extension of the New York City subway’s 7-train to Secaucus Junction. The $13 billion project promises to increase capacity by 30 trains per hour with triple the number of Amtrak trains (including high-speed) and allow for 13 more NJ Transit trains per hour, with additional room for MetroNorth trains to Penn Station.

While the ARC project was primarily designed to serve the New Jersey commuter, the Gateway project serves the dual purpose of increasing Trans-Hudson capacity for commuters and for travelers across the Northeast Corridor, enhancing the viability of a more advanced high-speed rail system connecting the densely populated region. Removing bottlenecks along the Northeast Corridor for high-speed rail has attracted bipartisan support in Congress: Rep. John Mica (R-FL), Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, recently came out in favor of additional investment in the Northeast Corridor rail infrastructure.

But the Gateway project only allocates half of the capacity that the ARC tunnel would have originally provided for NJ Transit trains, and one issue remains unresolved: the opportunity for some New Jersey commuters to have a direct, “one-seat” ride into Manhattan. Currently, only 2 NJ transit lines, Northeast Corridor and North Jersey Coast, provide regular direct services to Penn Station in Manhattan. The construction of the Kearny Connection in 1996 allowed for NJ Transit trains on the Morris & Essex lines to terminate at New York Penn Station, but due to capacity constraints, only half of the trains running on these routes actually do so, with the rest terminating in Hoboken instead. Furthermore, the Gateway proposal contains no plans to build “loop tracks” (part of the ARC tunnel project) that would have created the “one-seat” ride for commuters from Bergen, Passaic, Rockland, and Orange counties to Manhattan, who will still have to transfer at Secaucus regardless of whether the tunnels are built.

Pictured: Entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel in Weehawken, N.J. 38% of Manhattan Commuters from Bergen Co. and 42% of those from Passaic Co. get to work by bus. Photo Credit: John Munson, Newark Star-Ledger

The lack of direct rail access to Penn Station has made New York City-bound commuters living in these counties far more dependent on suburban buses as a convenient means of getting to work. According, to data from the New York City Department of City Planning, nearly one-third of all New Jerseyans working in Manhattan commute by bus. Demand for more convenient access to Manhattan has created a vast marked for bus services, as commuters may travel by buses by either NJ Transit or dozens of private operators serving various counties and regions west of the Hudson River. The Bergen Record also reports that more than half of the 225,000 travelers using the Port Authority Bus Terminal on a daily basis are from Bergen and Passaic counties, two areas that lack direct commuter rail access to Manhattan.

Unfortunately, due to the lack of bus parking at the terminal, Trans-Hudson bus access is also at capacity. Commuter buses are forced to find parking on the other side of the Hudson River and drive back to the bus terminal to pick up passengers, contributing to traffic on both inbound and outbound lanes at the Lincoln Tunnel and frequent delays for bus commuters. Plans for an $800 million bus garage at the Port Authority Terminal fell through after proposed Hudson crossing toll hikes were scaled back this summer.

While the tunnel project promises to improve access for New Jersey commuters to Midtown Manhattan and appears to be moving forward, efforts to upgrade Trans-Hudson connectivity requires a two-pronged approach so that commuters have a convenient means of getting to work. Any proposals to improve Trans-Hudson accessibility without providing convenient and direct rail services to Manhattan for at least one-third of Trans-Hudson commuters must also address an equally urgent bus capacity issue. Addressing both issues will be necessary to make the Gateway project a viable alternative to the ARC tunnel, and to make Trans-Hudson journeys more comfortable for all commuters.



On October 25, Dr. Michael Horodniceanu, President of MTA Capital Construction, provided an update at the Rudin Center for Transportation at NYU Wagner on the statuses of the MTA’s four ongoing transit “mega-projects,” each of which are scheduled for completion within the next five years. These projects will each have an enormous economic impact on both New York City and the surrounding region, by shortening commutes, relieving traffic congestion and overcrowding in existing transit lines and hubs, improving transit connections, facilitating accessibility to job locations in Manhattan, and supporting transit-oriented development projects.

The New York City economy is far more dependent on its transit systems than any other urban economy in the country: half of Manhattan commutes are taken by subway and almost three-fourths of such commutes are taken by transit. More than 5 million riders take the MTA subway on a daily basis, which is more than the populations of Chicago and Houston combined, and approximately 560,000 riders take the MTA suburban rail lines each day. Modern, efficient, and reliable rail systems will be key to the continued economic competitiveness of New York City in the 21st century, and the MTA’s investment in the following ambitious infrastructure improvements illustrates their unwavering commitment to the city and the region’s future.


The planned Fulton Street Transit Center will serve as a major transportation node in Lower Manhattan, with connections to the 11 MTA subway lines and 6 stations, New Jersey-bound PATH trains, and the new World Trade Center site.

 The plan calls for construction of a modern transit facility with improved street-level access at Fulton Street and Broadway, and an underground pedestrian concourse (the Dey Street Passageway) linking the redeveloped World Trade Center site and PATH transit hub with the E and R trains and the Fulton St. hub. This will facilitate transfers and connections between subway lines, provide more access points to the Lexington Avenue 4 and 5 trains, and integrate the Corbin Building next door as a neighboring retail hub. The $1.4 billion project is expected to be completed in 2014, and should play a key role in maintaining the economic vitality of Lower Manhattan with the improvements in access to and from the World Trade Center site and the Financial District.


According to Dr. Horodniceanu, the crowded 4-5-6 subway lines along Lexington Avenue on the East Side of Manhattan have more daily passengers than the entire CTA subway system of Chicago, with an estimated 1.3 million daily riders. A subway line along the Second Avenue corridor has been discussed for decades as a means to relieve overcrowding on the Lexington Avenue lines during rush hour commutes.

These plans have become reality, as the MTA broke ground in April 2007 for a new “T-train” extending from Hanover Square in Lower Manhattan to 125th Street in Harlem, and the extension of the Q-train from 57th Street to 125th Street. Construction of the Second Avenue Subway will proceed in four phases, with the first phase consisting of the extension of the Q-train from its present terminus at the 57th Street-7th Avenue station northward to the new 96th Street-2nd Avenue station. New, state-of-the-art subway stations at 63rd, 72nd, 86th, and 96th will be constructed during this phase, and are scheduled for completion in 2016. By then, the $4.4 billion project is expected to have a significant impact on reducing crowds on the 4-5-6 trains (projected 13% decrease) and travel times for those living in the Upper East Side.


Like the Second Avenue project, the extension of the 7-Train to Manhattan’s West Side will provide subway access to a part of Manhattan that has long been in need of it. The extension is designed to serve the transit needs of the Hudson Yards redevelopment project, which will feature a mixed-use, medium-to-high density development extending from 42nd to 30th Street along Manhattan’s West Side and the expansion of the Javits Convention Center. As Dr. Horodniceanu noted, the extension of the 7-Train from Times Square to its new station at 34th Street-11th Avenue in the heart of the site will make the Hudson Yards a “transit-oriented development,” which will be crucial to its future success.

The 1.5-mile extension was originally proposed for the purposes of New York City’s 2012 Olympics bid and the construction of a West Side football stadium for the New York Jets at the Hudson Yards site; while both the Olympics bid and the Jets stadium proposal fell through, plans for the 7-train extension remained intact, and the $2.1 billion project is expected to be completed by 2013.


One of the largest mass transit infrastructure projects in the nation, the East Side Access project will have the greatest regional impact among all four of MTA’s ongoing “mega-projects,” as it will connect the Main and Port Washington lines of the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) to Grand Central Terminal, which currently only serves MetroNorth commuters from the Hudson Valley and Connecticut. Currently, the Park Avenue corridor near Grand Central has emerged as a major hub of corporate headquarters and high-paying jobs, as many financial services and corporate management jobs have moved there from Lower Manhattan in recent decades.

The East Side Access project will enable the 157,000 Long Island residents currently working in Manhattan to take the nation’s busiest commuter rail directly to Grand Central Terminal, potentially reducing commutes by 40 minutes. This would be a significant asset for suburbs in Nassau County such as Great Neck on the Port Washington line, where currently more than 20% of residents commute by rail to work, one of the highest rates of any municipality in the nation. Shorter and more attractive transit commutes can not only increase property prices in suburban Long Island, but also provide additional opportunities for transit-oriented development (T.O.D) near key nodes. The project would also relieve congestion at New York Penn Station, thus reducing delays for Manhattan commuters from New Jersey.

The project will consist of the excavation of tunnels in Manhattan and Queens and the construction of an underground passenger concourse at Grand Central Terminal with eight train tracks, four platforms, and mezzanines and concourses. Overall, the East Side Access is the MTA’s most ambitious mega-project with a cost of $7.3 billion, and is slated for completion in 2016.