Take the 8:15 Into the City, or Out of It

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Score another defeat for John Cheever. The world immortalized in his classic short story "The Five Forty-Eight" — about an emotionally distant adman who lives in the fictional Westchester suburb of Shady Hill — has long gone the way of the three-martini lunch. But now it seems even the very idea of the Westchester commuter could be disappearing, too: For the first time in the 23-year history of Metro-North, less than half its riders are commuters from the suburbs into Manhattan, according to a report in today's Times — 49.3 percent, to be exact, down from 65.3 percent of riders in 1984.

Okay, truth is that it's not so much that there are fewer Shady Hill–to–Grand Central commuters; their numbers have actually grown. It's just that other categories of ridership have grown much faster. The biggest percentage increase, for example, was among reverse commuters. Workers who leave their homes in the city to commute to jobs in the suburbs now make up just over 6 percent of riders, up from 2 percent in 1984. The biggest absolute increase was in the so-called discretionary-riders category — travelers who ride the rails during off-peak hours for non-work reasons. They've gone from a quarter of all riders in 1984 to almost one-third today. Finally, workers traveling between stations in the suburbs now make up 13.5 percent of Metro-North trips, three times the percentage in 1984.

The Times says trends are similar on the LIRR and New Jersey Transit, but not to nearly the same extent. Which we suppose means F. Scott Fitzgerald and — who? Philip Roth? Mary Higgins Clark? — appear safe for now.

Doree Shafrir

Commuter Conformity Is Out for a Metro-North Majority [NYT]