Commuter Trains Have Kept Rolling. Will All Those Riders Ever Return?


Mr. Forman, 40, said he had been surprised when he visited Grand Central in early July and saw how many people were passing through. “We thought Grand Central would continue to be vacant, with minimal foot traffic, for longer than this,” he said. Though, he added, “It is not at all what it was.”

At the L.I.R.R. station in Oceanside, a surge in train ridership was going to be critical for Urvish Singh. Mr. Singh, 25, took over a shuttered coffee shop there and reopened it in April as Wired Coffee House.

“Commuters have always been the backbone of this business,” Mr. Singh said. There were days when the shop took in “almost nothing” during the pandemic, he said.

The shop’s previous owner, Ubaid Bandukra, 32, said that before the pandemic, the shop served coffee, bagels and pastries to a steady clientele of about 125 customers each weekday morning.

Then, when the pandemic triggered a lockdown, Mr. Bandukra shuttered Caffeine and laid off his employees. He reopened Caffeine last summer and kept it going until the end of the year, sometimes working the counter alone. “But at the end of the day, I wasn’t making money,” he said.

He approved of Mr. Singh’s plan to rely less on commuters and try to draw more local traffic, given that there is so much available parking. “In order to build a sustainable business, a profitable business,” he said, “you cannot be commuter focused with so many fewer people taking the train.”

Kevin Armstrong, Sean Piccoli and Nate Schweber contributed reporting.


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