Governor Andrew Cuomo Monday announced that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will partially restore overnight service on the New York City Subway, pending continued positive trends in New York's COVID indicators.
Effective Monday, February 22nd, the MTA will extend late-night subway service by two hours, moving to a 2 a.m. – 4 a.m. closure daily. The changes will lengthen the subway's operations by two hours while enabling the MTA to continue the most aggressive deep cleaning and disinfecting regimen in its history. Since May 6th, the subway has been closed nightly from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. to allow the MTA to enhance cleaning and disinfecting of the subway.
"Thanks to the hard work of New Yorkers, COVID hospitalization and infection rates have continued to decrease, allowing us to begin reopening different facets of the economy in a cautious, thoughtful, data-based approach," Governor Cuomo said. "With the expansion of hours of operation for restaurants and bars, as well as the re-opening of cultural centers and sports facilities, we must ensure that both employees and patrons have transportation options to get them where they need to go, when they need to get there. Accordingly, the MTA will be expanding the overnight hours for subway service to ensure transportation is available, while still maintaining the organization's comprehensive cleaning procedures."
MTA Chairman and CEO Patrick J. Foye said, "The partial late-night reopening of the subways will support the Governor's gradual reopening as we are seeing positive trends with the deployment of the vaccine, lower infection rate, the resumption of indoor dining and extended hours for bars and restaurants. The suspension of service for two hours will enable the MTA to continue the most aggressive cleaning and disinfecting regimen that has led the subway to be the cleanest it has ever been."
Interim President of MTA New York City Transit Sarah Feinberg said, "This approach allows us to enhance service for customers as New York City cautiously reopens while maintaining our concerted effort to deep clean and disinfect the system. We want to be able to provide as much service as we can without compromising on our commitment to doing everything we can to keep New Yorkers safe during the pandemic. We will continue to follow guidance from Governor Cuomo and Commissioner Zucker on all aspects of public transportation service provision as it relates to COVID-19, as well as that from the federal government and Centers for Disease Control."
The extension of the MTA's operating hours builds on the Governor's recent measures to further re-open the economy amid a steady decline in the state's positivity and hospitalization rates. On February 14th, the Governor issued an Executive Order extending closing times to 11 p.m. statewide for restaurants, bars, gyms and fitness centers, casinos, billiards halls and any other location with an SLA license. The Governor also announced sports and entertainment events in major stadiums and arenas with a capacity of 10,000 or more people can re-open with limited spectators beginning February 23.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Research and Development recently advised MTA to continue to disinfect surfaces following remarks on Feb. 9 by Dr. Shawn Ryan, Director of the EPA's Homeland Security Program who said, "surfaces are still recognized as a route for exposure to the virus," and "CDC and EPA guidance suggest frequent hand washing as well as cleaning and/or disinfecting surfaces that are frequently touched by many people."
The Federal Transit Administration provides guidance to the MTA and other public transit agencies that high-touch surfaces include kiosks, turnstiles, benches, railings, handrails, garbage cans, door handles, payphones, restroom surfaces (faucets, toilets, counters), poles, handrails, seats, benches, grab bars, and exit buttons should continue to be disinfected, while the Centers for Disease Control also advises routine disinfection and cleaning.
A survey by Hofstra University published last month found three out of four riders felt safer riding the subway as a result of COVID cleaning. The results were in line with an MTA survey conducted in the fall with a similar finding: 76 percent of 20,000 customers agreed that cleaning and disinfecting made them feel safe when using transit.
The MTA suspended subway service between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. daily on May 6, 2020, at the same time that it significantly enhanced overnight bus service. The MTA increased overnight bus service by 76 percent by adding 1,168 overnight bus runs, bringing 344 buses into service on top of the 235 that had been operating during these hours – an approximately 150 percent increase in the operational fleet. The MTA enhanced service on 61 bus lines, including 11 inter-borough express routes with additional stops (five routes in the Bronx, three each in Brooklyn and Queens), and 13 new routes that normally don't offer overnight service (17 in Brooklyn, 13 in Queens, 10 each in the Bronx and Manhattan). Thirty-seven routes have added overnight service.
A study of ridership in April 2020 showed that approximately 1,802 customers were using the subway between the hours of 1-2 a.m., 1,386 customers between 2-3 a.m., 2,129 between the hours of 3-4 a.m., and 5,692 between 4-5 a.m. The reopening from 1-2 a.m. and 4-5 a.m. will provide service for the vast majority of those seeking service during overnight hours.