By Larry Penner
There is more to MTA Chairman Pat Foye's announcement that he will be reducing the closing of all 471 NYC Transit subway stations by two hours from 1 to 5 AM to 2 to 4 AM. "MTA to partially restore overnight subway service' (February 16)". Everyone has known for decades that the subway, bus, commuter rail and ferries are a Petri dish for catching a cold, the flu or other communicable diseases.
The rise of a growing homeless population, who ride our subways and live at stations have made matters worse. They clearly have little ability to maintain personal hygiene. Pat Foye's having transit workers deep clean the entire system using an “enhanced daily cleaning procedure,” or scrub strategy, should have been the norm for years. Between homeless on board and pre-COVID-19 rush hour standing room only crowds, they need to be thoroughly cleaned on a 24 hour basis. The odds increase for spreading a communicable disease when you are trapped pre-COVID-19 on a crowded bus or subway for long periods of time.
Pre-COVID-19, millions of New Yorkers rode the subway, bus or commuter rail. The best time to clean subway cars is off peak or overnight when a majority of the fleet is not in transit service. Buses can be cleaned overnight when most are not in transit service. Sanitizing “commonly touched surfaces” at subway stations including turnstiles, exit gates, platform floors, bathrooms, Metro Card vending machines and benches can continue to be done off peak, evenings and overnight a daily basis. .
It should never have taken the potential spread of the corona virus for the MTA to properly clean equipment and stations. Safety and security of the riding public should always be the number one priority.
NYC has always been a 24/7 town. As more people are vaccinated, the next step is to resume round the clock service in coming months hopefully by June.
(Larry Penner is a transportation advocate, historian and writer who previously worked for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 New York Office. This included the development, review, approval and oversight for billions in capital projects and programs for the MTA, NYC Transit, Long Island Rail Road, Metro North Rail Road MTA Bus, New Jersey Transit along with 30 other transit agencies in NY & NJ).