NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Metropolitan Transportation Authority plans to shut down overnight subway service Tuesday night for the first time in 115 years, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo says there’s no way to know when the service will return.
Cleaners were disinfecting trains at the 96th Street station as the MTA embarks on a historic and multi-pronged effort to make the subways a safer way to get around the city during and after the coronavirus pandemic.
It involves shutting down subway service between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. at all 472 stations, and there’s no light at the end of the proverbial tunnel as to when overnight service will return, CBS2’s Marcia Kramer reported.
“You tell me when the global pandemic is over, I’ll tell you when 24-hour service resumes,” Cuomo said.
To make up for the lost subway service, the MTA will use overnight bus service — 1,168 more bus runs, a 150% increase during the overnight hours.
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And since it’s also an effort to get the homeless off the trains, police officials say they will flood the system with 1,000 cops. This, as MTA officials are coping with a potentially larger problem of how to make the trains safe once the city reopens. Ridership is down over 90%.
But how will people social distance when ridership returns?
“When the subway is up and running I don’t think it would be possible to stay six feet apart. You could wear masks, you could do sanitizer,” Cuomo said.
The Transit Authority’s acting president, Sarah Feinberg, told Kramer the agency has been working night and day to figure out what the new normal will look like. It will establish new rules of the road.
“One thing that we are taking very seriously is masks,” Feinberg sad. “I think that they should be required and I think we will probably get there. We just can’t have folks riding this system during a pandemic are on the heels of a pandemic without a mask. That is just not going to work.”
Riders are also concerned.
“I’m going to stop taking the train if it comes down to that. Rush hour, people don’t follow the rules. I am not comfortable taking the train,” said Pat Bora of the Upper East Side.
“With a lot of people on the subway, at some point masks are going to have to be mandatory,” Monique Ponsot said.
“I’ll take it today, but I’ve been very, very scared because when it comes to social distancing, they have no respect,” Linda Colon added.
MTA officials say they’re going to use the overnight shutdown to test new ways to clean and sanitize the system.