Straphangers were still taking trains and buses, though in smaller numbers, as fears over the coronavirus scare some away and force others to telecommute their work from home.
Ridership was clearly down on all MTA transit systems, causing a potential multi million dollar loss to the system that might lead to massive cuts in services. Most riders have been advised not to enter fully loaded trains by the mayor so to maintain social distancing in light of the coronavirus.
The MTA reported a 60% drop in ridership on Monday and many fewer riders all week. The shortfall from lack of ridership could amount to more than $80 million a week.
While most riders were content to just keep their distance from fellow passengers, a growing number of riders were darning masks to cut down their exposure to other riders.
“I just didn’t want to take a chance,” said one male rider who didn’t want to be identified. “I know the masks don’t help that much and you have to change them every day, but I think it’s better than nothing.”
The MTA has initiated a massive clean up program of the subway, employees polishing stainless steel turnstiles and doorways. Trains are cleaned daily, especially those surfaces that are frequently handled by riders.
On one platform, a rider darning a mask sang opera tunes for the crowds. “It just makes people feel better so I do it,” said the opera singer.
Three young ladies wore masks as they returned from Manhattan to their homes in Brooklyn. One young woman, identified as Natalie Fier, said she had just lost her job at Hollister, a fashion retailer. the others, Alysa Cruz and Diamon Colon were telecommuting with social businesses.
If it’s a job, you can always get it back, it’s not worth it.
Fier said she received two weeks pay, but now must go on “unemployment.”
“It’s all right,” Fier said of her job she’s had for only six months. “So now we stay in the house all day – dancing, cooking, staying active, and its not so bad quarantining if you are enjoying the company you are with. But staying in the house all the time is hard.”
Another young man who didn’t want to give his name, said he feels “forced” to ride the subway, even though he is scared to catch the virus.
“I just don’t know – I have to work or I can’t pay my bills,” the young construction worker said. “I’ll just keep social distancing and hope for the best.”