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Back on track: MTA to reduce overnight subway closure hours beginning February 22

Photo by Mark Hallum

Beginning next week, New York City will come even closer to having a 24-hour subway system once again. 

Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced Monday that they would lift the overnight subway closures imposed nine months ago due to the pandemic.

MTA Chairman Pat Foye said on Monday, Feb. 22 would see the subways remain open to the public between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. as opposed to the nightly 1 to 5 a.m. closure that has been in place since May 6 when the agency decided that in order to make the system safe for passengers and employees through cleaning efforts, trains and stations would first need to be empty.

“New York is starting to look at a return to normalcy. As we look at the reopening of the city and the economy, we have been planning in recent weeks for our own reopening and return of overnight service, and we have determined that a shortened overnight closure is an appropriate step forward towards the return of around the clock service to clear, we will continue our cleaning regimen. We’ve been doing so for many months now and we will continue to do so,” interim NYC Transit President Sarah Feinberg said on Monday.

Though the overnight closure of subway service has been publicly seen as more harmful than helpful, namely with the clear lack of transit options for those eligible for COVID-19 vaccines and some elected officials with union reps calling the closure period a recipe for more crime, the MTA and the governor have maintained the vague benchmark for ending the shutdown in stating that service will return when the pandemic is declared officially at an end.

“Tens of thousands of riders depend on overnight subway service,” Danny Pearlstein, policy director at Riders Alliance, said. “The governor’s partial reopening is an important step forward. Riders will continue to press for full reopening in light of the MTA’s clear ability to clean trains and the pressing need for more eyes on the system to keep New Yorkers safe.”

Feinberg also reiterated her call to Mayor Bill de Blasio to increase the surge of 500 NYPD to officers from 500 to 1,000 and said the agency has resurrected its pre-pandemic goal of hiring 500 of their own officers to patrol the subways and buses under their operation. The plan for additional officers was adopted by the MTA in their January 2020 meeting, but by March a hiring freeze was imposed to after about 200 were hired.

NYPD’s cop coverage in the subways since the slaying of two homeless people on the A train over the weekend was increased from about 2,500 to about 3,000, and Feinberg hopes that the additional 500 they are calling for will bring the amount of law enforcement underground to levels unseen since the mid-1980s.

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