Riders Alliance calls for MTA to provide more transparency after C, F train service cuts

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An downtown C train at 116th Street.
Photo by Mark Hallum

Two subway lines were cut by two to three minutes indefinitely early on in the COVID-19 pandemic and simply not reinstated, according to MTA officials, but advocates are calling for a full return of the F and C trains.

The decision came in March to cut service across the board by 30% as the agency struggled to find enough train crews as many employees were out sick at the time. As workers returned to their posts, ridership remained low and the MTA kept the schedules the same, according to an official.

“C and F service were reduced nearly a year ago during the time we were running essential service and we never brought them back to full service due to very low ridership,” MTA spokesman Ken Lovett said in a statement. “Overall subway ridership is still down 70% from pre-pandemic levels and we are still dealing with the COVID-19 crisis and its impact on our workforce and budget. These service changes were originally implemented using supplement schedules, but the union then asked us to incorporate the service changes in a picked schedule rather than supplement schedules, and we are doing that.”

Pressure also mounted in the March and April from TWU Local 100 for the MTA to protect their workforce by providing masks, which was not a government health recommendation in the first weeks of the health crisis in New York. As transit workers succumbed to the virus in alarming numbers, the MTA took ever-increasing measures beyond CDC guidelines.

“Full service on the C/F should have been restored last year, when all the other lines were restored,” Transport Workers Union Local 100 vice president Eric Loegel said. “At first Transit told us they couldn’t, due to a car equipment shortage. Then when the cars became available, they said they wouldn’t, because it’s saving them money. The reduced service on these lines increases the possibility of crowded trains— which should be avoided during a pandemic. It also has an adverse impact on the schedules and work/life balance for our train crews, who’ve sacrificed so much already. The Transit Authority should deliver the same level of service they’ve been advertising to the public all along.”

But the advocates are calling for these services to be restored to both provide service to essential workers while preventing crowding on trains due to reduced service.

“Riders need frequent and reliable subways to beat COVID and recover fairly. Governor Cuomo must stop the cuts and stop cutting corners while taking away transit service,” Riders Alliance Policy Director Danny Pearlstein said. “Federal law requires public hearings so Governor Cuomo and his aides learn firsthand about the severe impacts that longer waits and more crowding have on riders’ lives.”

COVID-19 had devastating impacts on ridership early when in March and April all but less more than 90% of New Yorkers abstained from taking mass transit altogether both due to fear and uncertainty surrounding the novel virus as well as recommendations from all levels of government to avoid the trains if possible.