I’m thrilled that starting May 17 we will return to 24/7 service. There are many things that set New York apart from its global peers – among them, our spirit, our diversity, and until 2020, our 24/7 subway system.
As you all know, the subways were closed for a few hours each night for the last year in order to help accommodate our ambitious disinfecting program to combat COVID-19. Customers who needed transit overnight were able to take advantage of our enhanced bus service of course, but for some workers, I know the overnight closure of the subway made their commutes less convenient.
We look forward to welcoming back waitresses, bartenders, and other overnight workers, as well as restaurant and bar patrons who all depend on us to get around in the late-night hours. Our highest priority at this critical moment–when they and so many others return to Transit–is to make sure that they and all riders feel safe coming back.
Yes, our system remains safe — we’ve said it over and over again — but until we reach that important ridership tipping point where there is true safety in numbers, we need to ensure we are doing all we can to make the system as safe as it can be. And in order to get there, we are going to need more help from the City.
Just last Wednesday night, an off-duty transit conductor was attacked and seriously injured while riding the J train. That same day, a train operator was attacked when he confronted a customer smoking a cigarette inside a rail car. While our thoughts and prayers are with these employees and their families, we also know that the City can do better.
It’s simple: New York can’t come back if everyone returning to the City is going to be arriving by car. We need a healthy, efficient, high-functioning transit system too.
Every few months the MTA conducts a sweeping customer survey, speaking with tens of thousands of customers about what they are worried about, what they think we are doing well, and what we can improve on. Like any company, we listen to our customers and try to be responsive. Our last survey was troubling — with more than three-quarters listing crime and safety as their number one issue when it comes to returning to Transit.
And this is why I continue to call on the City to deploy additional resources to the transit system.
We need additional security and mental health resources underground to better support people experiencing homelessness and mental health crises. And we know more police officers properly deployed on platforms and trains will help deter some of the crime we are seeing in the system. We need the City’s help even as we do everything we can on our own to promote safety in this latest phase of the pandemic.
Of course, the cleaning and disinfecting that customers have come to expect will continue. And remember, our systemwide mask mandate remains in place in the interest of public health, consistent with federal guidance for transit–even at outdoor stations.
Currently we have achieved near universal mask usage. We will continue to offer masks available for free at stations and on-board buses to ensure that remains the case.
We can’t wait to welcome you back.
Sarah E. Feinberg is interim president of MTA New York City Transit.
The views expressed in this op-ed reflect those of the author, and are not necessarily the views of amNewYork Metro or its staff.