Op-ed | MTA is glad to have you back for the NYC reopening

Interim New York City Transit President Sarah Feinberg.
File photo/Mark Hallum


For some of you, June 8 is the first day you are returning to the transit system – and allow me to be the first one to say, welcome back.

For weeks, my 54,000 New York City colleagues and I have been preparing for this day, when New York City reopens under Phase 1 of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s New York Forward Plan.

Mass transit will be critical as the city adjusts to some semblance of normality. Hundreds of thousands of customers — many of them commuting to work for the first time in many weeks — are expected to rejoin us on the subway, buses, and railroads. Ensuring that we are doing everything we can to safely accommodate the rise in ridership is our top priority.   

That brings me to our 13-point Plan for A Safe Return. Starting this week, we are restoring regular weekday service on subways. Buses have resumed a regular weekday/closed-school schedule in Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens, with 75% service running in Manhattan. This wouldn’t be possible without the herculean work of our incredible employees, and we are incredibly grateful for their continued service. 

The subway system will continue to be closed each night from 1-5 AM, in order to continue to accommodate our unprecedented cleaning and disinfecting efforts. We continue to clean and disinfect our system 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Each station is now disinfected twice per day and each rail car is cleaned and disinfected as many as six or seven times each day.

Again, we owe a debt of gratitude to our workforce — our cleaners are working tirelessly to keep our system clean. In a recent customer survey, 70% of our riders said the system seems cleaner than it’s ever been. 

We are not just cleaning more — we are cleaning in more innovative ways. We currently have two pilot programs testing ultraviolet light and antimicrobial sprays — and they are yielding real results. 

We are going to need your help to keep the system as safe as possible as well. The hard truth is subways and buses were not designed with social distancing in mind. Nor should they have been — after all, our charge is to move as many people as safely as we can.

But that is why we need everyone to wear a mask while traveling. Mask usage is one of the most important steps you can take to minimize risk from COVID-19, it’s a sign of respect to your fellow New Yorkers — and it is also the law. Masks are absolutely required in our system now — in every station, on every subway car, and on every bus. 

The good news is that we recently surveyed our ridership and found that a whopping 92% of riders are already being vigilant about their mask usage — and for that, we thank you. 

On the chance that you forget your mask one day this week, we will have some extras in the station booths, thanks to generous donations from the city and the state.

This week and going forward, you might notice some other helpful additions to your local station — like new hand sanitizer dispensers and new signs reminding you how to keep yourself safe. You’ll also see floor markings, floor decals, and new directions aimed at communicating with you clearly about how to safely move around our system.  

Inevitably, we will learn as we go — we will learn lessons this week about what else we can do to give you the tools you need to safely and confidently move through our system. Our commitment to you is to always be trying to do more, and do better. The reopening process will have places to improve, and we’re going to do everything we can to adapt in real-time to protect your health. 

We’re so glad to you have you back.

Sarah Feinberg is acting President of MTA New York City Transit.