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Op-ed | MTA subway and LIRR safe and secure for city’s reopening

MTA Chairman and CEO Patrick J. Foye joins the Mask Force to distribute free masks to customers on Sept. 14, 2020.
Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit)

By Patrick Foye, MTA Chairman and CEO 

New York’s reopening is picking up speed this week as thousands of City and private sector employees head back to the office for the first time since the pandemic began. We at the MTA know this means a return to public transit as well. The subways, buses, and railroads are ready to meet the moment— all are operating robust schedules, the system has never been cleaner, mask compliance is at 98% systemwide, and customers have more tools at their fingertips than ever before to make informed decisions about their commutes.

When you return, we want you to see the best of the MTA – a system that is reliable, clean and, most importantly, safe. Achieving that will further not only the MTA’s continued recovery but the region’s as well. 

I want to be clear: the transit system is safe, but our customers must feel the subway is safe and secure. While crime is down significantly from five or even 15 years ago, we have seen some categories rise even while our ridership during the pandemic dropped precipitously.

These issues weigh heavily on the MTA and the minds of New Yorkers in returning to mass transit. Three quarters of respondents in a recent customer survey listed safety from crime and harassment in stations and on trains as their number one concern. And just last week, union leaders representing hundreds of thousands of frontline workers, including our own heroic transit employees, sent a letter to the mayor requesting additional police presence and mental health services in the transit system to address the issue. They join the city’s business community in calling for action, and we all stand firmly united on this front while continuing to work with our partners at the NYPD to find the best path forward.

Safety and security have always been the MTA’s highest priority, and at this pivotal point for the region, we recognize the need to go above and beyond to ensure customers feel safe and comfortable– otherwise there can be no revival. We want to build on the momentum seen so far by our agencies: the subways’ 7-day ridership average has finally topped 2 million; buses are regularly carrying more than one million customers; and Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road are showing incremental gains. Increased ridership will require customers feeling they are in a safe and secure environment.

We only get one shot at reopening strong and revitalizing the local economy. That makes the coming weeks and months essential to recovery. I’m still bullish on New York. Our city has been through hard times before, and I’m confident we will emerge from this crisis stronger and better, with mass transit leading the greatest comeback the State has ever seen.

Come take a ride with us – we want your business.

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