The MTA is boosting weekend subway service on the 1 and 6 lines starting Saturday, adding more trains and crews to the routes to reduce riders’ wait times.
The weekend expansion means trains on the 1 and 6 lines will arrive every six minutes on average, more frequent than the present eight-minute headways.
“It might not seem like much,” MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber said at a press conference on Wednesday. “But when you’re standing on a hot platform, those minutes really add up.”
The news comes just days after the agency announced an expansion lowering weekday headways on the C line in the midday hours, and a month after weekend service was boosted on the G, J, and M lines. Later this month, wait times will be reduced during the midday hours on the N and R lines. More expansions will be announced in December and next July.
The service expansion across 12 lines is being funded by $35 million set aside in the $229 billion state budget passed back in May, which stabilized the MTA’s teetering post-COVID finances and also set aside money to pilot free bus service on five lines.
The MTA has had an eye on improving weekend service at least since last year, when the agency appointed “weekend czar” Jose LaSalle.
Weekday ridership on the subway has stagnated at around 60-70% of pre-COVID levels, a consequence of the rise of remote work. But customers have returned in greater numbers on weekends, when ridership is regularly recorded at around 80% of comparable pre-pandemic days.
“Weekend ridership and all discretionary travel, the weekends, the nights, are rebounding faster to pre-COVID levels,” said Lieber. “When people go out, when they have somewhere they want to go, they’re choosing to go on transit, and that’s pretty exciting.”
More service, of course, requires more trains and crew members. The MTA’s chief of subways Demetrius Crichlow said the agency has hired 248 new train operators — who drive the trains — and 220 new conductors — who make announcements and ensure the safety of passengers — so far in 2023. The agency is “working diligently” to graduate larger class sizes from their training programs to keep employee availability high.