Experts who believe ending 24/7 subway service is key to improving the MTA system have their work cut out for them.
New Yorkers widely panned the idea of closing subway service overnight on weeknights after the influential Regional Plan Association proposed the idea Thursday in its Fourth Regional Plan. The plan is a once-in-a-generation, expansive report on how to improve transit in the tristate area.
“That’s terrible, an absolutely terrible idea,” said Cory McLean, 28, of Harlem. “If anything, they should be increasing service at that time. You can wait almost an hour for a train.”
Some 85,000 New Yorkers rely on the subway between 12:30 a.m. and 5 a.m.
On Twitter, commuters did not hold back.
“Worst idea in history,” wrote Twitter user @CharlieSweeney.
The RPA suggested two forms of shutdowns to help repair the system that has experienced a soaring number of delays and, more recently, decreasing ridership during a time of economic and population growth.
First, to carry out major capital construction such as the installation of new signal systems, the RPA said the MTA should plan months-long shutdowns of entire lines — similar to what it is planning now for the L train.
Second, to keep up with routine maintenance, the association recommended ending 24/7 subway service during early morning hours during weekdays. As a substitute, the association said the MTA should run buses over the train li routes.
“The problem is, once the MTA is fixed, it has to be maintained,” said Rich Barone, vice president for transportation at the RPA, making the case for moving forward with permanent overnight closures. “We want to see stations actually maintained. We don’t want to see a station deteriorate in five years.”
But riders said they put up with enough as it is.
“I feel like we already have to sacrifice,” said Darya Cowan, 45, of Windsor Terrace, who supports more temporary line closings for repairs. “It seems like my F train is out every other weekend.”
The RPA argues that taking out service overnight on weekdays would allow the MTA to do less weekend work and actually boost service. Adam Hunter, a construction worker who’s on the clock Saturdays and Sundays, said the subways are so unreliable his family keeps an extra car around just so he can get to work.
“I’m interested if it means better weekend service,” said Hunter, 37, of Marine Park.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and MTA Chairman Joe Lhota, who frequently spar over subway funding, found common ground on the issue.
“I believe a permanent closure of the entire subway system every night is a bit draconian,” said Lhota, not accurately summarizing the RPA’s proposal. “The MTA has successfully been closing certain subway lines in evenings and on weekends as needed for maintenance and repairs. A permanent closure, I fear, would be inappropriate for the ‘city that never sleeps.’”
De Blasio called 24-hour service a “birthright.”
“I’m a New Yorker. Twenty-four-hour subway service is part of our birthright,” de Blasio said. “You cannot shut down the subway at night . . . this is a 24-hour city.”
With Laura Figueroa