NEW YORK — The Metropolitan Transportation Authority on Monday resumed 24/7 subway service for the the first time since last May when the agency suspended overnight rides due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Interim New York City Transit President Sarah Feinberg told NY1 that aside from a technical glitch that briefly closed some turnstiles, the return to 24-hour subway service is going well.
"Temporary glitch this morning for a few minutes around 2 a.m. when the turnstiles were obviously supposed to continue moving, they locked up for a few minutes, and our vendor fixed their tech glitch and we were rolling again," Feinberg said. "So if that's the worst thing that happens in our return to overnight service, I'll take it. All is moving well this morning."
Interim New York City Transit President Sarah Feinberg says that aside from a technical glitch that briefly closed some turnstiles, the return to 24 hour subway service today is going well #MorningsOn1 pic.twitter.com/amNpbEcGZv— Spectrum News NY1 (@NY1) May 17, 2021
Feinberg said that the MTA has also restarted hiring bus operators, train operators, conductors, and cleaners throughout the system. The agency had been under a hiring freeze that began at the height of the pandemic.
With the subways moving to a normal schedule, officials are hoping more people begin to take mass transit again. Ridership has been down significantly since the start of the pandemic, but has continued to increase over the last few months.
MTA Chairman Pat Foye announced the “Take the Train, Take the Bus,” campaign on Sunday in an effort to welcome more New Yorkers back to the transit system.
“We’re at a critical moment in New York City’s recovery, and at the MTA we have a singular focus right now and that is bringing riders back to mass transit,” said Foye.
“This goes hand in hand with providing a safe and secure environment where people feel comfortable to ride,” he added.
Jorge Ramos, who once worked in the nightlife industry manning the coat check, is elated full subway service is coming back. He said he relied on overnight subway service quite often.
“I think it will set a pace, people being able to move back and forth at any time of the hour," Ramos said.
Without time blocked off for cleaning, the MTA said it will have to adjust its disinfecting operation. Officials said they will clean trains at the end of each line.
“We’re going to be asking customers to get off to allow the cleaning to occur," Foye said. "If people are on the car, we’re not going to clean around them. We’re not going to ask transit workers to do that.”
The system’s full reopening comes at a time when some New Yorkers have grown concerned about crime on the subways. On Friday, four people were arrested in connection with a string of attacks that morning.
“The subway is safe, but it’s not as safe as it can and should be,” said Foye. “We are asking the city for additional police resources and mental health resources to be invested in the system.”
The New York City Police Department increased security underground after a series of attacks earlier this year, but the MTA has said more officers are needed to keep the system safe, leading to a feud between the agency and City Hall.
Henry DeJesus said he uses the subway often, and while he's looking forward to utilizing 24-hour service, he is concerned about homelessness in mass the transit system.
“I think it’s good. I think we need to get homeless people out of the subways. It’s really bad, hopefully things start changing," DeJesus said.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo also announced Sunday that pop-up vaccination sites at four MTA stations will continue to operate. The state launched the pilot program last week, and, according to the governor, it has been successful, administering nearly 3,500 doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine from May 12 to May 15.
The stops include Penn Station, Grand Central Terminal, East 180th Street in the Bronx, and Broadway Junction in Brooklyn.
All sites are open on a first come, first serve basis. The MTA is handing out seven-day MetroCards to individuals who choose to get vaccinated.
“Our partnership with the MTA has made it possible to reach those New Yorkers who commute and work along our busiest subway stops,” Cuomo said in a statement.
MTA officials said last week the average subway ridership per day was around 2.2 million and that they plan to see that number go up as more people get vaccinated and 24-hour service resumes.
Besides the subways fully reopening, other restrictions will be lifted throughout the city soon: The midnight outdoor dining curfew ends Monday and the indoor dining curfew will be lifted May 31. New York capacity restrictions, which apply for most restaurants, museums, theaters, retail stores, gyms and offices, will be lifted Wednesday.