They're familiar faces in what can seem like a forbidding environment.

At five Upper Manhattan stations, one elevator attendant is on duty at all hours - the last elevator attendants in the entire system.

"It makes us feel safer when we're coming home late at night. Really and truly, that's what it's about - being safe, especially for us," one straphanger says.

But if MTA officials have their way, the 26 attendants will no longer be going up and down -- just out, reassigned to other duties as part of a new round of cost-cutting.

The elevators are the only way to reach the trains in the five stations, which are deep below the somewhat hilly terrain of northern Manhattan. The stop at W. 191 St. on the 1 line is the deepest in the city, at 180 feet - 18 stories - below ground.

Riders say the attendants are a reassuring presence in what can feel like a remote and lonely location.

On Monday, the Transport Workers Union pushed back against the proposed move, saying riders depend on the attendants to feel safe, especially during the overnight hours.

"Many of them let the other two elevators bypass them to wait for the elevator that has an operator in it," said Josephine DeJesus, of Transport Workers Union Local 100.0

The MTA says each elevator is equipped with a "customer talkback system" that allows passengers to communicate with station booth attendants in case of a problem.

The agency, which is considering cuts because of a decline in passengers and revenue, adds, “Controlling costs and wisely spending taxpayer and rider money while maintaining security and delivering the best possible service is essential.

In the 1970s, the MTA tried to eliminate the elevator attendant positions, but local politicians successfully fought back against the cuts. But in 2003, the MTA was able to reduce the number of staffed elevators to one per station.

Riders say they'll miss the attendants if they go.

"They're a wonderful part of the community. I feel welcomed home when I get in the elevators at the end of the day," one rider said.

The cuts are part of the MTA's proposed financial plan, which faces a vote by the full MTA board in December.