Reopen News: 2 million MTA rides last week as mass transit springs back to life

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- On the day New York City entered Phase 2 of its reopening, the MTA announced Monday that combined bus and subway ridership surpassed 2 million last week for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began.

While a significant increase since the start of the pandemic, the figure represents a decline of 74% from normal weekday ridership levels of 7.6 million combined riders. LIRR ridership is down 85% from normal levels, and Metro-North is down 87%.

But as more and more New Yorkers head back to work, the agency is also reminding riders that things have changed in the last 100 days and that plans continue to keep both straphangers and employees safe.

Officials also say overnight cleaning is still essential as the MTA continues its most aggressive and innovative disinfecting operation in its history.

City Council member Ydanis Rodriguez, of the Transportation Committee, said Sunday that many immigrant and working class New Yorkers have been severely impacted by the train closures between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. each night and that as more overnight workers return to work, the MTA needs to immediately resume regular service.

"I believe that it is important that the MTA reopen the service," Rodriguez said. "And if by any chance they don't do that, then they should present the plan on when those trains will be open."

The MTA released the following statement:

"Council Member Rodriguez pandering to advance his political campaign is nothing new, but is devoid of facts. The MTA is undertaking the most aggressive cleaning effort in its history and the overnight subway shutdown has been critical to the daily disinfection of the entire train fleet, keeping New Yorkers as safe as possible while at the same time providing robust alternate bus service."
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Some New York City officials are calling for the MTA to reopen the subway during overnight hours as the city enters Phase 2 on Monday.

The overnight closures are part of the MTA's plan to help fight coronavirus. Mask or face coverings are required for all customers and employees, and the MTA's 13-point action plan includes hand sanitizer dispensers in stations, decals, directional arrows and new signage.

The MTA is currently disinfecting 3,500 subway cars at least once daily, and some cars are cleaned as many as seven times a day at end-of-line stations.

The transit agency is also testing an ultraviolet technology that is proven to kill COVID-19. The technology is the same that used in hospitals and in some police, fire and ambulances houses.

"New Yorkers returning to our system can rest assured that the MTA is leading the nation in customer and employee safety, and we are doing everything possible to transform our system and operations for the future," MTA Chairman and CEO Patrick Foye said. "Our review of best practices from systems around the globe and input from the business and labor communities and public health officials has produced an aggressive plan that is being made real by the talented and dedicated MTA workforce. We continue to thank our frontline employees - the heroes moving heroes - whose commitment to public service has been unwavering. We continue to ask for robust federal funding."

Officials say the MTA has drawn down $2.9 billion of the allocation of funding it received in the March Federal CARES funding, or about 73% of its allocation. The MTA expects to exhaust its remaining CARES funding in July.

"The MTA is facing the most acute financial crisis in its history," MTA Chief Financial Officer Bob Foran said. "With more than 70% of the CARES funding provided in the first relief package drawn down, and all CARES funding expected to be exhausted early next month, our finances are on life support. We need the Senate to take action now and follow the House of Representatives' leadership on continued pandemic funding. As the MTA is the lifeblood of New York and the nation's economy - our financial health will be critical to the country's economic recovery. New York is also the top donor state in the nation providing $29 billion more in funding than we get back from the federal government. We urge the Senate to come back to Washington, do its job and provide another $3.9 billion in funding to the MTA now to cover the rest of 2020."

The MTA's 13-Point Action Plan for A Safe Return includes:
--Increased Service
--Unprecedented Cleaning & Disinfecting
--Mandatory Face Coverings
--Enhanced Safety & Security
--Nation-Leading Employee Safety Initiatives
--Innovative Cleaning Solutions
--Hand Sanitizer
--Floor Markings, Directional Arrows and New Signage
--Staggered Business Hours
--2 Million Mask Contribution from State & City
--Contactless Payments
--New Partnership & Technology to Make System Safer
--Data Dashboard


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