Coronavirus News: The nightly NYC subway shutdown starts tonight

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- The MTA's plan to shut down subway service to clean trains and stations during the coronavirus pandemic takes effect overnight Wednesday.

At 1 a.m., all 472 subway stations in New York City will close for cleaning, and police officers will begin removing people experiencing homelessness who have been sleeping on nearly-empty trains.

"Everyone has to get off those trains," NYPD Chief of Department Terry Monahan said.

More than 1,000 police officers have been assigned to what is the first overnight subway shutdown in at least 50 years. The main alternative to subway service will be significantly increased bus service.

Officials say 193 stations will be locked and secured by private security, while the other 279 will be taped off with NYPD officers posted to prevent vandalism.

"We expect this cleaning operation to go smoothly," Monahan said. "And those who need public transportation, it will be provided by the MTA."

At the 29 end-of-line stations, specially trained officers from the Homeless Outreach Unit, accompanied by nurses, will remove people from subway cars.

Most are offered space at shelters, but in other cases, the nurse decides whether someone needs to be taken to a hospital for their own safety, Monahan said.

"We are prepared for a large sum of individuals who want to accept services, but we're not going to know until this operation," Monahan said. "There is no refusal. They'll have to get off the subway."

Further details:

The cleaning program will have three phases over 24 hours:

--Daytime Terminal Car Cleaning: After each train reaches its final destination, crews will remove trash, clean spills and bio hazards, and spot clean seats, floors, and other surfaces. Trains will also be disinfected at terminals during particular hours over the course of the day.

--Overnight Yard Cleaning: Trains in service during daytime hours but out of service at night will receive a more comprehensive cleaning every night in yards. Crews will remove garbage and graffiti, clean spills and bio hazards, mop floors, clean seats cleaning, and disinfect surfaces.

--Overnight Terminal Car Cleaning: Trains that remain in service at night will receive cleaning that is identical to the yard cleaning above, except at terminal stations.

Cleaning will include antimicrobial biostatistics and ultraviolet light, testing "multiple products from multiple companies."

"Products that claim to eradicate COVID-19 for 30, 60 or 90 days, MTA Chairman and CEO Pat Foye said. "That would be great news. We are testing and piloting these things on an aggressive timeframe."

The main alternate for subway service will be significantly increased bus service, and Foye said 1,168 bus trips have been added, a 76% increase, with 344 more buses on the road, a 146% increase.

He said 61 routes are being enhanced during the shutdown:
--Brooklyn: 3 express and 17 local
--Bronx: 5 express and 10 local
--Manhattan: 10 local
--Queens: 3 express and 13 local

Local buses:
--13 routes with new overnight hours
--37 routes with added overnight service
--Every 20 minutes or better

Express buses:
--11 interborough routes
--Every 30 minutes or better

Bus routes will serve hospitals:
--M15: NYU Langone, Bellevue, NY Presbyterian
--Bx15: St. Barnabas
--B44: Kings County Hospital
--Q46: Long Island Jewish Medical Center

All buses, including express buses will be fare free during this time and the MTA will also cross-honor fares on LIRR and Metro-North within New York City.

Buses will be free between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. Additionally, if the bus is more than an hour and 20 minutes or more than two transfers, essential workers can apply for the essential connector program that will direct those workers to limited on-demand for-hire vehicle rides.

The program provides one free trip per overnight period, and more information can be found at MTA.info/coronavirus/overnight.

The MTA does not know how many essential workers will require this door to door service.

"With the amount of bus service is being added, our goal is to be taking care of almost everyone that way," interim NYC Transit President Sarah Feinberg said.

The Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad will also begin disinfecting trains daily with service under the MTA Essential Service Plan.

The MTA says overnight service will resume when customer demand returns, and "innovative and efficient disinfecting techniques have been successfully deployed systemwide."

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