New York is figuring out how to get its critical subway network back up and running, while keeping commuters safe from COVID-19.
It’s an eerie scene underground in New York City’s subway system with platforms and trains mostly empty after the pandemic slowed the country’s largest transit system to a crippling pace.
As New York gears up to slowly reopen, the Metropolitan Transit Authority or MTA, which runs the system, is strategising how it will handle an eventual boost in ridership.
It’s starting with a never-been-done before effort of shutting down the 24/7 operation for four hours a night to disinfect every single subway car, top to bottom, and every station twice a day.
Starting May 6, the trains will stop for the cleaning from 1am-5am each day.
As for essential workers who rely on the subway to get to their jobs during that window, officials say they’ll have a new, free alternative.
The MTA will launch an “Essential Connector” service during those four hours in which for-hire vehicles will shuttle workers the state deems essential — including health care workers and first responders — to their destinations for free.
“Essential Connector customers will be limited to two trips per night on for-hire vehicles, and must show proof of essential travel with appropriate credentials,” the agency said in a news release.
The MTA will disinfect its public transit buses daily — but bus service will continue at all hours, though service already was truncated because of the pandemic.
The four-hour subway closure “will enable us to more aggressively and efficiently disinfect and clean our trains … than we have ever done before,” MTA Chairman Pat Foye said.
Daily disinfections are “a task that no one has ever imagined before … but that is the right thing to do,” Mr Cuomo said. The cleanings will happen “wherever hands could touch” and “wherever droplets could land.”
MTA said it will test “new and innovative cleaning solutions, including UV, antimicrobials ad electrostatic disinfectants.”
Subway ridership during the coronavirus crisis is down 90 per cent from pre-pandemic times. But about 11,000 people still have used the subway from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. daily during the pandemic, the MTA said.
The pandemic already had forced changes to service. MTA has installed vinyl shields on buses to further separate passengers and drivers, and it is checking more than 3,500 employees a day for fevers.
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