A commuter was wearing a mask while riding the New York City Subway as COVID-19 continued (Photo by REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)
New York will stop its 24-hour subway for four early-morning hours every day to disinfect the trains starting from May 6. The cleaning hour is from 1am to 5am, which is estimated to affect about 10,000 riders using transportation.
This is rare in the history of NYC’s subway, the lifeblood of the City That Never Sleeps. The system was only shut down for hurricanes Irene and Sandy in 2011 and 2012 and a blizzard in 2015.
Subway ridership has already been down 92% under Governor Andrew Cuomo’s stay-at-home order. Cuomo said that the subways were “disgusting” and that the apparent increase in homeless people occupying cars was disrespectful to essential workers.
According to Cuomo, 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 and electrostatic disinfectants.”
For essential workers who rely on the subway to get to their jobs during that window, the MTA will launch an “Essential Connector” service during those four hours in which for-hire vehicles will shuttle workers the state deems essential, which include 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 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.
As for the homeless who basically rely on subway trains to sleep overnight, Mayor Bill de Blasio said they will no longer be sleeping on the trains at night, so they’ll have to come above ground, where outreach workers and trained NYPD officers will be waiting to help them find shelter.