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Andrew Cuomo

Advocates Demand 24/7 Subway for Phase 4

Advocates want this finished by the end of July. Photo: Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit

Rider advocates took a page out of Gov. Cuomo's book Tuesday afternoon and did a slideshow-heavy news conference to demand the return of normal 24/7 subway service by the time the city reaches Phase 4 of its economic reopening later this month.

"Twenty-four-hour service needs to be fully restored to ensure New Yorkers who are essential workers, or work non-traditional hours like myself, can travel back and forth," Riders Alliance member Rachel Collins said during the press conference that also called for more off-peak service and the cancellation of the MTA's planned hiring of 500 police officers.

via Riders Alliance
via Riders Alliance
via Riders Alliance

Phase 4 of the state's reopening plan allows for higher education, low-risk indoor and outdoor arts and education and media production all to begin again. New York City is scheduled to enter Phase 3 on July 6, and will be allowed to enter Phase 4 on July 20, if it stays on track with its positive health numbers.

The demand for a specific date to restore 24/7 service comes one day after Gov. Cuomo said that 24/7 service will return once trains don't have to be disinfected overnight on a daily basis, the kind of big "if" that was dismissed by advocates as no longer scientifically supported. The subways have been shut down every day between 1 and 5 a.m. so homeless New Yorkers can be removed and each subway car can be disinfected before the morning rush hour. But advocates have recently suggested that the science behind coronavirus transmission shows that surface spread is not the same threat as person-to-person spread, which they say proves the need for increased service that would allow riders to spread out more.

"The disinfection is in significant part for show," said Riders Alliance spokesperson Danny Pearlstein. "What riders need is genuine focus on actual, measurable safety enhancements, and what we're hearing is that more frequent service that will ease crowding is the key to making riders safer, and that cosmetic improvements like power washing the exterior of trains overnight doesn't contribute to that."

The rider advocates also went back to an old demand for the MTA to cease the hiring of 500 additional police officers and instead use the $249 million that would cost to increase off-peak service. According to an analysis Riders Alliance did in December 2019, the $249 million that the MTA is spending on police could pay for 15 percent more service during off-peak hours. The MTA recently announced that while it hired 150 police from the 500 it had budgeted for, the other 350 police hires were on hold due to budget constraints caused by tanking revenues during the coronavirus pandemic.

An MTA spokesperson dismissed the claims and dug in on the decision to not return the subway to 24/7 service anytime soon.

"As we have said 2,000 times, the overnight closure will last for the duration of the pandemic," said MTA spokesperson Abbey Collins. "The trains are cleaner and safer than they have ever been and in the middle of a global health crisis, which couldn’t be more important. Guidance on surfaces from the CDC has continually shifted and we are going to continue to do everything possible to keep our customers and employees healthy and safe."

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