New York subway reverts to full 24-hour service


The welcome team was in place.

At 1:45 a.m., four transit workers cleaned benches, disinfected stair railings with bleach, and washed dirt from a subway station in Brooklyn. Four uniformed policemen were watching.

Nadav Shahaf, 18, a high school student dressed in red except for a black mask, jumped up the stairs and collapsed onto a newly cleaned bench. He had it all. He was on his way home after an evening walk with his girlfriend.

“I’m glad we’ve come to this point,” he said. “It was a tough trip, but we did a good job as a city, as a community.”

The 24-hour New York subway was back.

The country’s busiest transit system resumed full service early Monday after more than a year of nightly shutdowns during the coronavirus pandemic to give more time to clean and disinfect trains, stations and equipment. It was the longest planned closure since the metro opened in 1904.

The resumption of 24-hour service comes at a difficult time for the transit system, as fears of metro crime on the rise after a wave of random attacks that have also raised questions about the willingness of commuters to go back to the subway and nudge. attendance closer to pre-pandemic levels.

Still, restoring full subway service is a major milestone on the city’s long journey back from a public health crisis that has made New York City a global epicenter of the outbreak. It is one of the few cities in the world to never close its subway, a source of pride for New Yorkers for a long time.

“We’re delighted that people are coming back 24/7,” Acting Metro Chief Sarah Feinberg said in a TV interview broadcast on Sunday. “We’re a 24/7 city, we want to be a 24/7 system. We always have been, except last year, so it’s wonderful to be able to reduce traffic to 24 hours a day. “

The 24-hour subway return comes as virus rates have plummeted and the ranks of those vaccinated swell, and the state and its neighbors New Jersey and Connecticut plan to lift nearly all restrictions on the matter. pandemic Wednesday.

Transit officials and workers marked the occasion Monday by ringing the opening bell for the New York Stock Exchange. On Sunday, officials unveiled a new campaign – #TakeTheTrain – in an attempt to attract more runners.

Subway ridership began to increase after falling last year, but remains well below what it was before the pandemic. Average weekday ridership is currently around 2.17 million passengers, compared to around 5.49 million pre-pandemic passengers.

But a series of high-profile attacks on passengers and transit workers threaten to scare off passengers and hamper the city’s recovery. A group of men shot dead three runners and punched a fourth person early on Friday, just hours after a mayoral debate in which leading Democratic candidates expressed concerns about the safety of the system but were divided over the opportunity to deploy more police officers.

On Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio, announced that the city would deploy 250 additional police officers in the metro, thus reinforcing the more than 3,000 agents who already patrol the system.

Manuel Ibanez, 40, filmmaker, said it felt better to see police officers as he boarded a train in Brooklyn at 1:45 a.m. Monday. “I’m a little paranoid about the attacks,” he said. “I take more care of myself now, I look around, I am more aware.”

Just over a year ago, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo shut down the metro system from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. daily during the height of the pandemic to allow for intensive clean-up. The closure was shortened from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. in February.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates the subway, continued the cleanups even as scientific research has established that the virus is spread primarily by air transmission rather than contact with heavily affected surfaces.

Agency officials said federal health officials have advised transit agencies to clean and disinfect their systems when a passenger may have Covid because there is a risk of surface contamination. Also, they added, many cyclists appreciate the cleanliness of the subways now.

Since its inception, the New York City subway has roared through neighborhoods around the clock, transporting poor and working-class riders to their jobs in factories, hotels, and restaurants. It connected New Yorkers of all races and income, and was the engine of the city’s economic growth.

“New York is a city that relies more on public transit than virtually any other city,” said Andrew J. Sparberg, 73, a subway historian and author. “People see the metro as the lifeblood of the city – without it, the city comes to a halt.”

Elected officials, public transport advocates and commuters lobbied for nighttime metro service to be reinstated, saying the overnight shutdown was particularly unfair to essential workers – many of whom are poorly paid and people of color – and made their lives more difficult when they kept the city running.

“The subway was more important than ever to the people who carried it throughout the pandemic – and to all New Yorkers, in turn, who depended on their ability to get to work,” Danny said. Pearlstein, spokesperson for Riders Alliance, an advocacy group. . “Even though only thousands of people were commuting at that time, millions essentially depended on this commute.”

In Queens, Kathely Moura, 20, a parcel handler for FedEx, carried two coffees and a bottle of iced tea as she climbed onto a nearly empty No.7 train platform at 74th Street and Broadway just before 2 Monday morning hours. Her shift started at 3 a.m. and she didn’t have to leave half an hour early to take the metro.

“I love being at work, but I certainly don’t want to be there 30 minutes early,” she said. “I could also sleep those 30 minutes.”

Other passengers had turned to night buses which they said took too long and didn’t stop where they needed them, or had paid for cab and Uber rides they couldn’t. to afford.

“It was really messed up, it was a disaster,” said Paul Derby, 64, a construction worker from Manhattan, who said he wasted precious hours on buses when the subway was closed. “It was a long time. The metro is faster and more reliable. “

Celestina Hicianomesa, 56, who lives in the Bronx, said she had to take a $ 25 cab to 125th Street in Manhattan to catch a bus to La Guardia Airport where she works as a cleaner .

Nightly closures have also brought renewed attention to the homeless and mentally ill seeking refuge in the metro.

“In the streets, it’s hard,” said Ronald Lundi, 71, a former homeless security guard, as he rested on a bench inside a Brooklyn train station at 2 a.m. 40. Prospect Park. “Cold or not, you have no choice.”

Cyclists like Dorian Cruz, a maintenance worker from Harlem, said he was kicked out of Times Square station at 2 a.m. a few weeks ago as he tried to get home. He ended up walking.

But at 2:30 a.m. Monday, he was heading home on a train. “It’s a beautiful thing to allow people to move more,” he said.

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