In response to COVID homeless crisis, MTA bans wheeled carts and enacts one-hour subway limit

Posted On Thu, April 30, 2020 By

Posted On Thu, April 30, 2020 By In Policy, Transportation

Photo by Joey via Flickr cc

When the Daily News shared a photo of a homeless New Yorker on a subway car earlier this week, it drew much attention all the way up to Governor Cuomo. Yesterday, the governor called on the MTA to create a plan to solve the issue. In response, the MTA released a plan today that deals with three main points– no person is permitted to remain in a station for more than an hour; during a public health emergency, no person can remain on a train or the platform after an announcement that the train is being taken out of service; and wheeled carts greater than 30 inches in length or width are banned.

New York City Transit Interim President Sarah Feinberg penned a foreceful opinion piece in the Post on Monday titled, “City Hall must not let the subways turn into a homeless shelter. Calling for immediate action from the city, she said:

So long as our riders need to get to work, it’s our job to get them there safely. And so long as there are homeless on the system, we’ll treat them compassionately. But we will also ask them to move along promptly or take up the offer of social services. ­Because the MTA workforce shouldn’t have to clean up trash, personal belongings, soiled items, drug paraphernalia, excrement and bodily fluids. Our customers shouldn’t have to board a car that has multiple people using it as a shelter and as a trash receptacle or toilet. And the essential front-line personnel working to keep this city safe shouldn’t have to encounter panhandling and trash or threats on their ­already-stressful commutes.

Our city must do better than this. We shouldn’t leave the most vulnerable to suffer quietly in a tunnel or on a train, and our workers shouldn’t be left to clean up the mess that is left behind.

At the beginning of the week, the NYPD and MTAPD began focusing their efforts on end-of-line stations. According to a press release, on Monday night, “the team removed more than 100 riders who were remaining on the trains” at the World Trade Center Station. “Those individuals were connected with the health care options and social services they need and deserve,” the release continued.

On Monday, Mayor de Blasio issued a statement that the city would be opening 200 new Safe Haven beds for “vulnerable New Yorkers living on the streets and subways in high-need areas.” He also called on the MTA to temporarily close 10 end-of-line subway stations from 12:00 am to 5:00 am every night to “allow for more targeted outreach and enhanced sanitization.” However, Feinberg said that there needs to be a police presence in all 41 end-of-line stations.

However, today’s announcement that ALL subways will stop running from 1:00am to 5:00am for nightly cleanings will further these efforts. NYPD and MTAPD will be on hand to secure the station closures and therefore will be available to help any homeless New Yorkers. This also ensures that essential workers have disinfected trains to ride in each day. In addition, the exact wording of the MTA’s new Code of Conduct changes is as follows:

  • No person is permitted to remain in a station for more than an hour.
  • During a public health emergency declared by the state, no person can remain on a train or on the platform after an announcement that the train is being taken out of service.
  • Wheeled carts greater than 30 inches in length or width, including shopping and grocery carts, are banned.

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