Photo by Marc A. Hermann/MTA New York City Transit via MTA/Flickr
After Governor Cuomo asked the MTA to step up its subway disinfecting schedule from every 72 to 24 hours, the agency came back with what it’s calling the “Essential Connector Program.” This initiative will stop service from 1:00am to 5:00am every night during the pandemic, starting Wednesday, May 6. New York City is one of the few cities in the entire world (and the only one in the U.S.) that has a public transit system that runs 24/7, but the governor has said that it is the city and state’s responsibility to disinfect more frequently in order to keep our essential workers safe and ensure that they feel comfortable riding the subway.
As the governor explained, the disruptions are coming at a time when overall subway ridership is down 92 percent. These hours, 1am to 5am, are the lowest ridership times, with about 11,000 riders using the system during that time. For those essential workers who rely on public transportation during these hours, the city will provide buses, for-hire vehicles, and compliant “dollar vans” at no cost.
Trains on MetroNorth and the Long Island Railroad, as well as city buses, will also be disinfected every 24 hours; because of their ridership numbers, this can be done with no disruptions to current service schedules.
In addition to disinfecting each night, the MTA will have time to continue testing innovative cleaning solutions that include UV, antimicrobials, and electrostatic disinfectants.
The entire initiative is a partnership among the city, state, and MTA, as it will require a “robust and sustainable NYPD presence to secure the stations and manage closure of train service.”
Governor Cuomo did admit that this is a task that “nobody had ever imagined before” and explained that we clean trains, but how do you disinfect? “This is a whole new process, these are new chemicals, this is new equipment for workers, it’s new methods.” He added the challenge of needing to disinfect “every place that a hand could touch on a subway car,” such as every rail, pole, door, as well as any place that a droplet could land for sneezing or coughing. “So you have to disinfect that entire interior of the car, and then you have to disinfect the stations, the handrails, everything that people could be touching.”
According to a press release, “The MTA will resume overnight service between the period of 1-5 a.m. when customer demand returns, and innovative and efficient disinfecting techniques have been successfully deployed systemwide.”
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