Return of 24/7 subway service in NYC would be required under new legislation

July 23, 2020

Photo: Patrick Cashin / MTA New York City Transit

In May, for the first time in its history, the New York City subway system shut down overnight as part of a nightly disinfection plan to kill traces of the coronavirus on trains and buses. To ensure the subway resumes 24/7 service, seen as an integral part of the city that never sleeps’ DNA, the State Senate on Thursday passed legislation that would require nonstop subway service when a state of emergency is not in effect.

Sponsored by Sen. Brad Hoylman, the legislation would require the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the New York City Transit Authority to provide continuous daily service for 24 hours unless a state of emergency is in effect. If the agencies want to shutdown service after the state of emergency ends, the decision would have to be approved by the MTA board, which involves gathering public comment.

“The subway is the circulatory system of our city—a public utility that keeps New Yorkers moving through all hours of the day and night,” Hoylman said in a statement. “Nighttime closures of our subway system cannot become the new normal without oversight or accountability. ”

The early May shutdown of overnight service was unprecedented. The sanitation program, which includes cleanings multiple times per day, involves a daytime terminal car cleaning and trains both running at night and those at rail yards, are cleaned nightly. The MTA also started using ultraviolet light in May to kill the coronavirus on surfaces. The machines emit flashes of light that hit surfaces of the subway with ultraviolet light.

The shutdown also resulted in the removal of homeless New Yorkers who sleep on trains and in stations. According to THE CITY, more than 90 percent of about 2,000 people kicked out of the stations ended up on the streets and on buses after the first night of the shutdown.

Officials have not announced a date for the return of 24/7 service. During a press conference last month when asked by a reporter about overnight service, Cuomo said service will return “if you don’t have to disinfect the trains every night.”

“For New York to come back as a 24/7 city, Governor Cuomo must restore overnight subway service,” Danna Dennis, community organizer at Riders Alliance, said in a statement. “Even at the height of the pandemic, thousands of New Yorkers depended on trains between 1 and 5 am. Entire industries from healthcare to nightlife rely on workers being able to travel back and forth between affordable neighborhoods and job centers.”

The bill next moves to the State Assembly, where it is sponsored by Assembly Member Robert Carroll.


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