First-Ever Overnight NYC Subway Shutdown Starts

By Stefano Tromba
May 5, 2020

Starting in the early morning of May 6, between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m., the MTA  will close the public transportation system for the first time in its 115-year-history. Gov. Cuomo ordered the MTA to shut down and disinfect all city trains in order to limit the spread of the coronavirus. “It is a massive undertaking that we have never done before,” Cuomo said.

Affecting all of the city’s 472 subway stations, the shutdown will turn each into “exit-only” stations. During these hours, homeless New Yorkers using trains as the shelter will be removed at 1 a.m. by police.

“The police presence in the subways during the period from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. is going to be at an unprecedented level,” said MTA chairman Pat Foye.

Free Rides for Essential Workers

Doing everything possible for essential workers, such as nurses, doctors, food bank workers, and others is a no-brainer. But in order to get a free cab ride, essential workers must fill out a form on the MTA’s website and call 511 to schedule their pick-up. Overnight bus service will be expanded to offer free taxi and for-hire vehicle trips so essential overnight workers aren’t left out, officials said.

Essential workers will be provided with a single free car ride per night. However, that’s one ride short of the original two rides the agency said would be provided when the shutdown was announced last week.

Emergency Rides

What about people with an emergency? Well, they will also be able to get free cab rides by calling 511. But keep in mind, those trips will be “vetted by call centers” in order to weed out scammers.

The MTA will also schedule over 1,000 more bus trips during the closure period to compensate for trains not running. This effort will require approximately 340 bus operators to take overtime shifts each night. Buses won’t charge a fare while the subway is closed.

“We are going to learn and get better as we go,” interim NYC Transit president Sarah Feinberg said of the shutdown. “We are going to learn how to be more efficient and get better at the cleaning as we go. We are going to get better and be more efficient at scheduling cars for people as we go.”  So how long will the shutdown last? Well, that’s up to the governor — not transit officials — who will decide when the subway reopens, says Foye.

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