StreetsPAC's Testimony to City Council on Restoration of 24/7 Subway Service

We testified today during the New York City Council Committee on Transportation's remote oversight hearing on the MTA in the era of COVID-19, in support of the restoration of 24/7 subway service. Our testimony follows below.

New York City’s transit system is the engine that has driven our economy for more than 100 years. And it’s never been more important than it will be in rebuilding our economy as we recover from COVID-19.

As the pandemic gripped New York last spring, subway ridership plummeted by 90%, and it remains lower by 70%. Buses, which actually ran on time with fewer cars on the streets and no fare collection, are at just 50% of normal ridership.

Yet automobile traffic is back to nearly pre-pandemic levels. A car-led recovery, however, is completely unsustainable, and anathema to the cleaner, greener future New York can only achieve with robust transit ridership.

To get New Yorkers back on transit, the MTA must restore 24/7 subway service. There is scant evidence that subways and buses have been a vector for the spread of COVID-19, nor that surface transmission is a significant factor. But shutting down the subways for overnight cleaning sends the public a message that they’re somehow unsafe.

Sufficient cleaning can be accomplished while running subways around the clock, which is what’s happening anyway, since trains continue to run without passengers between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. Yet tens of thousands of New Yorkers, overwhelmingly frontline workers, people of color and residents of lower-income communities, are severely inconvenienced by the overnight shutdown.

Enhanced bus service is a very poor substitute, especially when you’re trying to get to or from work at three in the morning. Or to COVID vaccination sites, which are open through the night, even while subways are not.

We urge the Council to demand that the MTA immediately publish the metrics and timeline it will use to evaluate resumption of 24/7 subway service without any further delay. They’ve done that for restaurants, gyms, and schools, and must do the same for the most essential piece of our transportation network.

The city that never sleeps can’t recover without a full recovery of our subway system, and the subways can’t recover without a return to 24/7 service.

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published this page in News 2021-02-10 13:06:10 -0500
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