transit

Subway Service Slowly Gets Back on Track as Transit Workers Return

A commuter waits for a downtown 4 or 5 train at the Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall station, April 21, 2020.
A commuter waits for a downtown 4 or 5 train at the Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall station, April 21, 2020. Photo: Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

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After more than a month of stripped-down subway service during the coronavirus pandemic, the MTA is bringing back the C train and boosting some other lines beginning Wednesday, THE CITY has learned.

The return of the C — one of five lines on pause for weeks — comes as 6,841 MTA workers have gotten back on the job after being quarantined or out sick. More than 4,400 of those workers are from New York City Transit, which operates subways and buses.

“As crews are coming back, we continue to operate our essential service plan moving the healthcare workers, first responders and other essential personnel on the frontlines of this crisis,” said Tim Minton, an MTA spokesperson. “We designed this plan to be flexible and will continue to make adjustments based on facts and data to best serve our essential customers.”

The increase in workforce availability will also allow for more frequent service on the Nos. 2 and 4 lines starting Wednesday, and on the Q later this week, officials said. The A, which has been providing local service, will resume making express stops.

“If there are more trains running, that lessens the likelihood of crowds on trains,” said Eric Loegel, the Transport Workers Union Local 100 representative for train operators and conductors. “And it’s a greater opportunity for people to space out on trains, to keep social distancing.”

The MTA’s ranks have been devastated by COVID-19, with at least 84 worker deaths pinned on the virus.

A Changing System

Subway ridership has fallen by more than 90%, compared to April 2019, with usually bustling platforms now desolate and Gov. Andrew Cuomo calling the homeless situation on trains and in stations “disgusting.”

Sarah Feinberg, the interim president of New York City Transit, said Tuesday she wants Mayor Bill de Blasio to send the NYPD and outreach workers into end-of-line stations by the end of the week to help clear the homeless.

Interim New York City Transit President Sarah Feinberg
Interim New York City Transit President Sarah Feinberg Photo: Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

De Blasio has said he wants the transit agency to close 10 terminal stations nightly between midnight 5 a.m. to root out people using the subway system as a shelter.

Reports of troubling subway incidents have accompanied the MTA’s scaling back of service on March 25, as worker absences piled up and ridership plummeted because of coronavirus.

The agency’s “Essential Service Plan” cut service by about 25%, concentrates service on the morning and evening rush-hour trips, and encourages commuters to leave mass transit to healthcare workers, first responders and other “essential” personnel.

The B, W and Z lines, which do not run on weekends, were taken out of commission by the crew shortages, with riders asked to take other lines. The C and the 42nd Street Shuttle also stopped running.

Other lines, like the 2, 4 and Q, have operated with larger gaps between trains, at times resulting in crowding that riders flagged in social media posts.

The increased frequency on the 2 and 4 lines, Minton said, will translate to dozens of daily trips that have not been occurring in recent weeks.

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