With commuters staying home due to the novel coronavirus outbreak that’s gripping the nation, the MTA announced it will be cutting down its service amid historically low ridership numbers.
Beginning on Friday, March 27, with the MTA reportedly losing weekly losses of more than $100 million with ridership down more than 90 percent, the organization has laid out a new “Essential Service Plan.”
The plan calls for extra trains during peak commuting hours for first responders and health care workers, though the MTA will be cutting services throughout the rest of the day, MTA Chair Patrick Foye announced.
“Reducing service is not ideal but it’s the right thing to do right now,” he said on Wednesday. “That step will protect our workers on the front lines by giving us more flexibility in scheduling.”
Specifically, the new schedule will include the elimination of nearly 300 trains, from the normal 713 that would be in service, down to 424 under the reduced plan.
"Our crews and front line employees at Metro-North will continue to provide the service our customers deserve during these trying times," Metro-North President Catherine Rinaldi stated. "Our ridership has seen a steep decline over the past several weeks, but health care workers and other first responders continue to ride our trains every day.
“While some reduction in service makes sense right now, we will continue to run a safe and reliable service to get these critical employees to their places of employment every day."
According to the MTA, since the COVID-19 outbreak hit the United States, subway ridership is down 80 percent, the LIRR is down 76 percent and New York City buses 60 percent, all unprecedented lows. Collections are also down on the City’s bridges and tunnels as more and more people practice social distancing.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, MTA has instituted aggressive disinfecting procedures at each of its stations twice daily, and continue daily sanitizing of its fleet. These enhanced efforts are expected to cost about $300 million annually, which could prove problematic as ridership continues to plummet.
“We are in the midst of the biggest liquidity crisis ever,” Foye said. “No organization of our size can rely on internal cuts. But we are not shutting down, and we are not going anywhere. It’s crucial we continue the tremendous progress we saw before.”
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