MTA to disrupt service to disinfect all trains, buses; will provide rides for essential workers

Subway trains, which had been disinfected at least once every 72 hours, will be cleaned once every 24 hours starting May 6.

News 12 Staff

Apr 30, 2020, 3:05 PM

Updated 1,546 days ago

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(AP) - Subway trains, which had been disinfected at least once every 72 hours, will be cleaned once every 24 hours starting May 6, Cuomo said. Buses, vans and other alternative transportation will be provided for essential workers at no charge while the system is closed, he said.
Cuomo said the increased cleaning is a “daunting challenge,” but vital to keeping subways safe. They've continued to see high density while much of the rest of society practices social distancing. Images posted on social media in recent weeks have showed packed subway cars.
Dozens of transit employees have died of the coronavirus and the system has become a haven for homeless people during the crisis. Globally, making public transit safe is seen as a big hurdle in potentially easing lockdowns.
“You have to disinfect every place a hand could touch on a subway car. Every rail, every pole, every door,” Cuomo said. “Or, coughing, sneezing, wherever droplets could land.”
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(NOTE: News conference begins 4 minutes into the video)
Cuomo highlighted a front-page report Tuesday in the New York Daily News chronicling incidents of indecent exposure, filth, people stretching out on seats and other problems.
He said the situation was “disrespectful” to essential workers who need the subway to commute and unsafe for homeless people who are congregating in trains without face masks or other protections.
Subway ridership has plunged by 92% since the start of the pandemic and the shutdown is planned for the part of the day where it is lowest. During the crisis, around 11,000 people have been using the subway during the time.
Commuter trains serving Long Island and the city’s northern suburbs will also be disinfected every 24 hours, he said. City buses will continue to run around-the-clock but will be rotated out of service for cleaning.
“Think about it, the entire public transit system in downstate New York will be disinfected every 24 hours,” Cuomo said. “We’re doing a lot of things here that we’ve never done before.”
The city's subway system has operated continuously, 24 hours a day since October 1904, with scattered interruptions caused by weather, blackouts and labor disputes.
A strike in 1966 knocked out service for 12 days, the longest stoppage in the system's history, according to the state agency that runs it, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. A 1980 strike closed service for 11 days, while one in 2005 lasted 3 days.
Trains were halted by massive power outages in 1965, 1977 and 2003; by storms, including Superstorm Sandy in 2015 and a blizzard in 2015; and for a few hours in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
State Sen. Brad Hoylman said he'll push legislation requiring the MTA to resume 24/7 service as soon as the pandemic is over.
“The city that never sleeps needs a 24/7 subway system. It’s the lifeblood of our city - a public utility that keeps New York City moving at all hours of the day and night," the Manhattan Democrat said in a statement.
The homeless have long taken refuge on the city’s subways, but the problems that their plight poses - for them and other riders - has become more visible during the pandemic.
Advocates for the homeless say some are taking to trains because they worry about contracting the virus in shelters. Some advocates have called on the city to provide hotel rooms to people living on the streets.
Mayor Bill De Blasio said the city would send more outreach workers to end-of-the-line stations to try to persuade homeless people to go to shelters. Police have increased enforcement, removing more than 100 homeless people from trains on Monday alone.
Giselle Routhier, the policy director of advocacy group Coalition for the Homeless, said people are sleeping in the subway because the city and state “are steadfastly refusing to offer them somewhere better to go.”
“Punitively closing the subways and sending in more police will only make things worse,” Routhier said in a statement. “What is actually needed are safe, private spaces where maintaining social distancing is possible.”
PHOTOS: Coronavirus heroes
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Briefing Notes:
  • Gov. Cuomo says the number of hospitalizations and intubations remain down.
  • He says 306 New Yorkers died yesterday due to COVID-19.
  • Gov. Cuomo: Reopening relies on the numbers and the continued ramping up of testing. There are about 30,000 tests each day in the state.
  • After you test, you trace. Contact tracing finds cases quickly so they can be isolated to reduce the spread of COVID-19. "The faster you trace, the better."
  • The issue is the scale. The governor says the state needs a baseline fo 30 contact tracers for every 100,000 and additional tracers based on the projected number of cases in the region.  Statewide, that adds up to 6,400-17,000 tracers depending on projected cases.
  • The "tracing army" will be drawn from state, city and county health departments and other employees. They will then be trained online with the assistance of Johns Hopkins University, in consultation with the state Department of Health.
  • Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg joins Gov. Cuomo. He is developing the "very big" undertaking getting the contact tracing army in place. Those vying to be a tracer must pass an online test to begin working.  
  • Gov. Cuomo says conditions on the New York City subway have rapidly deteriorated. He says there are fewer people to maintain and monitor the system. 
  • The governor says trains and buses are cleaned every 72 hours. He wants to clean and disinfect all surfaces every 24 hours. 
  • The MTA says it can stop train service from 1 a.m.-5 a.m. to disinfect all trains and buses every day to stop COVID-19 spread.
  • MTA will provide buses, for-hire vehicles & “dollar van” service from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. while stations are closed for daily disinfecting. It will go into effect during the morning hours of May 6.
PHOTOS: Countries around the world cope with COVID-19
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