NEW YORK - New York City's subway system went silent in the early morning hours of Wednesday, as part of a plan for the normally round-the-clock system to shut down for train cleaning and to remove homeless people.
The trains, which had been running on a reduced schedule since late March, are now going to be stopped from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. each day. This unprecedented service disruption will last for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic, according to MTA officials.
The agency will add more than a thousand bus trips to its overnight schedule to help replace subway service for essential workers who still need to get to their jobs.
New York City Transit Interim President Sarah Feinberg said that if your commute via bus is unreasonable, taxi or livery service will be provided. In general, you would qualify for car service if your commute would be longer than 1 hour and 20 minutes or have more than two transfers, she said. (You can find out more about overnight service here.)
Subway ridership has plummeted more than 90% during the pandemic and the stay-at-home order. However, the subway system has seen a spike in certain crimes and also the presence of homeless people seeking shelter.
The NYPD and the MTA Police are deploying more than 1,000 officers to secure many of the system's 472 stations, the AP reported. Fewer than 200 stations can be physically locked up during the shutdown.
Homeless outreach teams, consisting of officers and nurses, will be sent to 29 end-of-line stations to roust homeless people from trains that are headed out of service for cleaning, Chief of Department Terence Monahan said Tuesday.
On Wednesday morning Mayor de Blasio said 139 homeless people agreed to offers of services from the city.
The NYPD has been increasing subway patrols in advance of the shutdown, removing about 20 homeless people per night. Most are taken to shelters, but an average of about two per night are being hospitalized for mental health evaluations at the recommendation of an outreach team nurse.
"This is a huge undertaking," Monahan said.
The MTA is asking people to avoid subways and buses unless you have a good reason to be commuting.
"Please: If you’re not traveling for work related to an essential business, or for urgent personal business like a medical appointment, do not use the subway or take the bus," the MTA said. "We need to keep our limited capacity available for people who must travel."
With The Associated Press