GRAND CONCOURSE, the Bronx — The subway in New York City has not run 24 hours a day since the beginning of May 2020.
The MTA closed it to regular passengers between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. to complete what has been described as deep cleaning. At an oversight hearing Wednesday, New York City Council’s transportation committee asked about restoring overnight service.
Councilmember Brad Lander of Park Slope had strong words.
“I believe that you’re engaged in hygiene theatre. I think it’s a cynical approach. The science would support reopening subways overnight in a way that was safe,” he said.
Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez from Washington Heights asked if the overnight closures could be shorter.
MTA Chairman Pat Foye says it was considered but they decided on the four hour closure period.
“It’s frankly safer for the customers and employees doing the work,” Foye.
Transit officials have always said the closure allows crews to make sure all trains are given deep cleanings and disinfecting during a 24-hour period. They’ve been testing different types of systems and products at different places.
City Council Speaker Corey Johnson asked the MTA Chairman about specifics for restoring overnight subway service.
“What are the metrics and milestones used beside ‘when the pandemic is over’ for us to safely reopen,” he asked?
MTA Chairman Foye said he would leave that to federal and state health officials and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The last train at stations is in the midnight hour and there are different times for the first trains. Bus service has been added. There are also times that overnight bus service is impacted by the number of available bus operators.
MTA officials have referenced its customer service surveys that praise cleaner trains. Transit leaders believe the cleaning and disinfecting process helps reassure people that the system is safe. They also say it’s recommended by the Centers for Disease Control.
Councilmembers and advocates believe the overnight closures also are a response to people in the system who are homeless. MTA officials asked for additional support from NYPD, and additional mental health resources from the city of New York.