Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the MTA must set specific benchmarks for when the subways will return to 24-hour service, transit advocates said Thursday — with some raising fears that the overnight closures set to start next week could become permanent given the transit agency’s financial woes.
“Even with ridership down substantially, thousands of essential workers ride the subway overnight. New Yorkers need to see the governor’s plan for how nighttime bus service will pick up the slack,” said David Bragdon, of the Manhattan-based TransitCenter think tank, in a statement.
“The governor should announce specific milestones that will trigger the resumption of overnight service.”
Bragdon suggested new COVID-19 infections or ridership levels as possible benchmarks. Transit officials plan to provide shuttles and for-hire cars to the 11,000 straphangers still riding when trains and stations are shut down.
Tri-State Transportation Campaign Executive Director Nick Sifuentes told The Post he’s optimistic the public will demand 24-hour service when the COVID-19 virus finally passes — but that he worries the MTA could use its dire financial straights to justify continuing overnight closures.
“We need some clear benchmarks,” Sifuentes said. “What we don’t want to happen is for the MTA to cancel overnight service because of money as opposed to safety.”
Speaking to 1010 WINS host Susan Richards on Thursday afternoon, Cuomo declined to say when the 1 a.m-5 a.m. closures — instituted to allow for station cleaning and anti-homeless sweeps — would end.
“You tell me when the pandemic ends, I’ll tell you how long it lasts,” Cuomo said. “We’re doing this because of the virus. When the virus is gone, we can get back to normal — in so many ways.”
At least one group of experts endorsed the plan: The Regional Plan Association, which first floated the concept of eliminating 24/7 service in 2017.
“Maintaining a transit system that supports the needs of a 24/7 city is incredibly challenging, both before and during the Covid-19 crisis,” said RPA President Tom Wright
Wright suggested overnight closures are a “critical way to improve maintenance and advance capital projects more rapidly” — a benefit one transit source said would be difficult to put into action during the ongoing pandemic.
State Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan), meanwhile, said he would propose legislation “requiring the MTA’s nighttime shutdown to be temporary and a return to 24/7 service after any declared end to the pandemic.”
“Without a law, we’ve created a precedent for the MTA to move away from 24/7 service,” Hoylman tweeted. “I’d prefer not to allow them to consider the continuation of a system without it.”
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