New York City reduces subway service due to coronavirus; cuts to bus and rail service next

March 25 (UPI) — New York City began reducing subway service on Wednesday as a result of falling demand and some worker shortages brought on by the coronavirus outbreak. And reductions in bus and commuter rail service are coming.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said Wednesday marked the start of its “essential service plan,” which substantially cuts service across all three platforms.

“This preserves our a.m. and p.m. peak service for essential workers while helping reduce density for our staff and riders,” the agency said. “If you can stay home, please do.”

Sarah Feinberg, the MTA’s head of subway and bus systems, said staff shortages on Tuesday caused delays for more 800 subway trains. The agency suspended service on three of its 27 subway lines and switched other services to local from express.

The MTA said trains will run at just 75 percent of regular service. A similar reduction in bus service will start Thursday, and commuter rail on Friday. Fifty-two MTA workers have so far tested positive for COVID-19, officials said.

Officials said subway ridership has fallen by 87 percent amid lockdown orders, compared to this time last year.

“It’s a struggle but we’re providing the service that New York needs right now,” transport workers union president Tony Utano said Tuesday. “Some of our members have tested positive, some have called in sick and some were quarantined by the MTA as a precaution because they may have come in contact with someone who has the virus.”

New York has become the state with the most coronavirus cases in the United States, with nearly 30,000 and more than 200 deaths.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday cornavirus cases are doubling in New York about every three days, and asked the federal government for help obtaining more medical equipment to handle the spikes in patients.

Many healthcare and other essential workers rely on subways and buses to reach their jobs. MTA officials have urged other civilians stay away from mass transit, but also warned the system could lose billions due to the reduced ridership.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said Congress’ $2 trillion coronavirus rescue package contains financial aid for city transit systems across the United States.

U.S. copes with COVID-19 pandemic

Beachgoers walk along the shoreline in Malibu on March 23. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti closed sports and recreation at L.A. city parks and closed parking at city beaches after seeing too many people in close proximity packing beaches, trails and parks. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo