New York City’s subways will resume 24/7, around-the-clock operations on May 17, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday — almost one year to the day after he ordered nightly shutdowns to facilitate COVID-19 cleaning.
“Today is a milestone for New York State, and a moment of transition,” Cuomo said, while also announcing the imminent end of “most” capacity restrictions across the region.
“If you reopen economic and social activity, you also have to have transportation available. So we’re going to coordinate the MTA’s resumption of 24-hour service with the reopening.”
The move comes after months of pressure from advocates and elected officials to resume pre-pandemic subway hours, culminating in the last week with calls to reopen from Mayor Bill de Blasio and Sen. Chuck Schumer.
“The City That Never Sleeps has a name that we have to live up to everywhere, including within our subway service,” the Senate Majority Leader said during an appearance in Manhattan on Sunday.
Cuomo announced the policy on April 30, 2020 with the goal of clearing trains and stations of homeless people and other stragglers, which the he and MTA officials said was necessary to deep-clean and disinfect amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
MTA Chairman Pat Foye said on Feb. 10 that 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. nightly closures would end “when the governor declares the pandemic over.” Officials shortened the timespan to 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. five days later.
Scientists have concluded that the deadly virus is primarily spread through the air, not surfaces. The MTA has persisted with its multi-million dollar cleaning regiment, however, arguing that even the slightest chance of contracting the virus could deter some riders.
Officials plan to continue the $300 million-per-year scrubbing effort in the coming years, with Cuomo’s blessing.
“I can’t tell you how many New Yorkers say to me, ‘The trains are cleaner than they have ever been.’ I can’t tell you how many New Yorkers say to me, ‘There are fewer homeless who are now on the train,’” the governor said on Monday.
“I told the MTA, for my two cents – 24-hour service, yes, but the trains must remain clean. And we have to help the homeless. And we can’t go backwards on the quality of service.”