On Monday, New York governor Andrew Cuomo and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced that next week overnight subway closures would be reduced from four hours to two. Since May 6, the MTA has shut down the subway from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. to allow for cleaning amid the pandemic. As of February 22 — in a step toward returning to 24-hour service — the closures will be from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m.
“New York is starting to look at a return to normalcy,” MTA interim president Sarah Feinberg said on Monday. “As we look at the reopening of the city and the economy, we have been planning in recent weeks for our own reopening and return of overnight service.”
The closures announced nine months ago were the first such measures in 115 years, designed to allow time for cleaning to make the subway safer for transit workers and riders. However, as the scientific understanding of COVID-19 grew, it became clear that cleaning surfaces would not be a sufficient tactic for stopping the transmission of an airborne virus.
Other complications arose as the pandemic wore on: Though the city has 24-hour vaccination sites operating, it does not have 24-hour train service to access these centers. Amid a massive decrease in ridership, the closures were also not able to save the MTA any money. In 2020, COVID expenses, including cleaning and free masks, cost the MTA $334 million. In the current fiscal year, the agency expects COVID costs to be around $500 million.