By Mark Hallum
New York City Transit subways and buses hit the two million customer mark Monday as the city began Phase II of reopening, signaling what agency officials felt was the beginning of a comeback.
But the progress since COVID-19 forced 92% of the subways ridership off the trains is still underscored by the MTA’s monthly loss of $500 million and the reality that federal funds from the CARES Act are running out in July.
The 2 million extra riders, roughly 18% of total normal ridership, does little to make up for the existing 74% decrease from pre-COVID weekday ridership levels of 7.6 million combined riders across all system under the MTA’s purview. Of the $3.8 billion provided in the stimulus, $2.9 billion has been spent.
According to interim NYC Transit President Sarah Feinberg, commuters giving the trains a chance are returning on account of the measures taken by the MTA to provide masks at some locations and to make the system look and feel clean.
“When you enter the system for the first time there’s a little bit of anxiety, people are dipping their toe in and seeing how clean the system and the trains are. There’s sanitizer, there’s masks, people are entering the system with confidence,” Feinberg said.
Bus riders are returning as well with over 1 million straphangers taking the bus as of June 19, MTA Chairman Pat Foye said.
Select Bus Service will be increased on the M15, M23, M34 and M60, as well as other lines in anticipation of more riders, according the Bus Company President Craig Cipriano. For the time-being, rear-door boarding will remain in place to allow for social distancing between the public and drivers as COVID-19 remains a looming threat.