New York City will soon stop subway trains for four hours overnight so workers can disinfect them during the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday.
Starting May 6, the trains will stop for the cleaning from 1 a.m.-5 a.m. each day, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
As for essential workers who rely on the subway to get to their jobs during that window, officials say they’ll have a new, free alternative.
The MTA will launch an “Essential Connector” service during those four hours in which for-hire vehicles will shuttle workers the state deems essential – including health care workers and first responders – to their destinations for free.
“Essential Connector customers will be limited to two trips per night on for-hire vehicles, and must show proof of essential travel with appropriate credentials,” the agency said in a news release.
Further details about the connector service will be released soon, the MTA said.
The MTA will dinsinfect its public transit buses daily – but bus service will continue at all hours, though service already was truncated because of the pandemic.
The four-hour subway closure “will enable us to more aggressively and efficiently disinfect and clean our trains … than we have ever done before,” MTA Chairman Pat Foye said.
Daily disinfections are “a task that no one has ever imagined before … but that is the right thing to do,” Cuomo said. The cleanings will happen “wherever hands could touch” and “wherever droplets could land,” the governor said.
MTA said it will test “new and innovative cleaning solutions, including UV, antimicrobials ad electrostatic disinfectants.”
Subway ridership during the coronavirus crisis is down 90% from pre-pandemic times. But about 11,000 people still have used the subway from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. daily during the pandemic, the MTA said.
The pandemic already had forced changes to service. MTA has installed vinyl shields on buses to further separate passengers and drivers, and it is checking more than 3,500 employees a day for fevers.
More than 80 MTA employees, including at least 50 who worked in the subway, have died from complications related to coronavirus, the authority says.
CNN’s Ray Sanchez contributed to this report.