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MTA implementing dramatic cuts to bus, train service

Metro-North ridership is down 94 percent over COVID-19 fears

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With more and more people staying home, and more even "essential" businesses like restaurants and cafes not able to keep going with just takeout and delivery, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is set to drastically reduce service while calling on Congress to earmark billions of dollars to keep the system solvent.

The MTA is adopting what it calls an "essential service plan" that will be phased into subways and buses over the next couple weeks, designed to be there primarily for those on the "front lines" of the coronavirus crisis, while coping with the millions of dollars its hemorrhaging each day.

Subway ridership is down 87 percent versus a year ago, while bus usage has fallen by 60 percent, the MTA said in a release. Because nearly half of its $8 billion annual budget comes from money collected by commuters, MTA officials say the system is very much in dire straits.

Because of that, the MTA starts its essential service plan March 25, ebginning on subways, and then continuing on buses the next day. Although the transit authority has provided few details of the actual transit schedules, peak morning and afternoon trains wil lcontinue, but other services will reduce, inlcuding some trains not operating at all, or moving to local service.

Among the lines not running during the week will be the B, W and Z lines. However, officials do say that most straphangers will likely notice a reduction in service.

For buses, overall service will be cut by 25 percent, although few other details were offered by the MTA on what exactly those cut services will entail.

The MTA is not sparing the Long Island Rail Road or Metro-North — especially since both lines have been the hardest hit. LIRR has had ridership drop 76 percent, but Metro-North likely has had the most dramatic loss — 94 percent since the pandemic has begun, MTA officials said.

That means, beginning on March 27, Metro-North will provide hourly service on the Harlem, Hudson and New Haven lines, with extra trains added during peak times. Normal weekday capacity will be cut in half, with only 424 training running compared to a normal schedule of more than 700. 

LIRR will experience similar cuts, dropping from 740 weekday trains to just 500. 

Even Access-A-Ride has suffered during the pandemic, with ridership down 71 percent compared to earlier in March. No changes have been announced for that service, however, since shared rides were eliminated at the beginning of the crisis. 

The MTA is looking for the federal government to provide $25 billion in funding for transit systems across the country, not just to help all of them get through the pandemic, but recover once the pandemic has passed. Such a relief package could provide up to $4 billion for the MTA.

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