By: Dana Avrushmi
The pandemic saw major changes in subway and bus service in New York City. As all but those deemed essential workers stayed home to stop the spread of Covid-19, twenty-four-hour mass transportation was paused for the first time in its history. This was partly due to lack of riders and lack of staff and partly due to an initiative to take trains out of service for deep cleaning overnight.
As riders came back, so did constant service. Unfortunately, the MTA lost many of its staff due to people quitting and retiring. During the height of Omicron, the MTA also had the added problem of so many of its staff being out sick. A hiring-freeze put into place during the pandemic did not help matters. Ridership, while increasing has not reached pre=pandemic levels.
New York City Transit President Rich Davey said in a memo on Friday that he plans to launch a “working group” to address ongoing challenges with “crew availability,” which according to MTA data caused a quarter of weekday train delays in June. “The most important factor to increase service delivery is maintaining consistent and sufficient staffing,” Davey wrote in the memo, which was obtained by The New York Post.
Officials have since hired more personnel, but the agency has yet to match the number of bus and train operators it had on payroll before the pandemic, a senior official said to The New York Post. The agency will be fully staffed on buses by the end of the summer, and on trains by the beginning of 2023, the official said — later than had previously been disclosed.
David Meyer, of The New York Post writes that the MTA has created a “care and aware” program that seeks to help and support MTA subway and bus workers so they stay injury-free and on the job.
This lack of able personnel has caused massive delays across the transit system. Transit officials reported nearly 33,000 weekday delays in June, the most recent month of available stats. Some 8,676 of those were caused by crew shortages — more than any other category. On weekends, the percentage of staffing-induced delays was even higher, 32.6%.
Meanwhile Bloomberg notes the number of fares taken in by riders will not sustain the budget needed to operate, ridership is vanishing de to the crime epidemic and the work from home phenomena.
“Their revenue model is just not viable anymore,” said Rachael Fauss, senior research analyst at Reinvent Albany, which advocates for greater transparency and accountability in the state and city governments. “The best case is that they get new, ongoing, dedicated state aid. Not sort of a one-shot thing because the problem of reduced ridership isn’t going away anytime soon.”
Bloomberg reported: Public transportation systems across the US are dealing with a slower rebound in ridership as people embrace working from home at least part of the week. S&P Global Ratings expects mass-transit ridership in the US won’t reach 75% of pre-pandemic levels until 2025, a year later than the firm’s prior forecast.