Op-Ed: An early welcome to Phase 3 of New York City’s reopening

Photo by Todd Maisel


Good morning New York City, and allow the New York City Transit workforce to be the first to welcome you to Phase 3 of the city’s reopening, and hopefully back to the transit system as well.

More than two million customers are once again using the subways and buses, a milestone that seemed out of reach only a few short months ago. Our projections estimate that we will see continued increases in ridership on both subways and buses during this phase.

We are so glad to have you back — and eager to update you on all we have been doing over the last few months to ensure that we were ready to get you back to work, and wherever else you need to go, safely and efficiently.

Safety has been our single highest priority throughout the pandemic, and our efforts to protect the health of our incredible workforce and customers are ever-evolving.

The most recent step is our announcement that over the coming weeks, we will be installing protective barriers around the operator compartment on buses. Last week we unveiled two innovative prototypes of these barriers: full-length polycarbonate sliders and vinyl curtains. Both can manually slide to open when passengers board.

All 4,800 local buses will be outfitted with these partitions by the fall, with curtain installation already underway on 1,000 express buses. With these new protections in place, we plan to resume front-door boarding in August.

On the subway, customers may notice new personal protective equipment vending machines at 10 stations across the system. They offer reusable face masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, and sanitizing wipes. But single-use surgical masks are also available — for free — at all station booths thanks to a generous donation of two million masks by the State and City.

Our goal is to make obtaining a mask as easy as possible for those who don’t have a mask or face covering, or for those who enter the system and realize they’ve forgotten theirs at home. We can’t emphasize enough that wearing one is the right thing to do — and it’s absolutely required for using mass transit. I’m proud that our ongoing ridership surveys are showing widespread mask compliance, but I know we can do even better.

There’s no question, riding with us now is a different experience than it was pre-pandemic. From our 24/7 cleaning regimen and gleaming trains to our complimentary hand sanitizer in every station — and from our new signs throughout the system to our social distancing decals — if you are just now coming back to transit, things are going to feel different.

But there’s no reason to fear your old commute. We’re still here to serve as New York’s circulatory system. We are ready for you, and we are so glad to have you back.

Sarah Feinberg is acting New York City Transit president.