The Subway Conundrum

New York City has become an enigma that is perplexing its leaders as they plan for a return to normalcy. One of the big questions is how will the governor and mayor get several million people to work every day without the obvious dangers affiliated to public transportation?

A subway car is a petri dish for the coronavirus. It’s underground. It will be hot and humid in the subways in the spring and summer. Commuters are stacked into cars like sardines. The trains are filthy for the most part. Cleaning them is a logistical nightmare and really too costly for the Metropolitan Transit Authority to do effectively.

The CEOs of all the major companies in New York City are scratching their heads trying to figure out how to get their employees into work without endangering them. The threat relates to distancing and uncleanliness. The honest answer is, it may be impossible to create a safe environment for the thousands of strap holders that depend upon subways.

If services are rearranged, limiting the number of people in each car, increasing travel at off hours, closing the subways from 12:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m., the situation would be better, but can the MTA manage the process.

Most business activity occurs between 8:00 AM and 6:00 PM each day, when workers are required to be present on the job. Banks aren’t going to open in the evening. Restaurants aren’t going to serve food all night long. The New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ are not going to change their hours of operation. Motor Vehicles isn’t going to accommodate drivers in the middle of the night. And what about sporting events, nightclubs and Broadway?

Many children also commute to school on subways. Their hours are not really flexible. And all those office buildings that accommodate hundreds of thousands of personnel are going to find it difficult to manage the flow of employees during high traffic times on elevators. Distancing will be virtually impossible.

The first thing we need to do is decrease the number of new cases of people suffering from the virus. While doing so, somebody better be trying to figure out how to move several million people into and out of Manhattan and surrounding boroughs safely.

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