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Here's what you can expect the next time you take the subway

You're going to be seeing a lot more free masks, hand sanitizer and social distancing markers.

Written by
Howard Halle

As of today, NYC has officially begun Phase 1 of its plans to re-start the city after months of lockdown. Essential workers that have been going to work all this time are being joined by an additional 200,000 to 400,000 New Yorkers returning to jobs in construction, manufacturing and retail, and the big question has been, How are they going to get there? What's going on with the city's transit system, especially that hot mess known as the New York City Subway? After weeks of providing few scattered details, the MTA has now released its "Action Plan for a Safe Return."

Here's how it breaks down.


- Normal weekday subway services is being resumed, except for overnight service between the hours of 1am and 5am when the subway will remain closed for cleaning. Also, the 42 St Shuttle isn’t running. Use the 7 instead.

- It’s mandatory to wear a mask while in the station and on the train. If you forgot to bring a mask, one will be provided to you for free as will small bottles of hand sanitizer. Also, the MTA is "testing different types of hand sanitizer dispensers in subway stations, making sure they hold enough sanitizer and are sturdy enough to work."

- Yellow floor decals in the shape of footprints have been installed to mark the optimal space for social distancing along with other signage (also in yellow) reminding you to wear a mask and take other precautions.

- The MTA is deploying teams of "ambassadors" to help riders move through stations. There will also be more cops around, though, for now, they will not be making arrests or writing summonses over masks or crowding.

- Cleaning is being ramped up, with 24/7 coverage. Crews will "remove trash, clean spills and biohazards, spot-clean seats, floors, and other surfaces, and disinfect common touch points." Stations, especially end-of-the-line terminals, are being cleaned throughout the day; trains will be cleaned overnight at subway yards. In addition to using EPA-approved disinfectants, the MTA is experimenting with additional methods to mitigate the presence of coronavirus such as UV lights, antimicrobial agents that seal surfaces against the virus and electrostatic sprayers that ensure complete coverage of disinfectants.

- MTA employees will be wearing enhanced PPE, and will have their temperatures regularly taken. They will also receive regular Covid-19 and antibody testing.

- The MTA is also working with business to arrange staggered hours for their workers to control the size of crowds using the system at particular times. (Pro tip: You can find timetables for all NYC subway lines here.)

- The MTA is continuing the rollout of its OMNY contactless payment system.


- Express service on buses has been restored and frequency of service is being increased to facilitate social distancing. Buses continue to provide enhanced service between 1am and 5am to make up for overnight subway closure.

- Rear door entry and exiting is still in place, which means you will get to effectively ride local buses for free. Riders on Select Bus Service, however, still must pay at curbside fare-boxes.

- As with the subway, wearing a mask while riding the bus is mandatory, and vehicles are being regularly cleaned and disinfected.


- All Metro-North ticket counters are closed, and cash is not being accepted onboard trains. Ticket can be purchased at vending machines, or on the MTA eTix app.

- Trains are being added on the Harlem, Hudson, and New Haven lines during the morning and evening rush. There is no service on the Danbury or Waterbury branches, but trains are operating hourly on the New Canaan branch. West of Hudson service is operating on a weekend schedule.

- Wearing a mask while riding is mandatory


- As with Metro-North, tickets must be purchased at vending machines or with the eTix app.

- Off-peak fares remain in effect, and trains are running more frequently on most lines. About 90 percent of regular weekday trains are back in service.

- Wearing a mask while riding is mandatory.

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