New Poll Shows Broad Support for Return to 24-Hour Subway Service

Workers disinfecting and cleaning a subway car at Stillwell Terminal in May 2020. (Image: Marc A. Hermann/MTA New York City Transit)

A new survey of New York City voters finds broad support for a return to overnight subway service.

The report, conducted by the professional firm Data for Progress and commissioned by the safe streets organization Open Plans (parent company of the transportation news site Streetsblog), found that 67% of New Yorkers likely to vote in the Democratic primary said they “strongly agree” or “somewhat agree” that 24-hour subway service should return.

The MTA, which is controlled by Governor Andrew Cuomo, shut down late-night service last spring to conduct pandemic-related deep cleaning.

The survey results were broadly consistent across race/ethnicity and income, with Hispanic and Latino respondents most likely to say they agree with the move, while Black and African American respondents were somewhat less likely to support it. 

Data for Progress polled 591 likely Democratic primary voters for the survey; the results have a margin of error of +/- 4%. The full breakdown of responses can be seen here.

The MTA initially closed the trains to customers from 1:00am to 5:00am, before shifting to a 2:00am to 4:00am closure in February of this year. 

Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control has suggested that, because COVID-19 spreads mainly through inhaled droplets, there may be limited benefit to the agency’s deep-cleaning regimen, which involves scrubbing and disinfecting surfaces. But other experts have argued the MTA should continue the practice until the pandemic is more firmly under control.

The program costs the agency about $300 million a year, and employs thousands of largely immigrant contract workers who have recently raised concerns about their safety, salaries and working conditions.

The MTA has said full overnight service will return as the city and state reopen, though it has not yet offered a specific timeline.

“We look forward to reviewing this polling data,” agency spokesperson Shams Tarek told Bklyner via email. “In the meantime we’re serving riders 22 hours per day and look forward to serving them for the remaining two hours when we complete our phased reopening which began in February.”

Transit advocates, meanwhile, say they’ll continue to push the agency, and the governor, on the issue.

“New Yorkers resoundingly want 24/7 subway service back now,” Danny Pearlstein, Policy & Communications Director for the organization Riders Alliance, said in a statement reacting to the poll. “Our city cannot reopen and recover without it. Gov. Cuomo must let us ride ’round the clock, find homeless riders decent places to live, and stop exploiting immigrant workers for hygiene theater.”

[4/8/21 – This story has been updated to include comment from the MTA, and to link to the Data for Progress survey source data.]

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Billy Richling

Billy Richling

Billy Richling is a staff reporter for Bklyner, covering politics, real estate and everything else. He lives in Flatbush, and previously worked as Constituent & Communications Manager for the Times Square Alliance. Talk to him about baseball, buses and bagels.

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