If you’re just getting back to the transit system, know that new amenities and protections are in place to help keep you safe.
We install protective barriers on buses between drivers and operators, and we offer free masks on buses through our new homemade mask dispensers. We’re also providing free masks and free hand sanitizer at every metro station, along with new floor signs and decals reminding passengers of social distancing. We also continue to clean and disinfect our system 24/7.
But the most important part of keeping you safe on the transit system is to be vigilant about wearing a mask. We know that wearing a mask or face mask is the best thing we can do to protect ourselves and others from disease, and that is the law too. I am so proud that the vast majority of our clients – which consistently sits in the mid-90 percent – are complying with the mandate.
To keep you safe, it’s not just about cleaning, disinfecting and providing masks – it’s also about preventing and deterring crime in our system.
It is important that we are honest and transparent about what we are seeing – in recent weeks we have seen a worrying increase in assaults against MTA employees and motorcyclists. It’s intolerable. One incident would be too many; that there were several attacks is scandalous.
Some of our bus operators have been targeted for asking passengers to wear masks. Our drivers are sometimes attacked and spat on. Last week, a pregnant MTA cleaner was attacked and beaten. These courageous employees are heroes who help move our city through an unprecedented crisis, and they deserve so much better than that.
Police services in America and New York are under significant self-scrutiny – as it should be – but we cannot lose sight of the importance of an engaged and respectful police presence in our system to prevent and deter such crimes from occurring.
To be clear, we have a safe transit system that New Yorkers can be proud of. But we have to keep going, and the reality is that even one violent incident is too many.
For the future of the city, it is essential that people continue to return to public transit. Most days last week, we served over 2.4 million customers on the metro and buses. I’m proud of these numbers and proud that New Yorkers are starting to come back to Transit.
But if these numbers are ever going to reach pre-pandemic levels, we must be able to promise New Yorkers a safe system. Anything less is unacceptable – for our runners and for us.
Sarah Feinberg is Interim President of MTA New York City Transit.