Subway Service Slowed as MTA Grapples With Sick Workforce

NEW YORK -
A subway conductor wears a face mask as the train is in a station, in the Bronx. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

Subway and bus service will run less frequently throughout the city as the MTA struggles with a depleted workforce, The City reported.

The transit authority’s coronavirus positivity rate has surged, with 169 workers testing positive over seven days ending in December 16, a 156% increase from December 2, when 66 workers tested positive.

Last year, on the seven day period ending December 18, 2020, 103 subway workers tested positive for the coronavirus.

Of the employees that recently tested positive, 60 of them work in maintaining power and signals, and 44 are in the operators and conductors department.

In reaction to being short-staffed, the MTA will reduce scheduled service Monday through Thursday and re-allocate the train crews to where they are needed.

In a statement, the MTA said, “Like everyone in New York, we’ve been affected by the COVID surge. We’re taking proactive steps to provide the best, most consistent service we can. That means you may wait a little longer for your train.”

Ridership, which plunged by 90% during the first year of the coronavirus, has been steadily recovering; during December, weekly subway ridership hit 3 million, and bus ridership was at 70% of pre-pandemic levels.

The MTA has reduced its hiring freeze but officials and unions warn worker shortages will persist through 2022.

“Omicron is whipping through,” JP Patafio, a union vice president for bus operators in Brooklyn, told The City. “It’s putting a tremendous strain on service, because you have so many absences.”