MTA officials plan to cut subway service on Mondays and Fridays starting in June — and bulk up weekend service on a few lines.
The shift, announced during an MTA meeting on Monday, marks the most significant adjustment to subway schedules since ridership began to rebound from the pandemic, which decimated mass transit usage in and around New York.
The MTA announced “strategic reductions” to service along the 1, 6, 7, E, F, L, and Q lines on Mondays and Fridays. Rush hour service on the A and C lines will begin earlier on weekdays. At a committee hearing Monday, NYC Transit President Richard Davey said riders would only wait between three and 30 seconds more than they usually do for trains those days.
“If we didn’t talk about it publicly, I don’t think anybody would notice,” Davey said.
Officials said they would adjust some of the schedule cuts into extra weekend trains come June, adding trains to the G, J and M train lines on Saturdays and Sundays.
Trains on those lines currently run about every 10 minutes on weekends. The added service would shave down wait times between trains by about two minutes, officials said.
The changes are scheduled for June, the next time transit workers pick new job assignments.
The move comes months after the agency appointed its first ‘weekend czar’, amid ongoing complaints about miserable weekend commutes.
“Data has really driven this,” Davey said at the hearing. “I think the changes reflect what our customers are asking for: more weekend service proportional to pre-COVID.”
Straphangers have been slow to return to the subways post-pandemic, with 3.7 million riders last Wednesday, about 64% of a comparable day in 2019, according to MTA statistics.
Mondays and Fridays, the days most office workers are working remotely, have even lower traffic. Weekend ridership has rebounded at a quicker pace, with 77% of pre-pandemic levels, or 2.6 million people using the subways on a recent Saturday.
Despite next year’s increases to weekend service on G, M and J lines, commuters on those lines should expect a rocky road ahead. J and M trains will be disrupted for 25 weekends over the next two years for construction on the Williamsburg Bridge, while the MTA approved a $400 million contract to modernize signals on the G train, which will require track closures for construction down the road.
The service adjustments announced Monday — expected to save the MTA $1.5 million a year – come as the agency faces a projected $4.6 billion budget gap as it runs out of federal funds that helped stabilize the agency during the pandemic, and as it continues to see low levels of subway ridership.
The MTA has already announced a 5.5% fare hike to help shave down the deficit starting next June. Danny Pearlstein, a spokesperson for the commuter advocacy group Riders Alliance, criticized the MTA service cuts, saying Gov. Kathy Hochul and the MTA should find alternative revenue sources, rather than punishing riders who rely on the trains.
“Reducing transit service costs riders time and gives us less reason to take public transit,” he said. “Subway scheduling should never be a zero-sum game where some riders must wait longer so others can have faster trips.”