It's been about a week since New York City has reopened and daily ridership is up to nearly 900,000 on New York City buses and subways.
While cases of COVID-19 are turning down.
It continues to be the threat of the Coronavirus that looms over the city.
But as the subway system roars back to life.
We have to ask now what?
With me is chairman and CEO of the MTA Pat Foye, Pat thanks for joining me.
Thanks for having me Roger.
Now it's been a little bit over a week since the city's reopened in phase 1, what has ridership been like?
Ridership has actually been a pleasant surprise.
We knew we would get an increase, comparing yesterday Monday, the 15th to 2 weeks ago before we increase service and the governor listed.
Announced the phase one ridership on subways and buses has gone up a total of 380,000 customers.
That's about 207,000 on subways, and 175,000 more or less on buses.
380,000 people per day is the size of a pretty, you know Medium sized transit system.
[COUGH] So, we're [COUGH] Pleased by that.
We expect ridership to continue to grow obviously the summer months and this is going to be an unusual summer from New York City and and the suburbs.
And you know what ridership will do this summer is unknown, but we expect to continue to build And especially after Labor Day assuming that you know New York City enters Phase Two of the governors of New York of course.
So you mentioned those numbers.
Like I said nearly nine hundred Thousand daily riders, that is, you know off the highs of the pre Coronavirus era where we're talking about millions, right so I'm curious there are still a lot of people out there concerned that they might get infected that there might be a second wave.
For folks out there who are still hesitant, like what do you tell people to reassure them that the New York transit system is safe to travel again?
So here's what I tell them a couple things.
One is [COUGH] I tell them that what I got on the 711 I think it was out of Fort Washington this morning.
There was plenty of seats, the car smelled and look clean and every customer as far as I can tell, and every employee putting me at a mask.
The same was true when I go to Penn Station and got on the two or three and then connected with the one at chambers.
It appeared to me every customer was wearing a mask.
Masks are really important.
The governor is met wearing a mask on public transit, a part of state law.
Employees and customers are required to wear Wear masks.
We did a physical study about 10 days ago which indicated that subway riders 92% mask compliance.
We're updating that study this week and the latest data point is 95%.
That's incredibly important.
The latest research from around the world including a report a couple of days ago, from Cambridge and French universities in the UK.
Indicates that masks are really important.
The subways on mass transit does not appear to have been vectors and creating the pandemic in any part of the world.
We believe That's true also in New York nursing homes, obviously meatpacking plants, and people's homes have been significant contributors.
Obviously the public health doctors and epidemiologist will figure that out.>>So even to your point about mass and how important they are, I'm just curious how You are encouraging writers to continue wearing masks.
I just asked cuz I've gotten out of the last couple of weekends and I've noticed about my the folks here in Long Island where I live.
Fewer and fewer people are wearing masks.
Granted, they're not riding the subway or riding a train, but how do you I guess Encourages there's no way to really enforce it.
But how do you encourage writers to continue to wear masks and to be more vigilant when it comes to social distancing?
Good question multi step plans.
So we've been distributing masks in the subway stations starting last Monday, June 8, when phase one started.
We're continuing that, we've got a robust messaging and communications campaign.
On subway cars on subway platforms on the website, we'll be doing.
We're starting a digital campaign on that.
So the mass message has been robustly communicated.
We're going to continue to do that.
We've got employees, platform controllers and wear finders wayfinders who are also suggesting to customers, you don't have a mask and I'll go upstairs Get one you need to be wearing it again on transit, Long Island Railroad and the subways my anecdotal experience, everybody's wearing them.
And the 95% data point on subway mass compliance I think is really important.
In addition to that, since the pandemic started right, the first taste was reported in New York, March 1 or second, we started disinfecting our subway stations.
subway cars, buses, Metro North and Long Island Railroad that continues and I'll talk in a second about a couple of innovations that we're really excited about.
But every station is being disinfected, not clean, disinfected, twice a day.
Subway cars multiple times a day.
buses, Long Island Railroad Metro North cars st the same thing.
We are running a pilot right now on New York City transit, subway cars and buses.
Involving ultraviolet see light.
We did a pilot prior to that with Dr. David Brenner at the Irving Medical Center at Columbia University.
And Dr. Brenner confirmed for the first time that ultraviolet see light eradicate the COVID-19 virus.
That's Really important finding.
We are working with antimicrobials on and have deployed antimicrobials on all of our subway cars two and a half or three times.
At this point we're waiting for verification from independent labs, The regulators, but it appears to be the case that there's a great deal of promise with respect to the ability of the anti microbials to eradicate the COVID-19 virus and to do that for weeks and perhaps months that
They like it.
UV light in particular, I really wanted because I find that fascinating.
In terms of what you've found, it seems like there's some progress there.
How widely is that being deployed?
Because you said the server trial is that something that's being deployed into every car right now or is this sort of limited?
So it's a pilot?
We ran a we ran a demonstration two or three weeks ago and the company that we're working with and there are many vendors out there.
You and your viewers on doubtedly know that ultraviolet light is an established technology.
That's Has been used in hospital settings emergency rooms and operating rooms for decades.
Right, so, the virus and bacteria eradication [COUGH] qualities of ultraviolet C light is well known.
We're running a pilot with the three stanchions, temporary stanchions put in each subway car.
There are two devices per stanchion.
I'd say they're the size of a hardcover book.
[COUGH] And the operator has to confirm that there's nobody on the other train either an employee or Or a customer.
The ultraviolet light is activated and it will disinfect the car.
We're doing the same pilot on busses, and we are really encouraged by the progress, and really encouraged by Dr. Brenner's finding.
And to your point about social distancing, there is an app that you guys introduced yesterday that a capacity tracker app for the LIRR.
For purely selfish reasons, I'm interested because I'm a daily LIRR rider.
But tell me a little bit about that, how it works.
Yeah, it's a really cool innovation bought by Phil Lang who's president of Long Island Railroad.
Will Fisher who's a Chief Innovation Officer and just long island railroad smarts.
It uses sensors on the 90% of our fleet that is electric.
And it will tell customers it's a long island railroad train time by the way, Apple Store or Google for free.
You can download it, and I go to the app a couple of times a day and now I'll be going more but it gives customers data that if you're getting on the 450 to port Jefferson, the third car is more crowded than the fifth car.
And maybe the fourth car is the one you wanna pick in terms of the capacity, Passenger capacity that's being used.
So riders customers will have that data at their fingertips and be able to use it in terms of making decisions as they go down the stairs at Penn Station or gym or Jamaica, to the to the train to make a decision to go to a less crowded car.
Really great work done by filling in will Fisher in the entire Long Island railroads.
And is that technology scalable?
like can you bring that over to the subway to buses and elsewhere?
The answer is of course there'll be different deployments because those are Pieces of rolling stock are different.
But of course, when Phil proved that out of bringing it to Metro North in the subways was the first one of the first things we thought about, of course.
And those infrared sensors did you did you have to add actual new hardware to make this work or did you use existing components already on the train?
Like how did how did you get the sensors deployed so quickly.
We used existing equipment, for the most part, there was some additional sensors that had to be added.
But because of the pandemic, Phil made it a priority and I'm really proud of what he and his team did for long island railroad customers soon to be expanded going forward.
Can you tell me a little bit about what plans you have in place in case there is a second way that's constantly being talked about that In fact, just might go back up.
What is sorta the fallback plan if there is that second wave or new spike in coronavirus infections?
Well, look, we're all hoping that's not the case.
What we will do in that case, as we think about it now as a theoretical matter, obviously We will look to the governor for direction.
He will if that were to happen, and I think Governor Cuomo has done an extraordinary job here in terms of stopping the spread, and flattening the curve.
But if that were to happen, we'd be looking to the governor, the state Commissioner of Health.
We're not public health officials.
We're not epidemiologists And so the decisions as to, what would happen if there were a spike.
We'll be at a fundamental level made by Governor Cuomo and the state Commissioner of Health.
We obviously will be in a position to Respond having just gone through this and we'll be using the new Long Island Railroad train time app.
Undoubtedly we'll be using one of the disinfecting innovations that were that were that we're looking at it will continue to pilot.
We because we established with Dr. Brenner, the.
COVID-19 eradication qualities ultraviolet see light.
We frankly happily been inundated in our Chief Innovation Officer marked out Has been working with all sorts of manufacturers and providers on the disinfecting issue and many others.
And I'm curious in taking this more broadly, obviously this is this is helping beneficial to folks here in the New York area.
Are you working with other mass transit systems around the world to kind of share best practices, technologies like this infrared sensor or the UV cleaner Cleaning technique.
Yeah, the answer is, of course, about an hour ago before this interview, I was on a webinar spoke on a webinar at that app to the American Public Transit Association, which is represents public transit agencies in America.
We've been working with Get, obviously we've got relationships with the public transit agencies, United States.
But we've also reached out to agencies in Asia and Europe.
They went into the pandemic earlier then the United States of York came out earlier.
And we've been talking to their trade association as well as public health officials, the Commissioner of Health of professors at Johns Hopkins University to make sure that.
Our goal throughout has been to take every action we can to minimize risk to our customers and to our employees.
And that continues to be our first priority.
All right, lastly, this is slightly off topic, but you guys have been working to get cell signals in subways for many years.
I know a bunch of them are connected.
I'm just curious if there's any update on.
Wiring up those subway stations, the trains and where 5G kind of plays into that because it's a personal pet project of mine.
So here's the answer.
We've got cell service in all our stations.
We are it's public that we are working on the L train between stations.
That work is is going well.
And we'll be making an announcement on that, in the near future, and we're committed to wiring the entire system between stations, we realize how important that is to our customers these days.
And that's progress that we're committed to make.