The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is now trying to woo riders back to mass transit.
But an increase in homeless people at key hubs and train delays caused by staffing shortages are making it difficult, CBS2’s Marcia Kramer reported Tuesday.
It’s the juxtaposition of pictures that grabs you. MTA boss Janno Lieber was with the the stars of the “The Lion King” at the Times Square subway station urging New Yorkers to come back to mass transit.
“We’re doing everything possible to make the system the most attractive transportation option out there,” Lieber said.
But just minutes later, literally minutes, a couple pushing carts of belongings came out of the same subway station.
It was no surprise, really, since a new MTA report found that the influx of homeless spiked 45% over the summer at eight of the city’s busiest commuter hubs, including Times Square.
For example, CBS2 cameras found an influx of homeless at Penn Station, one of the hubs. They were sleeping in stairwells and on the floor, carting their belongings, and one man was even man sleeping on top of a trash bin outside the station.
“Unsurprisingly, they’re in the same areas, you know the big the heavy-volume stations, where New Yorkers are growing in numbers,” Lieber said.
Ironically, the increase in homelessness comes as the MTA is reporting record ridership, the largest number of people on the subways since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.
A report released by Gov. Kathy Hochul found that 2.77 million people rode the subways Monday. To be sure, it was a record high, but only half — 50% — of the 5.5 million who took the subway before COVID.
Another problem has been staff shortages. An alert on the MTA website on Tuesday told the tale.
“Expect delays for C trains in both directions. We’re running as much service as we can with the train crews we have available,” the alert said.
The MTA is trying to rectify that by training new conductors and accelerating training.
“We’re hiring like crazy,” Lieber said.
Some riders are happy, but others are not.
“It’s really crowded since Labor Day,” one said.
“It has been pretty decent traveling and the trains go fast from one stop to the other,” another said.
“I think they’re a little bit rougher than usual, but we always make adjustments. The subways certainly need work,” another added.
“I don’t exactly feel safe on the subways,” another said.
A spokesman for the Department of Homeless Services claims 700 people have been moved off the trains and are now living in shelters.