NYC subways, stations less crowded during morning rush amid coronavirus worry
New Yorkers had plenty of extra elbow room on their Wednesday morning subway commute — as coronavirus fears kept many straphangers at home.
Corridors connecting several train lines at The Union Square station were emptier than usual — and commuters say they the trains themselves are less crowded than before.
Phelicia Santiago, a nurse who takes the N from 59th Street in Brooklyn to Union Square and then transfers to the L train, said she’s “seen the difference.”
“It’s less than 25 percent of what it used to be,” Santiago said of ridership. “It doesn’t affect me because I know what to do, but I do believe people are staying away because they are scared and need to be more informed.”
The 4 and 5 trains were the most crowded Wednesday morning, but a straphanger who declined to give her name said there’s still a noticeable difference.
“It used to be jam-packed,” she said. “There are no seats but you are not nose-to-nose anymore. It’s good for me. I don’t want people that close to me.”
Michael West, 58, a woodworker who also takes the N from Sunset Park to Union Square and then an L to Bushwick, said he doubts the MTA’s efforts to double subway station cleanings will make much of a difference.
“How much of an effect can it have?” he asked. “Sanitizing can only last until trains are filled up. We haven’t seen the worst of it yet. [Ridership is] going to get worse as more people get infected and the subway stations will be like a ghost town.”
Darell, 54, a security guard from Brooklyn, said he thinks “the MTA is going to take a hit” from the virus.
“We are going to feel the effect in our pockets,” he said, predicting a fare hike. “This thing is a nightmare.”
A few stops uptown at Grand Central Station, the morning rush was also calmer than normal.
Phillip Kudla, who works in the banking industry and took an early train in from Poughkeepsie, stopped to snap a photo of the commuter hub.
“I am surprised at how empty it is, that’s why I was taking a picture,” he said. “The train was not as crowded as usual. It’s usually one of the more important trains.”
Don Castaldo, 62, a senior property manager from Mount Kisco, said his train into the city was “half-empty” and “now it’s much easier to navigate through here.”
Estella Austria of Queens, who was hopping on a MetroNorth train to work, said she’s concerned about the sanitization practices in the station.
“I saw a man using a sweeper he used to clean the floor to then clean a ticket machine,” she said. “It’s disturbing.”
Businesses in the hub also beginning to take a hit, workers said.
“Usually you’ll have a steady flow of people right now,” said Eric Musial, 37, a manager at Eli’s Zabar, within Grand Central Market. “There is no real rush hour anymore. Yesterday we had a lot of extra products we couldn’t sell so we had to start cutting our numbers down.”
“A lot of offices are closed and people are working from home,” he added. “As for me, I have to come in. But it’s OK, I have my hand sanitizer right here.”
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