When I rode to work this morning, I found a seat waiting for me on my 3 train out of Grand Army Plaza and another on the 5 that greeted me at Nevins St. On a typical Monday morning, finding seats on both of those trains is a rarity, but today is not a typical Monday. Rather, it is Columbus Day, a loosely celebrated federal holiday during which some, but not all, New Yorkers have off. I noticed the subways were noticeably emptier this morning and so too did the MTA.
Starting today, the authority has launched a pilot program that will see service reduced on the numbered IRT lines during minor holidays. Instead of operating trains on a weekend schedule as the TA does for Independence Day, Memorial Day and the like, Transit will instead run trains at around 75 percent of normal on Martin Luther King Day, Good Friday, Columbus Day, the Friday after Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, the three weekdays following Christmas and New Year’s Eve if it falls on a weekday. Demand, says the authority, is usually 60 percent of normal during those so-called minor holidays.
As far as the nitty gritty goes, peak hour wait times will increase by at most 1-2 minutes while off-peak wait times might be a bit longer, and the initial A Division-only pilot will save the authority $200,000. Transit anticipates “significant additional savings on an annual basis” when and if the program expands to include B Division lettered trains as well.
Reaction to the new plan has been decidedly mixed, as The Post reported today. “If it ends up reducing service and causing problems for people, you really have to question whether it’s worth it. For some of these minor holidays, I’m not sure how much of a decrease there really is,” William Henderson of the MTA’s Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee said, citing the day after Thanksgiving as a popular day for the subways.”
On the other hand, though, the MTA says that “reduction in service is smaller than the reduction in ridership” on this minor weekday holidays, and anecdotally, the subways are often emptier during these holidays than they are on a typical weekday. So I pose this to you: Death by 1000 cuts or a service adjustment that makes sense considering the circumstances?