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MTA runs full service, 'staying open for those who need us'

Even as many commuters heeded the calls from

Even as many commuters heeded the calls from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and other public officials to stay home, the MTA ran a full slate of services Monday morning. Credit: Marcus Santos

The head of the New York City subway system said Monday the region’s transit system was staying open for “right now,” but cautioned that MTA officials are evaluating service levels as the coronavirus continues to spread.

Even as many commuters heeded the calls from New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and other public officials to stay home, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority ran a full slate of services Monday morning. That included on the Long Island Rail Road, where rush-hour ridership was a small fraction of a normal weekday.

“Right now, we’re staying open for those who need us — and for those whom we all need,” said Sarah Feinberg, interim president of New York City Transit, which includes the MTA’s subway and bus system. “We continue to run trains and the buses so that these folks can get where they need to be. We are constantly evaluating our service levels to ensure we have enough capacity for those who need it.”

Feinberg vowed that the authority would be in constant contact with riders “about what we’re doing and how we’re responding as the situation evolves.”

Despite the admonitions from public officials to stay off the rails unless absolutely necessary, the main parking lot at the Valley Stream LIRR station was about 3/4 full Monday morning, as many commuters went about their usual routine.

"I noticed it's still pretty packed . . . People have to get to work. What else are you going to do?" said attorney Michael DeRosa, 26, while in the station platform waiting room awaiting a train to Jamaica, where he had to visit a court reporting agency for a planned deposition. "I don't really mind going in, but I know it's probably better if everyone would just stay home."

MTA officials did not release current ridership levels Monday morning, but said, as of Thursday morning,  ridership on the LIRR had fallen by 31%. That number was expected to further drop sharply this week.

Despite some trains operating nearly empty, the LIRR, in a message to riders Sunday, assured them that it planned to run normal weekday service Monday morning.

The LIRR said it planned "to operate regularly scheduled service" Tuesday.

"We're listening to the experts, so we'll echo their advice: If you do not have to travel, don't," the railroad said. "We're here to help front-line staff to get where they need to be."

The scene at Kennedy Airport's Terminal 4 — where most international flights arrive — was largely calm and orderly Monday morning, in contrast to the hourslong lines of European travelers who packed the terminal over the weekend. The crowds were expected to intensify with the scheduled arrival of several European flights Monday afternoon.

Erik Chumpitaz Jr. and his family cut a vacation to Peru short when the nation's president announced Sunday that he was shutting the country's borders.

“Peru was hectic. We had to rush to the airport, get our luggage and come real quick," said Chumpitaz Jr., 20, of Oceanside. "We're happy to come back to the country. . . . It went smoothly."

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