Ridership numbers have been dwindling on the Long Island Rail...

Ridership numbers have been dwindling on the Long Island Rail Road because of the coronavirus. Credit: Howard Schnapp

With a steep decline in riders — and the fare revenue they bring in — because of the coronavirus, the MTA on Tuesday announced it would reduce public transportation service across the region, including on the Long Island Rail Road.

The “MTA Essential Service Plan” will curtail LIRR service by about 35% beginning Friday, while preserving regular rush-hour schedules. On subways, service will be scaled back by about 25%, Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials said Tuesday.

“This reduced schedule preserves service for the heroes on the front lines of this crisis,” MTA chairman Patrick Foye said. “We’re not shutting down. We’re not going anywhere . . . But, for now, we will focus on the MTA Essential Service Plan, so essential workers can continue delivering for New York.”

Subway ridership has dropped 87% as compared to the same period last year, and 76% on the LIRR, the MTA said. 

Foye said the MTA held off on reducing service, in part, because even through last week, nearly half of the subway customers were still in the system. And so cutting back service could have worked against efforts to keep a healthy social distance between riders.

MTA officials also said “crew slippage” — a term for employees not coming to work — also was contributing to growing delays on subways. Foye said 52 employees have tested positive for the coronavirus.

In addition to its already intensified fleet and station disinfecting efforts, MTA officials also announced Tuesday they were creating a “quick reaction team” that could be deployed to disinfect facilities where multiple employees have displayed symptoms of the coronavirus.

Foye also announced that any actions from the MTA's recently adopted "Transformation Plan," including nearly 2,700 proposed layoffs, are on hold until the coronavirus crisis is over.

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