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New Yorkers who work the late shift could get an unexpected boost to their commutes by June — through partnerships between the MTA and ride-hailing companies, THE CITY has learned.
The MTA recently began seeking proposals to more easily connect riders outside of Manhattan to the subway during overnight hours — potentially cutting commuting costs and time.
The plan could partner the transit agency with the ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft that, in recent years, have been blamed for cutting into subway ridership and revenue.
“They are trying something, I’m glad that they are,” said Grant Bradley, a registered nurse from The Bronx, who works two different late shifts at the NYU Langone Medical Center in Manhattan. “Even if it doesn’t work out, they are at least thinking of us.”
The specifics of the “Late Shift” pilot program — including how much commuters would pay per ride — are yet to be determined. But the test would aim to ease commuting burdens on folks from The Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island.
“With increasing numbers of people moving away from the traditional 9-5 Manhattan-centric work schedule, we want the MTA to best support New York’s continually diversifying economy,” Mark Dowd, the MTA’s chief innovation officer, said in a statement.
Transit Deserts Eyed
Citing Census figures that show a growing number of residents outside of Manhattan commuting between midnight and 5 a.m., the MTA will explore starting the pilot program in areas that are at least a half-mile from the nearest “transit station” or have limited or no overnight bus service.
“Expanding transportation access during these hours will provide an opportunity to improve transit equity and support late-shift workers,” notes the request for proposals the MTA issued Jan. 24.
The document doesn’t specify where the Late Shift pilot program would be launched or how many riders it would serve. Those details will become clearer during a two-phase process, with the goal of starting a “scalable and sustainable” as well as “affordable” pilot program by June, the document says.
The MTA projects it will pick a partner by the end of March, when the agency will have determined the location, timeframe and economic terms of Late Shift.
The service is touted as vital for workers in the health care, food service and hospitality fields, which the MTA says are expected to grow faster than overall employment within the next five to 10 years.
Joe Volpe, a registered nurse, told THE CITY that when he worked late-night hours, he often drove to NYU Langone from Staten Island rather than contend with a lengthy commute via mass transit.
“I would have to be up by 5 in the morning for work, I wouldn’t even be getting a full night’s sleep,” he said. “So I think as far as shuttling people to mass transit points, is an excellent idea.”
“So many of these folks have it much worse than the average New Yorker when it comes to the commute,” said Jonathan Bowles, executive director of the Center for an Urban Future. “They’re taking two buses in many cases and sometimes these connections take upwards of half an hour late at night.”
In 2018, the think tank published “An Unhealthy Commute,” a report that found health care workers have the worst commutes in New York — with a median of 51.2 minutes — and even more challenges tacked on during the overnight hours.
“There are some really hellish commutes out there,” Bowles said.