Worker absences at the height of New York City’s coronavirus crisis forced the MTA to cancel 41 percent of subway trains in one day, The Post has learned.
Internal data shows that between March 26 and April 19, nearly a quarter of all scheduled trains never ran — leaving many riders waiting on platforms and forced into dangerously-crowded subway cars.
“If you missed one run, it could mean up to 30 minutes more waiting for riders. Getting above 40 minutes was not unheard of,” one transit source familiar with the MTA’s scheduling told The Post.
More than 8,700 transit employees have missed work because of the virus, the MTA says.
The flood of callouts began in earnest on Monday, March 16, the same day the MTA instituted social distancing rules for its employees.
That day, 1.3 percent of 8,268 scheduled trains did not run because the conductor or operator did not show up.
The number of trains canceled due to “abandonment” by the conductor or motorman had increased seven-fold a week later, spurring the MTA to announce it was reducing service on March 24.
In reality, the agency technically kept operating on a normal weekday schedule until April 8, when it officially adopted an “essential service” schedule, according to data obtained by The Post.
“We had a hard time getting to essential service for quite a bit of time,” the source said. “Because staffing was so low, ‘essential service’ was more of a framework than a reality.”
In the meantime, huge numbers of workers called out sick, with many testing positive for COVID-19, and others raising alarms about the lack of protective equipment they were offered.
The rate of canceled trains soared to a peak of 41 percent on Saturday, April 4. The cancellations forced many straphangers into dangerously packed subway trains, even as ridership plummeted.
In the first two weeks of April, an average of 26 percent of scheduled trains were canceled per day due to missing workers, data shows.
The rate began to decrease after that, and has been below 1 percent since April 28.
The MTA says 123 employees have died from coronavirus, all but three of from its city bus and subway divisions.
Asked for comment, an MTA rep said initial service rollbacks were made “manually, in real-time for customers,” and “implemented gradually as they became available between April 3 and April 14.”
The spokesperson said the high rate of cancellations did “not necessarily” cause subway crowding, some of which was caused by “changes in travel patterns that hadn’t been anticipated.”
MTA Chairman Pat Foye acknowledged COVID-19’s detrimental impact on service at Wednesday’s agency board meeting.
“Our employees have been hit hard by the virus, but we’re pleased to say that it appears we’re turning a corner,” said Foye, who was himself infected by the bug.
“I’m glad to say that cancellations are now down to less than half a percent.”
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