Deep cleaning of the New York City subway and bus system is part of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s coronavirus response. But it is costly and time consuming, and the public health benefits are not entirely clear.

1 minute read

August 26, 2020, 6:00 AM PDT

By Camille Fink


New York Subway

Serge Lambotte / Unsplash

"The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the nation’s largest public transit agency, began a rigorous cleaning process at the height of the pandemic as its workers were sickened by the virus and New Yorkers fled the system in record numbers," writes Danielle Muoio.

The cost for the cleanings is expected to reach $500 million a year. The process also involves shutting down the subway each night for four hours. Transit advocates say that money could be better spent, particularly since little evidence shows that cleaning surfaces helps prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

"[Danny] Pearlstein, who opposes the overnight subway shutdown, has said the state-run authority should focus more on increasing service — which would theoretically allow riders to spread out more easily since they could wait for less-crowded trains or buses," adds Muoio.

The MTA says that the cleaning regiment is part of a larger strategy to address the coronavirus and that clean vehicles and stations are helping to draw back riders. Health experts also say that much about the transmission of COVID-19 is unknown and such thorough cleaning could prove beneficial. 

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