Memorial Day weekend is traditionally the start of the summer travel season, but for New Yorkers who don’t want to hop in a car to get out of town (and why would you?), local transportation on the subway can be tricky.
While the MTA apologizes in advance for the large number of lines and stations out of service this weekend, the agency says it must be so. This is because the holiday weekend is the best time to do lane and signal work. The MTA even released a video explaining why three-day weekends, which typically carry fewer passengers, are better than a normal weekend.
Overall, lines 4, 5, A, C, E, F, J, M, and R will be impacted over Memorial Day weekend.
Glenn Lunden, the agency’s deputy rail planning chief, says the MTA can do 44% more track work on holiday weekends than on a regular two-day weekend.
“It can also help us complete a project faster by reducing the number of times we have to set up and tear down a job site,” Lunden said.
Track and signal work typically requires the MTA to move trains out of the area, disable third rail, and bring work tools and workers to the site under all circumstances. It often takes workers as much time to prepare the site as it does to do the actual work.
Most of the work done over Memorial Day weekend involves the maintenance and replacement of tracks and signals. Line F is in the process of getting modern digital signals, and the project is expected to continue for the rest of the year.
This comes as the MTA has struggled to increase weekday subway ridership to pre-pandemic levels, while weekend ridership is much closer to pre-COVID levels. The agency recently celebrated hitting a single-day ridership peak of 3.6 million subway riders on May 18, but it also admits ridership trends have “stabilized” at this stage. And without an influx of tourists or more people returning to the office, it appears to be stuck at current levels of traffic.
At the MTA’s board meeting this week, Chairman Janno Lieber even acknowledged this change in usage patterns, but said the agency was not yet ready to adjust the levels of service to match the changes of the pandemic era.
“We’re definitely looking at how the subway model emerges,” Lieber said. “What we are looking at is maybe we can provide additional capacity at certain times of the day or week that require more service, and no secret, we are particularly focused on nights and weekdays. -ends.”