When the Metropolitan Transportation Authority began shutting down subways overnight to effect a massive, 24-hour car disinfecting effort, the chosen alternatives for overnight commuters included increased bus service along existing lines, and in some cases extending service on lines that traditionally shut down overnight.
When there were some glitches the first night, acting New York City Transit President Sarah Feinberg admitted it was a work in progress.
But a random check conducted by the Chronicle last Thursday night into Friday morning showed things were running smoothly by night three along the eastern end of the MTA’s Queens Boulevard line.
While the subway shutdown officially takes place between 1 and 5 a.m., preparations were already underway by midnight on the street and down in the Forest Hills-71st Avenue station, which serves the E, F, M and R trains.
The NYPD was a conspicuous presence on the station’s mezzanine level and, along with MTA police, near the four station entrances.
So too were MTA personnel. One homeless man was sleeping on a staircase landing next to a cart with his belongings. On the westbound service road a bus was parked ready to offer transportation to homeless riders from trains pulling in.
Essential workers who would require more than one transfer or who would require 90 minutes or more to reach their destination by bus have the option of scheduling free car service at the MTA’s expense.
Upon closure of the station at 1 a.m., the Q60 bus became the other option.
Riders arriving on M and R trains were at the end of the line anyway. Those who would normally transfer to the E or F train to continue toward Jamaica would have to transfer to the M60 to continue, as those who would normally take the M or R toward Manhattan, and those who would take the E or F in either direction.
An unscientific count found the Q60 arriving at 15- to 20-minute intervals in both directions between midnight and 1:15 a.m. on Friday morning, not counting the time spent down in the station.
All entrances are equipped with a sign attached to chains that were drawn across the tops of the staircases beginning at 1 a.m.
The next Jamaica-bound Q60 arrived at 1:11 a.m. Even with seven riders joining those already on board, there was ample room for social distancing.
Those normally taking the E train into Jamaica could continue on the Q60 to its terminus at 157th Street and 109th Avenue. Those normally taking the F could get off at Hillside Avenue, where they could transfer to the Q43, which came at regular intervals toward stations at Sutphin and Parsons boulevards and 168th and 179th streets.
All the stations along Hillside had chains drawn across them, which a young man with a bicycle and backpack was trying to negotiate in order to leave the Parsons Boulevard station.
An FDNY ambulance with lights flashing was parked at the southwest corner of Hillside and Sutphin, though it could not be determined if it was for someone in the station.