Employers in New York City must do their part to help limit overcrowding on the city's subways as the coronavirus pandemic progresses and work-from-home policies are eased, according to Sarah Feinberg, interim president of New York City Transit.
"We need them to help stagger the hours of their returning workers, to help stagger the days of their returning workers, to keep a lot of people home on telework and to be understanding," Feinberg said Tuesday on CNBC's "Closing Bell."
"I think most employers would say they'd rather have their employee be 20 minutes late because they waited and took a less crowded train than on time but squished into a train car like a sardine. That is not where we want to be," added Feinberg, whose NYCT oversees the city's subways as part of the larger Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
Riders will be required to wear face coverings, she said, and she noted 24-hour subway service has been suspended to disinfect subway cars. Feinberg said transit officials are leaning on public health experts for guidance, due to the inherent difficulties of riding public transportation while following social distancing recommendations.
"I keep getting the question, how are we going to maintain 6 feet of distance on the New York City subway system? The answer is that's not going to be possible," she said, adding that is "barely possible" with the current low levels of ridership due to the pandemic.
It's a problem also facing transit agencies across the U.S., bringing with it steep declines in fare revenues. Feinberg said she worries about the way in which transit ridership will recover in other cities, but believes it will eventually happen in New York City. She also noted essential workers in New York City, the epicenter of the U.S.'s Covid-19 outbreak, continue to depend on the subways during the crisis.
"It's just not an option for everyone to drive in New York," said Feinberg, former administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration. "So people are going to have to come back to the system because that's who we are. It's the lifeblood of the city for a reason. ... It will take a while but I do believe the ridership will come back."