The New York subway system has a new app that lets key employees get around nightly subway closings.
Earlier this month the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the country’s largest subway system and the only one in the US that operates 24 hours a day, announced that it would be decommissioned between 1 AM and 5 AM disinfecting the trains and addressing the growing population of homeless people in the system. At that time, New York governor Andrew Cuomo said the move was necessary to protect transit workers who were particularly hard hit by COVID-19. During the closure, the state will offer alternative trips for key employees who need to get to and from work during these hours.
“Basic workers are at the forefront of the fight against this pandemic and we want to make it as easy as possible for them to get to work,” said Patrick J. Foye, chairman and CEO of MTA, in a statement. “The need for unprecedented cleaning meant that we had to stop subway service four hours a night, but we still want the transportation to be seamless for the heroic workers in New York. We hope this app will help. “
The app is called Essential Connector and was developed by the Swiss-based software company Axon Vibe. The company also participates in the MTA’s “Transit Tech Lab” accelerator program, which uses cell phone data, sensors and cameras to find solutions for crowded subway platforms and ineffective bus lanes. According to the MTA, Axon Vibe was chosen for its ability to create a new app from scratch “within a few days”.
Axon Vibe “quickly turned to create an intuitive app that combines public and private transportation to help key NYC employees with this unprecedented nighttime subway shutdown,” said Boris Matz, managing director of the company for North America The edge.
The app, which is now available in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store, helps key employees find a bus using the MTA’s expanded evening schedule. If this is not convenient, book a free taxi ride. The home screen shows a map of the city with bus stops. Tapping on a station allows the user to see live bus and train departures, including the last train arrivals of the night and available buses nearby. Over time, the map becomes “personalized” and highlights the stops the user visits most often, making travel planning faster and easier.
Basic staff are also entitled to a free taxi ride per night if a bus ride takes longer than an hour and 20 minutes, more than two transfers are required, or a walk of more than 30 minutes to a bus stop is required.
The taxi rides are organized by three companies: Curb, a Verifone Systems hail app that operates the entertainment and payment systems in about half of New York City’s yellow and green taxis; Limosys, an app that can be used to book wheelchair accessible vehicles; and Corporate Transportation Group, which also books paratransit trips. All three already have contracts with the MTA.
Public transportation in New York City was devastated by COVID-19. The MTA has reported a 90 percent drop in driver numbers since the pandemic began. The agency has restricted some train and bus connections to fix the drop in drivers, but many key employees still count on transit to get to and from work every day. Over 80 MTA employees have died from the virus.