The new coronavirus brought the unthinkable: a lonely New York City commute.
Dramatic photos shot by a Post photographer show a nearly empty Times Square subway station Tuesday afternoon as straphangers apparently heeded sometimes contradictory advice from officials to avoid crowded trains while insisting it is still safe to ride the rails.
The striking images captured unlikely scenes of nearly empty platforms and mezzanines practically devoid of life at 2 p.m.
“Data suggests a limited decline in ridership for now,” said MTA spokesman Tim Minton in a statement.
New Yorkers took to Twitter to comment on the light crowds on typically packed subway trains.
“Let’s just [say] it’s a little less crowded than… sometime after 3:00 a.m,” tweeted Adrian Benepe, the Parks Commissioner under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, just before 7 p.m.
The dramatic scenes followed days of guidance from Mayor Bill de Blasio and state transit officials to avoid the subway around rush hour.
“If you’re going to have to use subways, use it on off-hours. To the maximum extent possible avoid the rush hour,” de Blasio again said during a coronavirus briefing Tuesday.
“We have a real concern about the super packed subway cars, particularly at rush hour,” he went on. “If you don’t need to be on one of those please avoid em, even if that means letting a few trains pass until one’s less crowded.”
MTA Chairman Pat Foye offered similar advice Monday.
“If you can get around without riding the subway, do it,” said the Gov. Cuomo-appointed head of the sprawling transit agency.
He warned the likely drop in ridership would deliver a significant blow to the authority’s budget.
The worsening outbreak of the virus — designated COVID-19 — in the metropolitan area has also led to a drop in the city’s crippling traffic volumes.
Above ground, rush-hour traffic volumes in the city have dropped by as much as 20 percent over the past three business days, according to TomTom’s traffic data.
On Monday, traffic congestion was down 14 percent at 5 p.m. and 20 percent at 6 p.m., when compared to the same time last year, TomTom found. Monday morning experienced a seven percent drop at the peak 8 a.m. rush, too.
Overall traffic volumes were down six percent across morning and evening rushes on Thursday, Friday and Monday, when comparing 2020 data to last year between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Gijs Peters, an analyst for the TomTom, told CRAIN’s that the drop was “significant” but couldn’t definitely trace the drop to the virus.
“I can’t tell you why,” he went on. “It is speculation on our side because we can only look at congestion.”
The outbreak has even the SUV-riding mayor advising New Yorkers to bike to work. But would the mayor himself take to two wheels?
“I have some work to do on my bike but I think that would be a great idea,” de Blasio said Tuesday. “Let me see if I can do that sometime soon.”