MTA Acting Chairman and CEO Janno Lieber appeared live on 1010 WINS with Budd Mishkin to discuss COVID booster and testing locations available at MTA subway stations.
A transcript of the interview appears below.
Budd Mishkin: I’m joined on the WINS Newsline by Janno Lieber, the Acting Chair and CEO of the MTA. Thank you for joining us today, Budd Mishkin here at 1010 WINS. What can you tell us about the MTA and their involvement in terms of booster shots and COVID testing in New York City?
Janno Lieber: Well, the MTA has been providing vaccinations to the public for quite some time, we've done almost 40,000 vaccinations for members of the public, and, and now we're adding, we're making boosters available as well at key locations like Times Square and Grand Central, we've been doing it and in Queens as well. But now we're adding, under Governor Hochul’s leadership, we're adding testing as a feature of what we're doing in the MTA system. We're starting testing locations at, again, Times Square, Grand Central, through, you know, it will be available every day, seven days a week, not on New Year's Day, but otherwise seven days a week, and we're going to announce new locations next week. So, we're doing our part. Our workforce has been getting vaccinations and folks who need it are being tested every week, so we want the public to get the same.
Mishkin: In terms of all the locations, obviously we're not going to name every single one here on the radio, but is there a place that people can go to, who’ve had some frustration in terms of getting shots and getting tested? Is there a website where people can go to get the information?
Lieber: It’s new.mta.info. New like “brand new”, dot mta.info, and there's some, there's dropdowns for the testing locations and the vaccination locations.
Mishkin: And how long is this plan or the expansion of what you've been doing, how long has this been percolating?
Lieber: Well, obviously, we're moving quickly on the testing. Testing has become an issue since the recent surge, but we've been doing vaccinations for quite some time. As I said, over 40,000 New Yorkers have gotten their shots through the MTA and now they're getting boosters as well. We're, you know, we are the place where everybody comes, you know, New Yorkers and visitors come, and it's super convenient so we want to be there in this time of need. Our workers have been on the job every day since the beginning of COVID, and they're still going to be there. It's the best way to travel, but we also want to support New York in this, you know, this new challenging phase.
Mishkin: And understanding that with this entire COVID situation, there's a level of uncertainty as far as what might be in the future. But are there plans for other ways, or additional help, that the MTA is going to, to provide in terms of the fight against COVID?
Lieber: Listen, what we have to contribute is incredibly safe and convenient transportation, that's our key function. It’s essential to the city's ability to function and get through COVID as we have seen throughout this pandemic. You know our workforce has been heroic, it is key to the city's recovery, and now as we're going through this new phase, we're going to support New York with testing and boosters. But you know we're going to be there, and you know we're essential, and we're going to provide service every day. We're not shutting down, we're not drawing back. We're stepping up and we're going to serve the city.
Mishkin: One last thing Mr. Lieber quickly. The subways are one of the elements of the city that are always looked on, even pre-pandemic, as how's the city doing, and we look at the how the subways are doing and that has continued through the pandemic. Obviously, it's a moving, a moving target, but what do you see as far as the latest as far as the subways are concerned a year and a half into the pandemic?
Lieber: Well, you know, we're exceeding projections. Our subway ridership was up at, you know, pushing 60% of pre-COVID numbers. Buses were even more, Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North a little behind the subways, but people are coming back to transit. The key is in discretionary travel, weekends, off-hours, people are, about 70-plus percent of pre-COVID ridership, very solid. People know transit is safe because we're masking, there's no evidence that it is a vector of spread, and they're comfortable coming back and they know it's key to have everybody be able to get around and resume normal life. So, we are optimistic, and we're going to support the city right through this entire episode.
Mishkin: Janno Lieber as the Acting Chair and CEO of the MTA. Mr. Lieber, we really appreciate your time today.
Lieber: Great to be with you Budd.