The MTA tapped Jose LaSalle, a 29-year veteran of the transit authority who helped coordinate service during the reconstruction of the L train in 2019 and 2020, according to a press release sent out Friday. He’ll be tasked with reviewing how weekend subway service is decided and communicated to straphangers, the MTA said.
“I am excited and ready to ensure weekend service is the best it can be,” LaSalle said. Delivering efficient and on-time service and looking for ways to make improvements so that our customers experience a safe and reliable system are my top priorities.”
Each weekend, the MTA releases a dizzying catalog of subway service alerts. Deciphering them can feel like attempting to read a foreign language, with C trains running on the F line, N trains on the R line, local trains running express and vice versa, and many trains skipping various stops or not running between others.
A weekend commute often requires a leap of faith, a lot of spare time, and a willingness to go with the flow.
Despite these hurdles, weekend ridership is inching back toward pre-pandemic levels quicker than ridership on weekdays, according to MTA data. This past Saturday, 2.36 million people rode the subways, about 73% of pre-pandemic levels. On the busiest weekdays, only about 60% of riders have returned to the subways.
Danny Pearlstein, policy and communications director for the Riders Alliance, described a two-mile commute this past weekend taking more than 45 minutes, because the subway was suspended and he waited over 25 minutes for a bus to come in its place.
“Bad service is turning people off to transit and better service will bring people back in,” Pearlstein said.
While naming a ‘Weekend Service Czar’ is an indication the MTA concedes it has a problem with weekend service, it’s just a first step, Pearlstein said. What the state really has to do is fund more weekend service.
“Figuring out what to do with construction work and how to fit that in is going to be a long and delicate conversation,” he said. “Where the governor in particular can make an immediate improvement, though, relatively speaking, is by increasing the frequency of weekend service — investing more state resources and off-peak service so that when there are service diversions, there's very frequent service to pick up the slack on the surrounding subway lines and bus lines.”
Spokespeople for Gov. Kathy Hochul, who oversees the MTA, and the MTA didn’t return requests for further comment right away.