If the MTA moves forward with its plan to implement a series of service cuts intended to balance a budget shortfall of $400 million, straphangers are going to have a harder time finding seats. Current MTA guidelines stipulate that seats should be available for all customers during off-peak times. But the agency wants to revise those regulations and run trains less frequently on many lines, meaning many subway cars will be expected to carry between 10 and 18 standing passengers during off-peak hours including midday, evenings, and weekends.

"It's a double whammy,"
Gene Russianoff, staff lawyer for the Straphangers Campaign, told Gothamist. "You'll have to wait longer for a train, and you'll have a reduced chance of finding a seat." According to MTA documents [PDF], instead of attempting to accommodate 100 percent of off-peak passengers with seats, the agency will aim to fill the cars with 125 percent of the "seated load." Commuters can expect more crowded trains during all off-peak hours on the 7 and L lines, midday and evenings on the 1 and A lines, and Sundays on the J and M lines. And the number of seat-less commuters is actually expected to exceed the proposed maximum of 18 standing passengers on F and Q lines at certain times on Saturdays, and on 1 and N trains at certain times on Saturdays and Sundays.

Although the planned changes aren't expected to bring a full rush hour-style commuting experience to off-peak hours—agency guidelines allow 66 to 105 standing passengers per car during rush hours—they will make commuting more grueling for straphangers who want seats, said Russianoff. "When you are riding outside of rush hours, the whole point is supposed to be that you are not dealing with the intense crowding experience."