Delays in the subway service that some riders have experienced recently could continue in the coming weeks and months.

The MTA says that's due in part to fallout from a hiring freeze that was imposed during the pandemic. Sarah Feinberg, the interim president of New York City Transit, said during the agency’s monthly board meeting on Wednesday that the subways still have crew shortages even though the freeze is being lifted.

“This is not gonna be something that we dig out of quickly, but that we are doing everything that we can that we are hiring and training as quickly as we possibly can to bring people back on board, to bring new people on board and to address these shortages,” she said.

The agency has lost more than 2,600 jobs in the subway division over the last two years, according to THE CITY. Feinberg said it takes 3 to 8 months to train new subway conductors and operators, and not all of them pass, but more training classes are taking place as pandemic restrictions are lifted.

MTA officials also said they’re seeing a steady uptick in the number of passengers. Combined daily subway and bus ridership reached more than 3.7 million a few days last week, close to 50% of pre-pandemic levels. Last Friday, 2.57 million people rode the subways—a post-pandemic record, but still less than half of what ridership was before COVID-19.

A volunteer in a yellow MTA mask force t-shirt stands in a subway car and gives outa mask to a woman, who is masked, sitting on a seat

MTA Mask Force volunteers hand out masks on the subway on June 17, 2021

MTA Mask Force volunteers hand out masks on the subway on June 17, 2021
Marc A. Hermann / MTA

The agency is also lifting some pandemic restrictions. Masks are no longer required on outdoor train platforms or bus stations. But they still remain mandatory in all other parts of the transit system, and officials say compliance remains high.

“We continue to monitor mask usage in our system and observe,” said Patrick Warren, the chief safety officer at the MTA. “The mask usage rates remain above the 90 percent level.”