Not long ago, this never would have happened
Slowly, slowly, U.S. society in general is accepting that if it is in our power to save a life, we should do so, even if it's not a human life. That doesn't necessarily mean society gives a cat's life equal weight as a human life. It does mean, that a feline life may be worth more than getting people to work, or home, on time.
Not so long ago, no one ever would have suggested stopping subway service for a couple of street kittens.