Sandy Update: A slow and crowded Monday awaitsBy
For me, Sunday marked the seventh day in a row that I haven’t set foot in Manhattan. Since living outside of New York City for college, that’s a personal record borne out of necessity. I could work from home for the past week and, far from the waterfront, never lost power. I consider myself quite lucky as I see the city coming together to help those in the Rockaways, Coney Island and Red Hook who will have to rebuild their lives, homes and businesses.
As Monday dawns, my enforced isolation in Brooklyn comes to an end, and the same is true for many New Yorkers the city over. Subway service is operating amongst the borough again, and although service will be far from perfect, it’s enough to lead us all back to our offices. But just how bad should we expect that Monday morning commute to be? That’s the key question.
State officials are hedging their bets. On Sunday afternoon, nearly a full day before Monday’s rush hour commute, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and MTA Chairman Joe Lhota issued public pleas for patience. “Progress has been very good. As of [Sunday] morning, trains were running between Brooklyn and Manhattan through the two tunnels and two bridges,” Governor Cuomo said. “South Ferry, which at one time was a large fish tank, has now been pumped dry. This is not to say that service will be normal tomorrow. Service will not be normal tomorrow, and we need you to understand that before you enter the system.”
The MTA was even more strident. While 80 percent of the subway network is back in service, MTA officials warned that the system will carry less than 80 percent of its normal capacity. And with gas supplies running low and schools open again, the subways will be quite crowded come the morning. “We are in uncharted territory here in bringing the system back,” Lhota said. “It’s very different from what we had in Irene because of the amount of damage and the saltwater in our system. We will do everything we can to get everyone there. I just ask everyone to be understanding, and also try to think about flex time and try to leave a little bit earlier or a little bit later.”
Specifically, the MTA has found that “the system suffered more corrosion than was apparent on first inspection, and problems that appear when the system is re-energized are being addressed as necessary.” Low-capacity switches are being asked to carry more of a load than they were designed to, and trains may run less frequently than usual. Rush hour may be messy.
Still, as of Sunday evening, service offerings for the Monday rush hour were coming into view. Late in the day, the MTA resumed running Q trains from Ditmars Boulevard, local in Manhattan, over the Manhattan Bridge and via the BMT Brighton Line to Kings Highway. E trains resumed service from World Trade Center to Parson/Archer via 53rd St. a little less than an hour ago. For the morning, 1 trains, which are currently terminating at 14th St., are likely to be extended to Rector St. They can use the old South Ferry loop to turn around but will not be stopping at that station. With trains now operating over the Williamsburg and Manhattan Bridges and through three of the six East River tunnels between Brooklyn and Manhattan, straphangers can get to their destinations one way or another.
But there is still some bad news. The South Ferry station appears to be heavily damaged, and there is no timetable for service restoration there. Similarly, the R via Whitehall isn’t an option right now. The L train tunnel was flooded “wall to wall,” according to Lhota, and the G train has suffered a similar fate. There is no estimated time for service to resume.
In the Rockaways, the A train connection is down for the count as well. The North Channel Bridge sustained serious damage, and the tracks and infrastructure in Broad Channel were severely damaged too. The MTA is going to truck 20 subway cars to the Rockaways in order to run limited shuttles from Beach 116th to Mott Ave. where shuttle buses will carry customers to the Howard Beach station, but again, no timeline has been established for this service.
So that’s where we are. The system is slowly coming back, but Monday is going to be a big test as millions head back to work. Leave extra time for travel, and be prepared for a slow journey to Manhattan and beyond.