Archive for PANYNJ
Without much fanfare, the Port Authority has restored PATH train service to its pre-Sandy levels. Via a Tweet early Wednesday evening, the agency announced that weekend service to and from the World Trade Center and Exchange Place will commence this Friday. For Jersey City-bound travelers coming from points south in New York City, this announcement — unaccompanied by a press release — is a welcome one.
PATH’s service restoration comes nearly four months to do the day after we witnessed stunning video footage of water flooding through PATH’s system. Although the PA wasn’t nearly as transparent with its post-Sandy images or plans, we heard that water completely flooded the tunnel between Lower Manhattan and Exchange Place, and a subsequent escalator malfunction at Exchange Place was seemingly the result of such flooding. Four months and countless dollars later, PATH service — an oft-underlooked but key element of the region’s transit system — has been restored.
Yet, even with the good news, I am left wondering what now? The Port Authority hasn’t been too forthcoming with its plans, but now that service levels have been restored to pre-Sandy levels, the PA must placate concerns over future storms and future flooding. Will the agency invest in storm and flood mitigation efforts? Will the new $4 billion PATH hub in Lower Manhattan be protected from future storm surges? According to one report, Sandy cost PATH 18 months on that project, but subsequent denials cast doubt on that story. If those delays were due to hardening efforts, it would probably be a worthwhile one.
We cannot as a region afford to look this gift horse in the mouth. Outside of the Rockaways, South Ferry and New Jersey Transit’s inane treatment of its rolling stock, transit services were restored to pre-Sandy levels very quickly. But that doesn’t mean doing nothing is an adequate response today or for the future. Be it PATH, New Jersey Transit or the MTA, our transit agencies should be preparing for the next storm now and not three days before it’s due to hit.
The saga of Santiago Calatrava’s World Trade Center PATH hub is a familiar one to long-time readers. What once started out as a $2 billion project expected to take four years to build has stretched every onward and upward to become a $3.8 billion, six-year undertaking. It’s long been unclear exactly what is driving the costs and the timeline issues, but Hurricane Sandy, ostensibly, did not help.
In an interview in The Times today, Cheryl McKissack Daniel, president of McKissack & McKissack, spoke about the PATH hub. Her words were not optimistic:
Q. You’re also working on the World Trade Center transportation hub.
A. There’s another long one!
The World Trade Center started out being about 48 months and quickly grew to about six years. And now, after Sandy, that added another year and a half to the whole project. Everything was flooded — everything was new and flooded. And all of that had to be replaced because it’s all electrical work.
We are part of a large team with Turner and Tishman to provide construction management services and it’s really more on the consulting side for the Port Authority.
Vivian Marino, the Times interviewer here, was handed a gift horse and decided to turn it down. It’s a Very Big Deal that Sandy and the subsequent damage added another 18 months to this project, and logical follow-up concerns costs. The Port Authority has, so far, been mum on anything relating to this project and its projected spend.
Meanwhile, I’ve heard from a few sources that Sandy isn’t the only factor behind this delay. These sources claim that Santiago Calatrava’s influence (and meddling) have led to some redesigns and cost increases. Additionally, others have questioned Downtown Design Partnership’s ability to manage public perception and the behind-the-scenes timeline.
So what we’re left with here are more questions and concerns. It’s likely that this PATH terminal won’t wrap until after work on 1 World Trade Center is finished, and it’s guaranteed to cost $4 billion. To make matters worse, that $4 billion isn’t going toward any sort of increase in capacity or service levels. What a mess.
* * *
Update (4:00 p.m.): Via Twitter, the Port Authority issued a statement disputing Daniel’s statement: “Info provided by Ms. Daniel is wrong. The anticipated completion date of the WTC Transportation Hub remains 2015.” The fact, remains, however, that the project is set to open after 1 World Trade Center, cost nearly $4 billion and take eight years to construct. Is it worth it?
PATH will run a full weekday schedule tomorrow for the first time since Hurricane Sandy, Governors Chris Christie and Andrew Cuomo announced today. Beginning at 6 a.m. Wednesday morning, trains will once again run from Hoboken to the World Trade Center, offering up that elusive one-seat ride that had been knocked out due to sever damage from flooding.
“Restoring full PATH service to the region is possible because of the hard work of the men and women at PATH who labored 24/7 to bring this critical transit link back to life after the most devastating storm our region has ever suffered,” Gov. Christie said in a statement. “PATH riders’ patience, understanding and flexibility under such difficult circumstances are great examples of how the people of this region respond in the face of tragedy, and today is another major step toward returning our daily lives and routines to normal.”
With this announcement, PATH’s weekday service is fully restored with trains running from Newark and Hoboken to the World Trade Center and from Journal Square and Hoboken to 33rd St. on pre-Sandy timetables. Overnight weekday service will run from Newark to 33rd St. via Hoboken and from Newark to the WTC station. For now, though, and throughout February, Exchange Place and World Trade Center will be closed during the weekend as crews continue to make necessary repairs. The Port Authority expects to restore all PATH service to pre-Sandy levels sometime in March.
Weekday overnight PATH service between Newark and the World Trade Center stop will resume operations this evening, Port Authority announced today. With this resumption of overnight service, PATH’s weekday overnight service offerings have returned to pre-Sandy levels, three months after the storm swept through the region. Exchange Place and the WTC station will be closed throughout February from 10 p.m. Fridays through 5 a.m. Mondays as crews work to restore weekday service between Hoboken and the WTC and full weekend service.
Meanwhile, last week, Ted Mann profiled the challenges facing PATH in an excellent article in The World Street Journal. PATH has leaned heavily on manual operations and jury-rigged signal systems as well as assistance from New Jersey Transit and the MTA to restore its infrastructure. As Mann notes, a large portion of the PATH system was within the Sandy flood zone. “If I had parts of system that were not affected, yeah, it’d be easier to bring those back, but virtually all of my system was damaged,” Acting PATH Director Stephen Kingsberry said.
While reading Mann’s article and watching PATH and the MTA approach their respective rebuilding efforts, I’ve often wondered if it makes sense to have two distinct agencies responsible to entirely different oversight bodies. While PATH spans two states, it is an integral part of the New York Metropolitan area, and hundreds of thousands of New Jerseyians and New Yorkers rely on PATH to travel across the Hudson. As the region recovers from the storm, perhaps a second look at how PATH operates in relation to the rest of the region’s transit network should become a louder part of the discussion.
Nearly two and a half months after Superstorm Sandy swamped the PATH system, the Port Authority will be restoring some 24-hour service to its beleaguered interstate subway system, Governors Chris Christie and Andrew Cuomo announced today. Starting tonight, PATH service between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., seven days a week, will commence between Newark and 33rd St. via Hoboken with stops including Harrison, Journal Square, Grove Street, and Newport in New Jersey and Christopher Street, 9th Street, 14th Street, and 23rd Street in Manhattan. This route will also run non-stop over the weekends starting at 10 p.m. on Friday and running through 5 a.m. on Monday.
According to the press release, restoring PATH service “has been a top priority for the Port Authority.” Wise minds could debate what exactly that means for the same amount of time it took the PA to restore service. Still, I won’t look a gift horse in the mouth that closely. For lots of commuters and New Jersey residents, even this limited 24-hour service is a welcome relief to the transit desert that had enveloped the area.
Meanwhile, the World Trade Center stop will not be a part of this service restoration. The infrastructure between the WTC and Exchange Place was seriously damaged during the flooding, and as this week’s escalator malfunction showed, there’s still a long way to go before everything is normal again. Still, this is a big step. Now who wants to go to Barcade in Jersey City?
If the G train, is New York City’s forgotten stepchild of a subway, what does that make the PATH trains? Serving as a vital link between rapidly-growing waterfront communities in New Jersey and both Lower Manhattan and Midtown, PATH saw a record 76.6 million riders in 2011. But since Superstorm Sandy swamped the system, PATH riders have been left in the dark by a two-state agency seemingly responsible to no one.
Earlier this week, the Port Authority finally restored a vital PATH link between Hoboken and Manhattan, at least partially. With service out to the flooded terminal, the city had been suffering tremendously with some residents even contemplating moving. The situation is still not ideal as service is operating only between 33rd St. and Hoboken and only between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m. The missing late-night and overnight service is a major concern.
In announcing the restoration of service, Gov. Cuomo and Gov. Christie issued a joint press released that included no statement from either Governor. Even their press secretaries couldn’t be bothered to put words into their mouths for the occasion — which tells you how little they seem to understand the value PATH has to the city. The press release trumped the return of train service for “more than 29,000 commuters” but neglected to mention when 24-hour service would return. The release also noted that direct service from Hoboken to the World Trade Center terminal “remains several weeks.”
Meanwhile, PATH’s reluctance to provide any further information has annoyed customers for nearly two months. Yes, Sandy created dire circumstances, but as the MTA’s willingness to share information has shown, customers appreciate updates. Furthermore, PATH’s own insularity can lead to absurd situations as well.
Take, for instance, a message on Twitter issued by @PATHTweets yesterday. In an effort to assist customers navigate the system, PATH issued this statement on traveling from Hoboken to the World Trade Center:
— PATH Rail System (@PATHTweet) December 19, 2012
Yes, you’re reading that correctly. This is the official PATH account telling its followers to go into Manhattan to Christopher St., 1.5 miles away from the World Trade Center, travel back to New Jersey and then go back into Manhattan for this trip. Later, PATH clarified that the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail was still cross-honoring fares, but what of the subway? Why not take PATH to 9th St. and switch to a downtown A, C or E train?
The problem of course is one of artificial agency turf wars. PATH later defended their instructions on the grounds of providing single-fare information, and therein lies the problem. Even though riders can use pay-per-ride MetroCards to swipe into the PATH system, there are no free transfers between the systems, and planners and politicians often act as though the two agencies are utterly foreign.
In an ideal world, the PATH system would be integrated into the New York City subway with easier transfers and fare payment technologies. Other than state boundaries and controlling agencies, there’s no real reason, from a regional transportation perspective, to separate the various entities and their rail systems. But politicians are stubborn, and change is slow-moving. We’re left instead with a PATH system lacking in common sense and transparency when it could be so much more.
The video atop this post is a 35-second glimpse at the power of floodwaters. During Hurricane Sandy, the storm surge, as we know, knocked out many of the MTA’s services, but New York City’s Transit Authority got most of the subway up and running within a week. In New Jersey, PATH suffered more severe damage and has been slower to come back, but starting Monday morning, the World Trade Center link will reopen.
Over the weekend, Governors Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie announced the resumption of limited service between the World Trade Center stop, Exchange Place in Jersey City and points west. The WTC PATH line will run from Monday through Friday from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. with stops at Newark, Harrison, Journal Square, Grove Street and Exchange Place and in New York at the World Trade Center. Hoboken, though, remains shuttered due to extensive damage.
The Port Authority, a two-state entity, has not been nearly as forthcoming with information about the damage its PATH system sustained or its efforts at repair as the MTA has been. We’ve seen limited images of the tunnels and little word of ongoing work. For thousands of riders who rely on the connection between Exchange Place and the World Trade Center, the restoration of even limited service is welcome news, and that workers put in the hours non-stop over the Thanksgiving weekend should not be overlooked.
The release from the two governors’ offices contained more information on the efforts to restore service. Right now, there is no weekend service so workers can continue to make “the remaining necessary repair work.” Additionally, when the WTC line reenters service on Monday morning, the 33rd St. line will resume trips between Journal Square and 33rd St. with all station stops in Manhattan. On weekends, the 33rd St. line will stop at Harrison and Newark as well.
As to Hoboken, the release sums it up: “Service at the Hoboken station, which saw unprecedented and widespread flooding remains suspended due to the fact vital switching equipment was destroyed and cannot be salvaged. Crews are working 24/7 to replace the signal equipment and restore communications in the tunnels, a process that is expected to take several weeks.”
For now, ferry service and shuttle buses will continue to offer additional transit options for riders from Hoboken who are left without their PATH service, and as repairs continue, it’s imperative to begin discussing ways to avoid these problems in the future. Whether the answer lies in tunnel plugs, flood doors or an as-yet-undiscussed solution, the region needs to begin planning for the next storm now. It’s only a matter of time before we get another.
Meanwhile, we should also remember not to take transit and its workers for granted. The storm hit four weeks ago, and only a few isolated trouble spots remain. Overall, the MTA and, to a similar extent, Port Authority have put in some diligent work restoring the system. We now know what these agencies can accomplish when faced with a crisis. Can they transport those experiences to day-to-day operations and long-term capital construction projects?
Lost amidst the clean-up efforts after Sandy was a bit of good news for Upper Manhattan. As The Daily News reported last week, the planned $180 million revamp of the Port Authority’s bus terminal at the George Washington Bridge is set to start this month. The renovation is set to overhaul the building’s ugly facade and bring approximately 100,000 square feet of retail space to the underused terminal.
The former tenants of the space moved out over a year ago, and work on this project was set to launch last January. It was, however, delayed due to issues with funding and the various developers chosen for the project. Now, with a start date nearing, community leaders are pleased the project is moving forward. “We don’t see this just as getting the eyesore out of the community,” Maria Lizardo, an official with the Northern Manhattan Development Corp., said to The News. “We must make sure that it’s a hub for local employment.”
Although trains between Newark and the World Trade Center are still out of service, PATH trains will run from Midtown to Journal Square starting tomorrow morning at 5 a.m., the Port Authority announced this afternoon. PATH will run only a limited service with station stops at 33rd, 23rd and 14th Sts. in Manhattan and Newport, Grove St. and Journal Square in New Jersey, and trains will operate only from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. Stations at 9th St. and Christopher St. in the West Village will not open due to concerns over capacity crowds.
For the first time in a few days, the Port Authority also revealed some details on the extent of damage sustained by the system. Hoboken Station suffered extensive damage to the signaling and train control equipment while floodwaters damaged substation equipment at both Newark and Journal Square. PATH engineers are working to restore additional service, but there is no timeline for such work.
Meanwhile, the WTC-Newark line seemed to bear the brunt of the floods as well. In a statement, PATH explained, “Exchange Place and World Trade Center stations both experienced an unprecedented amount of flooding, damaging multiple types of equipment, including those for signaling and train control. PATH engineers are repairing or replacing this equipment as quickly as safely possible. Hurricane Sandy caused more flooding in the tunnels than the terrorist attacks of 9/11.” It may still be a while yet for Exchange Place and Hoboken service to return to normal.
PATH trains may be out for as much as 7-10 days, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced at a press conference this morning. Noting that the system sustained “serious damage,” Christie explained that with salt water in the system, crews will have to drain, inspect and repair the PATH system.
Additionally, Christie said, there is “major damage on each and every one of New Jersey’s rail lines” and “large section of track were washed out.”The New Jersey governor anticipates that New Jersey Transit trains will be offline for a few days as well as the system sustained a lot of damage but thinks those trains may be back sooner than PATH. As always, I’ll update as news develops.
* * *
Update (3:02 p.m.): As more news has emerged from New Jersey, the situation for New Jersey Transit sounds dire. As the agency tweeted earlier today, “Early inspections this morning reveal that Sandy has devastated NJTransit’s operation & infrastructure.” Service will not returning any time soon.
Kate Hinds from Transportation Nation had more from NJ Transit officials. An agency spokesperson said the network had been “quite damaged, if not crippled.” “This is unprecedented damage,” Nancy Snyder said. Hoboken, Secaucus and Newark Penn Station were still underwater, and New Jersey Coast Line bridges had sustained serious damage as well. There is currently no timeline for the resumption of service.