Home Service Advisories Irene in Photos: No timeline for transit service

Irene in Photos: No timeline for transit service

by Benjamin Kabak

Floodwaters covered the tracks of Metro-North Railroad's Hudson Line at Ossining. Photo by Metropolitan Transportation Authority

The rains have passed, the winds have died down and now we wait. We wait for subway and bus service to be restored. We wait for our ability to get anywhere to return. We wait for a return to normalcy.

As Irene, hurricane or tropical storm, sweeps out of the New York area, the MTA is assessing the damage, and already signs of a normal commute anytime soon are not promising. Rail yards and trackbeds within New York City are flooded, and the upper reaches of the Metro-North system seem to be in worse shape. Various at-grade subway routes in Brooklyn and the Coney Island yards are under water, and the Lenox Subway Yard is pumping out flood waters as well. For the commuter rail, the Ossining station remains flooded, and a mudslide at Spuyten Duyvil has blocked the Hudson Line. MTA sources say that service will be very limited tomorrow if there is any at all in the morning hours.

Floodwaters covered the subway train storage yard at Coney Island. Photo by Metropolitan Transportation Authority, David Knights

MTA officials have told The Times that they expect a “lengthy and protracted recovery.” Per Michael Grynbaum, “It remains unlikely that the city’s mass transit system will be back to full-speed for the Monday morning commute, officials said, although they said the damage might have been far worse if the agency had not taken the highly unusual action of preemptively shutting down the entire system.”

The tracks on the N line were flooded at 86th Street. Photo by Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Many will question the MTA’s reactions over the next few days as we await the return to normalcy, but the authority says it did what it had to do to prevent more damage to the system and protect its employees. “The actions that we took were the right ones,” Jeremy Soffin, agency spokesman, said. “The decision on the MTA was the right one,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

The authority elaborated on the process in front of them. With a 5000-square-mile territory that bore the brunt of the winds and rain, MTA personnel have to inspect signals, tracks, stations, under-river tunnels, catenary wires and “other” infrastructure. This will take a while. “Restoration of service will be implemented as quickly as possible without compromising the safety of our customers, employees or equipment,” the authority said in a statement, “but it is expected to be a lengthy process that will begin with damage assessment and could include significant repairs.”

After the jump, more scenes from the storm. I’ll continue to update the site with news throughout the weekend.

Floodwaters covering the rails at the Lenox Subway Yard at 148th Street. Photo by Metropolitan Transportation Authority, George Von Dolln

A mudslide covers the tracks on the Metro-North Hudson Line at Spuyten Duyvil. Photo by Metropolitan Transportation Authority

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Marc Shepherd August 28, 2011 - 12:44 pm

It is hard to fault the MTA here, although I am sure someone will come up with a way. They gave plenty of notice of the shutdown and did everything they could to protect their equipment and facilities.

Dan August 28, 2011 - 12:47 pm

They did the right thing, I just wish there would be an official word (essentially Bloomberg) that there’s no morning rush service so I can call work and see what the plan is. Am I going to have to hope to hail a cab in Astoria or take a day off?

Marc Shepherd August 28, 2011 - 1:02 pm

Plenty of news outlets are reporting that Monday morning service, if any, will probably be minimal. The shutdown was easy to predict, because that was planned. Damage is unpredictable: the only way to know is by looking, and that takes time.

I would say that Astoria service tomorrow morning is unlikely, because the Astoria trains originate at Coney Island Yard, which is flooded at the moment.

Benjamin Kabak August 28, 2011 - 1:06 pm

The trains aren’t in the Coney Island yard so that should help restore service quicker than had the trains been flooded.

Marc Shepherd August 28, 2011 - 1:12 pm

Yes, exactly: It could have been a lot worse. But in lieu of the trains being in the yard, they are stored on revenue tracks that are above the flood zone. I don’t think service could plausibly operate before they have access to the yard.

Alex C August 28, 2011 - 4:12 pm

The rain right now probably isn’t helping drain Coney Island Yard and the Sea Beach line.

Tsuyoshi August 28, 2011 - 12:48 pm

So, no trains anytime soon, but what about buses?

Brewster North August 28, 2011 - 1:56 pm

Similar deal, I should think, especially in the outer boroughs – they’ll have to check the routes for debris on the roads, they’ll have to reposition buses from where they’ve been moved to higher ground, and of course a priority will be to get all the people in Zone A back to their houses.

Anon August 28, 2011 - 12:51 pm

“You are viewing a temporary website for New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority. This site is activated only in the event of an emergency or during severe, inclement weather conditions. Access to the MTA’s regular site may or may not be available from this page depending on activity and traffic to the site.”

seems like a delayed reaction if you ask me.
In any case MTA’s website remained up while NYC’s website crashed.

Mark August 28, 2011 - 12:59 pm

It seems silly, though, that we have not restored bus service. Some information indicates that several bus depots flooded – if we had kept the buses on the street, they would have been fine.

Marc Shepherd August 28, 2011 - 1:28 pm

Nothing silly about it. Buses need drivers, and many of the MTA’s drivers use mass transit themselves to get to work. Having taken the buses out of service, you can’t just flip a switch and start running them. Staff need to be notified, and they need to get there somehow.

In places where the bus depots were prone to flood, the nearby streets were prone to flood too, so storing buses on the street would have been no solution, unless the buses had been moved a considerable distance from their usual depots. But that would have introduced additional complications, because the depot is where the buses get fueled and maintained, and where transit workers begin and end their day.

Mark August 28, 2011 - 2:16 pm

One might hope the MTA could handle the logistics of sending some vans to pick up drivers.

If no, how the heck did they get home after everything shut down?

Marc Shepherd August 28, 2011 - 3:12 pm

Right, but that takes hours. As of 12:59pm, not long after the storm had passed out of our region, you were already saying that it was “silly” that bus service had not yet been restored.

Mark August 28, 2011 - 6:48 pm

It was clear last night that the fears were unfounded and that the storm has sped up. The MTA should have started the process of restarting then, by alerting bus drivers they would need to be picked up at a set time.

By 8am, the storm was essentially gone. I don’t think 5 hours is unreasonable to start getting people out on the road.

Benjamin Kabak August 28, 2011 - 6:50 pm

Are you ignoring the damage reports and flooding to make a point?

Bustadreamz August 28, 2011 - 8:17 pm

Of course he didn’t read “that” part.

Mark August 28, 2011 - 8:37 pm

No. I am aware there are some areas that can’t get service immediately. The nice thing about buses, though, is that they can generally find an alternate path until things are fixed.

I recognize that the trains need inspections before they are up and running. When was that started?

Nathanael August 29, 2011 - 1:23 pm

(1) There are entire areas where bus service is impossible because the roads are flooded.
(2) Before inspecting the trains, they have to inspect the *tracks*, which takes a *LONG* time — someone has to walk down them, at walking speed, checking everything.

ROb August 28, 2011 - 10:55 pm

Drivers can be kept over,they often are. So can mechanics. In fact they are expected to get to work in all kinds of weather situations. Can you describe any depot that was impassible before Saturday midnight and after Sunday 10 am?

Joe Steindam August 28, 2011 - 1:30 pm

I imagine bus service will return sooner than the subways. I suspect that it only made sense to store buses in the depots, after all, having them running wasn’t an option, and parking them on streets that weren’t going to flood was probably too much of a gamble.

Anon August 28, 2011 - 1:41 pm

Seems like there could be better places to house critical infrastructure
Reminds me of this old Sam Kinnison skit (NSFW)

These depots were built long ago without thinking they might go under water I suppose

Rob Durchola August 28, 2011 - 7:38 pm

Bus depots are often in areas that can flood because these areas are less desirable, in general, for other purposes.
NIMBYs are sometimes to blame for this.

Bustadreamz August 28, 2011 - 8:16 pm

Well said Rom, finally a smart reply to a dumb remark.

ROb August 28, 2011 - 10:58 pm

That’s where the cabs are too. They ran despite crummy locations or did I just imagine them running up and down the vacant bus lanes well into Saturday night and early Sunday?

ROb August 28, 2011 - 10:49 pm

Gee the cab garages were open, what’s the difference with the bus depots?

Scott E August 28, 2011 - 1:43 pm

Usually, the most dramatic photos are of water pouring into the open-cut LIRR station at Great Neck. I’m surprised to have not seen any of those. Also, one of the photos had a caption that all LIRR crossing gates (at road crossings) were removed to prevent damage. That’s yet another thing that would need to be replaced before service starts up again.

ROb August 28, 2011 - 11:05 pm

Give them some credit the RRs are a different kettle of fish. They had to stop sometime and the ROW needs be cleared and checked. LIRR has been forced to suspend system wide due to weather many, many times. Not so NYCTA, absent a power failure or terrorist attack.

Spendmore Wastemore August 28, 2011 - 2:34 pm

I wonder if the new, politically correct low floor electric-hybrid buses are easily rendered helpless by the slightest bit of snow, standing water, or congealed fear. OK, I already have an opinion.

With tires over 3 ft tall, a bus can easily be designed to handle a foot and half of water on rare occasions, needing some cleanup afterwards but without being knocked out of service.

Whatever ADA driven reg created those buses arrogantly disregards the need for vehicles to be useful north (or south) of D.C. They’re useless during ordinary severe weather, something we’re going to have more of in the next decade, and they have even worse suspensions than the decade old GM rigs, probably a cascade effect of the low floor.

Bustadreamz August 28, 2011 - 8:14 pm

You wonder a lot without giving any factual based informations.
I WONDER if you are one of the yahoos that would vote for Perry or Bachman too, even though they are on a race to outdo themselves in their non-scientifical data.
And if the ADA was creating these problems, if we lived in your world, buses (if there were any) wouldn’t be able to pick up the people that need it the most, seniors and children. Imagine you have all kinds of pain, arthritis, hip replacement, and now you gotta climb a 3 foot bus entry.

Nathanael August 29, 2011 - 1:25 pm

In particular, old (pre-ADA) buses usually put the mechanical equipment under the bus floor — new, low-floor buses put more of it up high in the front and back. They’re actually better in floods.

ROb August 28, 2011 - 9:37 pm

How about showing a full picture of the Coney Island Yard tracks, not just two that you were given by MTA. There are many, many tracks in the yard, three flooded doesn’t knock it out. In fact more rain fell on August 15 yet the system operated without a shutdown. What kept the buses out in Manhattan for 17 hours? There was absolutely no reasons for a shutdown that has never been done before. And don’t tell me about 9/11 when no one knew what destruction the towers fall would cause or the possibility of other terrorist acts, no comparison at all. This was a self inflicted economic wound.

Benjamin Kabak August 28, 2011 - 9:46 pm

I could show you more photos of the Coney Island yards and some show how they weren’t entirely flooded. I could show you photos of the Lenox Terminal Yards or stations getting pumped. I can show you Metro-North damage and how MNR won’t be back up and running tomorrow. I can talk to you about how employees were home safe instead of at the Coney Island Yard.

But you know what? You won’t be happy. Find something to bash the MTA, but for a weekend storm that is largely unprecedented in recent NYC history, the state made the right call here. The subways will be running for the Monday rush, and no one died. What more do you want?

ROb August 28, 2011 - 10:03 pm

But the trains are in Coney Island not Lenox. Pass it by from the Belt and take a gander. It was specifically expanded by David Gunn for this purpose. It’s no longer a Yard but a “complex” which it is. I have no wish to knock MTA but I think knuckling under to the Pols on Saturday was wrong. Sure there are doomsday plans but they should be reserved for doomsday. And by the way why could the SI Ferry run for ten hours when the Fifth Avenue bus was in the garage. A garage not unlike the ones keeping the cabs on the street.

ROb August 28, 2011 - 10:05 pm

OH, yes, you seriously think running the buses til say 5 o’clock on Saturday would have led to deaths. I dunno I was sitting in a Manhattan Park.

ROb August 28, 2011 - 10:37 pm

Benjamin, why do you say the storm was unprecedented. I’ve lived here since the forties, family for a hundred years before that. There’s been plenty of rain and wind, I think the City itself pointed to 38. what about this was different? Computer models based on false assumptions, draconian what if planning? Before the buses went out the storm was weakening. No one, say it again,no one with the slightest experience of these things took the advice to evacuate, except that is if you lived in the Al Smith houses and the City shut down the elevators so you had to evacuate. And guess what, to get the people back there were no MTA buses at hand. But the worst part was shutting down the transportation grid prematurely and moving the trains underground a place where it wasn’t even known if they could be moved out of Sunday am.

Terratalk August 29, 2011 - 12:06 am

Oh please! Mr. ROb, oh holier than thou, we should bow down to you and your family and their extensive knowledge?!?! The water level for your 100 year family was considerably lower than it is now … we are fortunate that the storm WAS weakening because downtown area came within inches of flooding … and some areas did come to the top of the walls. And pardon me but there are plenty of instances of hurricanes intensifying before finally blowing themselves out. Next time we won’t be so lucky since the ocean keeps rising. My family has been here also for a considerable amount of time and I’m glad to see that someone finally did the right thing and thought of getting the customers, workers and equipment to safety with plenty of time instead of the last minute. Also, if you checked the http://www.mta.info website you would see that the buses were already starting to run on Sunday and the subways are starting back up at 6 a.m. Monday. It will take a little while to get up to speed just like it took a little while to shut down. Why don’t you take your attitude and put it where the sun don’t shine? Considering the possibilities, I think everyone pulled together for a change and did a great job!


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