Home Service Advisories Transit shutdown to start at 7 p.m. tonight

Transit shutdown to start at 7 p.m. tonight

by Benjamin Kabak

Governor Cuomo and MTA Chairman Joe Lhota have announced that the MTA will begin to shut down the city’s transit network starting at 7 p.m. tonight. Bus service will halt at 9 p.m., and all commuter rail and subway service will be suspended as of 3 a.m. Monday morning ahead of what forecasters are predicting to be a very bad storm in the New York area, and there will be no transit service in the city for the Monday morning rush hour. “It is unsafe to operate trains in high winds,” the Governor said this morning.

“The transportation system is the lifeblood of the New York City region, and suspending all service is not a step I take lightly,” the Governor said. “But keeping New Yorkers safe is the first priority, and the best way to do that is to make sure they are out of harm’s way before gale-force winds can start wreaking havoc on trains and buses.”

Speaking to reporters this morning, Lhota said that he hopes the MTA can restore services 12 hours after the storm ends, but such timing depends upon power levels and any potential flooding. Lhota did not sound as though service would resume until Wednesday at best.

As for the specifics of the shutdown, here are the important parts: The subway system will begin to curtail service after 7 p.m. and buses will halt by 9 p.m. The final Metro-North and LIRR trains will leave at 7 p.m., and all subway and rail stations will be closed after the last trains depart. PATH trains will cease operating as of 12:01 a.m. on Monday morning. Flooding of tunnels has become a major concern with a very large storm surge predicted to hit the city.

On Staten Island, the SIR will likely run until the city stops ferry service. But, says the the Governor’s Office, “the railway will not operate if conditions are deemed unsafe.” Metro-North is not running the Train to the Game for today’s Jets game but believes it can accommodate all football fans who return “promptly” to Penn Station following the end of today’s game against the Dolphins.

Stay safe. By all indications, Sandy will be much, much worse than Irene.

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vb October 28, 2012 - 10:44 am

Make sure you show up at work (and school) as per Bloomberg’s orders! Everything will be open as usual!

Jerrold October 28, 2012 - 5:55 pm

It has ALREADY been announced that the schools will closed.

Andrew Smith October 28, 2012 - 10:49 am

I’d be curious about the calculations that go into making this call. I’d suspect they’re skewed toward a closure. There really aren’t any political consequences to shutting the system down needlessly, but there’d be huge ones if something went dramatically awry. Thus, I’d guess officials will close far too frequently.

I’m not saying this closure isn’t justified. I’m neither a meteorologist nor an engineer. I’m just saying it’s hard to create the right incentive structure to make decision makers weigh the costs and benefits to New Yorkers rather than the cost and benefits to their careers.

Bolwerk October 28, 2012 - 11:18 am

The press’s Cuomo sycophants loved the show of I’mer-know-wha-i’m-doin’. Of course there would have been no consequences. But at least from the standpoint where we are now this looks like it could cause problems in ways that weren’t on the table for Irene 12 hours before it hit.

As for their careers, what costs? When have they even been held accountable for fucking up and hurting people?

Jerrold October 28, 2012 - 6:01 pm

I’m still trying to figure out what you mean by

It’s the “mer” that I can’t understand.
“I [WHAT?] know what I’m doing.”

Nathanael October 29, 2012 - 12:49 am

Storm surge is the main reason for this shutdown. The flooding will cause enormous amounts of damage. It’s not even clear that they can prevent the main Manhattan-Brooklyn tunnels from flooding. But even if they can, they can’t really run the subway system with all the ventilation grates sealed and all the staircases sandbagged…

There was something to be said for having an elevated system, though of course that would be shut down due to the winds.

New York is going to get one huge storm surge (upwards of 6 feet) with 20 foot waves on top — but Connecticut will get 11 feet storm surge with 20 foot waves on top. The area is going to be WET. Go uphill.

Tarik October 28, 2012 - 11:01 am


Does this mean there will be no NJ Transit trains out of NY tomorrow morning?

Nathanael October 29, 2012 - 12:54 am


The following systems are shut down starting Monday:
Amtrak (everything which runs on the NEC or Springfield line, including all services to NY, Philadelphia, and DC)

All rail and bus service in Connecticut

All of the MTA including:
– Metro-North
– Long Island Rail Road
– NYC Subway
– NYC Bus

All private bus services to Port Authority & GWB Bridge Terminals

All of New Jersey Transit

All of SEPTA

All of Maryland’s bus & rail service

DC Metro (rail & bus)


And possibly more. Local transit service in Boston, MA and in Norfolk, VA is still operating, which gives you a sense of the edges of the shutdown.

Ed October 28, 2012 - 11:36 am

I objected to this with Irene, but after thinking this over I can see two possible reasons for this.

First of all, the city has been hit by big storms in the past (“northeasters”, though these are actually as bad as the hurricans are by the time they get to the Northeast). Officials didn’t see fit to close the transit system whenever a big storm shows up until about a year ago. While we will be getting more of these storms, what has changed is not the storm itself.

Either we live in an era when officials are much more risk-adverse, or the infrastructure of the system has deteriorated to the point where it can no longer ride out a big storm. Since I know from this blog that the MTA has had difficulties in keeping up with the necessary maintenance, my bet is on the latter.

In any event, I overheard conversations while riding the subway today about bosses who were expecting their workers to show up for work on Monday, hurricane or no hurricane, so in a backhanded way this call will help alot of workers.

Spendmore Wastemore October 28, 2012 - 3:45 pm

Welcome to the Ninnyfication of New York.

Doomberg is nearly 80 and rather soft. He wants to make New York react in the manner of a pampered, intrusive old lady.

Like himself.

Nathanael October 29, 2012 - 12:55 am

You people are idiots.

This is the worst storm ever to hit the Northeast coast. Literally, ever. Weather forecasters are worried that it may be worse than Katrina. Waves in Connecticut will be 30 feet above normal sea level. If anything, the city is underprepared; people should have evacuated to Ohio!

Justin Samuels October 29, 2012 - 3:37 am

No way this Storm is anything like Katrina, which was a category 5 storm. Sandy is category 1, and by the time it hits NYC it will be just a tropical Storm. Spendmore isn’t too far off. It sounds like chicken little screaming the sky is falling, the sky is falling.

Bolwerk October 29, 2012 - 5:28 am

The category just describes the wind. It says nothing about the storm surge, which I guess probably has more to do with the actual physical size of the storm itself (this one is record making big, radius-wise).

It was pretty obvious 12-16 hours before Irene that it wasn’t going to be very bad. Shutting down the transit system then, completely anyway, earned deserved some eye rolling because, frankly, the system had been through worse. Hell, it might literally have been wasteful and counterproductive then, and I said as much at the time.

However, circumstances are different this time. The surge is worse and the weather is a bit more unpredictable.

Nathanael October 29, 2012 - 10:57 am

The storm is 200 miles away and sea level is already washing over the Battery.

Repeat: The storm is still 200 miles away, and the sea is washing over the Battery. Meanwhile, the storm is getting STRONGER.

Sandy is going to create giant waves in CHICAGO.

It’s basically a hurricane wrapped in the middle of a Nor’easter.

The barometric pressure is lower than in the 1938 “Long Island Express” Hurricane — there is an insane amount of energy in this storm. It’s going to be different, because of its weird hybrid nature: there’s significantly less rainfall, and slightly lower wind (than the 1938 hurricane — still >80 mph gusts!) — but there’s going to be a MUCH bigger storm surge.

If you’re in flood zone A, get out and move to higher ground. If you’re in flood zone B — get out and move to higher ground; although it probably won’t be inundated, you’ll have waves crashing over your door. If you’re above the 10th story of a building, stay away from windows.

Soon, due to the winds, it will become unsafe to go outside.

Justin Samuels October 29, 2012 - 3:33 pm

I’m in Zone A, and there is no flooding in my part of it at all. Still screaming chicken little? I have a lot of neighbors who also didn’t leave.

Chris O'Leary October 29, 2012 - 5:05 pm

…and high tide isn’t until 8pm. But I suppose you’re a hurricane expert, so you knew better than the public officials who told you to evacuate. Hope you packed a raft.

Alon Levy October 29, 2012 - 3:49 pm

Nathanael is right. My It’s Complicated is telling me that both Harvard and Brown canceled classes today, which for both universities is the first time since 1978.

R. Graham October 28, 2012 - 11:36 am

All I can say is that this is definitely not Irene. If this storm goes as expected don’t expect Subway service in the close to vulnerable flooding areas to return immediately after the passing of this storm. Winds have intensified but more importantly the storm center is going to make landfall on the central NJ coast meaning the western flow of circulation is going to make landfall in NY Harbor. There will be flooding in the Zone A areas. There is no argument. The Battery will be toppled. This area of the storm usually receives the largest push of water from surge. The harbor narrowing towards the city and the rivers will intensify that surge and increase flooding.

Point is the subways close to these areas will be flooded. Salt water and signals don’t mix. Flooding in tunnels in the vulnerable areas will not be back up during restoration. Those are the facts.

Nathanael October 29, 2012 - 12:56 am

One of the advantages of shutting the entire system down, is that it becomes possible to do some floodproofing which is impossible with a running system. Station entrances can be surrounded with walls of sandbags, ventilation grates can be sealed shut, etc.

pea-jay October 28, 2012 - 11:54 am

If this storm does inundate the tunnels, maybe finally we can have a serious discussion about floodgates at the Narrows and beefed up flood walls along the seafronts in BK, SI and Queens

Spendmore Wastemore October 28, 2012 - 3:55 pm

Er, why not just raise the tunnel portals a few feet? That would prevent most of the inrush from a brief storm surge. Then add flood doors to the tunnel entrances – that’s a maintenance project. Finish with plywood over low lying gratings, as MTA has already done today. That should cut infiltration to within the existing pump capacity.

Both combined are about 1/10000th of saltwater floodgates. Such gates are not a bad idea, but that’s all they’re going to be for a couple decades.

Fiberglass tunnel doors can be made by any of 100s of local shops.

Nathanael October 29, 2012 - 12:58 am

One of the big problems with this storm is that the storm surge is going to last for a loooong time. Over 24 hours, perhaps.

And “raise the tunnel portals a few feet”? Some of the portals you can do that with, but in other cases, the water comes in through the cut-and-cover subway stations.

Lower Manhattan needs a higher floodwall for storms like this. A floodwall is also needed around northwestern Queens.

Anon October 28, 2012 - 12:13 pm

New York City has ordered a MANDATORY EVACUATION of Zone A, the Rockaways, Hamilton Beach, and City Island

DF October 28, 2012 - 12:50 pm

I will defer to those with a detailed understanding of the logistics of shutting down the system, but is there a reason the MTA can’t say “we’ll be shutting down most lines at 7, but we’ll keep (say) the A, F, and 5 running till midnight, so you can at least get somewhere in the general vicinity of where you’re going even if it’s on one of the other lines”. Likewise, given that the storm isn’t really going to hit until tomorrow, why not let the bus service taper normally to overnight levels before shutting it down?

Eric October 28, 2012 - 2:09 pm

I think they just want everyone in place well before the storm hits, not rushing at the last minute.

Tower18 October 28, 2012 - 2:13 pm

As far as I can guess, it’s probably a couple things.

1. They’re moving trains out of the yards and storing them on the tracks in the tunnels. This includes the A because of 207th yard and the F because of Coney.

2. The employees performing all this maneuvering still need to get home at some point, so not only does it take awhile to do what they’re proposing, but even after it’s done, the people need to get home, so they can’t do it immediately before the storm hits.

Frank October 28, 2012 - 9:19 pm

Why do the employees have to get home in a weather emergency? The MTA could certainly provide places for employees to hole up while the worst of the storm passed. That would make it faster to get service restarted too. It might not be pleasant, but they’re getting compensated pretty well.

Nathanael October 29, 2012 - 1:01 am

After the relocation of the trains and buses to ‘safe’ locations — which takes hours — the MTA is also making a concerted effort to floodproof what’s left, some of which can’t be properly sealed up until the trains aren’t running any more. Expect that the MTA will still be turning electricity supplies off and sandbagging staircases on Monday morning.

Alex C October 28, 2012 - 1:02 pm

If the NYC area becoming a hurricane hotspot doesn’t bring about serious transport infrastructure upgrade talks among politicians, nothing will. (Hint: it won’t)

Bolwerk October 28, 2012 - 4:49 pm

Well, you expect a few hurricanes or at least tropical storms to hit around the city every decade, and it’s mostly not a huge deal. I don’t know if this qualifies as a “hotspot” yet.

Eric October 28, 2012 - 6:37 pm

You do? Since when?

Bolwerk October 29, 2012 - 5:36 am

Since as far back as I can find records.

Alex C October 28, 2012 - 7:55 pm

I think it’s two-in-a-row that makes it less than usual. That and the increased frequency and severity of storms in the area in general.

Bolwerk October 29, 2012 - 5:38 am

Well, I agree they’re worse and all, but the question is whether New York is now getting them more frequently. Two in under 14 months is hardly unprecedented either (Bertha and Danny?).

Asher October 28, 2012 - 1:23 pm

“When in danger or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout.”

Spendmore Wastemore October 28, 2012 - 3:55 pm


JJJ October 28, 2012 - 2:19 pm

Amtrak has anounced no service tomorrow. The bus line (megabus, bolt etc) have also cancelled all service in the region. NJT is shutting down statewide at the conclusion of service tonight, at 4pm for atlantic city service and other coastal routes.

Spendmore Wastemore October 28, 2012 - 5:20 pm

It appears some degree of service suspension is unavoidable, due to the expected storm surge. But most of the mileage will be above water, and 39 mph winds have been traversed before with zero issues. One will not be blown off as the platforms have windscreens and the train you just got off is blocking the wind.

Why not short turn the trains before the expected flood areas, and redirect/substitute trains to routes which probably won’t flood such as the 7 and routes over Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges. The water level will build gradually, so it is not difficult to start short-turning trains before a section becomes impassible.

Justin Samuels October 28, 2012 - 6:00 pm

Its probably a lot simpler to just shut the whole system down. Big deal, worst case scenario you get a day off work. Enjoy it.

The system also wasn’t designed to operate piecemeal, since some of the train yards flooded last year, they like to store trains in tunnels in high areas. Meaning you can’t have train service on those areas, though there’s no risk of flooding, they have trains parked there. So the whole system has to close.

No one wants to be blamed for the loss of rolling stock, which costs close to 2 million per car and takes awhile to manufacture. So they’d rather be safe than sorry.

Larry Littlefield October 28, 2012 - 6:47 pm

I agree with that. This is unprecedented. I’m afraid the tunnels will be filled with water due to flooding in Lower Manhattan.

Spendmore Wastemore October 28, 2012 - 7:39 pm

I don’t particularly object for myself. If I had a car I’d call it a form of entertainment.

It’s cascade of disruption from slowly shutting down and slowly restarting service. Even if the floods due no damage (wouldn’t bet on that), it’ll be until Wednesday for everything to run normally. That’s 3+ lost days. For some people, such as those paid by the hour or low-margin businesses just getting by it’s a big hit.

Rob Stevens October 28, 2012 - 8:17 pm

Of course it’s simpler. And easier. So that’s why they do it. But what abt the buses?? They don’t mind if you drive your own car or take a cab; they are keeping their [highway] bridges and tunnels open.

Nathanael October 29, 2012 - 1:03 am

Bridges and tunnels will probably be closed sometime Monday.

They like to make sure that anyone who started a bus or train trip finishes it; that’s why (for example) NJT is going to stop new bus runs at 2 AM, but will finish all the bus runs then in progress.

People in private cars, on the other hand, are out of luck if the roads they were planning to use close while they’re halfway through a trip. “So sorry”.

Nathanael October 29, 2012 - 11:02 am

At 2 PM the Holland Tunnel and Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel close. Lincoln Tunnel and bridges still open… for now…

JE October 28, 2012 - 5:51 pm

It’s a different story down in DC … for now.


JE October 28, 2012 - 7:02 pm Reply
James C October 28, 2012 - 7:07 pm

I agree with the above poster, it seems pretty likely that some significant damage is going to be done to the MTA’s infrastructure from flooding.

Rob Stevens October 28, 2012 - 8:14 pm

Yes, another sad commentary on the decline of the country.

Anyone else note the irony of this closing announcement coming on the anniversary of the Oct 27 1904 opening by the private IRT, which never closed the system? And now, what, this is twice in about 2 yrs?

The IRT and BMT which supposedly screwed the public never closed. On the other hand, the government which is here to help us serve us [ha ha], can’t even be bothered to keep ANY part of the system open.

Nathanael October 29, 2012 - 1:05 am

The IRT and BMT never got hit with this kind of storm. Ever.

That’s because this kind of storm didn’t HAPPEN until global warming melted the Arctic and changed the Atlantic air circulation patterns to create a (formerly) rare “block” over the northern Atlantic which forces the hurricane west.

Sandy hitting NYC is a direct consequence of global warming. The IRT and BMT didn’t have to deal with that.

Now, is our government dealing with global warming? Well…. no. Which is why I agree with you about the decline of this country.

Justin Samuels October 29, 2012 - 3:34 am

LI got wrecked by a hurricane in the 1930s. Big Storms have hit NYC before……………

Nathanael October 29, 2012 - 11:05 am

This storm has now been verified to have more energy than the “Long Island Express” hurricane to which you refer.

It’s a hurricane wrapped in a nor-easter, and is *literally* the strongest storm seen in 100 years. It’s also the biggest *ever* seen (the storm system extends from Maritime Canada to Georgia, and west to Chicago). And the storm surge is concentrating directly on New York and Long Island sound.

It will have less rainfall than previous hurricanes. Don’t be fooled by that!

Justin Samuels October 29, 2012 - 3:35 pm

And where I am in the Rockaways is not flooded. It doesn’t sound particularly bad. The city is in for a rough time if people can’t handle bad weather.

Someone October 29, 2012 - 1:56 pm

The IRT and BMT were privatized, but they chose to keep it open because even in inclement weather it still needed to keep running. They didn’t have accurate weather forecasts back then, and besides, the $0.05 fare was too cheap even back then, so both companies needed to keep service open at all times

Frank October 28, 2012 - 9:03 pm

I doubt the system is any less able to handle a storm than 10 or 20 years ago. We were just more fatalistic in the past, and now are getting less and less so all the time. I write this an hour and a half after the system has officially shut down. There is no rain, very little wind. And yet thanks to the governor, the city has effectively shut down. They aren’t even running buses! This is risk aversion taken to an extreme.

In fact, things aren’t even forecast to get bad until sometime tomorrow. And that depends on the storm–which has been slowing down and moving out to sea–changing course and following the track the models have predicted, remaining as intense as predicted, and interacting with other fronts as predicted. How often does that happen?

And this is indicative of a big problem for the city, because if the public transportation system can be shut down at will by politicians without even the pretense of providing an alternative, it will encourage car buying among people who simply cannot stop work for an indefinite duration. And once you have invested in the purchase of a car, the marginal cost of using it comes way down. So the result is going to be more congestion.

Now, maybe things will turn out bad, or close to bad, and this will have proved to be a wise decision. But it’s hard to see at this point why the system had to be shut down so early.

Phantom October 28, 2012 - 10:45 pm

Risk aversion to extreme?


There is no reason why the system could not have run at least 12 hours longer?

And with more planning I fail to see why some lines D? 2? E? F? G? could not have run through the storm.

And some buses too.

Safeguarding expensive equipment is great, but there should be a way to do it without shutting everything down with no exception

Great comment Frank

Nathanael October 29, 2012 - 1:07 am

You people have no idea what sort of a monster storm you’re dealing with.

This shutdown will probably mean that most of the subway system will be *able* to reopen on Wednesday or Thursday. Waiting 12 hours to shut down would probably mean total destruction of far more of the subway, and many more months before reopening.

Nathanael October 29, 2012 - 1:07 am

The point is that the shutdown gives the MTA time to do serious floodproofing and windproofing, which it could not do if it waited 12 hours.

Justin Samuels October 29, 2012 - 3:35 am

Monster of a storm? An exaggeration for sure……………

Nathanael October 29, 2012 - 11:07 am

It’s still *200 miles offshore*, and the Battery is flooding.

Have you SEEN the satellite map? The storm system goes from the Canadian Maritimes to Chicago to Georgia. The hurricane managed to move right into the center of a developing nor’easter.

Justin Samuels October 29, 2012 - 3:37 pm

Whatever. Take some pills and get some sleep dude………….

Bolwerk October 29, 2012 - 5:46 am

Not that I entirely disagree, but some lines probably could run: the 7 and L perhaps. Most anything north of Canal that goes toward Brooklyn could be short run.

It, of course, might be better not spending resources to bother, but notably it’s those certain low-lying areas that are going to be an issue now and persistently in the future.

Someone October 29, 2012 - 10:21 am

The 7 could run because it is a deep-level route in Manhattan and elevated in Queens, but perhaps not the L, it is too close to the ground and might get flooded.

Eric October 29, 2012 - 11:59 am

The 7 has stops in LIC, which is in zone A with a possibility for the Steinway tube to flood. And I wouldn’t want to be on an elevated train when an 80MPH gust hits.

Nathanael October 29, 2012 - 1:28 am

Some notes on how bad this is. It’s not just the trains and buses. The Port Authority believes that all flights in and out of NYC will have stopped by now. (Apparently it’s still up to individual airlines.) Flights in stopped a while ago, but some effort is being made to remove as many airplanes as possible from New York. (LaGuardia is expected to have its runways covered in water, for example.)

All roads in Delaware will be closed at 5 AM.

We’ll see when the roads are closed in NY, but expect it to happen.

Nathanael October 29, 2012 - 1:31 am

Yep, all air service has been suspended now. AirTrain JFK was shut down at 10 PM and AirTrain Newark is being shut down.

Too late to evacuate. Time to hunker.

petey October 29, 2012 - 6:32 am

alot of us up early!
in the event, the subways and trains closed a good 6 hrs too soon. but the rains are moving in now. had to get mrs petey from penn station, arriving from DC around 10 pm, odd but pleasant to see so little traffic everywhere.
statue of liberty cam:

Disk Space October 29, 2012 - 8:31 am

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Bolwerk October 29, 2012 - 9:50 am

Spam click thru fail!

Someone October 29, 2012 - 10:20 am

The only thing that will fail is the IRT. Its cut and cover digging methods mean that it is easy to get flooded.

Nathanael October 29, 2012 - 11:09 am

FYI, I managed to find, somewhere, information indicating that the MTA actually dismantled trackside equipment (which would be severely damaged by salt water) from the most flood-prone tunnels and relocated it above ground for safety. That accounts for why they shut the subways so early….

Someone October 29, 2012 - 1:52 pm

Does anyone know when the subway will get back online?

God October 29, 2012 - 2:09 pm

Yes I know, but I’m not telling :}

Benjamin Kabak October 29, 2012 - 2:17 pm

Not before Wednesday.


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