Home Service Advisories Sandy Update: A slow and crowded Monday awaits

Sandy Update: A slow and crowded Monday awaits

by Benjamin Kabak

In the aftermath of Sandy, debris mars the mezzanine of the new South Ferry Station. (Photo MTA New York City Transit / Leonard Wiggins)

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.

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Roxie November 5, 2012 - 12:24 am

It’s gonna be interesting seeing all the 20-something white kids try to get around with the L and the G out. They might have to walk past the “trendy” gentrified parts of town into *gasp* poor neighborhoods.

Jay November 5, 2012 - 4:15 am

THAT is your contribution to the conversation? No one told me that you had to be white to be a gentrifier. And is it Long Island City, or South Williamsburg that’s too poor for my “trendy” tastes? Better yet, why don’t you let me know which neighborhoods you hang out in. I’d much prefer sharing my subway bench with someone you characterize as poor rather than someone I might characterize as bigoted.

Chris O'Leary November 5, 2012 - 8:41 am

And I suppose all the non-white non-20-somethings who also live in those neighborhoods won’t have to seek alternate routes? Get a life.

John November 5, 2012 - 10:24 am

Seriously, your response is so tired and lame, and you sound like a broken record. Why don’t you head on over to Gawker or Gothamist and spend your time there where you’ll be more appreciated?

Frank B November 5, 2012 - 12:31 am

Why is the MTA trucking subway cars to The Rockaways? Don’t they have any subway cards in Rockaway Park Yard?

Or were all of those cars moved prior to Sandy?

Phantom November 5, 2012 - 12:34 am

Low lying Rockaway Park might be just the type place they needed. to escape to avoid damage

Alex C November 5, 2012 - 1:16 am

Rockaway area got flooded pretty bad. That yard was not a good place to store subway cars during the hurricane.

Jon A November 5, 2012 - 6:14 am

Does anyone have info on how the 207th St A-train yard fared? There has been minimal coverage about it. Given the lack of news about the restoration of A-train service back to Inwood, I fear it was fairly extensive damage.

Marc Shepherd November 5, 2012 - 7:05 am

That yard is right on the river, and water flowed into Dyckman Street station. At one point they had projected a full-length A Train for the Monday rush. That hasn’t happened yet, but it suggests the damage wasn’t terrible.

Nathanael November 5, 2012 - 10:42 am

There was some information about the A tunnel being pumped out near Dyckman St. Apparently that wasn’t too hard. So I’d guess there wasn’t too much permanent *damage* — well, no more than at Harlem/148th St and the yard for the #3, which had a similar situation and are now running.

However, there seems to have been a fairly large amount of *debris* to clear over the open-air parts of the system — the photos of debris near Harlem/148th impessed me — and I would expect that the 207th St yard is also covered with debris. Clearing debris is a manpower-intensive operation which may take a while before they can even start testing the switches.

SubwayNut November 5, 2012 - 1:04 am

The MTA evacuated them out of Zone A before the Sandy hense the need for the MTA to truck them back to be able to run the Rockaways Shuttle and shuttle buses connecting to it at each end. The Far Rockaway Bus runs via Nassau County around the Airport. These buses they run every time track work is being done in the Rockways. Trains terminate at Howard Beach with bus fare boxes set-up in the emergency exit between the Airport Parking Lot (where shuttle buses board) and the Subway Station (it makes it easy to board AirTrain for free as well!).
If those cars hadn’t been evacuated from the Rockaway Park Yard they would have probably been damaged.

I wonder if the MTA will over reduced fares on the LIRR Far Rockaway Branch due to be restored tomorrow?
Bet they don’t but that would be by far the fastest way for residents to Manhattan while the bridge is out.

I do wonder where all the L riders will go (especially without the G as well).

R. Graham November 5, 2012 - 1:14 am

L Train riders will likely do the best they can to grab nearby J and M train service.

Nathanael November 5, 2012 - 10:43 am

I always thought the section of track between Mott Av. and Far Rockaway LIRR should never have been removed. That would have dealt with THIS problem. Short-sightedness going decades back…

Frank B November 5, 2012 - 12:27 pm

Indeed. While the rest of the IND Rockaway Line opened in 1956, the Mott Avenue Terminal opened in 1958, because they took the time to sever the tracks and build a new terminal for the A train.

Hello? Brick wall? Bumper Blocks anyone? Very simple. Could’ve taken three weeks to build. More time and money wasted than necessary; that’s the TA. (Obviously now MTA)

Nathanael November 5, 2012 - 1:48 pm

To be fair, that was well before the LIRR was government-owned. I doubt they would have done it that way in 1966 after the state bought the LIRR.

Some of the old Mayor Hylan-style hostility to privately owned passenger rail service may have still been going on. Or, alternatively, 1950s “roads are the future” mentality may have been involved; there seems to have been a concerted effort among some parties to let the LIRR die. The LIRR was operating while in bankruptcy for 17 years, from 1949 to 1966 (which is actually pretty bizarre if you think about it).

Stephen Smith November 5, 2012 - 1:34 am

So who wants to guess how much it’s gonna cost in the end to fix? All the reporters are throwing around the word “billions” based on that study done a few years ago, but I really doubt it. I’m guessing the hard costs will be around $50-100 million – enough to pay for two weeks of overtime for thousands of employees plus tens of millions left over for non-labor costs. Plus the loss of fares, but that’s somewhat mitigated by the fact that they’re not giving refunds, it seems, for monthly and weekly passes.

I think the disruption from not having the subway in service will in the end dwarf the cost of repairing it. What the city really needs to do is prepare a comprehensive surface transit strategy for the next time this happens. Three shuttles from Brooklyn to 34th St. and HOV on river crossings don’t cut it – there need to be makeshift bus lanes, more frequent regular buses, and an attempt to integrate private transit, even if it means admitting that some people may have to pay $5-10 for a ride.

Spendmore Wastemore November 5, 2012 - 2:25 am

Or diesel pulls over/under the East River. Use multiple engines if traction/power is an issue, they just got several new engines. Also suspend the walking pace speed limit over the bridges during emergencies, a train is no good when it’s not moving.

Jack Fuller November 5, 2012 - 2:28 am

Would there not be a problem with ventilation in operating diesels thru the tunnels? I believe that is why they do not operate into GCT or Penn.

Alon Levy November 5, 2012 - 5:09 am

There would. If I remember correctly, during the blackout diesels ran into Grand Central at 2-hour intervals because anything more would be dangerous to breathe.

Phantom November 5, 2012 - 7:43 am

But there should be liitle issues of diesels running to Jamaica or 125 St, which people could connect to by subway

Anonymous November 5, 2012 - 8:47 am

I believe that $50-100 is too low of an estimate. It might be enough for overtime and other immediate costs, but capital-wise the total costs are probably much higher, I suspect as high as $500 million. The major reason for that would be the shortened life of the infrastructure in the tunnels which will need replacement much sooner than otherwise — salt water does no good to any metal surface, especially electrical conduits.

Nathanael November 5, 2012 - 10:45 am

The non-labor costs are MUCH larger than you think. Already, the MTA has installed a whole bunch of new switches, but as Anonymous says, there’s going to be a lot more equipment with reduced lifespan.

Expect each of the tubes to close over the next year for a *proper* removal of residual salt, one at a time, for one thing.

Jack Fuller November 5, 2012 - 2:22 am

Am amazed at how quickly service was restored over flooded lines and tunnels. Was the effect of salt water not that great on the signals and power systems? Or was it possible to “lather – rinse – repeat” more quickly than anticipated?

Love the pic of the fish in the signal apparatus!

al November 5, 2012 - 2:38 am

The MTA had crews remove some of the water sensitive parts in the tunnels during the shutdown on Sunday. It was a good move. Apparently, the tunnels also have serious water condition detectors that shut down the power during the floods. That probably reduced the damage. The question now is what did the sea water exposure going to do in the short to medium term with the power back on and trains running. We could see heavier maintenance and repair bills in the coming years as corrosion and premature failure pop up. Frequent Fastrack maintenance cycles on East River tunnels could become the norm.

One thing to consider is seawater exposure on the tunnels’ cast iron rings. Accelerating corrosion on those structure in the long term may hasten the need to replace them. Chloride ions in the rust and a humid environment are not friendly to iron.

Nathanael November 5, 2012 - 10:48 am

“The MTA had crews remove some of the water sensitive parts in the tunnels during the shutdown on Sunday. It was a good move.”

This. This is why things were up so fast. This also explains why the subway shut down so early, for those who were wondering; it takes time to dismantle the switches!

“One thing to consider is seawater exposure on the tunnels’ cast iron rings. Accelerating corrosion on those structure in the long term may hasten the need to replace them. Chloride ions in the rust and a humid environment are not friendly to iron.”
Indeed. I’ve been wondering what will be done about that. There’s probably some known cleaning/reinforcing/remetallization methods for the exposed iron rings (exposed iron in marine environments is an understood problem) but it would definitely require a tunnel shutdown for days. As for the concrete-lined tunnels, I don’t know of any straightforward fix at *all*.

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marvin November 5, 2012 - 9:41 am

from far rockaway there s/b discounted lirr shuttles to jamaica. – Why use buses when trains are better and faster?

Nathanael November 5, 2012 - 10:49 am

Because, due to shortsighted track removal in the distant past, Mott Avenue is several blocks from Far Rockaway LIRR with no track connection. 😛

Larry Littlefield November 5, 2012 - 9:53 am

I think the description of how much service is back are misleading. What is it based on? The number of open stations?

A better measure is peak passenger capacity from each borough to Manahttan. And as of last night, that was very, very, very low.

The F train is running less frequently than normal. At Jay Street everyone from the A/C and R gets on the F. And at Delancey, everyone from the J, including everyone that would normally be on the L, switches to the F.

I can’t imagine what that’s like. Thank goodness I’m on a bike, but Wednesday seems bad. And I’m not sure what my wife is going to do when her Downtown workplace re-opens.

Benjamin Kabak November 5, 2012 - 9:59 am

This sounds a bit more dire to me than the actual situation. From what I’ve heard, trains from Brooklyn to Manhattan are not that much more crowded than usual and still running with some frequency. The F and Q are a bit more crowded due to problems, and the L/G are creating problems in northern Brooklyn. But people are getting in to where they have to go and generally on time as well. It’s not perfect but so far, it’s working.

Emily November 5, 2012 - 11:27 am

I got on the F at 15th St-Prospect Park this morning at 6:15. Rode to Delancey, switched to the J, and was walking down the steps at Marcy Ave at 6:45. I could not BELIEVE how quickly I was able to make it work this morning! (I teach at a school that is one block from the Bedford L and three blocks from the G.) Yes, the F was considerably more crowded than usual at that time of the morning, but the J to Brooklyn was empty, and the entire route, door-to-door, took only 8 minutes longer than when I ride the G. I know I’m lucky that I was doing reverse commuting on the J, but overall the trip was considerably smoother than I expected!

Larry Littlefield November 5, 2012 - 12:00 pm

With the latest map, it seems there is much more service operating to Manhattan than I saw last night. That’s good.

No one is reporting on the yards. Are the Coney Island Shops and Yards operational?

Kai B November 5, 2012 - 1:04 pm

Here’s a photo I found from the line just to get into Marcy Ave (J,M): http://t.co/FaWwhXBl

It’s quite obvious you can’t take all the passengers from a hugely popular line (L) and dump them into another fairy popular set of services (J/M).

Kai B November 5, 2012 - 10:12 am

Northern Brooklyn was certainly chaos. B62 buses were overfilled and there were long lines to get on the J & M.

I’m glad I walked to work from near Nassau St (G) station to near Spring St (C,E) in one hour. Only about 20 minutes more than when G & L are actually running.

marvin November 5, 2012 - 10:34 am

On Friday I need to get from Kew Garden Hills to Montifore Hospital in the bronx to stay with a sick relative. Buses, and subways (Q64 to M train running via 63rd street to #4 running local were packed but efficient.

On Saturday night I took the Gun Hill Ave bus to White Plains Road. The #2 to West Farms and then the Q44 back to Queens. The entire trip back was but 1.5 hrs.

I think that the recovery has been amazing. We went through hell and this much of a recovery is a tribute to government.

My only complaint was the in transfering to the Q44 at west farms, it is hard to find the bus stop. I would like to suggest that arrows with the Bus# be painted on to the street to help people find their way.

Cali November 5, 2012 - 10:31 am

North Brooklyn is hurting big time here. The L, which is normally packed when it’s running every three minutes during the rush, doesn’t even have a shuttle bus. The M had a line 4-5 people deep across the entire platform at Myrtle-Wyckoff this morning, and it had to sit on the Williamsburg Bridge to wait for the J at Essex.

They also haven’t addressed, at least not that I’ve seen, whether the M will run nights/weekends to help cover the missing L service from the city. The J is great and all, but it only helps if you’re coming from the LES…otherwise you have to take 2-3 trains just to reach Brooklyn, then switch back to the shuttle M to go north.

Gorski November 5, 2012 - 12:22 pm

Well, the M was running over the bridge last night (much to our pleasant surprise). So I believe that the M will continue to run its full route until the L is back up and maybe the G, too).

Granted, I think the M should be 24/7 anyway, but I’ll take what I can get.

Seth Kasel November 6, 2012 - 6:36 am

Some gas stations in northern Ohio are even out of unleaded. There are no lines, just a few people trying to get gas for their generators.


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