Home MTA Politics A postmortem on Cuomo’s questionable subway snow decision

A postmortem on Cuomo’s questionable subway snow decision

by Benjamin Kabak

Gov. Cuomo ordered subway service suspended amidst a winter storm. (Photo: Metropolitan Transportation Authority / Patrick Cashin)

Let’s start today with a proposition: New York City didn’t get as much snow as initially expected, and the supposedly disappointing nature of the storm has clouded the commentary. That said, even if the city had gotten 20-30 inches, I contend that, with service properly curtailed in the right spots, the New York City subways could and should have operated as originally planned. This is a widely, but not entirely, accepted contention, but it’s one that gets to the heart of the role transit plays in city life and the MTA in planning transit.

The trouble, as we well know by now, started when Gov. Andrew Cuomo decided to shut the subway system late Monday night. He spent a little bit of time consulting with MTA leaders, but by all accounts, this was a decision he imposed upon the agency. It wasn’t part of their well-developed snow response plan, and it was one that was unprecedented in New York City history. As I discussed last night, before we knew the storm wouldn’t be as substantial as threatened, the subway system can withstand the weather so long as the proper precautions are implemented.

In the aftermath of Cuomo’s decision, the Monday Tuesday Morning Quarterbacking has been nothing but blowback. We learned early on that Mayor Bill de Blasio — who admittedly has no political control over the subways — knew about the shutdown approximately 15 minutes before Cuomo announced it, if at all, and in a post on The Upshot on The Times’ website, Josh Barro delved into the economic costs of effectively closing down the city for a day. Barro explores the argument I made last night concerning a seeming overreaction to the storm, and he too feels that shutting down the subway should be implemented rarely and with great deliberation.

Meanwhile, WNYC’s Kate Hinds delved into the plans the MTA had at the ready. Her piece is informative and important as it highlights how the operations teams tasked with managing the subway were more prepared than the governor. She writes:

The MTA has a winter playbook it turns to when it comes to snowstorms, detailing just how much service it can safely provide. And speaking at a lunchtime press conference on Monday, as what looked like a blizzard bore down on the East Coast, the agency’s chief said it was time to put one piece of it into action. “We’re going to put a Plan V in effect,” MTA Chairman and CEO Tom Prendergast said, “which occurs when we have a storm of this magnitude.”

Plan V is meant to prevent debacles like the December 2010 storm which blanketed the city in 20 inches of snow. [After that storm, the MTA] revised and expanded its winter operations plan. According to that 360-page document, a copy of which was obtained by WNYC, Plan V governs operations during a declared snow emergency. To protect the fleet, subway cars are to be stored on underground express tracks, reducing service. Some lines which duplicate service, like the B or the Z trains, may be suspended. Lines that run outdoors — such as the N or the A lines in Brooklyn and Queens — may run less frequently. The plan also details specific crew actions, and even talks about where to position diesel trains in the event that a regular subway car gets stuck in the snow.

Plan V indicates how committed the MTA is to keeping subways running in the worst of winter weather. Since 2010, subway service has been occasionally disrupted during snow, but never completely shut down. And the system had never, in its 110-year history, been entirely closed because of snow until New York Governor Andrew Cuomo decided to on Monday.

The MTA’s eventual ex post excuses rang hollow because they were. As we’ve seen before, Tom Prendergast must stand by his boss, and he did that during a press conference Tuesday when he said closing the system allowed for a quicker restoration of services. That wasn’t a factor last winter when Transit implemented its severe weather policies, and it wouldn’t have been an issue this week even with 20 inches of snow. In response, the Straphangers Campaign has asked for some soul-searching. “What role,” they asked, “did Governor Andrew Cuomo and other non-MTA officials play in the decision to shut down the transit system?”

But, to return to my proposition, why should the subway run in bad weather? Because the city keeps running, even if at reduced speeds, and New Yorkers need to see that transit is a safe and reliable option when cars aren’t. Emergency workers and first responders need to get to their hospitals and firehouses and precinct houses. Low-wage workers who don’t have the benefit of taking a day off because it snowed need to get around. Cuomo’s move in fact made it more dangerous as people were left to trudge six or seven miles through the snow. That’s not, as I noted last night, how New York operates, and it’s not how the city and its subway is designed to operate. The system can weather the storm, and that’s a point that seems to be lost on the governor.

If Cuomo wanted the credit for responding to a Serious Weather Event, he has to take the blame too when his initial reaction was the wrong one. Giving him a pass would simply set the stage for another subway shutdown driven seemingly by long-term political concerns rather than short-term benefits to the eight million New Yorkers whose city never really sleeps.

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Walt Gekko January 28, 2015 - 12:46 am

Apparently, according to what has since been posted elsewhere is that Cuomo was afraid of pissing off people in the suburbs who would have used keeping the city subways open against him in 2018 when he is up for re-election as Governor. If so, that may prove to be a SEVERE miscalculation:

David Faber on CNBC BLASED CUOMO TWICE on Tuesday morning over this, noting how unecessary this was. Many others have felt this way.

Cuomo may have unintentionally made it much more difficult for Democrats to win back the House and Senate in 2016 with this because Cuomo violated Rule #1 of politics with this shutdown: DO NOT PISS OFF WALL STREET. Wall Street right now is EXTREMELY PISSED OFF over this and it is something they will not forget anytime soon. I can see where Wall Street now more heavily backs Republicans to keep control of the House and Senate over this and some Democratitic candidates that might have been helped by Wall Street won’t solely because of what Cuomo did here, that is how PO’ed Wall Street is about this.

If I’m at the Democratic National Committee, Cuomo is right now being given a stern warning, being told he is NOT ALLOWED to override the MTA on such shutdowns anymore UNLESS it is a Sandy/Irene situation where flood threats make it obvious the system has to be shut down, with it made clear to Cuomo that ignoring such warnings would result in his being considered “persona non grata” in the Democratic Party and “dead” to the DNC. It appears Cuomo’s looking ahead to re-election for Governor in 2018 and a potential Presidential bid in 2020 or ’24 wasd behind this shutdown and he may instead wind up paying a very steep price for doing so.

David January 28, 2015 - 1:35 am

Lol.. Ray, good thing then that you’re not at the DNC. Just like you’re not the NFL or the College Football Playoff folks or ESPN or any other organization you would claim to make decisions on behalf of (I do enjoy your ridiculous sports fans.. always good for laugh). You think Cuomo was considering his political future when he made this decision? Yes, there were politics involved in this, but what does that have to do with anything? He made a decision. It probably wasn’t the right one, but we all got duped into thinking this storm would be a bigger deal than it was.

When it comes to his future, be it the 2018 gubernatorial race or a future run at the presidency, there will be a thousand things on his resume that people will consider. Don’t isolate this one and offer that this is the make or break moment in his political career just because we’re in the moment and you want to be that guy on the Internet who thinks people will remember this and only this 3 years from now. Get a clue. And do us all a favor.. don’t reply to this comment by repeating the exact same argument all over again like those of us who know you well enough on the Internet expect you to do, over and over again.

Walt Gekko January 28, 2015 - 4:37 am

Yes, but if there had been an MTA screw-up, odds would likely be 1/9 that a rival candidate would use it against Cuomo if he ran for President or even in ’18 when he runs for Governor again.

sonicboy678 January 28, 2015 - 6:07 pm

He was considering himself…by reacting as if it had been 2014 Buffalo again. Clearly, he’s self-defeating.

nycpat January 28, 2015 - 1:08 am

They never implemented the snow plan in 2010.

Berk32 January 28, 2015 - 8:36 am

Because it didn’t exist in the way it does now.

nycpat January 28, 2015 - 12:32 pm

That’s baloney. There were blizzards before and they were dealt with. In 2010 they did not put the snow plan in effect, ie;they didn’t call in T/Os to lay up trains and more importantly they didn’t activate the work trains that deal with snow. Hell, they didn’t even put chains on the buses.

Berk32 January 28, 2015 - 4:49 pm

After the 2010 mess they completely revamped the plan with various levels based on the amount of snow and the forecast.

Patrick O'Hara January 28, 2015 - 1:35 am

While I am not one to readily agree with this state’s governor, especially on things regarding transportation, I can’t say that the travel ban that was implemented for the blizzard was unreasonable. If you look at the end results of the travel ban (the specific numbers were quoted at a press conference with Cuomo and Bellone earlier), there was an extreemly low number of stranded vehicles/vehicular accidents, and a steep drop in 911 calls after the travel ban went into effect at 11:00pm. If you contrast that to previous storms where there were images of dozens upon dozens of cars stranded on the LIE with people trapped inside them and 911 call centers overwhelmed, I would say that the travel ban was a notable success.

I have always found, however, that the reason people offer up for keeping everything open is so that “the cops and firefighters can get to work” is a bit strange. If weather conditions are going to be unsafe enough for the average person to not be allowed to venture out, they are not going to be any different for the cops or the firefighters. Last time I checked, people who work in those occupations do not have any special superpowers that make them immune to bad weather. I understand the roles these people play are essential, but they ought to be where they need to be for the duration of the storm before it begins, and not traveling out during the height of it…

It’s noble to want to be strong and have as much as possible up and running during the storm, but there’s no real need for it. The region’s public transportation systems have been relatively lucky with past storms, with nobody falling severely ill or dying due to a train getting stuck, but that’s no reason to tempt fate.

Naturally, I’m a Long Islander, so my point of view has a little bias. While I was not on Long Island for the storm, there was some 22 inches of snow outside my house this morning. While the snow may have been a disappointment closer to the center of Manhattan, I think with the information available at the time, the decision to ban travel during the storm was not unreasonable.

John-2 January 28, 2015 - 3:35 am

I was stuck with my family on a Long Island Railroad train for about eight hours near Patchogue in the Blizzard of 1969, when the train got stuck trying to get back to Penn Station, so I get that trying to move around via most forms of ground-level transportation in a blizzard is problematic at best. But the heart of Ben’s complaint is that Cuomo acted on his own to shut down the only mode of transportation that — following the Blizzard of 1888 — was built specifically to be sheltered from snowstorms, so that the city could continue to operate, even on a far more limited basis than normal.

LIRR, Metro North and NJT trains that run at ground level or on embankments are different from both the underground parts of the subway, and even from the metal-framed elevated sections of the system, where snow simply falls through the openings between the tracks to the street. Those are the parts of the system that should have been kept running (and in fact were, albeit with no passengers).

Justin Samuels January 28, 2015 - 5:45 am

The police, fire department, and hospitals would simply have workers work overtime and make other provisions for in order to keep them running. Also when bad weather comes, those people can be the few people allowed to drive to and from work (if conditions permit traveling).

The reason why the governor shut down the whole system is that you don’t want people going out there and getting stuck on highways in cars or buses, or even having to deal with some disaster happening with the trains. The commuter trains and other above the ground trains would be major issues, and if you have to shut down bus and above ground trains, why leave only the subway running?

Walt Gekko January 28, 2015 - 6:30 am

You keep the underground subways as well as elevated portions that are not subject to being easily blocked running because that allows people who have to get around (especially to work) to do so. There are a lot of people who now are going to have their Super Bowl weekends completely messed up by this and that is just more blowback for Cuomo from this.

Cuomo is looking very bad on this and I suspect will be under pressure to never do it again (outside of a Sandy/Irene situation), even if it’s the right thing otherwise because of this.

Spiderpig January 28, 2015 - 8:37 am

Care to enlighten us how it screws up so many people’s weekend?

Walt Gekko January 28, 2015 - 9:13 am

Simple, people in many cases now have to go in on Saturday and/or Sunday to make up for the day-plus lost earlier in the week and that will completely mess up their Super Bowl plans. That likely will add to the blowback Cuomo (and to a lesser extent for now the Democrats) is(/are) getting from this.

David January 28, 2015 - 9:40 am

Ugh.. years from now, no one is going to remember that this messed up their Super Bowl plans. That’s absurd. Again, in the moment of this it’s a big deal, but you’re an idiot if you think everyone is going to remember this 1 event and hold it against him way down the line. Even if this is a defining moment of his tenure as governor (which I’m confident it isn’t), it’s not some mark against him that’s going to make the democrats of 2020 say “we can’t let this guy run for president, remember the time he shut down the subways because of a couple of inches of snow?”

sonicboy678 January 28, 2015 - 6:10 pm

He reacted as if everything was on the ground and we were getting 7 feet of snow.

Bolwerk January 28, 2015 - 10:18 am

Who is “you”? Some prig deciding who gets to go where?

Why leave the subway running? Because it has more reach than the bus network, at least in terms of how many people are near it, and it’s nearly immune to snow. Because, like it or not, probably hundreds of thousands of people probably could have still used it? Because it’s a public service we depend on?

Rob January 28, 2015 - 4:08 pm

No, buses would not have been a prob either — mta had announced: All local buses, including articulated buses, will have chains or snow tires installed by PM rush hour.

sonicboy678 January 28, 2015 - 6:12 pm

There’s only so many of those and traction is a major issue. Without adequate shelter, buses are still more problematic than the subway.

Andrew January 28, 2015 - 11:23 pm

The police, fire department, and hospitals would simply have workers work overtime and make other provisions for in order to keep them running.

You do realize, I hope, that, had the blizzard been anywhere near as severe as predicted, the subway closure would have lasted through Tuesday? Have you ever worked 24 or more hours straight? How was the quality of your work after 24 hours had gone by? Why would we deliberately put ourselves in a situation in which first responders cannot be relieved, even when there’s a perfectly safe way that their reliefs could arrive if only the trains were accepting passengers?

By the way, what are these people working extremely long hours expected to eat? No eating establishments are open if their staff can’t get in, and anybody who stocked up on food before the storm presumably left that food at home.

Also when bad weather comes, those people can be the few people allowed to drive to and from work (if conditions permit traveling).

Congratulations, you’ve just put these people in true danger. (And you’ve also forgotten about anybody without a car – e.g., the majority of New York City residents.)

The reason why the governor shut down the whole system is that you don’t want people going out there and getting stuck on highways in cars or buses,

Seriously? Did you just say that the governor shut down the subway because you don’t want people using modes of transport other than the subway?

or even having to deal with some disaster happening with the trains.

What disaster would happen with the trains in the 85% or so of the system that is not vulnerable to snow buildup?

The commuter trains and other above the ground trains would be major issues, and if you have to shut down bus and above ground trains, why leave only the subway running?

Um, because the subway can get a lot of people to within walking distance of their destinations? (Did you really ask that question?)

adirondacker12800 January 28, 2015 - 11:52 pm

The contingency plans for people in the chain that responds to 911 calls is resilient enough to deal with abnormal conditions that last more than 24 hours. And it doesn’t include those people getting in their personal automobiles and driving to work. The contingency plans include arranging for sleeping and eating. Probably bathing too.
It’s very difficult to walk to your destination from the subway platform if all the stairs leading to the street have been blocked by snowdrifts.


Bolwerk January 29, 2015 - 12:51 am

Yeah, hi, you must be from Florida. Most of us know what a snowdrift looks like. We don’t need to look them up on Wikipedia.

We also don’t need your absolution before we decide whether the weather is too crappy to use public transportation. We can decide for ourselves. k thx

adirondacker12800 January 29, 2015 - 2:04 am

I know what snow drifts look like because I actually remember having to move them in past few decades. With a shovel. And how things stop moving. And how some subway entrances which if you have ever used one are also the exits, get clogged with snow. That someone eventually gets around to.

Andrew January 29, 2015 - 1:10 am

Congratulations, some people have jobs that have all sorts of contingency plans. Others don’t.

If your job function is critical and 24/7, you can’t sleep until you’ve been relieved.

If your subway station entrance is blocked by a snowdrift, your building exit is also probably blocked by a snowdrift, so you’re not going outside and the point is moot. How about everybody who got off work at 11 or 12 or 1 and could have easily gone down the stairs if only there were a usable subway system down there, so instead they walked home?

adirondacker12800 January 29, 2015 - 2:13 am

If your job is critical and is 24/7 someone somewhere in management has a contingency plan because you have to eat and sleep and if it’s more than a day or two, bathe. When you manager heard that the subway was going to close down at 11 he or she should have executed the contingency plan or sent you home before the subway and buses stopped running.
Another place I worked was open to answer the phone 24/7/365. The idiots in management didn’t have a contingency plan and got hauled before corporate to explain why no one was answering the phone when Governor Whitman closed down the state. And why they didn’t jury rig a telecommute option. Our customers got over it.

Bolwerk January 29, 2015 - 9:24 am

Losing a day’s pay is “critical” to a lot of people. It’s not about you.

adirondacker12800 January 29, 2015 - 11:03 am

So they would have spent hours wading to the subway and then wading to work to find that the landlord had closed the building. If they were able to get into the station near home and get out of the station near work.

Bolwerk January 29, 2015 - 6:37 pm

That’s so absurdly stupid I don’t believe you believe what you’re saying. Really.

Walt Gekko January 28, 2015 - 6:34 am

And in this case, the blowback from this, especially from Wall Street I think is going to hurt the Democrats when 2016 comes around. Even if NYC got 30″, Wall Street would have still be PO’ed over this and demanded Cuomo never do this again and likely are now looking at every LEGAL way possible to block Cuomo on this.

Bolwerk January 28, 2015 - 10:14 am

Nobody gives a fuck. Nobody who has a voice at the table was even inconvenienced.

Think about why Christie was never chastised for fucking New Jersey over for a generation. Then you’ll understand why Cuomo will not be punished for this.

He deserves to be hit with a tire iron, yes, but nobody will do it.

Eric Brasure January 28, 2015 - 9:02 am

You’re missing Ben’s point–which is that it’s not unsafe, even in 30″ of snow, to continue to run modified subway service, and in fact it’s UNSAFE to suspend subway service as you leave people with no alternative but to walk.

You’re comparing low-traction vehicles driven by amateurs (cars) with a professional subway system. One should be closed in a blizzard, the other can and should continue to run.

Patrick O'Hara January 28, 2015 - 11:10 am

The point of a travel ban is to make sure that nobody is out during the storm (or, at the very least, significantly minimize the people who are out). Once you start making concessions to that idea, you are in away allowing people to go out, which defeats the purpose of the travel ban.

While you walking a block to the nearest underground station, riding downtown, and walking one more block to your destination might not harm anybody, running subway service does invite people to drive from say Long Island or the Hudson Valley, where conditions are not appropriate for driving, to Jamaica or to one of the terminals in the Bronx, and by allowing them to do that, they’re out on the roads and risking their lives and the lives of the people they might run into (or the emergency vehicles they might impede).

For the sake of consistency, it’s best to just suspend everything and ride out the storm–that way people would have no option but to sit at home and wait. Like I said before, it’s noble to want to be strong and have as much as possible up and running during the storm, but there’s no real need for it. The region’s public transportation systems have been relatively lucky with past storms, with nobody falling severely ill or dying due to a train getting stuck, but that’s no reason to tempt fate.

Benjamin Kabak January 28, 2015 - 11:30 am

You can’t suspend people’s needs to get to their jobs, and by not providing subway service — which can easily and safely be provided in snow — you make it more dangerous for those who have no choice but to travel. The so-called “essential personnel” need to get around too. That’s a key point that seems to be ignored. These subway rides aren’t discretionary.

anon_coward January 28, 2015 - 12:01 pm

and yet the world didn’t end yesterday. where i work we simply had people telecommute in. VPN FTW

adirondacker12800 January 28, 2015 - 1:11 pm

That’s one of the things the Governor can do.
The managers who need people to be in work have contingency plans. My employer’s plan was “rent all the hotel rooms that are vacant across the street because the airlines have shipped all of their employees home”. If your employer doesn’t have that kind of contingency plan you don’t need to be in work.
Everybody else stays home. Or where they are if they were too stupid to get home before everything closed down.

Seth January 28, 2015 - 2:18 pm

I have to disagree with you here. Many people I know left work early on Monday because of the announcement that subway service would be suspended. I don’t think there’s any other measure the governor could have taken that would have compelled the same number of people to action. Maybe this is only a benefit for people with flexible creative-class jobs who can work remotely, and a loss to wage workers who lost hours, but discontinuing subway service communicated to many people that the city was closed for business on Monday night in a way that no storm watch or advisory would have done.

Walt Gekko January 28, 2015 - 11:16 pm

Problem is Beth, many still had to go to work and could not shell out for a hotel (either themselves or their company). There are a lot of people overseas who expect people to be at their desks no matter what and don’t understand why the subways were shut down.

This is even more true in Japan, where people didn’t stop EVEN WHEN the earthquake/tsunami hit in 2011 and more recently a Super Typhoon (equal of a Category 5 Hurricane I believe) and everything operated very close to normal.

Some of the people who missed work now have to go in during Super Bowl weekend to make up the time lost and in many cases will have it wreck their Super Bowl weekend. Companies that closed Tuesday have to make up the lost day in many cases and that is something Cuomo also overlooked.

Miles Bader January 31, 2015 - 8:40 pm

I don’t disagree with your general point, but I was working in Japan during the 2011 earthquake, and things most definitely stopped… There was a period of several days during which almost no trains in Tokyo were running, and service resumed only slowly after that (and this is a city which is even more train dependent than NYC).

Of course the reasons for this were quite good: initially they had to carefully check for damage to the tracks, but more significantly, there was a major loss of electrical generating capacity, and most trains basically couldn’t run (although JR east has it’s own emergency generating capacity, so fared a bit better than other operators). It was a while before the system was capable of handling anything like a normal commuter load.

[Not only were the trains stopped, but in many areas there was no electricity at all in the days after the earthquake (the streets were dark, there were no traffic signals, etc… It was pretty freaky!), and rolling blackouts and other electricity-saving measures (e.g. shops would turn off most of their lights) were a part of daily life for months.]

Kevin January 28, 2015 - 12:20 pm

You are forgetting the people that got off from work at 11pm or later on Monday. What were they supposed to do?

I have a cushy white collar job. My whole company got to work from home Tuesday. As we can on any given day. Or we could use one of our infinite vacation days, infinite sick days, or infinite personal days (company policy is to not track any of them). Also I live ~150 yards from my office, so I’m not affected by any of this. It’s really easy to fall in the trap to say “why do we *need* to run the subways anyway?”?

Yet on Tuesday morning while I suffered through Starbucks being closed, I was one of about 3 out of the typical 1000 people in the office. You know who the other 2 were? The office doorman and the office manager (who made up for Starbucks being closed by making coffee). Both are contractors that don’t get those policies mentioned above. I’m sure they make the least by far of anyone in the company. I’m sure they also have some of the longer, more difficult commutes. They had to make up for the lack of subway somehow, and I bet it was more expensive and more dangerous than just getting on the subway they already have a MetroCard for.

Unfortunately too many people that make transit policy think about it from the perspective of Monday-Friday, 9-6, white collar workers in the CBD. The people that *rely* on public transit are also those with the thinnest margins, and it’s easy to forget what a cost missing one day of work can be for many people.

Bolwerk January 28, 2015 - 12:58 pm

The consensus among the few people who think Cuomo had the right of it seems to be that people with needs that differ from typical white males in suits are just stupid.

anon_coward January 28, 2015 - 1:25 pm

my employer along with others has a corporate condo in manhattan and we had someone stay there to be able to come in yesterday because we are a 24x7x365 business. that person normally lives upstate. almost everyone else VPN’d in yesterday. a doctor i know had to stay at work Monday night but i bet that hospital has a bed for him to sleep. same with other businesses who needed people to be in on Tuesday.

for everyone else it’s not that big a deal if you can’t make it into the office to show off how awesome you are while everyone else is home.

Bolwerk January 28, 2015 - 1:31 pm

^ The politics of narcissism!

This is another near constant with people who think Cuomo had the right about it: they talk about themselves. A lot.

anon_coward January 28, 2015 - 1:38 pm

so he was wrong? it was one day. i remember a lot of blizzards where the subways were supposed to be running and almost no one came to work because it was like a 2 hour wait for a train and life went on.

there is enough tech out there that you can transfer your office number and run the phone software on your home PC or Mac and no one will ever know you’re not in the office.

our company had hundreds of people working remotely yesterday taking care of customers. the sales people didn’t have much to do.

Bolwerk January 28, 2015 - 1:57 pm

I see a lot of people who weren’t affected either way because they could and did comfortably sit inside are sneering about what the people who were affected should or should not be doing.

Has anyone made a good case that Cuomo was right? No, not a single fucking person.

adirondacker12800 January 28, 2015 - 2:02 pm

Leave work at 10:30 or ask your boss which hotel he’s gonna put you in?

adirondacker12800 January 28, 2015 - 2:06 pm

The building manager probably has a contingency plan even if that contingency plan is to unroll a sleeping bag in his office. The doorman have participated in that plan. There probably was someone wandering around in the mechanical rooms too.

Alex January 28, 2015 - 12:40 pm

The problem is shutting down the subway does not change the reality of the situation. It would be ideal if no one had to move around in the midst of a storm, but that’s not reality. Those who need to get around will do so however they can. If that means violating the driving ban or walking in the storm, then they will do it. If the subways can operate safely in the snow (they can) then they ought to remain open to provide people with a safe means of transportation.

adirondacker12800 January 28, 2015 - 2:07 pm

It’s not safe to wade down the stairs to the platform if the stairs are hip deep in snow.

sonicboy678 January 28, 2015 - 6:16 pm

Here’s a thought: keep the stairs clear.

adirondacker12800 January 28, 2015 - 7:02 pm

with Keebler elves? That’s about the only place they’d be able to get enough staff to keep the stair clear in a 30 inch snow.

sonicboy678 January 28, 2015 - 7:47 pm

Have someone periodically step outside and clear the stairs. Doing this will keep the stairs from becoming hazardous.

adirondacker12800 January 28, 2015 - 8:17 pm

it must be nice to live in California where it never snows. If it’s going to snow 30 inches in a day it’s not a matter of stepping outside occasionally for a brief sweep with a broom or a few shovelfulls. Especially if it’s windy, the snow is drifting and swirls down the stairs.

John-2 January 28, 2015 - 8:27 pm

Have the station attendant rock salt the stairs.

Then have them rock salt the stairs some more.

Then a couple of hours later, they rock salt the stairs again.

Salting stairs and walkways to melt snow has been going on for over 100 years — even longer than the NYC subway has been in operation without ever closing due to a snowstorm … until 11 p.m. on Monday.

adirondacker12800 January 28, 2015 - 10:13 pm

Salt whether it’s sodium cloride or even calcium cloride isn’t an appropriate response for 30 inches of snow.

John-2 January 28, 2015 - 11:34 pm

Combine the snow melt from the rock salt and the pedestrian traffic from keeping the stations open, and you’re not going to have a build-up, other than at the most lightly-used stations (i.e. — People will trod over the same path others have used before, which would keep the stairs clear in the center sections, in the same way people will follow the path already trod on sidewalks that haven’t been cleared of snow).

sonicboy678 January 29, 2015 - 9:26 pm

Thanks; I’ve never been. I was cooped up at home because school was cancelled for the day. That said, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that one out. If anything, have a ragtag team of MTA personnel and able (and willing) people keep the stairways clear. They can alternate so the stairs are safe enough to use.

adirondacker12800 January 29, 2015 - 10:11 pm

There aren’t enough of them to cope with 30 inches of snow adequately.

John-2 January 28, 2015 - 3:25 am

As we saw during Cuomo’s first term, his pattern time and again with the MTA was to have any good news about the system announced through the governor’s office, while any bad news was dumped off on Prendergast, Lhota, Walder or the agency’s public affairs department.

A snow emergency isn’t a ‘good’ thing, but in this case, Cuomo again was trying to turn it into a public relations plus for himself by being hyper pro-active, and presumably calming the nerves of all the special snowflakes out there who had gotten the vapors over the Armageddon-style reporting of the cable news channels, The Weather Channel, local stations and the local print media about the impending winter weather. Prince Andrew was going to protect them from the big bad snowstorm.

The governor’s actions stood out because they were unprecedented in the system’s 110-year history, by going beyond the logical modifications following the 2010 storm of curtailing or severely limiting services for lines running in open cuts, on raised embankments and/or concrete-sheathed viaducts. But his mistake was in also falling for the Snowmageddon hype, and forgetting that pinpoint forecasting of storm patterns remains an inexact science.

Cuomo mitigated a bit of the damage by reopening the system early on Tuesday, so the city didn’t have a whole business day without its subway while in some areas there was only ankle-deep snow or slush on the ground. But he’s still deservedly open for ridicule because he took an action that had never been done in over a century, in hopes of showing the public his decisive leadership qualities. Maybe from now on he’ll stick to simply taking credit for the latest round of Sandy-related tunnel repairs instead of trying to run the whole system.

Walt Gekko January 28, 2015 - 4:34 am

As noted, David Faber on CNBC BLASTED Cuomo over this TWICE on Tuesday.

Many on Wall Street are EXTREMELY PISSED OFF over this to where there may be major political fallout. What Cuomo inadvertantly did was make it that much more difficult for the Democrats to get control of the House and Senate back in 2016 because now Wall Street will be much more aggressive in my view to make sure the Republicans stay in control of both. Some Democrats who may have had a shot of picking up seats in the House or Senate may have seen that chace go away as a direct result of Cuomo’s actions because of how PO’ed Wall Street is over this.

The blowback I think is going to be far worse for Cuomo than he ever imagined and I do think the DNC will put Cuomo on notice that if he does this again (even if it’s the right thing to do) outside of an Irene/Sandy situation, he could be considered “persona non grata” to the party and kill any hopes of a Presidential bid. If I’m in the GOP, I’m CELEBRATING what Cuomo did because it made my job of retaining the house and Senate in 2016 that much easier because of Wall Street being THAT PO’ed over this.

anon_coward January 28, 2015 - 9:52 am

so what you are saying is that in 2015 with all the money wall street has they can’t come up with some telecommuting solution for their traders and others to work at home?

between them and CNBC they sound like a bunch of cry babies crying about no money on their way to buy that fifth car. it’s like MLB can’t find any money for a decent replay system when the TV broadcasts can do it in seconds

sonicboy678 January 28, 2015 - 6:29 pm

This is unreasonably reductive.

You were able to telecommute. Good for you; not everyone has that luxury, not even on Wall Street. Just because someone works there doesn’t mean the person is wealthy. Every person’s situation is different. This is basically what Cuomo didn’t consider — and exactly what you’re not considering.

adirondacker12800 January 28, 2015 - 7:24 pm

And people who have to be in work have contingency plans, even if the contingency plan is to drag out the sleeping bags and canned food. Or book one of the hotel rooms that is suddenly empty because the airlines canceled all the flights. No there won’t be full room service and the towels might not get changed but there will be hotel rooms.

sonicboy678 January 29, 2015 - 9:31 pm

This is assuming that these things are available. For once, consider that the odds are not always in one’s favor. There may not be available food, sleeping bags, hotels, etc. during the storm and the only practical way to even reach these things has been closed. It could range from poor planning (which happens) to these things being taken (which happens) to these items somehow being rendered unusable (which happens).

adirondacker12800 January 29, 2015 - 10:12 pm

It’s not the MTA’s problem that management at a private is neglecting that company’s contingency plans.

Justin Samuels January 28, 2015 - 5:48 am

If we had truly been hit by a horrible storm Cuomo would have been justified. The worst that happened is that many people got the day off. I know I enjoyed it.

Walt Gekko January 28, 2015 - 6:07 am

Doesn’t matter:

The stock market stayed open and many traders were unable to get to their desks because they had planned for an all-day shutdown of the subways. Had the subways stayed opened, many on Wall Street who live close to such could have gotten in.

The subways have ALWAYS previously run in this situation. This was POLITICALLY motivated because Cuomo apparently didn’t want to tick off suburban voters by keeping the NYC Subways open. EVEN IF we had gotten the 30″ storm, Wall Street would STILL have been EXTREMELY PISSED OFF over this and as they likely are now anyway (with more fuel added) making it CLEAR to Cuomo they are exploring every legal option they have to block him from doing this in the future (even in an emergency) and making it clear this will NEVER be tolerated again outside of a Sandy/Irene situation. I also suspect Cuomo is going to be told by the DNC NEVER to do this again because the Democratic Party likely now is going to be getting blowback from this as well that could reverberate well outside New York.

Cuomo’s plans likely have backfired on him considerably and the fallout from this could be a lot bigger than people think.

John-2 January 28, 2015 - 10:34 am

Go read Barro’s post in the Times again — The idea that “Ho hum, lets just give everyone an extra day off. No big deal,” runs up against the reality that the rest of the world keeps working and the economic cost is real:

As of 2014, there were 3.9 million people working in New York City, earning an average daily wage of $409. A majority of those workers commute via the city’s public transit system, even when the roads are in good condition. If the subway closing led just 10 percent of people who work in New York City to take the day off today, the cost in lost labor was around $160 million — lost wages for those who are not fortunate enough to get a paid snow day, and lost productivity to the employers of those who did get paid without working.

You can’t act as if NYC is its own little self-contained economy — it has real-world consequences (including in city and state tax collections) when a system that’s never been shut down before by snow now has to be shut down routinely any time Al Roker goes into panic mode. It’s not the same as giving the local elementary school kids an extra snow day.

Rob January 30, 2015 - 1:14 am

No, the worst thing that happened was that many people ended up having to walk miles to their homes or jobs through the snow because they don’t have the option of taking the day off.

Ray January 28, 2015 - 6:58 am

Completely disagree. Multiple agencies were ordered into systemwide shutdowns by their governors. MTA staff are state employees. While its encouraging to know they have confidence in their system and plans, it’s ridiculous to believe a 30″ snowstorm would not have dangerous consequences. Examine the scale of what was ordered and by whom.

Walt Gekko January 28, 2015 - 7:33 am

Until Cuomo, NYC has NEVER operated that way. Wall Street is EXTREMELY PISSED OFF about this and (again) would have been even if NYC got 30″ of snow. The blowback could hurt the Democrats to the point that the DNC I think will make it clear to Cuomo to ONLY do it from now on IF it’s a Sandy/Irene situation or be considered “persona non grata” or “dead” to the Democrats.

Politics could wind up barring Cuomo from doing this again because he violated Rule #1 of such in that you NEVER PISS OFF WALL STREET, which Cuomo clearly did with this shutdown.

Seth January 28, 2015 - 2:23 pm

Please stop spamming your conspiracy theory. The DNC doesn’t care, nor should they. Wall St doesn’t care. Cuomo’s much more worried about convicted legislators testifying against him than a snow day 3 years ago in 2018.

adirondacker12800 January 28, 2015 - 5:50 pm

Wall Street has four trading days in a week fairly frequently. The electronic trading went on undeterred.

Spendmor Wastemor January 28, 2015 - 8:29 am

110 years of history says otherwise.

Following the embarrassment of 2010, snow prep is at least as good now as it was then, and with the addition of service suspensions on the few routes which are subject to trains getting stalled it is arguably more conservative. Even on those routes, if the trains each have a 3rd rail scraper and headways of 6 minutes or less, snow/ice can’t build fast enough to stop them.

Eric Brasure January 28, 2015 - 9:04 am

And 2010 happened because the forecast was calling for a much smaller amount of snow, if I remember correctly.

Berk32 January 28, 2015 - 10:48 am

2010 was the ‘perfect storm’ of everything going wrong.
First, the forecast was for a smaller storm – and then it dumped a foot of snow in like 2 hours (the rate of snow fall is so much more important than the total amount in the end).
Second, it was right after Christmas AND on the weekend.
Third, there was a sanitation protest due to budget cuts that slowed down cleanup (that mainly affected the roads and not the trains obviously).

Because this forecast called for a high rate of snow fall overnight Monday, I can accept closing the major roads (and by doing so have them clear by Tuesday morning). But they should have cancelled that by like 4am, and the underground subway stations should have never closed.
Announcing a Tuesday shut down of the City Monday afternoon was ridiculous. There is no major public safety problem like Superstorm Sandy created that you have to prepare for in advance. IT’S SNOW.

Manny s January 28, 2015 - 3:10 pm

MTA staff are not state employees. The MTA is a public authority, not a state agency.

Ray January 28, 2015 - 9:58 pm

Fair point, Manny. The MTA is a Class A public benefit corp. chartered by the Legislature with a board appointed, largely, by the Governor (giving him near total control). The variances between PBCs and state agencies seem minimal. Which might lead one (me) to consider their employees analogous to those of a state agency. Yet, you are right! They are not state employees.

Andrew January 28, 2015 - 11:52 pm

Yet MTA employees continued to work straight through the night – including (but certainly not limited to) the train operators and conductors who were operating the passenger trains that weren’t picking up passengers.

At least they, unlike everybody else in the city, had a means of transportation.

Peter January 28, 2015 - 9:03 am

“You think Cuomo was considering his political future when he made this decision?

Is that a trick question?

He doesn’t take a piss without thinking of the ‘optics’. But it’s not NY voters he was worried about. He just won re-election.

He didn’t want to see videos of stuck passengers being led off a train, being aired in Iowa.

Besides, in the town where he lives, you can’t get Chinese food after 10PM, so why should anybody else need to?

Walt Gekko January 28, 2015 - 9:18 am

Some of us CLEARLY get that Cuomo was clearly thinking of HIS future. Only this completely backfired on him, he violated Rule #1 of politics in the process (even if it was “in the interest of safety”) and the blowback could wind up having unintended national repercussions for the Democrats come 2016 because of Wall Street being EXTREMELY PO’ed by Cuomo’s shutdown.

LLQBTT January 28, 2015 - 9:17 am

This really calls into question why a Prince, who sits on his throne in Albany, gets to call the shots on the New York CITY subway system. Why tell de Blasio anything? He’s not royally. Why let the professionals decide? They’re not royalty either.

In addition, he spends more of his time tending to all the other counties besides the 5 that happen to fall within New York City as evidenced by his repeated references to the lake effect snow event in Buffalo. What relevance to NYC could this possibly have?

A good executive is decisive, but a good executive doesn’t make decisions in a vacuum as Cuomo did. A good executive relies on his professionals. Thus, he’s not a very good executive and therefore behaves more like an anointed dictator.

Walt Gekko January 28, 2015 - 9:24 am

And this is why I think the Democratic Party if going to tell Cuomo if he does this again, UNLESS it’s a Sandy/Irene situation, he will be “persona non grata” to the Democrats because he may have wrecked their chances of regaining the Legislative branches in 2016 by PO’ing Wall Street with this.

I would not be surprised if Wall Street tries to get Cuomo recalled if they legally can later this year and if not, prepare to heavily fund a candidate to run against Cuomo in 2018 that has a real chance to beat him (either in the Democratic Primary or General Election). Cuomo PO’ing Wall Street is going to have a level of blowback he never likely expected.

Eric Brasure January 28, 2015 - 9:31 am

Oh my god please give it a rest already. Nothing is going to happen to Cuomo because of this. In fact, “Wall Street” trying to recall Cuomo will never happen because a) Wall Street doesn’t give a shit and b) NYS has no recall process.

Benjamin Kabak January 28, 2015 - 9:43 am

Walt, respectfully, please, enough. You’ve hijacked enough of the comment threads over the last few days, and we all understand your views. At this point, I’ll ask you to keep these comments to a minimum as they are detracting from other conversations that are happening here.

SEAN January 28, 2015 - 10:50 am

Thank you Ben I feel the same way.

Walt Gekko January 28, 2015 - 9:56 pm

My apologies:

I went overboard because as a Democrat who is well aware of what the GOP is trying to do now and as one who follows politics closely, many of us (especially those who follow politics more closely than me) worry about ANYTHING that could affect the Democrats trying to get back the House and Senate in 2016. Knowing how Wall Street doesn’t forget things, they will find a way to make Cuomo pay for the shutdown even if he doesn’t feel it directly, and that is something I’m sure Democrats are worried about even if they don’t say so publicly.

I did not mean to go overboard on this, but the concerns of the GOP ruining the economy for many is a major enough concern for why that happened, knowing how this may come back to hurt them.

Larry 3 January 28, 2015 - 10:40 pm

You over think too much especially you been spamming all over the internet with your idiotic opinion. Seriously, turn off your computer and go straight to bed to clear your mind.

David January 28, 2015 - 9:43 am

Do you think if you keep repeating the same point over and over again, that will make it true? This is not going to have any long-term lasting effect that’s going to hurt his political future. It’s a big deal to New Yorkers, but the minute the next big decision of his is made or the next big story comes along, this will be old news. You really think this is going to wreck the Democrats’ chances for 2016? Where do you come up with asinine arguments like this?

Phantom January 28, 2015 - 10:43 am

This is like when yer man went on and on about restoring the M train to Bay Parkway.

Cheers, Ben – saw you on NY1 the other day.

SEAN January 28, 2015 - 10:53 am

I was fortunate to meet Ben at his last problem solvers on the Metrocard replacement.

Tim January 28, 2015 - 10:55 am

While I was able to walk to my company’s satellite office in the city this morning, I was thoroughly surprised when I got to 77th at 8:00am that the trains were running (I could hear them from the street) and yet the entrance was roped off.

I didn’t mind the walk, Park ave was silent as a tomb for the most part, but I find the heavy-handed manner in which Cuomo called the shutdown to be somewhat troubling.

This only furthers my belief that he doesn’t really have a solid grasp on the city itself, and merely acts with autocratic authority on his own whims.

While I understand MNR/LIRR shutdowns are prudent, Underground service should not have been completely curtailed. What’s the point in developing a response plan if you’re not going to use it.

This just further sours my taste for Cuomo on all things transit related, he clearly is not educated on the matter properly, and I think this whole episode will come back to haunt him.

JJJJ January 28, 2015 - 11:05 am

“New Yorkers need to see that transit is a safe and reliable option when cars aren’t”

This is news to Cuomo. For him, transit is probably the option of last resort, and I assume he still thinks the system is stuck in the 70s.

If the limos and towncars can’t operate, then why the hell should the vagrants and thieves that roam the subway be allowed to move around?

In fact, in Cuomos mind, society is probably safer when the subway isnt running, as it stops THOSE PEOPLE from committing crimes when the police arent able to respond.

As for politics, this WILL hurt him, because he decided to rule like a dictator. Steamrolling the mayor? Ignoring the MTA experts? Is that the kind of leadership you want in the white house? A man who will push aside all the experts to do whatever the fuck he wants?

SEAN January 28, 2015 - 12:14 pm

As for politics, this WILL hurt him, because he decided to rule like a dictator. Steamrolling the mayor? Ignoring the MTA experts? Is that the kind of leadership you want in the white house? A man who will push aside all the experts to do whatever the fuck he wants?


SEAN January 28, 2015 - 12:18 pm

Outside of steamrolling the mayor, you could have been describing Cris Christi as he exibits similar trates.

JJJJ January 28, 2015 - 12:28 pm

Nobody wants Chris Christie in the White House either

SEAN January 28, 2015 - 3:02 pm

You can say that about nearly every current candidate – Nitt Romney, Jeb Bush, Hilary Clinton, Sarah Palen, Rick Perry & on & on. There actually isn’t any candidate right now who is qualified or insane enough bothering to take the helm.

JJJ January 28, 2015 - 3:04 pm

At least Mitt didnt screw up the MBTA

SEAN January 28, 2015 - 3:19 pm

The MBTA’s finantials don’t appear so great either.

JJJ January 28, 2015 - 3:34 pm

At least they dont charge $2.75 for a subway ride

Berk32 January 28, 2015 - 4:51 pm

they only charge $2.65

JJJ January 28, 2015 - 5:10 pm

2.10 actually. $2.65 is the equivalent of the MTA single ride, which I believe is going to be $3.00 now, and youd be foolish to buy that

Tim January 28, 2015 - 5:07 pm

The MBTA’s management makes the MTA look like Six-Sigma Black Belts in comparison.

Low Headways January 29, 2015 - 6:07 am

I mean, if we’re going to talk about the MBTA’s debt, you have to talk about the aburdities on Beacon Hill. It’s almost as bad as Albany in terms of interference with the largest metropolitan area’s transportation and economy (exhibit A).

tacony January 28, 2015 - 12:15 pm

I think a more realistic notion that Cuomo and others believe is that if emergency personnel can’t easily drive a vehicle to the scene of an incident, we shouldn’t be allowing any human beings to travel there at all.

We’ve built up an emergency response infrastructure that’s totally car dependent, even if the rest of our city’s (and especially Manhattan’s) economy never made that post-auto change. There’s nothing dangerous about walking and taking the 6 train in Manhattan in 3 feet of snow. But if grandma breaks her neck on the subway steps and needs to be rushed to the nearest ED (or, as I understand it, the ED of her choice ’cause if you have GOOD insurance you don’t wanna go to an HHC hospital?), an ambulance will have trouble traveling there in 3 feet of snow.

(And of course historically there were many more, smaller, hospitals throughout the city. But now that many have consolidated and closed you could be a much further trip to the nearest ED… an impossible journey without clear auto traffic…)

Think about it this way: traffic and parking regulations/cost are really the only reason driving isn’t the most convenient and efficient way to get around NYC. Other modes are only embraced by us normal folk ’cause we have to sit in traffic and can’t find a parking spot or pay for one.

Emergency responders are unconstrained by traffic and parking issues ’cause we’ve deemed their mission important enough that they can ignore regular traffic and parking laws to put on their flashers and double-park with impunity. But they can’t do anything to get through 3 feet of snow. We probably could, if we wished, set up an emergency response system that utilized the underground subway system for heavy snow, but it’d need to be used so rarely that it wouldn’t be viewed as worth the time. Easier to just tell everybody to stay home.

adirondacker12800 January 28, 2015 - 2:01 pm

Grandma remembers the blizzard of the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s and isn’t stupid enough to go out in it. If she’s really old she remembers the Blizzard of 1947.

JJJ January 28, 2015 - 3:06 pm

Seriously. The people who would have taken the subway are the same people who had to go out anyway, and did.

The sidewalks didnt shovel themselves. But instead of being able to take the subway 20 blocks, those people had to walk it. Much safer!

adirondacker12800 January 28, 2015 - 5:53 pm

The sidewalk doesn’t have to be cleared until 24 hours after the snow fall ends.

Brooklynite January 28, 2015 - 6:19 pm

Four hours, not 24. Quite the difference.


Bolwerk January 28, 2015 - 12:39 pm

I think Cuomo will eventually have that (newly proverbial) “bridge moment” where that whole edifice of undeserved confidence and sycophantic deference the commentariat gives him dissipates.

But this is not it. It could be coming with the Sheldon Silver fallout though. It could even be more spectacular than Christie, given Democrats have way less leniency in the press, at least when it comes to things like cronyism and playing games with public finances.

John-2 January 28, 2015 - 1:32 pm

Cuomo should probably hope his autocratic degree on Monday didn’t irk Preet Bharara, if he was taking the subway to work Tuesday morning.

SEAN January 28, 2015 - 3:29 pm

Oh yeah, this guy is on a absolute roll. He already has more notches on his belt than former Westchester D. A. Janine Piro had during her tenure.

Larry Littlefield January 28, 2015 - 12:31 pm

Lots of Monday morning quarterbacking here.

Yes, the subways could have kept running underground. But people would have had to walk to and from the subway, and if conditions had been as forecast the windchill, visibility and potential falling tree limbs would have been life threatening. Two people decided to go out during Hurricane Sandy, and got killed.


The Buffalo Blizzard of 1977 killed 29 — with 12 inches of snow but high winds.


And we all remember what happened in 2010, when there was no shutdowns and stranded buses and plows blocked the plows. And have people forgotten what happened when MetroNorth tried to keep electric trains running during a blizzard, and had most of its fleet disabled for weeks after snow was blasted into the electrical junction boxes under the trains?


You have to make these calls hours in advance, because you have to give people time to get home. Including transit workers. They couldn’t have waited until 10 pm to announce shutdowns at 11 pm. And yes, in that case, things can go wrong because storms can change direction.

My only complaint? That they couldn’t get the subway open at 7:30 am instead of 9 am. Given the need for transit workers to get to work, that might have meant lifting the road travel ban at 6 am instead of 7:30 am. There was no need for everyone to miss a day of work — I didn’t, but I was the only one in.

VLM January 28, 2015 - 1:09 pm

It’s hard to accuse someone Monday morning quarterbacking when they wrote, as Ben did, the same thing before we knew the extent of storm. But hey, who needs to read thorough or comprehensively?

SEAN January 28, 2015 - 3:15 pm

Technical correction… you cant Monday morning quarterback if the shutdown was on Monday & went into Tuesday. LOL

Simon January 28, 2015 - 12:33 pm

It looks like Cuomo is now trying to deflect by having Prendergast take the credit for the decision. The Times reported yesterday that “Mr. Prendergast said…that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo agreed with his strong recommendation to shut down the subways.” Quite a change from the day before, when Prendergast said, “…there’d be no reason for us [to close the subway] — we’d be able to run trains.”

Another odd quote from Prendergast: “In railroading, there is more of an awareness that ‘damn the torpedoes, run the trains’ is not the most prudent course.”

It will be interesting to see whether Cuomo continues to distance himself from the decision after the fact.

John-2 January 28, 2015 - 1:37 pm

Like I said earlier, Cuomo’s pattern since becoming governor has been to take credit for anything good involving the MTA, while dumping the bad news off on the Chairman or the agency’s media department to announce.

But it boggles the mind to think how clueless the guy is to think he can do a 48-hour turnaround on this and stick Prendergast with the blame when he was out in front Monday showing New York and the world his decisive leadership. You usually only see nakedly self-serving finger pointing like this on TV sitcoms.

Andrew January 28, 2015 - 11:57 pm

I think Prendergast is, unfortunately, used to it by now.

Bolwerk January 29, 2015 - 12:42 am

I always liked Prendergast, but these days he seems reduced to a bumbling Otis to Cuomo’s Lex Luthor. Even the P.R. shots of them together like this look like it.

It was probably carefully planned. Walder was too technocratic, and Lhota was too ambitious.

Michael January 28, 2015 - 1:03 pm


I am not dis-agreeing on the idea that Govenor Cuomo screwed up by simply deciding to shut down all travel and transit services in a blizzard that turned out not to be as bad as originally or hyped in the forecasts. I believe that the MTA’s Plan 4 or Plan 5 would have been the better response. However as usual “hindsight” is always so much better!

There is simply a very strong case to be made for emergency event planning, proper responses to emergencies and weather events. The city’s Office of Emergency Management and other agencies have for long periods of time looked into and developed plans of what should be done, who to react, etc. to emergencies and severe weather events. That they were not consulted is a leadership problem. Yes, we’re talking about a potentially severe blizzard that could have severely affected the NYC region, so hindsight is a tricky element. There is much to the phrase, “Plan For The Worst – Hope For The Best”.

There have been a number of folks online who have repeatedly, and I do mean repeatedly demanded that the MTA should run “only the underground” sections of the subways during this weather event.

It is entirely possible for the following basic underground only pathways for each of the subway lines:

#1 – Running between South Ferry and maybe 168th Street or Dyckman Street (if possible)
#2 – Running between 149th Street-Third Avenue or Grand Concourse and Flatbush Avenue-Brooklyn College
#3 – Running between 145th Street (or maybe 148th Street-Lenox Terminal) to Utica Avenue, Brooklyn.
#4 – 149th Street-Grand Concourse and Utica Avenue, Brooklyn
#5 – Running between 149th Street-Third Avenue or Grand Concourse and Flatbush Avenue-Brooklyn College (or Bowling Green)
#6 – Running between Hunts Point Avenue and Brooklyn Bridge
#7 – Running between Times Square and Hunters Point Avenue (or maybe Queensboro Plaza for a short elevated segment)

A – Running between 207th Street and Euclid Avenue
B – Bedford Park Blvd or 145th Street to 34th Street/6th Avenue or Second Avenue, or Prospect Park
C – 168th Street to Euclid Avenue
D – 205th Street to to 34th Street/6th Avenue or Second Avenue, or 36th Street/4th Avenue.
E – Jamaica Center and WTC
F – 179th Street and Church Avenue
G – Court Square and Church Avenue
J – Chambers Street (or Broad Street) and Essex Street
L – 14th Street/8th Avenue to Broadway Junction
M – Forest Hills and Second Avenue or Essex Street
N – 57th Street or 60th Street/Lexington Avenue and 59th Street/4th Avenue
Q – 57th Street to Prospect Park
R – Forest Hills and 95th Street
S – Times Square To Grand Central Station (no Franklin Shuttle)


For the folks who repeatedly, and I do mean repeatedly were saying that the “underground secions” of the subways could have been kept running. Yes, that is true, but think about the sections of the city that would not have had service:

Major portions of the west Bronx, and most of the east, central and north Bronx would not have had service, especially with the buses not running.

Major portions of Queens, such as Flushing, Astoria, Rockaways, Ozone Park, Richmond would not have had service, especially with the buses not running.

Major portions of Brooklyn, such as Coney Island, Gravesend, Brighton Beach, Bushwick, Williamsburg, Brownsville, would not have had service, especially with the buses not running.

All of Staten Island would not have had service since the SIRT is entirely on the ground or above the ground! With the buses not running all of the eastern, southern, western, northern and middle island sections of Staten Island would have been without transit service. The restrictions on the Staten Island Ferry service, as well as the restrictions on bridge travel would have made Staten Island almost impossible to get to, from, or around.

The only borough that would have really retained something resembling regular subway transit from an “underground only” weather-impacted subway system would have been Manhattan, even if given the fact that the buses were not running. Yes, there would be places in Manhattan that would be difficult to get to or from easily without the bus system running.

The folks who repeatedly, and I do mean repeatedly kept saying that only the “underground sections” should be kept running it seems never really looked at the sections of the city that would be out of service under such a scheme. The basic problem with that viewpoint is that it is “too Manhattan centric” and does not consider the problems that plenty of folks would have under such a scheme.

At times there is idea – “Be careful what you ask for, because you just might get it, and you just might not like it.”

Now to the argument that the subways have run before in storms with both underground, on-the-ground and elevated segments in operation, and that problems were dealt with where needed. That street closings due to snow did affect some bus routes in the past, and that those were dealt with as needed. Yes – those folks have a good point – that the transit systems are more resilient than some times believed.

The argument for “keeping underground only open” and the “subway transit (underground & elevated) is more resilient and up to the task” are really too different arguments. Another argument that is not often thought about is the famous – “hindsight is wonderful”.


VLM January 28, 2015 - 1:08 pm

Not only are you far too long-winded, but you’re wrong. I’m not sure why reading comprehension is so hard. The MTA’s own plan, which is a plan that has worked before, calls for underground service to run local and service to continue to operate on elevated lines where the snow can fall to the streets between tracks. No one is suggesting that the A and N trains keep operating or that the SIR continue to provide service if those trains are going to get stuck. But this isn’t hindsight; it’s common practice. Nothing at all, as Ben has said repeatedly, about this week’s forecast would have dictated a different approach.

Michael January 28, 2015 - 3:37 pm

You think my reading comprehension is a problem?

Let’s review:

I believe that the MTA’s Plan 4 or Plan 5 would have been the better response.

There have been a number of folks online who have repeatedly, and I DO MEAN REPEATEDLY DEMANDED that the MTA should run “ONLY THE UNDERGROUND” sections of the subways during this weather event.

I really do not want to cut and paste from each one of those previous messages.

I showed how such an idea would have had a major impact on large areas of the whole city.

The folks who repeatedly, and I do mean repeatedly kept saying that only the “underground sections” should be kept running it seems never really looked at the sections of the city that would be out of service under such a scheme. The basic problem with that viewpoint is that it is “too Manhattan centric” and does not consider the problems that plenty of folks would have had under such a scheme.

The argument for “keeping underground only open” and that the “subway transit system (underground & elevated) is more resilient and up to the task” are really TWO different arguments.

Now to the argument that the subways have run before in storms with both underground, on-the-ground and elevated segments in operation, and that problems were dealt with where needed.
(In a nutshell that is Plan 4 and Plan 5.)

That street closings due to snow did affect some bus routes in the past, and that those were dealt with as needed. Yes – those folks have a good point – that the transit systems are more resilient than some times believed.

If you think that I am “wrong” to prefer that the MTA’s Plans 4 or 5 should have been followed, or that the plans of NYC’s OEM office should be followed during severe emergencies or severe weather events – please just say so.

If you think that I am “wrong” to suggest that folks THINK about what they are suggesting be done (as was done repeatedly in prior messages) please just say so.


anon_coward January 28, 2015 - 3:43 pm

the MTA did pretty much follow Plan 5. they just ran trains with no passengers to keep the tracks clear. and from past big blizzards here in NYC it’s not like we had full service the day after so the governor’s shutdown didn’t make much of a difference

adirondacker12800 January 28, 2015 - 5:55 pm

If the train running over the tracks only has crew on it there are a lot less people on board to evacuate. And those people are better prepared to spend endless hours on a train. They do it every day.

Bolwerk January 28, 2015 - 6:55 pm

So what? People don’t walk into the train blind. They know whether it’s snowing heavily or not, and can choose to take the risk or not take it.

adirondacker12800 January 28, 2015 - 7:27 pm

ah so now they have xray vision and can see through the buildings to see if the snow has drifted over the entrance or not. And why should anyone who works for the MTA take risks to run trains that don’t need to run? Or risk their health trying to keep stairs clear of snow?

Bolwerk January 28, 2015 - 7:57 pm

Why should a firefighter fight fires?

adirondacker12800 January 28, 2015 - 8:30 pm

They work for an employer who considers their employees more holistically than the Simon Legree you obviously work for?

Firefighter stay at work because fires are a threat to lives and property. The same reason hospitals have contingency plans for storms and emergency medical technicians who work in ambulances have contingency plans for getting to work. Or stay at work.

I just checked with someone who works for the Department of Sanitation. They have contingency plans for getting people to work if the trains and buses aren’t running. Part of the contingency plans for state roads is to shift people from where it’s not snowing to places where it is. We are short of snowplow drivers and snowplows up here. Which is okay because there isn’t any frozen water in our immediate weather forecasts. The ones up here are gonna have good paychecks this winter. It’s going to be appreciated out on Long Island where there is 30 inches of snow. I haven’t heard from anyone who works for National Grid or Verizon. They probably aren’t home anyway. They are in New England or downstate.

Bolwerk January 28, 2015 - 8:49 pm

That argument doesn’t cut it. They freely sign up for the job knowing they’ll deal with snow days. Nobody forces them to do it.

(Not that they complained about having to work anyway.)

adirondacker12800 January 28, 2015 - 10:18 pm

And if you don’t like that sometimes the weather is so bad in the Northeast that you can’t get to work move to Arizona.

Bolwerk January 29, 2015 - 12:23 am

Evidently many do exactly that. Well, it’s their right, as long as they show up for work.

SEAN January 28, 2015 - 7:56 pm


So what? People don’t walk into the train blind.

Well… at leastt some of us don’t. LOL

I can only speak for my self.

Bolwerk January 28, 2015 - 8:16 pm

Touche. But I assume you have your own ways of making yourself aware of what weather-related risks exist outside and decide for yourself whether they’re worth it.

adirondacker12800 January 28, 2015 - 10:12 pm

Just like there is no one in the MTA who has the depth of knowledge that someone at SEMO has I don’t expect that my skills in all circumstances are better than the skills of people at SEMO and follow their temporary rules when they think it’s a good idea.
Snowstorms and hurricanes, weather in general, are very fickle and sometimes SEMO errs on the side of caution.

Bolwerk January 29, 2015 - 12:32 am

Uh, I think the MTA’s army of staff specializing in subway operations probably have a better grasp of what the system can bear snow-wise than whatever you think SEMO stands for. They’ve done it before.

adirondacker12800 January 29, 2015 - 1:58 am

State Emergency Management Office. They’ve been calling people into work, who don’t usually do anything for SEMO since Sunday. They go home when their shift is over because the snow never arrived up here. The Governor didn’t call the Mayor and then they both tuned into WCBS and decided to shut everything down because the weather on the 8s said it was going to be deep. And until the storm decides to move onto Nova Scotia no one can be sure where it’s going to go. If it had decided to move 150 miles west there would be 30 inches of snow at the Morristown airport and not much of anything would be moving east of the there until you got to Quebec. Just like what happened in New England. And eastern Long Island.

Andrew January 29, 2015 - 12:07 am

Evacuate? Which train is being evacuated, and why?

Andrew January 29, 2015 - 12:01 am

Plan 5 calls for line segments to be shut down as needed, not for the entire system to be shut down.

(That’s why the entire system did not, in fact, shut down – that’s not a response that’s been planned for in the context of a snowstorm. Instead it kept running, not accepting passengers in order to comply with the governor’s order.)

There has not been a single blizzard in the history of the subway that has knocked out the entire system. (Probably not even most of the system.)

Walt Gekko January 29, 2015 - 6:45 am


It appears Cuomo and the MTA took a MUCH bigger beating than expected because it was announced very late Wednesday night the MTA would be “exploring” keeping the system open at least underground overnight: http://www.nydailynews.com/new.....-1.2095857

John January 28, 2015 - 2:22 pm

I’ve heard him called “Gov Westchester” … well, in transportation matters it might be better to call him “Gov Thruway”

Since shutting down highways make sense, then that’s the order across the board.

Low Headways January 29, 2015 - 6:14 am

“Governor Moses”

(I just shuddered involuntarily)

Larry 3 January 28, 2015 - 2:29 pm

Give it a rest, Ben and other transit bloggers and commenters. It is a public safety issue. We do not want to see 2010 debacle over again. Cuomo was over prepared and it is fine. He had to relied on the staff and NWS forecast. He did his job to keep everyone safe. One fuck up day does not mean the end of the world. Just accept this weather incident fluke and move on to prepare for another snow storm. It will be the new normal unfortunately.

VLM January 28, 2015 - 2:54 pm

Obviously, smart people can disagree on this which is why it’s rightfully being discussed and debated. So give yourself a rest. As to the comp to 2010, if you knew what you were talking about, you would know that happened due to a specific screw up that wouldn’t have happened if the right plan had been followed. It’s really that simple: Follow the plan; keep service running; no one will get stuck. We shouldn’t accept this garbage as the new normal.

Larry Littlefield January 28, 2015 - 3:47 pm

While people argue over a snow day there is no MTA Capital Plan and no plan for one. The money available, and some of it that isn’t, is being rapidly shifted somewhere else even as the stock market peaks and we get ready for another drop in real estate/stock bubble revenues.

Bolwerk January 28, 2015 - 5:09 pm

The capital plan will be sorted out, probably in a way that leaves a big dump taken on riders. Might be this service cancellation resonates because it shows just how little we matter to Cuomo and his ilk. Or because it shows Cuomo’s lack of restraint. Or his need to validate himself by making irrational decisions.

I sort of concur with VLM, but a reasonable person would have let the MTA people decide whether or not to close. It’s not just the closure that bugs people.

adirondacker12800 January 28, 2015 - 5:59 pm

There isn’t anyone in the MTA who has the same depth of information someone at SEMO has.

Larry 3 January 28, 2015 - 3:53 pm

Why don’t you give yourself a rest VLM. You people over analyze this too much. LOL

sonicboy678 January 28, 2015 - 7:45 pm

You do realize your comparison would need to hinge on several things at once, right? 2010 was simply an oddball in comparison to many blizzards both before and after in NYC’s history.

Larry 3 January 28, 2015 - 10:35 pm

2010 was the last major snow storm that MTA was unprepared. Times change. This time they over prepared. The shut down of the subways was just an inconvenience and it was justify for a side of caution. One day loss for the workers, BIG DEAL. There is more risk of people getting injuring in a major snow storm.

sonicboy678 January 29, 2015 - 9:42 pm

Was the MTA unprepared in 2010? Yes, but it wasn’t simply because of internal bullshit. There were externalities which negatively impacted the MTA, as well.

Was the MTA too prepared this time? Yes, but again, this isn’t simply because of internal bullshit. Cuomo decided to act as if we were as helpless as Buffalo last year when it got sacked with 7 feet of snow. He completely failed to consider the ramifications of treating one city like another on the opposite end of the state.

Larry 3 January 31, 2015 - 12:32 am

if a 24 to 36 inch snow storm came by, and they did not shut the city down… you get Boxing day 2010 again. Internal bullshit my ass.

Bolwerk February 1, 2015 - 12:37 pm

Yet another example of a storm that did not keep the subway from operating.

adirondacker12800 February 1, 2015 - 4:49 pm

If getting stuck on trains for hours on end is “running”.


The predictions for the storm this past week were for it to be worse.

Bolwerk February 1, 2015 - 5:35 pm

One train getting stuck is a far cry from a system failure.

Walt Gekko January 28, 2015 - 9:51 pm


I explained in another post here what caused 2010.

Andrew January 29, 2015 - 12:05 am

In fact, one month after the blizzard of 2010 was another blizzard, nearly as large. The subway kept running through it, with line segments shut down as needed.

In other words, they learned from their mistakes a month prior.

Snow buildup on the surface line to the Rockaways has no bearing on service underground or on elevated structures.

Larry 3 January 29, 2015 - 1:08 am

Better safe than sorry. This recent snow storm proves the point.

Andrew January 29, 2015 - 1:14 am

There’s nothing safe about telling people who must travel that walking and driving are their only options, because the subway isn’t running (except that it is). The subway is BY FAR the safest mode of transport in the snow.

What recent snow storm proves the point?

adirondacker12800 January 29, 2015 - 2:16 am

Unless they are someplace in the chain of events that occur after a call to 911 is placed they shouldn’t have been traveling. If they are critical and they aren’t in that chain of events it’s up to you to have a contingency plan not the city’s or the state’s. The city and the state have contingency plans for their critical workers. Their non critical workers were told to stay home.

sonicboy678 January 29, 2015 - 9:48 pm

If they stayed home, would they be guaranteed reimbursement for any lost pay? It wouldn’t only affect individual workers but businesses on a larger scale, as well. Some people can’t afford to have their travel patterns screwed up because Cuomo can’t count.

adirondacker12800 January 29, 2015 - 10:53 pm

Shit happens. Stay home. Or shelter were you are. The governor and the mayor were counting to 30 and were wrong. As soon as they realized they were wrong they undid their emergency orders. I’m sure they are real sorry it wasn’t fast enough for you.

Walt Gekko January 29, 2015 - 6:42 am

And apparently, Cuomo and the MTA may have taken a far bigger beating than anyone thought because now, the MTA “is exploring” running trains underground overnight: http://www.nydailynews.com/new.....-1.2095857

Walt Gekko January 29, 2015 - 6:48 am

Sorry about the double post, I had posted it in the spot here first, but it didn’t come up the first time and I had my flash player crash.

Larry 3 January 29, 2015 - 9:33 am

You want people out in a 24 to 36 inch snow storm where the government gives advance warnings to people do not venture out there? How would they get to a subway station with 24 to 36 inch snow drifts? By sledding down the staircase?

Bolwerk January 29, 2015 - 10:49 am

Last time that happened to me, I just walked. I’m a traditionalist.

adirondacker12800 January 29, 2015 - 11:03 am

when was the last time it snowed 24 inches in 24 hours or less?

Bolwerk January 29, 2015 - 6:41 pm

How should I know precise accumulations off the top of my head and why should I care?

adirondacker12800 January 29, 2015 - 10:08 pm

because how deep the snow is directly relates to the actions the state and the city take? Which are more complex than you listening to a weather report and looking out your window?

Bolwerk January 29, 2015 - 11:37 pm

I rather doubt it’s possible for enough snow to fall at once to justify shutting down the subway entirely.

adirondacker12800 January 30, 2015 - 12:10 am

It has in the past.


Feel free to find the places they say it has. And argue with them.

Bolwerk January 30, 2015 - 11:12 am

Not a single one of those storms shut down the system. This is a matter of historical record.

adirondacker12800 January 30, 2015 - 11:42 am

Except for the ones that they say closed the “subway” whatever that was. The subway was somewhat different in the past.

Bolwerk January 30, 2015 - 12:23 pm

No mentions of closing the subway down in that article. Plenty of mentions of delays, one ambiguous mention of “halting” service – though, as a matter of historical record, the system was not shut down, so this probably means some individual lines were stopped. This was also the 1970s, when the system and its equipment were decrepit.

February 2006 (26.9″):

Despite the transportation interruptions, no serious storm-related injuries occurred.

Probably what should be expected in a 2.5′ or 3′ or 4′ snowstorm. Really.

Larry 3 February 1, 2015 - 8:06 pm

Bolwerk, no one got hurt during the shutdown.

adirondacker12800 January 30, 2015 - 2:16 pm

Okay be a asshole pendant and argue that halting subway service isn’t what happened this past week. They didn’t have satellite weather forecasts back then. When 77 people died. Or back in 1888 when when there wasn’t any subway. The predictions were for a repeat of 1888 or 1947.

Bolwerk January 30, 2015 - 3:36 pm

We know it was halted this past week. What we’re trying to establish is a reason to halt it. So far, everybody who has tried has failed.

Please try to keep up.

adirondacker12800 January 30, 2015 - 5:20 pm

I have mentioned why an so have other people. You just ignore them. Dead people are very unpleasant. The mayor and governor where trying to avoid as many as possible.

Bolwerk January 30, 2015 - 6:33 pm

If they are concerned about death and injuries, then there is nothing more stupid than unnecessarily shutting down the subway and stranding people. They put people in more danger than they would have been in otherwise.

adirondacker12800 January 30, 2015 - 8:13 pm

They told those people hours ahead of time that the subway was closing down and would be closed down until it was safe to operate it again. If they wanted to stay where they were they were free to do so. They were subject to arrest if they didn’t stay put. Or go home before the subway closed.

Bolwerk January 30, 2015 - 8:40 pm

Who cares? That didn’t make it any better. It still hurt people and put them at risk in a way running the system never could have.

And there was no curfew. People who couldn’t stay where they were had to walk home, and did.

Larry 3 January 30, 2015 - 2:27 pm

What a liar. LOL

Walt Gekko January 29, 2015 - 6:58 pm

Very interesting read on how Cuomo’s ego likely had more to do with this shutdown than the interest of safety: https://medium.com/thelist/a-blizzard-of-privilege-424beb8d05b


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