After Hurricane Sandy crashed through the east coast on Monday, Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) Chairman Joseph J. Lhota described the storm as having “wreaked havoc” on NYC’s public transportation system. In the following hours, as all public transit service remained suspended, estimates for the restoration of the 108-year-old subway system—parts of which were severely flooded by the storm—ranged from three weeks to several months. While there is still no definitive timeline on a return to full service, Governor Andrew Cuomo stated this afternoon that some limited subway service will be restored as early as tomorrow.
The speedy return of even limited subway and bus service will likely be a huge source of relief to many New Yorkers. While some subway lines will be operational, others will be supplemented by the newly restored bus service—particularly between 34th St. in Midtown and downtown Brooklyn. The East River tunnels suffered particularly heavy flooding and to date, 4 of the 7 tunnels remain uncleared. All bridges have reopened but the tunnels in and out of the city remain flooded. And alongside New York’s primary underground artery, train services throughout the region were badly impacted by the storm. The Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road systems, which are also run by the MTA, experienced flooding in their rail yards as well as debris across the tracks. Limited service is set to return to both of those systems starting later today.
The limited service is likely to ease, but not resolve, the difficulties many are experiencing while trying to navigate the city. Buses remain one of the easier means of transport, and at least until the end of the day, they’re operating on a “free-fare basis.” Many people have taken to navigating between boroughs by bike, and advocacy group Transportation Alternatives reportedly organized a “”cycling bus” to show novice cyclists a route from Queens across the bridge into Manhattan.” Taxi cab rules have been modified to encourage ride-sharing, and are making the most of a strained system, while livery cabs can currently pick you up if you hail them on the street. But if all this sounds a little too stressful, and—if your job supports it—you can always ask to telecommute.
The speedy return of (some) service to the iconic subway system is pretty astounding; a 2011 study cited that in a situation such as this, it would likely take a minimum of three weeks to restore service. But with the water now pumped out of many flooded stations, an MTA spokeswoman explained to DNAinfo that the primary challenge will be determining whether lines are connected to parts of the system that remain water-damaged; “You don’t know if it’s high and dry until you walk the track… It does all fit together.”