NY Subway System Shuts Down Due to Hurricane Irene (UPDATED)

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

UPDATED 8:55 p.m. ET Sunday: The MTA says it will restore limited subway service at 6am on Monday morning. Buses are currently running in all five boroughs. No word yet on Metro North and Long Island Rail Road.

UPDATED 5:55 p.m. ET Sunday Buses are back in operation throughout the city.

UPDATED 1:40 p.m. ET Sunday There is still no prediction of when subway service will be restored in New York City. Public officials were unapologetic about the decision to preemptively shut down the nation's largest transit system. "The actions that we took yesterday were right," Jay Walder head of the MTA said at the Mayor's afternoon press conference. He said the first service to return will be buses, some of which will first be used to shuttle evacuees back home he said.

He did not say when subway service would return, calling it a "difficult process" that will "take some time." He said, "we have widespread impacts of the storm. We have flooding, we have downed trees, we have power outages."

The worst fears were not realized however: salt water flooding into the tunnels under the East River. "Metro North has sustained real damage," Walder said. That appears to be the worst affected of New York area transit properties.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended his decision to evacuate coastal areas of the city. When asked what his message is to residents who will likely face a Monday morning commute without public transit, Mayor Bloomberg asked for patience, adding, "there are taxis, and some people can walk."

UPDATED 11:30 a.m. Saturday

All New York City transit remains shutdown 24 hours after the first ever total closure of the nation's largest subway and bus system due to a weather event.

Earlier this morning MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan told Transportation Nation, that there is "no estimate on restoration right now." He said they would soon release information on "the many tasks that must be done before service can resume."

It took approximately eight hours to shut the entire transit system down. LIRR and some Metro-North trains were stored on high ground away from low-lying yards. The MTA explained it takes two hours just to allow trains to complete their runs. Then they had to be positioned in safe locations. After that the crew members out safely need transportation out to safe locations.

Trains also were situated on express tracks some in locations distant from where trains end their runs. Stations were then secured, areas inspected and power shut down, according to the MTA.

There is widespread flooding on Metro North tracks including in two substations.

Sign inside the West 81st Street B/C station (photo by Kate Hinds)

UPDATED 6:43 p.m. ET Friday

The MTA is waiving subway and bus fares to facilitate evacuation from low-laying areas, according to Governor Cuomo.

Several city bridges are already free, and after 8 p.m. all buses city wide will be free as well.

The zoned taxi system will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday. Yellow taxis and all other for-hire vehicles will be permitted to accept group rides and street hails at a charge of $10 per person within each zone, and $5 for each additional zone. Manhattan is divided into two zones at 60th street. Each outer borough is a single zone.

UPDATED 6:02 p.m. ET

The national weather service has issued a hurricane warning, upgraded from a hurricane watch.

The NY MTA has suspended fares in flood zones to facilitate evacuations, according to the Governor's office. See which zone you are in here.

New York City Mayor Bloomberg says storm surges could flood subway tunnels, and called that possibility, "life threatening."

Taxis will be available after the subway shutdown on a special zoned system with flat rates per passenger and both livery and yellow cabs permitted to pickup multiple fares at once, a departure from the normal metered system. Details will be announced shortly on this development, the Taxi and Limousine Commission says.

It will take eight hours to shut down the New York subway system. That's why the last trains will roll at noon, Saturday.

UPDATED: 4:04 p.m. ET

Almost all public transportation in New York City will halt a day ahead of the expected arrival of Hurricane Irene.  New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that subways and buses in the nation's largest city would leave for their final runs before the storm around 12 noon Saturday.

The shutdown will include the Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North Railroad and Access-A-Ride.

This would be the first ever weather related total shutdown of the New York City transit system, an MTA spokesman tells Transportation Nation. The system was shut down in 2005 during the transit worker's union strike and after 9/11.

The spokesman said, the transit agency is working closely with the governor and the mayor on shutdown decisions. The MTA says the subways could stay shuttered through Monday morning depending on damage to equipment and the amount of debris on the tracks.

On a typical Saturday, NYC subways move more than 4 million people.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has already ordered evacuations for coastal areas of the city.  A hurricane watch is in effect for New York City and Long Island for Sunday. Storm conditions are expected as early as Saturday night.

Bridges and tunnels may also be shut down the governor said, pending wind conditions.