Alex Goldmark is a senior producer in the newsroom for New Tech City and Transportation Nation.
UPDATED: Sunday 12noon: Here's the latest release from the NY Governor's office about Hurricane Sandy transportation shutdowns and evacuation orders. Scroll down for previous statements.
GOVERNOR CUOMO ANNOUNCES MTA TO SUSPEND SERVICE IN ADVANCE OF HURRICANE SANDY
Orderly Suspension of Subway, Bus and Commuter Railroad Service Begins at 7 p.m.
Transportation System Must Be Suspended to Protect Customers, Employees and Equipment
Monitor mta.info and Media Outlets and Call 511 for Latest Transportation Information
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) will begin the orderly suspension of all subway, bus and commuter railroad service at 7 p.m. Sunday to protect customers, employees and equipment from the approach of Hurricane Sandy.
The New York City subway system will begin to curtail service after 7 p.m., and the New York City bus system within the following two hours. Metro-North Railroad and the Long Island Rail Road will start their final trains by 7 p.m. Subway and railway stations will be closed after the last trains.
Customers who need to travel today should do so as soon as possible and not wait until the last train or bus is departing. Anyone who does not leave for their destination before 7 p.m. runs the risk of being stranded when service is suspended. New York City Transit, Metro-North and the LIRR will cross-honor each other’s passes today to speed the process of returning customers to their homes.
“The transportation system is the lifeblood of the New York City region, and suspending all service is not a step I take lightly,” Governor Cuomo said. “But keeping New Yorkers safe is the first priority, and the best way to do that is to make sure they are out of harm’s way before gale-force winds can start wreaking havoc on trains and buses.”
The MTA Hurricane Plan calls for suspending service hours before the approach of winds of 39 mph and higher. That gives MTA crews time to prepare rail cars, buses, tunnels, yards and buildings for the storm, then return to safety. Winds of 39 mph and higher are predicted to reach the metropolitan region during the predawn hours Monday.
“The MTA proved it can suspend service in an orderly manner when it did so last year for Tropical Storm Irene, and we have refined our Hurricane Plan since then to help us prepare for Hurricane Sandy,” said MTA Chairman and CEO Joseph J. Lhota. “This storm will batter the MTA, but the precautions we take now will allow us to recover much more quickly.”
The MTA has for days prepared for the possibility that conditions would require a service suspension by readying recovery equipment, clearing drainage areas, moving vehicles from low-lying areas in bus and rail yards and sealing some tunnel access points.
The duration of the service suspension is unknown, and there is no timetable for restoration. Service will be restored only when it is safe to do so, after careful inspections of all equipment and tracks. Even with minimal damage this is expected to be a lengthy process.
Metro-North Railroad’s special “Train to the Game” for today’s Jets game in the Meadowlands has been cancelled. Customers who return promptly to Penn Station after the conclusion of the game will be accommodated on MTA services leaving by 7 p.m.
Outbound Access-A-Ride trips are being scheduled only until 12 p.m. today, and return trips will continue until 5 p.m. Any previously scheduled trips after that time, including subscription trips, are cancelled.
The Staten Island Railway will attempt to continue to operate until the Staten Island Ferry suspends service, in order not to strand any customers in the ferry terminal. However, the railway will not operate if conditions are deemed unsafe.
Customers and the media should monitor the mta.info website or call 511 for the most current service information.
POSTED: Saturday, 2:45 p.m. Just in from the New York Governor's office, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will begin taking the first steps of what could become a total subway and transit system shut down for the New York City area in response to Hurricane Sandy.
A decision will be made Sunday.
The MTA hurricane plan calls for shutting down any above ground subway service in high winds, or especially heavy rains. For a bit more on why a total subway system shutdown might be called for, see our article from yesterday, and our coverage from Tropical Storm Irene last year, the first preemptive total system shutdown in the 108 year history of the NYC subway.
Full statement from NY Governor Andrew Cuomo's office:
GOVERNOR CUOMO DIRECTS MTA TO BEGIN PLANNING FOR POSSIBLE ORDERLY SUSPENSION OF ALL MTA SERVICE IN ADVANCE OF HURRICANE SANDYFinal Decision Whether to Suspend Service Will Be Made by SundaySubways, Buses and Commuter Railroads Will Prepare to Suspend Service Sunday Evening to Protect Customers, Employees and EquipmentState Preparations Continue for Department of Health
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today directed the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to begin planning for an orderly suspension of all subway, bus and commuter railroad service, if Hurricane Sandy continues to bear down on the New York City metropolitan area. In addition, the Governor continued oversight of state preparations for the storm, including actions taken by the State Department of Health (DOH).
Department of State Operations Howard Glaser, DOH Commissioner Dr. Nirav Shah, MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota, and PANYNJ Executive Director Pat Foye gave an update on preparations at the Governor’s Office in New York City today.
A final decision on whether to suspend service will be made by Sunday, but the MTA must begin preparing immediately for a possible suspension to protect its customers, its employees and its equipment.
If a decision to suspend service is made by Sunday, New York City subways and buses would begin an orderly suspension of service at 7 p.m. Sunday. Metro-North Railroad and the Long Island Rail Road would suspend service at 7 p.m. Sunday. Some lines may be curtailed over a period of several hours before all service is suspended, but no one would be able to rely on any MTA service after 7 p.m. Sunday.
All customers leaving the Sunday afternoon Jets game in New Jersey would be accommodated before service is suspended. However, the special through train from New Haven to the Meadowlands has been cancelled.
“I have directed the MTA to put its Hurricane Plan into action to help New Yorkers prepare for the storm and protect the vital assets of the region’s transportation system,” Governor Cuomo said. “New Yorkers need to take action now to protect themselves, and as the transportation system prepares to possibly suspend service, no one should wait until the last minute to prepare.”
The MTA Hurricane Plan is designed to secure equipment and protect employees before dangerous sustained winds of 39 mph or higher and storm surges of 4 to 8 feet reach the area. This process must begin hours in advance of the storm’s arrival, as thousands of rail cars, subway cars and buses must be pulled from service and stored safely.
“Suspending the largest transportation system in North America is a monumental effort, and it is imperative that we start the process before we make a final decision, and before the worst of Hurricane Sandy reaches us,” said MTA Chairman and CEO Joseph J. Lhota. “That means all of our 8.5 million daily customers need to prepare for the storm and be ready to complete their travels by 7 p.m. Sunday.”
Before any final decision on suspending service, MTA crews will follow the Hurricane Plan by moving rail cars, locomotives, subway cars and buses from low-lying yards to higher ground; preparing recovery equipment and clearing drainage areas; and deploying sandbags and other protective materials at tunnel entrances, station entrances and other locations vulnerable to flooding. Taking these pre-emptive measures before the full brunt of the storm arrives will help in the MTA’s recovery efforts after the storm passes.
MTA subway and railroad stations are not designated shelters and would be closed in the event of a service suspension. Those in need of assistance would be directed to designated shelters nearby.
Service would be restored following the storm only when it is safe to do so, after careful inspections of all equipment and tracks. There is no timetable established for restoration. Customers and the media should monitor the mta.info website or call 511 for the most current service information.
Details of each agency’s suspension plans are provided below.
New York City Transit
If a decision is made to suspend service, all New York City subway and bus service would need to be suspended by early Monday morning to allow crews to secure stations, tracks and tunnels before the onset of sustained winds of 39 mph or higher.
On the subway system, where the orderly suspension of service takes eight hours, service would begin to be curtailed after 7 p.m. Sunday. While some trains may continue to run for several additional hours, there would be no guarantee of any subway service after that time, so all customers who rely on the subway would have to plan to complete their travel by 7 p.m. Sunday.
The bus system requires six hours for the orderly suspension of service, so buses would be able to remain on their normal routes for as much as two hours after 7 p.m. Sunday. There would be no guarantee of any bus service after that time.
The MTA would run normal service until those times, with sufficient capacity to allow customers to leave vulnerable areas and reach safe destinations before service is suspended. Those who use the MTA to evacuate would be allowed to carry pets. Dogs must be leashed and, if possible, muzzled. Cats should be in carriers.
Subway stations in flood-prone locations such as lower Manhattan would be evacuated and secured. Critical track-level components would be removed from tunnels under rivers so they will not suffer the corrosive effects of salt water if they are flooded. Workers would secure all elevated stations to protect against damaging winds.
There would be no Access-A-Ride trips scheduled after 12 p.m. Sunday. Customers will be able to schedule trips until then.
If a decision is made to suspend service, Metro-North Railroad would run its final trains at 7 p.m. Sunday to prepare for the arrival of high winds and heavy rain. Customers are urged not to wait for the last trains when making their travel plans.
Grand Central Terminal, including its shops and restaurants, and all outlying Metro-North station buildings would be closed for the duration of the service suspension. In preparation, train equipment is being moved out of low-lying locations known to be prone to flooding, such as the Highbridge and Mott Haven yards in the Bronx.
As the storm approaches, Metro-North has secured its infrastructure by moving trucks and equipment such as backhoes, cranes and bulldozers, to higher ground.
Parking lots that usually flood, such as the ones at White Plains and Beacon, would be barricaded. Connecting ferry service at Beacon and Ossining would be suspended. The Hudson RailLink that serves Spuyten Duyvil and Riverdale would be suspended.
Metro-North has asked many employees to shelter during the storm at a Metro-North facility, so they will be immediately available to begin recovery efforts when the worst of the storm has passed.
Long Island Rail Road
If a decision is made to suspend service, Long Island Rail Road would run its final trains at 7 p.m. Sunday. Service would be suspended earlier on some outlying parts of the system because crews would be required to secure or remove 690 gates at 295 railroad crossings across Long Island to prevent them from being damaged by wind. Customers are urged not to wait for the last trains when making their travel plans.
This process takes approximately 12 hours and must be completed prior to forecasted sustained winds of 39 mph or higher. Crews would begin by removing gates east of Ronkonkoma on the Main Line to Greenport, where weekend service does not operate at this time of year. Additionally, crossing gates would start being removed on the Montauk Branch east of Speonk beginning Sunday morning, so train service would be replaced with buses from 9 a.m. Sunday until the full service suspension takes effect at 7 p.m.
Long Island residents, pedestrians and drivers need to be aware that the third rail remains electrified even during a service suspension and equipment trains may be operating. Please act in a safe manner in and around tracks.
In order to restore service, train equipment and crews must be repositioned, all crossing gates re-installed and fully tested and power to the crossing gates restored. In addition, any debris, such as fallen trees, must be removed from tracks and the right of way inspected.
Preparations by State Department of Health
Based upon the latest weather models, the greatest risk to the New York City metropolitan area and the entire state, due to rain and strong winds, will be prolonged power outages. These prolonged outages may last at least 48-72 hours beginning as early as Sunday evening. This could also lead to flooding, which is a chief concern.
Statewide, the Department of Health has released general guidance for all health care facilities, including hospitals, nursing homes, and adult care facilities, to be prepared for a prolonged power outage and to check generators, fuel levels, food and water levels, etc. Health care facilities should focus on planning for patients who are dependent upon electrical equipment such as ventilators, dialysis patients, oxygen concentrators, etc. Dialysis facilities statewide should consider staying open on Sunday and dialyzing as many patients due for dialysis Monday through Wednesday as possible. Facilities should report power outages to their local county/NYC Emergency Operations Center and to DOH. Facilities needing assistance due to prolonged power outages should make requests through their local EOC who will then request state assistance if needed.
In the New York City metropolitan area, with the MTA closure possibly planned for 7 PM Sunday, DOH has required all adult homes and nursing homes to bring staffing levels to 150% of standard shifts by 5 PM Sunday. Staff should be prepared to stay for 48-72 hours. The State Human Services Task Force is responding to a request for 700 volunteers for pre-landfall deployment and 2,500 for post-landfall deployment to staff shelters.
DOH has designated a “Slosh Zone” which includes Zone A, the Rockaways, northeast Queens and eastern shore of the Bronx. All nursing homes in these areas are required to move ventilator dependent patients to facilities outside of the Slosh Zone by 5 PM Sunday. Ambulances are currently at home stations awaiting directives to support the movement of vent patients.
DOH is in regular contact with hospitals, nursing homes and adult care facilities in Slosh Zones, county health commissioners and local health directors statewide. DOH staff is also deployed in the New York City Office of Emergency Management (OEM), Healthcare Facility Evacuation Coordination Center (HEC).
To get the latest updates on the storm, follow the Governor on Twitter and subscribe to our Storm Watch list. You can also visit www.governor.ny.gov or connect with the Governor on Facebook for more information.
prepare/for safety tips from DHSES on how to be prepared.