Kate Hinds is an Associate Producer for WNYC News. She also reports for WNYC and Transportation Nation, a public radio reporting project that combines the work of multiple newsrooms to provide coverage of how we build, rebuild and get around the nation.
(UPDATED) NY MTA: Some, Not All Buses Back, No Timetable for Subways
Tuesday, October 30, 2012 - 12:05 PM
UPDATE: Tuesday 4:50 PM: The MTA's Charles Seaton says not all bus routes will be running Wednesday morning, that limited routes will be running. Those will be announced later Tuesday evening.
UPDATE Tuesday 11:50 AM: The latest on MTA and NYC transpo is always at our Transit Tracker.
Some bus service will begin at 5 p.m. on a Sunday schedule.
There is no timetable yet for subway service resumption. Governor Andrew Cuomo and MTA Chairman Joe Lhota said in a joint press conference Tuesday morning they hope to have full bus service restored Wednesday morning. No fares will be charged through Wednesday.
Portions of subway service will return in pieces as it is able. Buses will be used to connect fractured sections.
Flooding could keep east river crossings shut for some time. The Clark, Steinway, Rutgers and Strawberry Street tubes under the East River are all flooded. Lhota said pumps are clearing the Joralemon Street tube and will have it dry in a few hours.
No buses or trains were damaged because of effective shut down preparations. Assessment of the extent of the damage on the tracks "will take a little bit more time than we thought," Lhota said.
Lhotoa said flooding at the South Street subway station was "literally up to the ceiling."
Pumping is underway in the Battery Tunnel.
Metro-North has no power from 59th Street to Croton.
POSTED Tuesday 9:05 AM: MTA chair Joe Lhota spoke to WNYC's Soterios Johnson Monday morning about the extent of the damage to the subway system. Listen to the interview below, and read the partial transcript of his remarks.
Lhota said he knew last night there was a problem. "Last night I was downtown and it was pretty obvious...I saw the water surge coming up, realizing that the systems were going to be affected. Our electrical systems, our alarm systems, tell us when there's water down there. They basically shut off. It's an automatic system...they would only shut off if there was water down there."
Johnson asked Lhota just how bad the flooding was. "The assessment is ongoing. Dawn is just cracking right now," Lhota said, adding that the sunlight would help with the assessment process, "which is going to be ongoing. We'll report back to New Yorkers later in the day as to what we have assessed, and determine how long it's going to take to get the system back up and running. One thing I do want everyone to focus on is the fact of how dynamic and how robust the New York City subway system is." And New Yorkers need to understand: "We're going to be flexible, we're going to try to be creative. Those systems that can be up and running, those portions of the system that can be up and running -- I want them up and running as quickly as possible. Then use our bus service and our buses -- re-route them in such a way that they supplement and complement each other. And that's what I mean by creativity: if there's a portion of the system that's going to take longer to repair, that doesn't mean the whole system is down...we're New Yorkers, we adapt very very well."
Johnson asked if salt water had flooded the subways. "I can't imagine that it's fresh water, it's going to be at best brackish, but for the most part it's salt," Lhota said. "Water and electricity never mix properly, but when you add salt to it, once the water is gone, the salt leaves a film...the way electronics work on the subway system is two pieces of metal running together conducting electricity. And it there's anything in between those two pieces of metal -- like film left over from salt -- that needs to be cleaned off because the connections need to be clear and straightforward for us to manage the process of making the subway system safe."
Johnson asked Lhota what his worst-case scenario for restoration of subway service. "I literally can't answer that until later today," Lhota said. "his happened overnight, it's been ongoing, the assessment's been ongoing, and we've called...all of our workers backs." "Are we talking days or weeks?" asked Johnson. "It's unfair to me -- I'm going to try to get this up and running as quickly as I possibly can," said Lhota. "I really don't want to be tied down to answering that question the way you've asked it because it'll be something that will linger out there...it would be a scientific wild guess on my part to answer it that way and I just need to get better information and then determine it."
As to when the bridges and tunnels will be open: "I literally just sent a text message to Pat Foye, the head of the Port Authority," said Lhota. "He and I need to figure out how to open up the bridges, how to open up the tunnels. The wind has calmed down significantly...the tunnels, if they're dry, the assessment can be relatively straightforward. [But] the bridges, given the extent of the wind, we're going to need a couple hours having the engineers assess that there's no damage to any of the bridges. We experienced at the Triborough - RFK bridge wind gusts over 100 miles an hour last night. That's extraordinary. We've got to make sure that the integrity of the bridge is there. I'm confident that it is, but out of an abundance of caution we're going to need at least two hours for our engineers to go through and assess to make sure that the bridges are safe. I think they're safe -- in fact I'm almost positive they're safe -- but out of an abundance of caution, we will do the work we need to do."
Johnson asked about the Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road commuter rail lines. "First off," said Lhota, "we're trying to count the number of trees that are downed on Metro North and it's going to be in the hundreds...we're going up in a helicopter today to assess the entire system from the air to determine where we have our problems. The Long Island Rail Road experienced an enormous amount of flooding all through the South Shore, the Babylon branch all the way out to ...Montauk. We're assessing that right now and will determine how far we can go." He continued: "I am very worried about power....the power is a problem. It's an electric subway system for the most part. Some of our commuter rail system is electric as well, some it's diesel, or a combination...we need electricity to run. So this power problem in the tri-state area is significant for getting us up and running on the commuter rail front...the power on Metro North is down from 59th Street in Manhattan all the way up to Croton-Harmon on the Hudson line, all the way up to New Haven, Connecticut on the New Haven line. We have no power on the system at this time."
In terms of the actual conditions of the rails: "We're going to have to evaluate it," Lhota said. "We're going to have to walk ths system to determine the extent of it and we're also going to have to cut up all the trees that are in the way and get them out of the way."
With reporting by Alex Goldmark