Flooding at the South Ferry subway station (photo courtesy of NY MTA)
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday night that he was "declaring a transportation emergency" and authorized the MTA to waive fares on subways, buses, and rail lines through Friday.
Cuomo said that decision was prompted in part by the grueling traffic in Manhattan on Wednesday. He called the gridlock "dangerous" and said he wanted to encourage people to use transit.
But the subway system that will be up and running Thursday will not be the system New Yorkers are used to. Only 14 of the 23 lines will be operational, and even those will be running in segments. LIRR service is being slowly phased back in. Cuomo said one bright point was that roughly 50% of regular customers would have normal service on the Metro-North commuter rail line.
"Bear with us," said MTA head Joe Lhota, who was seated next to the governor at the last-minute press conference. He called the damage done by Hurricane Sandy the "most devastating event ever to happen to the MTA."
There are still subway tunnels flooded with water from "floor to ceiling," said Cuomo. Beginning Thursday, the Army Corps of Engineers will begin deploying 250 "high-speed pumping devices" to aid water removal. These will be operated around the clock until the tunnels are clear.
Meanwhile, to shuttle passengers between Brooklyn and Manhattan, the MTA will put 330 buses into service to act as a bus bridge. Late Wednesday night the New York City Department of Transportation released more details about how the bus lanes will be structured. DOT spokesman Seth Solomonow said the city was creating a "surface subway."
Starting at 6am tomorrow -- timed to coincide with the start of the subway -- buses will operate over Manhattan Bridge via a two-way bus lane on the lower level. These bus-only lanes will be operational 24/7 and will be enforced by the NYPD. Buses will also go over the Williamsburg Bridge. In both cases, buses will make major stops on their way uptown via the Bowery and Third Avenue along a dedicated curbside lane -- which he said will also be enforced by the NYPD.
The buses will run up to 55th Street, then turn around and head back to Brooklyn on Lexington Avenue.
For more information about transit service in New York, visit our Transit Tracker.