Wednesday, May 29, 2013
By Kate Hinds
The posters are being hung in the subways, so we know it's official: seven months after being knocked out by Sandy, the A train will once again run to the furthest reaches of eastern Queens.
Monday, April 01, 2013
By Jim O'Grady
(New York, NY - WNYC) New York is Holland now: the NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority is building a wall to keep out the sea along a two-mile stretch of the A subway line on its way to the Rockaway peninsula in Queens. The wall is made of thick steel and runs along the eastern side the tracks on the island of Broad Channel, in the middle of Jamaica Bay.
The $38 million project is the MTA's first big step since Sandy to prevent flooding from future storm surges.
To make sure the wall is strong enough to hold off another flood, workers are pounding each section about 30 feet into the ground. In the end, the wall will rise only seven feet above the rails, two feet above Sandy's height. The MTA thinks that's high enough.
On a recent windy afternoon, Contractor Mitch Levine was watching workers pile drive and weld each section into place. He said the wall is designed to withstand salt water. "This steel is special steel," he said. "It's marine steel, which will stop it from eroding over the course of 100 years."
Keeping the hungry waves at bay
NY MTA program manager Raymond Wong said the wall is supposed to prevent future storm surges from doing what Sandy did in this area, which was rip the embankment right out from under 400 feet of track.
"The tracks were hanging in the air," he said.
For three weeks after Sandy, each tide took another bite from a larger section of the embankment--until the NY MTA rebuilt the shore by dumping tons of stone and concrete next to the tracks. But this stretch of the A train across Jamaica Bay is still not in service. Thousands of riders now cram into crowded shuttle buses and face rush hour commutes that can end after midnight.
The wall will also serve a second purpose: keeping debris off the line. Forty-eight boats came to rest on the tracks after Sandy, along with jet skis, docks and fuel tanks. The clean up alone took three months.
Why a wall?
NY MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said engineers chose a steel wall to protect the A train because, "It could meet strength requirements as well as timing requirements--we wanted to make sure the wall would be in place by May 1." The line is scheduled to return to full service by summer.
Although Jamaica Bay is part of Gateway National Park, Ortiz said the wall didn't need to go through "any type of approval process" because it's within the right-of-way of the tracks, which is controlled by NYC Transit. Ortiz said the NY MTA did consult with the National Park Service and Army Corps of Engineers about the plan.
Bringing the power back
The MTA is taking a much more short term approach to repairing the A train's damaged electrical system. A mile away from Broad Channel, a control house sits in the railyard at the end of the line in Rockaway Park. Inside, Wong showed off rooms stuffed with equipment that looked modern in the 1950s, when it was installed. One panel has thousands of fuses, each with its own hand-lettered tag. Sandy turned these rooms into temporary aquariums.
"Everything was just coated in salt water that undermined the copper," Wong said. "When we came here, this whole thing was a big block of rust."
Electricity is vital to the subway. It powers signals that keep the trains apart, and switches that move those trains down the right track. There's also lighting at stations, public address systems, and power to the third rail to move the trains--the list goes on.
So what is the MTA doing to protect the electrical equipment at low-lying sites from future storms? "We're just trying to get up and running over here," Wong said. "There's really not much you can do."
Wong said, ideally, the MTA will lift the control house 10 feet in the air, rip out the old components and computerize the system. But that's millions of dollars and years away. His goal right now is to get the A train back by summer, however he can.
Click here for more photos of restoration work on the A line.
Monday, March 11, 2013
By Jim O'Grady
(New York, WNYC) Before Sandy, every A train trip between the Rockaway peninsula and the rest of New York City began and ended with a crossing of Jamaica Bay. The train moved along a piece of land so thin that, from inside the train, it appears to skim atop the water. But for months, that 3.6 mile railroad bridge has been out, doubling commutes for Rockaways residents and further adding to the sense of deprivation brought on by Sandy.
On October 29, Sandy's storm surge overwhelmed that thread of connection. When the waters receded, the A train's foundation was gone, removing a major transit link from the peninsula's 130,000 residents.
One of those residents is senior producer of The Takeaway, Jen Poyant. She moved to the Rockaways a few years ago for a relatively affordable beach home -- far from Manhattan, but still, a direct shot on the A train. Water filled Poyant's basement, and came within a foot of flooding her first floor. For a month, she and her family couldn't return home. When she finally got back, she was overjoyed, but the daily trip to work can feel overwhelming -- like a little bit of work squeezed between commutes.
The direct train ride has become an odyssey from a slow-moving crowded bus to the train miles into the mainland. Sometimes, fellow commuters told Poyant, it takes all night to get home from Manhattan.
The MTA says its aware of the frustrating commute, but can't promise relief until summer.
MTA executive director Tom Prendergast described the result to New York's City Council: "An entire bridge and critical subway line serving the Rockaways was destroyed."
With the A train out, the MTA put subway cars on a truck, drove them to the peninsula and lifted them by crane onto tracks that serve six stops at the end of the line. The H train now runs for free from mid-peninsula at Beach 90th Street to the eastern end of the Rockaways. Bus service has also been increased.
But these are temporary measures. The list of needed repairs to the A train is extensive, and the going is slow. "We had to build out the shoulders on the east and west sides of the track, where you saw the washouts occur," Prendergast said. "We've had to replace damaged and missing third rail protection boards and insulators. We've had to replace signal power and communications equipment, which is ongoing." And damage to the Broad Channel subway station has not yet been fully repaired.
The MTA has patched and reinforced the land bridge where Sandy took large bites from it. But crews are still laboriously laying track and rebuilding the signal system from scratch — both on the railbed crossing Jamaica Bay and on the west end of the peninsula.
In the meantime, the MTA says it'll keep increasing service on the Q53 line, using old buses that have been held back from retirement. Those buses are jammed with riders every weekday rush hour as they make their way over the Cross Bay Bridge. More buses are coming in April.
The A train is expected back no earlier than late June.
Monday, December 17, 2012
By Jim O'Grady
(New York, NY - WNYC) The New York City subway system still has three large gaps in service due to damage by Sandy. The R train tunnel connecting Brooklyn and Manhattan is not operating, A train service into the Rockaways remains suspended, and the South Ferry station in Lower Manhattan is closed.
NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority spokesman Kevin Ortiz said the agency is "hoping" to have The R train tunnel, the last of eleven subway tunnels flooded by Sandy, back in business by Friday -- if repairs continue to go well.
The earthen berm supporting the causeway that carries the A train across Jamaica Bay into Rockaway Peninsula has been shored up: water no longer flows through two large breaches opened by the storm. But NYC Transit president Tom Prendergast says the tracks and signals won't be repaired until spring.
In the meantime, rush hour service on the Q53 bus will start a half hour earlier, at 4:30 a.m., to help relieve overcrowding from train commuters in the hard-hit Rockaways who now take the bus along Cross Bay Boulevard as a substitute for the A train.
And Prendergast says the authority is still doing a damage assessment on South Ferry station, which was renovated at a cost of $527 million and re-opened only three and a half years ago. It'll take at least another year before it opens again. The station was flooded floor to ceiling.
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
By Jim O'Grady
(New York - Jim O'Grady, WNYC) This post-Valentine bon bon just landed from Praxedes Arias, who read yesterday's post about Love on the Subway. It describes her encounter on a downtown train. She writes: "He looked older and Irish American...I liked that look. Beard, mustache, blond...completely opposite of my family or Spanish men (I was born in Havana)."
When this story takes place, she's 27...and ready.
"I met my husband on the A train. I was performing my final play at the American Academy of Performing Arts and was reviewing my lines. It was a Sunday afternoon so the car was pretty empty but I looked up and suddenly he was there sitting in front of me. The guy I had seen in the neighborhood and on the train for weeks and months but never spoke to. He nodded and said 'hi.' I said 'hi' and immediately looked down at my playbook. 'Oh my gosh, he spoke to me,' I thought; my heart beating a mile a minute. I was really shy so starting a conversation was out of the question. I needed to find another way. I pulled out a flier of the play from my backpack and circled my name with a note. I waited until we got to Columbus Circle and gave him the flier right before I exited the train and said 'I hope you can make it.' I performed that evening and greeted my guests afterward...and was a little disappointed he wasn't there. I assumed he was married. A few weeks later, I was running late and ran for an overcrowded A train. I made it, and stood there looking disheveled and tired. I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around and it was him. He apologized for not having attended the play because he had a previous engagement. Then he asked me out to lunch. Of course I said, 'yes.' He took me to Phoebe's restaurant and the American Museum of Natural History...a perfect first date. We are now married 16 years and have three beautiful little boys. We are still in love and the best of friends."
To have your heart warmed even more, go to wnyc.org for audio versions of a pair F train love stories--one of them a marriage proposal.
p.p.s. Click "more" to read the above story by the man in question, James O'Driscoll.
Monday, December 27, 2010
By Kate Hinds
Blizzard slows down travel in the Northeast (WNYC): in New York City, airports and rail shuts down, but other transit gamely presses on (NY1) --with the exception of an A train stuck in Queens where passengers overnighted without food or water.
In other news: USA Today says that there are gaping holes in subway and rail security that "leave travelers more vulnerable on the more than 4 billion trips they take by subway and rail each year than in the sky, where airlines carried fewer than 700 million passengers from U.S. airports last year." And, apparently, cargo that flies over (but not to) the U.S. doesn't get screened to federal standards. (Washington Post)
Cycling is on a roll in the nation's capitol. "The District has 50 miles of bike lanes on its 1,200 miles of streets. It has created 47 of the 50 miles in the past nine years." (Washington Post)
A Boston nonprofit is teaching bicycle mechanics to inner city kids, and shipping out nearly 6,000 abandoned bikes a year--some to South America and Africa. (WBUR - Here and Now)
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