The Subways Are Running — Crazy!

I grew up a front end rider. My trips on the NYC subway were always in the first car looking through the window at the track ahead. By graduation I’d memorized the right-of-way for the GG Local, the train I took to high school every day for four years.

The NYC subway system seemed as indestructible as it was ugly. The Earth itself would wear out before the subways.

Then there was Hurricane Sandy. Salt water, the universal solvent, rushed in flooding tunnels and underground stations. Above ground Sandy worked to rip apart some exposed railbeds.

In the end seven of the fourteen river tunnels flooded. The overground link through Jamaica Bay was destroyed.

I figured weeks, maybe months, before the subways were up and running. That seemed a reasonable estimate.

They’re mostly running today!

This morning’s New York Times quotes Gene Russianoff, the staff lawyer for the Straphangers Campaign, usually not a subway operations booster, saying:

Some of what they’re doing borders on the edge of magic

I agree. A few of the crossriver tunnels had water up to 15 feet high for nearly a mile! Stations in Lower Manhattan were inundated.

The subways are mostly running today because the MTA did a lot of things right! That’s no accident.

Service was stopped the night before Sandy’s arrival and as much rolling stock as possible was moved to predetermined safe points in the system. That included moving the system’s three pumper trains, necessary to clear water.

After the storm the MTA concentrated on the low hanging fruit first, working on the easiest lines to open then moving down the list.

In places like Rockaway, where track damage has isolated a usable line from its subway cars, the MTA put them on flatbed trucks and drove them to Rockaway where shuttle service is now operating.

Trucking trains to Rockaway? This couldn’t have been in a pre-storm playbook. It had to be a wise ad lib.

Rockaway will be the MTA’s biggest problem. Here’s their description:

The scope of the destruction was stunning. The North Channel Bridge, which connects Howard Beach and Broad Channel over Jamaica Bay, as well as a section of Broad Channel known as “The Flats” sustained a tremendous amount of damage. Hundreds of feet of track were destroyed on the bridge and the line segment that runs through the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. There is no working signal system, the rails are twisted and in some areas, the supporting roadbed is completely washed away. The Broad Channel station was filled with debris, including a jet ski and a speedboat.

We live in an era where government is often rightfully accused of being incompetent. Not the MTA. Not after Sandy.

The subway will continue to be ugly and utilitarian. The subway will continue to run!

4 Responses to “The Subways Are Running — Crazy!”

  1. Wudz says:

    That pic of a subway car off it’s trucks from Sandy? Wow! Amazingly took the F train from 57/6 most of the way from Manhattan to Jamaica on !Thursday! of last week. The return ended at Roosevelt Island with a stalled train, had to hike to the tram to get to Manhattan. Amazing trip nevertheless.

  2. Heather says:

    Amazing what they can accomplish when they’re forced to ;)

    South Ferry flooding isn’t a shock at all, but the extent of damage to that station, especially when it was very recently redone blows my mind.

  3. Deb says:

    A friend of mine questioned what happened to the homeless folk who live in unused parts of the tunnels….

  4. 793tango says:

    The contrast between MTA and LIPA is astounding but not surprising. MTA, a government agency often accused ofstupidity and mismanagement, was well prepared for a disaster and responded like clockwork. LIPA, a for-profit corporation was woefully UNprepared and is trying desperately to catch up and trpair damage to not only its lines but to its image (which is even more important). Rather than learn from the mistakes its neighbors CL&P and UI made up here last year they chose to sit tight and ‘hope’ nothing bad happened. And, predictably they blew it just as badly as our utilities.I wonder if any of these companies will ever learn? I’m not holding my breath for it.

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