Monday, November 05, 2012

Making Hash of the Commute

I'm so glad I'm not commuting into NYC this morning.

NJ Transit is an absolute mess. They claimed that they had service restored on a couple of lines, but here's what that meant.

For Main/Port Jervis, it was 7 trains inbound in the morning, and 3 would get to New York City after what's normally considered rush hour (10-11am). No reverse commute trains. In the PM, you'd have the same situation - 7 outbound trains, with staggered times that include times outside rush hour.

Those attempting to do the commute found themselves in a mess - serious overcrowding. The overcrowding was so bad that #NJTransit suspended service on the North Jersey Coast Line service and customers utilizing the Woodbridge station were told to use Metropark station for service to/from Newark and New York.

Meanwhile, bus service isn't much better. Mrs. Lawhawk who had to get to court this morning, had to let three buses pass her by with standing room only before she found one with a seat. That's crazy.

But, once she got into the city, the commute was much smoother. The MTA has done a phenomenal job in restoring service, including to Lower Manhattan and service was being added faster than the MTA cartographers could update their service maps (which are being updated daily). When you think of all the millions of people who rely on the subways, Joe Lhota has done a tremendous job in getting service restored, even though some stations may be out of commission for a while - particularly in the Rockaways and South Ferry. Other lines are being bypassed because of lower ridership and the need to concentrate on the routes that have the ability to restore service to the greatest numbers of people in the shortest time. It means that some areas are still cutoff, including Williamsburg, Coney Island, and parts of Lower Manhattan, but if someone did a time lapse of the service maps, you'd see just how fast the service was restored.

Now, going forward the question will be how to prevent the disruptions we've seen from getting as bad as they were.

For starters - the feds and states ought to consider legislation requiring all gas stations to retrofit with generators (and in flood-prone areas - sufficiently elevated to reduce chances for disruption). That would allow people to refuel, and to power their generators to get power back quicker. It would alleviate traffic considerably and hasten the recovery rather than lose time to waiting in lines for gas.

New York should have implemented even/odd gas fill ups just as New Jersey did for affected counties. It's alleviated some of the lines around Bergen County - but restoring power does that even more.

New York State has to pony up to fund the MTA to get more storm mitigation in place - better drainage/pumping systems/flood gates to prevent the tunnels from getting swamped.

And in New Jersey, they've got to take a critical look at NJ Transit and how they were ill-prepared to deal with the storm and the after-effects. Did they not realize that people would attempt a commute during rush hour and the limited trains they would run would get overcrowded due to conditions.

It's the same problem they had after last year's storms (Irene and Lee). Now, we're going to see just how slow NJ Transit will be in restoring service, though it's not all their fault - PSEG has to restore power so that NJ Transit rail signals/gates can function. But that's another place where backup generators could make a difference.

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