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Until Metro-North Tracks Are Fixed, Buses Drive to the Rescue

True inter-agency teamwork between Metro-North Railroad and MTA Bus is allowing Port Jervis customers to get to where they need to go.

The driving winds and drenching downpours brought to the northeast by the remnants of Hurricane Irene caused catastrophic damage to MTA Metro-North Railroad's Port Jervis Line, forcing the suspension of a large portion of the railroad's West of Hudson service. Because of the heavy damage, which will take months to repair, Metro-North had to find alternative transportation for the 2,300 people who depend on the line each day.

Sloatsburg Photo
Photo: Andrew Grahl

Due to the efforts of MTA Bus operations, riders were not left stranded. A brand new bus service was created and implemented virtually overnight, carrying hundreds of customers from their regular train stations to locations where service was operating. It took a collaborative effort between the railroad and Buses to create a dependable service alternative for customers who rely on Metro-North for their daily commutes.

"We worked closely with Metro-North to determine the needs of its customers and then set up schedules and routes that worked for them," explained Darryl Irick, Senior Vice President of MTA New York City Transit Department of Buses and President of MTA Bus. "Managers from bus operations, operations planning and scheduling have continually fine-tuned this service, altering it as conditions changed. This was a complicated undertaking and a lot of people deserve a great deal of credit."

Prior to the start-up of service, routes were drawn up and then buses were sent out on test runs to determine running times. Test runs were made from each of the line's eight stations to either NJTRANSIT's Ramsey/Route 17 or Beacon on the Hudson Line until it was determined how much time had to be allotted to ensure that the buses were able to meet the trains.

Accustomed to guiding their coaches and articulated buses around city streets and along crowded expressways, the bus operators had to familiarize themselves to the new environment of rural Orange County roads. Aside from different traffic conditions, bus operators encountered some things that they don't see on their regular routes. Many of the drivers said they saw black bears, deer, skunks, horses and cows.

This bus service supplements a charter carrier that is serving the northernmost of the line's stations during the weekdays. But the MTA takes over that operation on weekends. Two types of vehicles are being used for the operation, 45-foot express coaches and smaller paratransit-type vehicles where space restrictions were encountered.

"Buses coming from the Bronx' Eastchester Depot to run this service have a nearly two hour trip before they pick up the first passenger," explained Anna Peck, General Manager of NYC Transit Bus and MTA Bus Road Operations.

The operation will remain in place until railroad repairs are complete later this year.