East Coast "Superstorm" Prompts Governor Cuomo to Direct MTA to Prepare for Service Suspensions

Eyeing the possibility that Hurricane Sandy will continue on its path toward the New York City metropolitan area, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today directed the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to begin planning for an orderly suspension of all subway, bus and commuter railroad service.

Director of State Operations Howard Glaser, Health Commissioner Dr. Nirav Shah, MTA Chairman and CEO Joseph Lhota, and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Executive Director Pat Foye gave an update on preparations this afternoon at the Governor’s New York City Office.

A final decision on whether to suspend service will be made by Sunday, but due to the logistics and the sheer size of the system, the MTA must begin preparing immediately for a possible suspension to protect its customers, its employees and its equipment.

If a decision to suspend service is made by Sunday, New York City subways and buses would begin an orderly suspension of service at 7 p.m. Sunday. Metro-North Railroad and the Long Island Rail Road would suspend service at 7 p.m. Sunday. Some lines may be curtailed over a period of several hours before all service is suspended, but no one would be able to rely on any MTA service after 7 p.m. Sunday.

All customers leaving the Sunday afternoon Jets game in New Jersey would be accommodated before service is suspended. However, the special through train from New Haven to the Meadowlands has been cancelled.

"I have directed the MTA to put its Hurricane Plan into action to help New Yorkers prepare for the storm and protect the vital assets of the region's transportation system," Governor Cuomo said. "New Yorkers need to take action now to protect themselves, and as the transportation system prepares to possibly suspend service, no one should wait until the last minute to prepare."

The MTA Hurricane Plan is designed to secure equipment and protect employees before dangerous sustained winds of 39 mph or higher and storm surges of 4 to 8 feet reach the area. This process must begin hours in advance of the storm’s arrival, as thousands of rail cars, subway cars and buses must be pulled from service and stored safely.

"Suspending the largest transportation system in North America is a monumental effort, and it is imperative that we start the process before we make a final decision, and before the worst of Hurricane Sandy reaches us," said MTA Chairman and CEO Joseph J. Lhota. "That means all of our 8.5 million daily customers need to prepare for the storm and be ready to complete their travels by 7 p.m. Sunday."

Before any final decision on suspending service, MTA crews will follow the Hurricane Plan by moving rail cars, locomotives, subway cars and buses from low-lying yards to higher ground; preparing recovery equipment and clearing drainage areas; and deploying sandbags and other protective materials at tunnel entrances, station entrances and other locations vulnerable to flooding. Taking these pre-emptive measures before the full brunt of the storm arrives will help in the MTA’s recovery efforts after the storm passes.

Mass transit services would be restored following the storm only when it is safe to do so, after careful inspections of all equipment and tracks. There is no timetable established for restoration. Customers and the media should monitor the mta.info website or call 511 for the most current service information.