April 19, 2013

Boston travel: Trains, buses halted, planes flying

The Associated Press

NEW YORK — Mass transportation to and from the Boston area was virtually shut down Friday as police conducted a massive manhunt for a suspect in Monday's Boston Marathon bombing.

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Amtrak trains sit idle in a train yard on the south side of Boston Friday, April 18, 2013 as all transit service remains shut down in the Boston area. Two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing killed an MIT police officer, injured a transit officer in a firefight and threw explosive devices at police during their getaway attempt in a long night of violence that left one of them dead and another still at large Friday, authorities said as the manhunt intensified for a young man described as a dangerous terrorist. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

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The Amtrak departures board shows a canceled train to Boston at Penn Station, Friday, April 19, 2013 in New York. Mass transit to and from the Boston area was virtually shut down Friday as police conducted a massive manhunt for a suspect in Monday's Boston Marathon bombing. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

The message from Boston transit authorities — shared early in the morning via Twitter — was clear: "Go/stay home."

As the manhunt stretched into the afternoon, Amtrak stopped all trains on the heavily traveled corridor between New York and Boston. Its service from Boston to Maine was also halted. All major intercity bus lines suspended service to the area. Authorities also stopped service on commuter trains into Boston as well as the city's subway — called the T — and the city's buses.

By Friday evening, authorities had lifted the stay-indoors warning for people in the Boston area, and the transit system started running again. People were warned to be vigilant because the suspect was still at large.

Calls to Amtrak and intercity bus companies Greyhound/BoltBus and Megabus were not immediately returned Friday evening following the lifting of the warning.

Only air travel functioned normally throughout Friday. Planes took off and landed mostly on schedule at Logan International, although passengers entering the airport drew extra scrutiny from state police.

All major highways in the region remained open except in Watertown, Mass., the center of the manhunt. But they — and most city streets — remained eerily empty as people heeded the government's advice and stayed home.

"I'm just like everybody else in greater Boston, just staying at home, glued to the television," said Bob Trane, an elected alderman in Somerville, Mass., a densely populated city minutes from downtown Boston. "There is nobody out in the streets, very few cars, very few people walking."

Elsewhere, travelers scrambled to find a way home.

Stranded by the Amtrak shutdown, the Rev. Victoria Weinstein passed the time with a beer in a New York bar. She weighed her options for getting home to a Boston suburb.

"I have my Plan A, B, C, and D," she said. There were rides with friends, family or waiting a day. She even considering hitching a ride with a stranger from New England she met at the bar.

"I really just want to be home with my community," said Weinstein, a Unitarian Universalist pastor. "I'm just thinking about all the people whose hearts are broken."

MegaBus, which canceled 35 trips to and from Boston Friday — affecting about 2,500 passengers — said it will also cancel its 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. trips out of Boston Saturday.

Travelers whose trains or buses were canceled are getting full refunds. All airlines allowed passengers scheduled for Friday to change flights to other days, although policies varied widely. Grace periods ranged from a few days on airlines like American and Delta, while United Airlines is giving passengers up to a year from the date they purchased their tickets to fly.

Passengers trying to leave Boston by air were met by Massachusetts State Police searching vehicles at entrances to Logan. The airport handles about 1,000 flights a day and has been operating at a heightened level of security since Monday's attack, according to Matthew Brelis, director of media relations for MassPort, the public agency that runs Logan.

Government officials refused to say why flying was the only form of mass transit allowed.

But airports are a very different environment than bus or train stations. Every person and piece of luggage moving through an airport goes through a security screening. Each passenger's name, date of birth and gender is compared to those on terrorism watch lists. And before boarding a plane out of town, each person must pass through a checkpoint where police have ample time to compare them to photos of suspects.

(Continued on page 2)

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