September 26, 2013

Frustration, gridlock for Conn.-NYC rail commuters

Metro-North, the nation's second-largest commuter railroad, said it could accommodate about 33 percent of its regular ridership and urged customers to stay at home or find alternative transportation.

By Verena Dobnik / The Associated Press

NEW YORK — Parts of Interstate 95 turned into a virtual parking lot Thursday as tens of thousands of Metro-North Railroad commuters scrambled for alternate routes between the densely populated Connecticut suburbs and New York City after a power failure on a heavily trafficked rail line.

click image to enlarge

Commuters wait Thursday at the Brewster, N.Y., station for the 6:44 a.m. train to Grand Central Station in New York. A power failure on the rail line in the Stamford, Conn., area Wednesday disrupted travel for tens of thousands of commuters heading into the city.

AP

Officials were working to find alternative power sources to end the hours-long delays that they cautioned could last for weeks after a high-voltage feeder cable failed early Wednesday at a suburban New York station.

Metro-North, the nation's second-largest commuter railroad, said it could accommodate about 33 percent of its regular ridership and urged customers to stay at home or find alternative transportation.

At Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan on Thursday, ticket windows for the New Haven, Conn., line were closed. Commuters who rode other lines said those trains were more crowded than usual.

Matt Sullivan, 27, an architect, said it usually takes him half an hour to get to Grand Central from his home in Greenwich. That doubled when he drove to White Plains, N.Y., and took the Harlem line.

"It's disappointing but my company will give me a laptop so I can work from home a couple of days," he said.

The broken circuit could take two to three weeks to repair, the New York-based utility Consolidated Edison said.

"This is going to be a substantial disruption for a substantial period of time," Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said at a Wednesday evening news conference in Hartford, adding the line serving New Haven was the busiest in the nation, with 125,000 daily passengers and serving 38 stations and 23 towns. "Folks, plan on long-term lack of service or being underserved."

"I'm just trying to get through the next two days," said Pete Hartney, 64, who makes a daily two-hour commute from Guilford, Conn., to New York City that has stretched by 90 minutes. "I'm going to try to put up with whatever they throw our way ... then formulate a plan over the weekend."

Amtrak said it would offer limited service between New York and Boston on Thursday because of the power problem.

Irate Metro-North passengers vented online. The head of a commuter advisory group complained that rail service was disrupted frequently over the summer for needed track work in New York. Wednesday's disruption, though not Metro-North's fault, adds to frustration among commuters, commuter advocate Jim Cameron said.

"It means commuters must have a Plan B and a Plan C," he said.

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