National News

New York's 'Summer of Hell' spreads to subways

Posted July 19

It was thought New York's "Summer of Hell" would be contained to its commuter rail lines; now New Yorkers are caught amid service interruption and overcrowding throughout the city's subway system.

The "Summer of Hell," a phrase first used by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, has defined dates: Amtrak making emergency repairs to Penn Station from July 10 to September 1 would severely impact the 450,000 commuter rail and Amtrak passengers that use the station daily.

Now, New Yorkers applying his moniker to the subway delays often tweet their grievances at Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the MTA's Twitter accounts.

New Yorkers heated over subway delays

Now that there's cell service in every subway station, New Yorkers are joining their suburban Penn Station commuters in making their angry voices heard on social media about the impacts on their livelihoods.

On July 17, an A train track fire during the morning rush sent shock waves to Upper West Side commuters; they took to social media to show the crowded conditions on nearby train lines as straphangers took alternative routes downtown.

The subways, to some New Yorkers, feel like they're breaking down more frequently and at more increasingly inopportune times: rush hour.

"It's not always a breakdown, but yes I've experienced more subway delays, for sure," says Queens resident Jenna Uliano. "And even when it's not a formal 'delay' the trains are moving slower. My commute time is slowly, but noticeably, increasing."

The most recent data available from the Mass Transit Authority, which operates New York's subways, shows subway cars travel more distance in between mechanical failures than last year.

However, a simple delay or stall in service seems to some New Yorkers more likely to cause seismic systemwide delays than to stay localized.

Some 46% of subway riders said their service was "slightly" or "far" worse than last year, according to a City Comptroller survey conducted over two weeks in June.

It's one of the leading causes for being late to work in the city that never sleeps; 74% of subway commuters reported subway delays causing work tardiness.

The MTA even offers "Subway Delay Verification," which provides proof to employers of delays.

Subway delays caused 18% of commuters to be reprimanded and 13% lost wages; 2% were fired, the survey reported.

Amtrak repairs snarl commuter rail traffic

Penn Station, the United States' busiest rail hub, serves as a nexus for Amtrak, Long Island Railroad, New Jersey Transit and subway services. In the spring of 2017, a series of derailments made it clear the Amtrak-owned and operated station needed emergency repairs.

The intensive track and signal overhaul is the cause of the original "Summer of Hell," the moniker reappropriated by straphangers.

As a result of the Penn Station work, certain New Jersey Transit and Long Island Rail Road trains are diverting to other terminals outside Manhattan. Amtrak has diverted certain train lines to Grand Central Station in Manhattan.

The forced diversion pushes more commuters onto already strained intra-city subway lines like the subway and PATH train. Any additional delays throughout the broader transit system can overload the weakened system, spinning it into chaos.

The current service disruption to Penn Station is minor compared to what some are calling a doomsday scenario: a shutdown of the North River tunnel. They are the only passenger rail connections between Manhattan and New Jersey, with rail links to Boston and Washington.

The already-aged tunnels filled with seawater during Hurricane Sandy, and lasting effects from that continue to damage the tunnel.

Construction has yet to begin on a proposed new tunnel; it's expected to take seven years to complete. A complete rehabilitation of the existing tunnels is expected to take at least three years.

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