What happens when cities run by democrats for decades suddenly realize a lack of infrastructure investment has come to an impasse? The ”Summer of Hell,” according to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Train dependent New Yorkers and New Jersey residents are experiencing massive delays because of Amtrak repairs this summer. Thousands of commuters were corralled into train depots this morning, which marked the beginning of the repair project.
The Pennsylvania Station repairs were originally supposed to take place over the next few years, but multiple derailments and infrastructure problems accelerated the plan. The station serves approximately 650,000 riders every day. It’s the largest transit hub in the Western hemisphere.
Although he’s been governor since 2010, Andrew Cuomo has apparently only realized the problem this year. This May, he called on the federal government and Donald Trump to help pay for the Penn Station repairs. Although the location is owned by Amtrak, Cuomo apparently thinks that it’s the responsibility of American taxpayers to help foot the bill for New York’s problem.
Perhaps he was trying to spread the blame. He’s the head of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) but hasn’t addressed the issue before now.
MTA provides transit services for the city of New York and the Hudson Valley. Major maintenance at Penn Station hasn’t been performed in nearly half a century, making it in only slightly better shape than many bridges, railways, and roadways in the United States.
Nearly 40 percent of American bridges are over 50 years old. Many of those were built during the great Depression. The nation’s rail service hasn’t fared as badly because it is mainly owned by private companies. Amtrak operates a 21,356-mile rail network that served 31.3 million passengers in 2016. Its Northeast Corridor (NEC) runs from Boston to Washington, D.C. and Amtrak owns and operates the majority of the NEC’s track, 363 miles out of 457.
Penn Station is a critical junction for the NEC. Its complex interlocking rails mean that several thousand people are impacted by the necessary repairs, but that’s not the only problem with New York railways. The tunnels under the Hudson River are over 100 years old. They are the primary connection between Manhattan and New Jersey, but were badly damaged during Hurricane Sandy.
The major service disruptions at Penn station will include work to tracks, signals, and switches, which will be completely replaced in some sections. Four tracks are now out of service and will remain that way until late September. At least a 20 percent reduction in the amount of trains leading from Long Island and New Jersey is scheduled.
The effected trains include Amtrak, New Jersey Transit, and Long Island Railroad (LIRR), which are sending fewer trains through the station.
However, in an effort to minimize the impact of the shutdown, LIRR and Amtrak are adding additional cars to operating trains. New Jersey Transit has also added more buses to their routes between Manhattan and Hoboken. NJ Transit is offering discounts for travelers impacted by the repairs.
The ferry service offered by New York waterways appears to be the most attractive alternative for many, but LIRR customers won’t receive discounts on the “multifaceted plan” according to Victoria Hakim, the authority’s interim executive director.
Cuomo also announced that all non-emergency road work would be suspended between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m. to help accommodate for more vehicles coming into the city. The Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) is also adding extra trains to help meet demand.
However, subway riders are still irritated at the governor. They think that the added roadway work and focus on vehicle transportation is taking the focus off the ordered state-of-emergency subway operation. Since many New Yorkers don’t own cars, they want the subways fixed first.
So far, the transition has gone fairly smoothly. Lots of preparation seems to have done the trick. However, the real test isn’t expected until malfunctions, weather difficulties, and other stresses hit the new system. Commuters will just have to deal with it though.
Despite Cuomo’s grandstanding, many doubt that Trump will intercede. The president’s desire to cut waste makes it entirely possible that he’ll rightly let New York fix its own neglected rail transit issues.