Saturday, January 31, 2015

How much should NY State and the MTA "prepare" for a winter storm

The January 26 snowstorm (or semi-lack of) where NYC got only 6-10 inches of an expected forecast of 20-30 inches, had enough finger pointing and name calling to fill a stadium with losers.   The lessons learned from the 2010 blizzard which stranded buses and subways (including that infamous A train incident) showed that the NYC Metropolitan Area was way more prepared for anything.  And let me first point out that despite a few hiccups in the winter advisories, NYC Transit and the rest of the MTA did an excellent job in shutting down the entire area then slowly restored service.  NJ Transit was stellar also, restoring rail service on Tuesday instead of the planned Thursday restoration. 
But we cannot please anyone these days.  If we prepare for the storm by shutting public transportation down and imposing travel bans, then the storm turns out to be a whimper, we point fingers at the meteorologists  and the National Weather Service,  If we do nothing (like in 2010) and continue to run subways and buses until outdoor subway, rail and bus lines start to drop like flies, then we blame the MTA for not planning an orderly shutdown.    Now, the MTA is looking at at keeping underground portions of the NYC subway system open, even during Plan V (a preparation to shut down the subway system, in whole or part).  Virtually all of Manhattan, with the exception of two sections of the 1 line and a station on the 3 line, is fully underground.  The Bronx has one fully underground line (the D) which can provide service to the western section of the Bronx while the 6 line serving the SE section of the Bronx is partially underground and can turn trains at Hunts Point Ave, the last underground stop. Queens riders can use the E/F/R lines along Broadway and Queens Blvd to Jamaica, the G can run to Brooklyn and the 7 train can run as a shuttle back and forth between Manhattan and Vernon Blvd-Jackson Ave (on a single track between Manhattan and Queens).  In Brooklyn, the R can run to 95th Street, the 2 to Flatbush, the 4 to Utica, the D to 36th Street, the A to Euclid, F to Jay Street, or possibly Church Ave (along with the G), depending on the snow along the Culver Viaduct and the L to Myrtle-Wyckoff.  The key part is giving some amount of service, even though it would be a inconvenience to others living in outdoor lines.
I do have a major issue with Gov. Andrew Cuomo's decision to shut everything down at 11 PM, while instituting a travel ban in several NY counties at the same time - - how can the MTA employees get home?  By imposing a travel ban on all non-emergency vehicles along NY State roads, it made things difficult for NYCT employees who were finishing their shifts, to get home.  I know a bus operator who finished his shift at around 11 PM then literally slept at the bus depot because he could not get home by car due to Cuomo's travel ban.  The ban should at least have exemptions for employees of public transit agencies in allowing them limited travel so they can get home.   The same should apply for essential employees at NY area hospitals, such as doctors and nurses.  Or apply the travel ban 2-3 hours after the MTA system wide shutdown.  Do note that even after the MTA shutdown, train operators continued to operate trains through most lines (none of them in passenger service, of course) to keep snow from building up on outdoor lines.
There is another storm coming to the NYC area on The Big Game night (Lord help me if the NFL tries to sue me if I dared to type those two copyrighted words, LOL), bringing a possible 6-12 inches of snow, according to that the National Weather Service in Upton, NY tells us.  Let's see how Monday plays out - this winter is more like a chess game - - one wrong move and it could be checkmate on the Weather guys, Gov. Cuomo, or the MTA and NJ Transit.   

1 comment:

  1. The Subways operated in 1983 (during a then-record 21" storm), '96 (also a record), 2003 and '06 and other big storms without any problems. 2010 was an abnormality caused by the fact the storm fell right after Christmas, a lack of media coverage after that storm's predictions exploded due to it doing so on Christmas Day (since changed) and the MTA likely reluctant to call in staff then out of concerns they would be slammed by religious leaders and family members of workers over doing so, even for a storm that materialized late on Christmas Eve.

    This was in my opinion Cuomo being more concerned with how he would look to people in the suburbs who would have been PO'ed about the city having service and worried about a potential Presidential bid in 2020 or '24 being compromised if something went wrong and it led the news in IOWA (as others have noted elsewhere). Instead, this may have backfired on Cuomo and may have SERIOUS ramifications for Democrats trying to regain control of the House and Senate in 2016.

    In shutting down the subways, Cuomo violated Rule #1 of politics: DO NOT PISS OFF WALL STREET! David Faber on CNBC spoke for many on Wall Street Tuesday morning as many on Wall Street were EXTREMELY PISSED OFF by what Cuomo did and BLASTED CUOMO TWICE, noting how unecessary this was. This would have been the case EVEN IF NYC got the 36"+ whopper that was forecast.

    Cuomo may have unintentionally made it much more difficult for Democrats to win back the House and Senate in 2016 with this. Many who can afford to fund candidates themselves on Wall Street were EXTREMELY PISSED OFF over this and it's something they will not forget anytime soon. I can see where Wall Street now more heavily backs Republicans to keep control of the House and Senate over this and some Democratitic candidates that might have been helped by Wall Street won't solely because of what Cuomo did here, that is how PO'ed Wall Street is about this.

    It would not surprise me if Cuomo and/or Prendegast were (at least privately) given a verbal scolding by Democratic Party leaders over this shutdown because of the unintended consequences the shutdown created. I would think if that happened, such officials would make it clear to the MTA NOT to shut down the underground portions of the system UNLESS it is a Sandy/Irene situation where flood threats make it obvious the system has to be shut down. If such verbal scolding happened, I'm sure it was made clear to Cuomo that ignoring such warnings would result in his being considered "persona non grata" in the Democratic Party and "dead" to the DNC. It appears Cuomo's looking ahead to re-election for Governor in 2018 and a potential Presidential bid in 2020 or '24 was behind this shutdown and he and the Democrats may instead wind up paying a very steep price for doing so.

    While most of Wall Street may have moved on from this, the so-called "self-centered wealthy" who can fund candidates that would do what THEY want in the Legislative Branches likely WILL NOT FORGIVE Cuomo for this and since they can't back at him directly, they may now look to punish the Democrats for this. It should NEVER get to that, but this storm appears to have exposed this problem.