Governor Andrew Cuomo waived fares on New York’s subways, commuter trains and buses through tomorrow as the region recovers from the pounding delivered by Sandy’s hurricane-force winds and flooding.
Cuomo declared a transit emergency after traffic ground to a halt in the streets of the largest U.S. metropolis yesterday. With subways halted and buses overloaded, more commuters drove into the city than usual, Cuomo said at a press briefing in Manhattan. The free transit rides may get more commuters to board buses and trains instead of driving, he said.
“Traffic in Manhattan today was very, very high, and the gridlock was downright dangerous,” the Democratic New York governor said. “We have to take further action as an encouragement to have people take mass transportation, which is coming online piece by piece.”
Earlier, Cuomo and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered all East River bridges and the Lincoln Tunnel to be restricted to vehicles carrying at least three occupants from 6 a.m. to midnight today. Parts of the subway system will reopen at 6 a.m., with 14 of 23 lines running, Cuomo said. About half of the riders usually carried by the Metro-North commuter-rail lines into Westchester County and Connecticut will have train access.
In Hartford, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy, a Democrat, said commuter trains to New York from Stamford would resume running today, and fares will be waived through tomorrow.
New York City is reeling after a record storm surge inundated transit and automotive tunnels Oct. 29, driven by Sandy’s winds. It was the largest tropical system measured in the Atlantic and left at least 30 New Yorkers dead. About 719,000 Consolidated Edison Inc. customers were still without power at 8 p.m. yesterday, including 552,000 in the city.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority normally carries 8.5 million passengers a day, collecting about $18 million from subway riders, Joe Lhota, the authority’s chairman, said at another briefing in Manhattan yesterday.
Cuomo urged commuters to be patient as they travel to and from work today as the subway system comes back to life.
“Understand, the system has never gone through this,” he said. “We still have water from floor to ceiling at some stations. These are really historic obstacles.”
The mayor is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.