Trains back up, but NYC commute a trial
The Long Island Rail Road chugged into higher gear for thousands of passengers Friday, but getting in and out of New York City remained a trial for many.
For the morning commute into Penn Station, the LIRR carried 25,365 people on the Huntington, Ronkonkoma, Babylon and Port Washington lines on an hourly service between 6 and 10 a.m. That's about 31 percent of its average weekday capacity.
It was the first day of post-Sandy service for the Huntington line and the Babylon, the railroad's busiest. The Port Washington line, open only as far as Great Neck a day earlier, reopened the entire route.
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In Manhattan, patience was tested as more than 1,000 people wearied by the storm-battered week stood on two queues to catch shuttle buses departing Lexington Avenue at 42nd Street for Brooklyn. The lines snaked north on Lexington for three blocks, west on 45th, south on Vanderbilt Avenue to 44th Street then back to Lexington.
One commuter, Maria Tsomaia, of Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, had left her office in upper Manhattan at 5:30 p.m. and made it to the line an hour later. "If I get home by 10 p.m., I'll be very happy," she said.
The trip would take Tsomaia, 48, a certified nurse's assistant, to Barclays Center, where she planned to first catch the D train, then another bus to get home.
On a typical day the commute involves two subways and lasts an hour and 20 minutes, Tsomaia said. "It's very frustrating," she said as she waited. "I am sure everybody is doing their best."
In Huntington, Peter Mazzie, 60, of Kings Park, said he was "elated" when he learned train service would resume from the station. He was waiting for a train to Manhattan so he could check on two elderly friends. "They are like my parents," he said, adding he hasn't been able to reach them because of the storm.
LIRR officials said they will work over the weekend to clear trees and debris from other lines and specifically mentioned the Oyster Bay and Port Jefferson lines. Hourly service will remain in effect through the weekend with fewer overnight trains, said spokesman Sam Zambuto, as the railroad works round-the-clock to restore more service by Monday.
The railroad resumed charging fares as of midnight Friday.
Subway service in Manhattan has not resumed below 42nd Street on the East Side and 34th Street on the West. In Queens, service resumed between Flushing/Main Street (the terminal end) and 74th Street and Broadway in Queens in both directions. And in the Bronx, the Number 5 shuttle service resumed between East 180th and Dyre Avenue.
Both the Queens-Midtown and Brooklyn-Battery/Hugh L. Carey tunnels remained closed with authorities unable to forecast an opening day, MTA spokeswoman Marisa Baldeo said. The Holland Tunnel's south tube partially reopened to take New Jersey commuters by bus into Manhattan during the morning rush hour and back to New Jersey in the evening. The tunnel's north tube remains closed as water continues to be pumped out, the Port Authority said.
The restriction requiring motorists to have a minimum of three occupants in cars traveling through the Lincoln Tunnel and across the Robert F. Kennedy/ Triborough, Queensboro, Manhattan, Williamsburg, Brooklyn and Henry Hudson bridges ended at 5 p.m. Friday.