Metro-North commuters get back on track

The Metro-North train station in Yonkers is making The Metro-North train station in Yonkers is making a full recovery after Hurricane Sandy, with nearly 140,000 MTA commuters boarding trains to and from New York City on whole. (Nov. 5, 2012) Photo Credit: Faye Murman

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Metro-North roared back to pre-Hurricane Sandy ridership levels Monday as some 140,000 commuters boarded trains to and from New York City.

Problems remained at some stations, where commuters were finding ticket vending machines knocked out by flooding. Sturdy oak benches added to the Tarrytown station during a recent renovation were found floating in 2 feet of water and will have to be replaced. Some public address systems were knocked out. And commuters on the New Canaan, Conn., branch of the Harlem Line were relying on buses instead of trains as workers try to restore damaged overhead power lines.

But for the most part, the nation's busiest commuter rail system was up and running smoothly.

"There are still some problems at stations," said Marjorie Anders, a spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. "But the astounding accomplishments of our workers can't be overstated."

Anders said there were two late trains reported on the Harlem Line, nine on the New Haven Line and none on the Hudson Line.

And once in the city, commuters were finding an expanded list of subways operating.

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Diesel-powered service will resume on the Wassaic, Danbury and Waterbury branches at the northern end of the Harlem Line, the MTA said.

At the Metro-North station in Beacon on Monday morning, Jeff Guiles was one of dozens of New York City-bound commuters shivering in the cold and waiting for the 8:20 a.m. train to Grand Central. He works as a computer systems analyst at a midtown-based company and said his commute has been a "nightmare" in the past week.

"I worked from home on Tuesday and took a bus a couple days," said the 42-year-old Beacon man. "It's been a real pain. I'm just glad things are finally getting back to normal."

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday that the MTA has restored 80 percent of the New York City subway system, including service between Brooklyn and Manhattan, which had been severed by Sandy's floodwaters.

"This is a major step forward in the resumption of regular subway service in New York City," Cuomo said in a statement. "Once again, subway customers have a direct link between Brooklyn and Manhattan, giving them a fast and reliable way to get to their jobs, their schools and their homes."

Allen Mullen, 51, of Pleasantville, was waiting for the train in the village's busy station Monday morning. He works for an investment firm in New York City and said he had been carpooling with some of his colleagues since the storm disrupted his commuting routine.

"Nice to see things getting back to normal," he said.

Erika Garcia, 48, said she has been driving to her job as a management consultant for the past week and was returning to her train commute for the first time since the storm. With gas shortages and the resumption of normal service, she decided to take the train.

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"I could have worked from home last week, but we didn't get power back until Friday," the Village of Ossining woman said as she waited for the 8:27 a.m. Harlem Line train.

Workers trying to go from Brooklyn to Manhattan last week faced massive delays as they tried to board shuttle buses or cross bridges on foot.

Among the subway lines returning to service are the No. 4, 5, 6 and 7 trains. The F train began operating between 179th Street and Avenue X. The No. 1 train has been extended south to 14th Street, and the No. 2 train is now running from 241st Street in the Bronx to Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn.

The Newburgh-Beacon and the Haverstraw-Ossining ferries also returned to service for the morning commute.

On the Port Jervis line operated by NJ Transit, partial service is in effect, with four morning peak and four afternoon/evening peak trains making all local stops to Secaucus.

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At the Harriman station in Orange County, Jeff Stokes was waiting for one of four peak-hour trains on the Port Jervis Line headed to Secaucus Junction. From there he will catch another train to Manhattan to his job as a security guard in a 34th Street office building.

For the past week, he has had to take a Shortline bus to Secaucus, N.J., which added 35 minutes to his daily commute.

"I had to rearrange my schedule a bit, but the worst part is getting around the city with the subway problems," the 27-year-old Monroe man.

He said it was worse last year, when Tropical Storm Irene destroyed miles of track on the Port Jervis Line that took months to replace.

"Hopefully, it won't take that long to get back to regular service," he said.

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