Less than a week after Hurricane Sandy crippled the Hudson Valley mass transportation system, nearly all of Metro-North will be running Saturday morning with the return of the upper Hudson line service.
The Hudson line, deemed the most problematic by Metro-North officials in the aftermath of the powerful storm, returned to service Friday between Grand Central Terminal and Croton-Harmon. Service will resume Saturday between Croton-Harmon and Poughkeepsie.
"With the restoration of service on this 41-mile section of track, Metro-North is now providing service to 95 percent of all its customers," read a statement from Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office Friday afternoon.
Friday morning's Metro-North ridership was hovering around 60 percent of normal turnout for a fall weekday, according to Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials. The Harlem Line was at 70 percent, the New Haven Line 60 percent and the Hudson was at 40 percent on its first day in service.
Lisa Moore, who works in sales near Grand Central Terminal, said she was thrilled to return to the office Friday morning as she waited for the Harlem Line's 9:21 in Croton Falls. Working from home in post-Sandy conditions was "a challenge," the 45-year-old said.
"No heat, no hot water, no connectivity, no cable is kind of like camping in your own house," she continued. "I'm so happy to be back at work."
Once service on the Upper Hudson line gets rolling, the Newburgh-Beacon ferry is ready to handle customers. Metro-North officials hope to wrap up repairs on the flood-damaged ferry parking lot in time for Monday morning's rush. And Hudson RailLink buses, which serve the Riverdale and Spuyten Duyvil stations along the Hudson Line, are up and running.
The last leg of the Harlem Line yet to open is the Wassaic branch, which carries some 900 customers on a typical weekday. Substations at Katonah and Bedford Hills, which power the branch, were damaged by flooding after Sandy touched down Monday night. Metro-North is working with NYSEG to restore power.
The Port Jervis and Pascack Valley routes remain out of service, while NJ Transit works with utility workers to get a rail line control center powered up. NJ Transit operates both lines.
Meanwhile, commuting life in New York City took another step toward normalcy Friday morning and will likely get better in the days ahead.
By order of New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, the three-person minimum for cars traveling over the East River bridges, the Lincoln Tunnel and the RFK and Henry Hudson bridges was lifted at 5 p.m. Friday.
The mayor said he anticipated that more subway lines will open over the weekend as power is restored downtown. So far, 15 of the city's 23 subway lines have reopened on some level.
There still is no subway service below 34th Street in Manhattan while the MTA tries to clear tunnels flooded by water. Commuters were directed to downtown buses they could pick up at Second, Fifth or Lexington avenues.
"As we have said from the beginning, we will bring service back on a gradual basis as we are able to do so. The subway system will be a shifting landscape for some time to come," MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota said. "But we are making steady progress toward some level of normalcy."
Cuomo waived fares on subways and rail lines through midnight Friday in an effort to get people to leave their cars home and take public transportation. Off-peak fares are in effect all weekend. October monthly passes will be valid through Monday.
Meanwhile, one tube of the Holland Tunnel was reopened to commercial vehicles and buses Friday and all New York area airports are open.