Authorities have waived all fares for rails, subways and buses through Friday, hoping to encourage commuters to ride mass transit as services resume Thursday.
Limited Metro-North Railroad and Long Island Rail Road service will be rolling for Thursday morning's rush while some 14 of New York City's 23 subway lines are expected to be partially up and running as commuters start to make their way back to work.
Cuomo announced the waived fares during a brief press conference Wednesday night, imploring commuters to use mass transportation and warning that New York City would enforce a temporary rule requiring at least three people in cars heading into Manhattan. That restriction will remain in effect from 6 a.m. until midnight on Thursday and Friday.
Service along Metro-North's Harlem Line will run from Mount Kisco to Grand Central. And near-regular service has been restored to the New Haven Line with trains running from Stamford, Ct. to Grand Central.
Service remains suspended on the Hudson, Port Jervis and Pascack Valley lines.
Hourly service began along Metro-North's Harlem Line Wednesday when the first post-Sandy train left the North White Plains station for Grand Central shortly after 2 p.m.
About six passengers boarded the 2:06 for Manhattan, among them Jonathan Delrosario and his son Tristan, 9.
Delrosario, a member of the National Guard, has been holed up in his Mount Vernon home, unable get to his Fort Hamilton base to link up with his fellow guardsmen. "There's nothing I can do," Delrosario said. "I'm stranded myself. It's been horrible."
Once he heard the rails were open, he decided to head off into the city to run errands. Before hopping aboard, he took time out to dress Tristan in his Ninja outfit, purchased for a Halloween outing the youngster hoped he would make Wednesday night.
Meanwhile, the first Metro-North rain left Grand Central for Westchester at 2:25 p.m.
Metro-North said more service will be added in the coming days but several major hurdles will have to be cleared.
"We're going switch by switch, signal by signal, power substation by power substation and making sure that everything is up and running," Metropolitan Transportation Authority chairman and CEO Joseph Lhota said. "Our goal is to every day get this service back to normal."
He estimated that the cash-crunched MTA is losing $18 million per day in customer revenue. He couldn't estimate how much the storm has cost the agency in worker overtime.
Two of four tracks on the New Haven Line between Stamford and New Haven have significant damage that needs repair, according to officials. Downed trees will have to be removed and signal wire has to be rehung. There's also significant track damage in the Fairfield area.
Patrol crews have been busy the last three days removing trees, clearing debris and restoring washout-damaged foundations under rail lines. Power companies in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have been working to restore electricity to stations along the commuter rail.
With the service disruptions, the MTA will extend monthly passes for Metro-North and LIRR commuters through Monday.
Metro-North officials said the Hudson Line was the hardest hit.
Signal systems at several stations were destroyed by flooding and will have to be replaced, Metro-North spokeswoman Marjorie Anders said. Several substations along the Hudson are unable to provide third-rail power because of water damage. Among them is Metro-North's largest yard and shop at Croton-Harmon.
In addition, washouts have badly damaged sections of track structure between Croton-Harmon and Cortlandt. Eight rail cars stocked with ballast will be needed in the repair.
NYC MASS TRANSIT SLOWLY RETURNS
In New York City, the MTA was offering free bus service Wednesday.
And on Thursday it plans to reopen critical links in the city's subway system, including the resumption of service at Brooklyn's Atlantic Avenue station, with access to the Barclays Center.
Despite the opening, Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Wednesday asked the NBA to call off the opening night pro basketball matchup between the Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks, which would be the first regular season game played at the Barclays Center. "I know lots of fans are going to be disappointed," Bloomberg said.
Service is being restored starting at 6 a.m. Thursday to more than half of the subway lines. Portions of the 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, A, D, F, J, L, M, N and R trains as well as the 42nd Street Shuttle will be up and running, though none of the lines will serve areas south of 34th Street, officials said.
Downtown subway service remains suspended while workers attempt to pump out flooded stations and subway tunnels. "Dewatering" teams who worked on Hurricane Katrina, are being flown in from Illinois to rid the downtown subways of water, Cuomo said.
Service on restored lines will be supplemented by buses, according to Cuomo.
"We're going to need some patience and some tolerance," the governor said.
As a result of Hurricane Sandy, MTA bus and subway service throughout New York City experienced the worst disaster in its 108-year history.
Meanwhile, the Staten Island Ferry was not running Wednesday, but NY Waterway ferries were shuttling people from New Jersey to New York City.
Drivers, who inundated Manhattan on Wednesday, will be limited Thursday and Friday from 6 a.m. to midnight, as Bloomberg and Cuomo mandated a minimum of three passengers in each car crossing the four East River bridges, the Henry Hudson Bridge, the RFK (Triboro) Bridge, and the Lincoln Tunnel.
Westchester County's Bee-Line buses began rolling Wednesday morning, but riders should be prepared for a longer ride because roads are strewn with storm debris, County Executive Rob Astorino said.
"We know so many of our residents depend on our buses to get to work and other places, so it is imperative to restore service as quickly as we can," Astorino said. "I ask that our riders be patient with delays and detours."
Paratransit service for the disabled also resumed Wednesday.
For a detailed look at subway service, go to http://www.mta.info/status/1.