Hell, no? Hell, yeah!!
If the “summer of hell” is supposed to look anything like Monday’s morning rush, please Metropolitan Transportation Authority, can [most of us] have some more?
More trains, moving mostly on time and many — but by no means all — with plentiful seats. More empty parking spaces at many train stations and park and ride locations, where empty buses and almost-empty ferries provided an unanticipated plus.
In addition, there were orange-vested MTA employees at the ready with up-to-date customer information in some spots, even as many — although certainly not all — train platforms and subways saw manageable crowds.
A few misfires: At Huntington Station early Monday morning, track signage sometimes didn’t always match the schedule. And the MTA late Monday had to clarify that LIRR tickets for riders leaving a ferry for a bus in Manhattan would be accepted.
Still, compared to what the MTA had warned customers to expect, most of Monday’s complaints amounted to a smolder where commuters — and just about everyone else — had been primed to expect a raging inferno.
The a.m. commute — again, for most — went so well, MTA chairman Joseph Lhota found himself in the unusual position of having to tamp down customer expectations that the next 53 days could be so [relatively] trouble-free.
Which was wise.
According to an MTA official, the number of commuters traveling to Penn Station went down during Monday’s a.m. rush, while the number opting instead for Atlantic Avenue and Hunterspoint went up. There also was light volume in the Long Island Expressway’s HOV lanes [between Exits 52 and 33], with speeds of no less than 50 mph during the a.m. rush, officials said.
Although some commuters reported riding a.m. trains that were more crowded than usual, other commuters, on multiple lines, said they saw fewer passengers than they would have expected for Monday morning.
“The trains were very empty,” according to Peter Simmons, of Wantagh, who told Newsday he took the 6:56 a.m. train out of Wantagh, before transferring at Jamaica for a train to Hunterspoint Avenue [and then onto the No. 7 to his office near Grand Central Station]. “A lot of people bailed out.”
Did a significant number of customers stay home? Or opt to work from satellite offices, or otherwise change their usual commuting habits rather than face an uncertain commute as Amtrak was scheduled to begin Penn Station track work? And if they did, was the result a better trip for many commuters opting — as Lhota had suggested last week — to use the railroad?
If so, Monday morning could end up being considered a practice run, with the impact of a full-blown, down-and-dirty commute — a real “summer of hell” — yet to come.
The MTA, as of early evening, did not — duh — have usage numbers for the p.m. rush.
But for Rob Ripp, a Huntington resident who works in financial services, the ride home from Penn Station on the 5:46 p.m. train was not as easy as the 5:46 a.m. train he took in. “It’s packed to the gills with people standing in the aisles,” Ripp texted, along with photos of passengers packed into his train car.
“Too many people, not enough seats and the AC is not working in some of the cars, so everyone is cramming into the ones with AC,” he wrote, “so they don’t pass out.”
Overall, “I give today a “C” for the LIRR, not the worst,” he wrote, “but not good.”
Which almost could be considered a compliment — if only because there’s no “C” in “hell.”