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Problems started around 6:20 a.m. and rapidly intensified, with major delays for the peak morning commute
The MTA said the delays stemmed from signal problems at the busy Herald Square station in Manhattan
Frantic riders desperately tried to find alternatives; two men even jumped out of a subway and tried to walk the tracks, witnesses said
Delay-weary straphangers endured yet another day of crippling service changes Tuesday, with at least one rider so desperate to escape delays he tried walking subway tracks to get to work on time, witnesses said. Once again, signal problems appeared to be the primary cause of the nightmare.
Uptown B, D, F and M lines began to experience delays around 6:20 a.m., with at least one train stalled in between stops for more than 20 minutes as an MTA conductor warned of signal problems at Herald Square. Regular uptown service on the B and D halted entirely for a time and trains were rerouted to Penn.
Four hours later, there was still no B or M service in both directions, with the MTA saying only that "personnel are on the scene investigating." Service had resumed, again with extensive delays, shortly before 11:15 a.m.
The situation got so dire, witnesses aboard a stalled northbound F train said two men late for work climbed between subway cars and leaped down onto the tracks, apparently planning to walk the course to the next station.
The MTA said in statement the train was held outside of 34th Street for about 25 minutes, and it got reports of one customer exiting the train.
"I cannot stress enough how dangerous this is. With a live third rail and the possibility of the train moving at any time, this individual could have been seriously injured or worse," MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said in a statement. "Under no circumstances should customers leave a train unless instructed to do so by the train crew."
"We will look into customer communication on the train. As we noted yesterday, we are moving expeditiously to improve communications with customers," he added. "We remain committed to giving customers updates as information becomes available. Improved communication is essential to not only those aboard the train, but also those waiting on platforms, and those planning their commute. We apologize for this inconvenience and are working to improve service."
Ortiz said a 1930s-era signal interlocking at Herald Square failed and crews had to implement emergency repairs, causing the severe service disruptions.
At Broadway-Lafayette, frustrated customers had to transfer trains at times only to be told they had to transfer yet again. Trains had started rolling again on their usual routes by about 8 a.m., but the MTA warned of extensive delays. Then the signal problems returned, suspending B train service between Brighton Beach Avenue and Bedford Park Boulevard by 8:15 a.m. Northbound D and F trains were being rerouted on the C and E lines. M train service was also shut down in spots. Service resumed with delays before noon. Latest details here.
MTA conductors asked for patience. One conductor aboard a delayed M train appearing to commiserate with commuters at one point, calling F service a "hot mess" while describing the rest of the system as plagued by "massive delays." Delays on the orange lines caused a crush on red and blue lines, with riders reporting dangerous overcrowding on platforms that serve 2/3 stations.
Then, just as the evening rush was about to get underway, the MTA warned straphangers Tuesday afternoon to brace for delays on the northbound A, C, E, F and G lines because of mechanical problems at York Street. The problems didn't linger much further into the evening rush, though, sparing riders more pain.
Signal problems have become an all too common blight for many subway commuters. And with trains expected to get even more packed as Amtrak work at Penn Station diverts customers to other routes, riders are demanding help.
Signs at Herald Square pledge work is being done to improve aging switch system, but the fine print at the bottom says that project may not be completed for at least another year -- far too long for fed-up commuters.
Ortiz said Tuesday the signals and interlocking at Herald Square "are currently being upgraded as part of the MTA's capital program and we are focused on accelerating this work. We also plan to look at other methods to improve our signaling system during the MTA Challenge later this month."
On Monday, Gov. Cuomo called on the MTA to explore potential discounts this summer for subway riders on diverted trains. The agency did announce Tuesday it would provide 25 percent average discounts for LIRR riders who use key transfer hubs between Brooklyn and Queens, but didn't address the subways.
The MTA has estimated about 10,000 people will face diverted or canceled trains during the work at Penn Station.