New Jersey

MTA Promises ‘Appropriate Discipline' After Poorly Secured Trash Falls on Tracks, Stranding Q Train Twice and Creating Epic Commute Nightmare

A non-passenger NJ Transit train had a minor derailment at Penn early Wednesday, but that cleared up quickly; the city subway system, however, was a different story

What to Know

  • The morning commute started off rough with an empty NJ Transit train derailment at NY Penn Station but that cleared quickly
  • The city subway system was a total nightmare for rush hour, with at least nine lines disrupted because of varying issues
  • Straphangers described "knee-deep" crowds on platforms from Manhattan to Brooklyn to Queens

The MTA has promised appropriate discipline after poorly secured trash on a southbound refuse train at 14th Street fell on the tracks, causing a single train to get stuck twice -- once in Manhattan and once in Brooklyn -- and a series of sweeping subway disruptions during Wednesday's morning rush. 

The agency blamed "operator error" for the ensuing nightmare that stranded thousands upon thousands of riders, left others in what customers described as "knee-deep" crowds on platforms and caused hours worth of delays.

It started when a southbound Q train got stuck north of the Canal Street station around 6 a.m. because of the trash issue. Forty five minutes later, it got stuck again, this time at DeKalb Avenue in Brooklyn. The latter breakdown at DeKalb, a major crossroads where any problem can immediately impact multiple train lines, caused major disruptions on the B, D, E, F, M, N, Q and R trains for hours.

It wasn't immediately clear how many workers were responsible for the trash fiasco, and the nature of any disciplinary action wasn't specified.

"New York City Transit and the MTA have zero tolerance for worker errors that cause service problems," the MTA said in a statement. "Appropriate disciplinary action will be taken as necessary pending the conclusion of the ongoing investigation."

The MTA said the major impacts were mostly in Brooklyn, and as of noon, B and D train service were running normally but with delays and M train service, which had been partially suspended for a time, was restored. Service on the N and Q lines continued to run over the R from Canal Street to DeKalb Avenue. Later, the MTA said the same issue forced a suspension on the W line between Astoria-Ditmas Boulevard and Whitehall Street.

By about 5 p.m., the trash issue had been resolved but the affected subway lines were still experiencing residual delays. 

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Separately, a report of a smoke condition in the Steinway Tunnel, which shuttles 7 trains under the East River between 42nd Street in Manhattan and 51st Avenue in Long Island City, shut down service on the line at the height of the morning rush. No. 7 train service was held in both directions as the FDNY investigated around 9 a.m. It was restored within about 20 minutes.

The disruptions caused major overcrowding on platforms from Queens to Manhattan to Brooklyn. Photos posted to social media showed throngs of riders stuck on the platform at Delancey Street while at least one Twitter user described "knee-deep" crowds after being transferred from a No. 7 train because of the smoke condition. Frustrated straphangers blasted the MTA on Twitter.

Rail customers didn't escape their own headaches Wednesday. Long Island Rail Road customers on the Ronkonkoma line were stuck at stations or delayed during the evening rush hour because of signal problems near Deer Park. It comes on the same day a new poll found that a considerable majority of LIRR riders are dissatisfied with service. 

Earlier in the morning, a non-passenger New Jersey Transit train derailed inside New York Penn Station, but no one was hurt and service was running on or close to schedule by the time the peak morning commute got underway, officials said. An NJ Transit spokesperson said an Amtrak crew was operating the train out of the yard around 4:25 a.m. when the engine came off the tracks at Track 4. The train cars were blocking tracks 1 through 5, which are not the ones already subject to closure for Amtrak's summer-long infrastructure overhaul.

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Service on the Northeast Corridor, North Jersey Coast, Morris & Essex and Montclair-Boonton lines was subject to about 20-minute delays for a time. Officials had cautioned delays and cancellations were possible for the morning rush, but NJ Transit said around 6:30 a.m. that the engine had been re-railed and service in and out of Penn was operating on or close to schedule. Get real-time transit updates here. 

The Long Island Railroad said it was not affected by the derailment. 

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Trains have been operating under revised schedules since July while Amtrak conducts extensive repairs at the aging Manhattan transit hub. At least three tracks have been subject to closure at any given time; work is focusing on six. Before the work began, Gov. Cuomo warned that commuters could be in for a "summer of hell," but his ominous prediction has fallen short of expectations.

Amtrak's repair work is expected to be completed by Labor Day. 

Amtrak said in a statement the derailment was "not in the renewal area and will not impact this work." 

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