New York

Day 2 of ‘Summer of Hell' Off to a Smooth Start as Commuters Adjust to New Routines

What to Know

  • It's time for day 2 of the dreaded "summer of hell' for rail riders in New York after what some riders say was a smooth first day
  • Rail riders are bracing for another day of diverted and canceled trains and are still adjusting their commute schedules
  • Amtrak is making extensive repairs to tracks and signals in Penn Station, which it owns and operates

The second day of the "summer of hell" appears to be off to a smooth start, with no apparent issues during the peak morning rush.

Apart from some minor Long Island Rail Road delays related to equipment trouble, transit Twitter accounts were pretty quiet Tuesday, the second morning rush since Amtrak started its dreaded overhaul of New York Penn Station.

Three of 21 tracks operated by Amtrak are out of service at Penn Station as part of the eight-week infrastructure improvement. Amtrak first announced its summer overhaul plan in April, giving New Jersey Transit and the LIRR, which use the tracks owned and operated by Amtrak, months to prepare their hundreds of thousands of customers who would be affected by the work.  

Many of the LIRR customers who normally go into Penn Station again took the train to Atlantic Terminal on Day 2, MTA Chairman Joe Lhota told News 4. There was, as predicted, a "huge increase" of LIRR customers going to Atlantic Terminal, and some crowding issues along with it, Lhota said, but overall, "things were better than yesterday," he said. 

Meanwhile, park-and-ride service was being so underutilized by LIRR riders that the MTA plans to scale it back, Lhota said. 

On Day 1, there was some confusion, a bit of overcrowding and slow going at times, but no real debacles. Amtrak CEO Wick Moorman said Monday he was afraid people might get complacent after a relatively smooth first day for commuters. But 24 hours after the start of the project, all appeared okay -- for now.

The repair work, which is expected to last until early September, has the potential to cripple the commute for thousands of NJ Transit and LIRR riders with a simple switch problem or mechanical breakdown. Thousands more commuters than usual were reported at Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn and Hunterspoint Avenue station in Queens, as well as at the Hoboken PATH station.

NJ Transit says 12,500 additional customers were reported in Hoboken compared with an average weekday. That includes 8,700 riders on the Morris Essex line that now ends at Hoboken instead of coming straight into Penn. The agency said customers flooding to only one of the two PATH entrances caused extra congestion. Riders are urged to take advantage of both.

Port Authority workers were seen at Hoboken checking NJ Transit tickets, which remain cross-honored at PATH stations. Times between trains are being reduced from 7 to 5 minutes to accommodate riders. 

Despite the relatively smooth first day, MTA Chairman Joe Lhota is still urging commuters to check out alternatives such as buses and ferries that he says were underutilized Monday. The MTA will evaluate the number of buses being used and adjust accordingly. 

The work at Penn Station was initially scheduled for nights and weekends over a few years, but recent derailments and other problems that spotlighted the station's aging infrastructure convinced Amtrak to accelerate the schedule.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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