NIGHTMARE COMMUTE: Power Problems Strand Subway Riders, Create Major Delays Systemwide

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A power outage made for a disastrous commute on the New York City subway system Friday morning, and the effects persisted throughout the evening.

As CBS2’s Tracee Carrasco reported, the B, D and E train station at 53rd Street and Seventh Avenue reopened late Friday night, after being shut down for nearly 12 hours.

Not only were commuters frustrated, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo has ordered an investigation into it all.

On Friday morning, platforms were packed and some riders were stuck underground in the dark as the outage backed up trains all over the city. 

Hundreds of riders were packed inside a D train when it got stuck in a tunnel just short of the subway stop at Seventh Avenue and 53rd Street after the signals lost power around 7:30 a.m.

“It was not comfortable,” one rider told CBS2’s Janelle Burrell.

“They were just like we’re going to stay here momentarily because there’s a power outage,” said commuter Max Civil.

That momentary wait turned into about an hour and a half, according to rider Ray Bobcombe.

“I just slept,” he said. “I just put my head down, nothing else to do. Just wait it out.”

An E train had one car already in at the station platform when the outage happened. Riders were able to get out through that car.

One man from Brooklyn told 1010 WINS that his 30-minute commute took two hours and a woman from Queens who was on the stuck E train said her ride was 90 minutes.

Commuters posted pictures and video on Twitter of crowded subway platforms and dark trains.

Police officers redirected subway riders while the power was out, until Con Edison brought in the temporary generator to restore signal power around 11:30 a.m., 1010 WINS’ Roger Stern reported.

subway station closed NIGHTMARE COMMUTE: Power Problems Strand Subway Riders, Create Major Delays Systemwide

Police stand guard outside the Seventh Avenue and 53rd Street subway station. Two trains got stuck in the station during a power outage on April 21, 2017. (credit: Roger Stern/1010 WINS)

MTA spokeswoman Beth DeFalco said trains had to be rerouted while the signals were down.

“So now you got all of these trains moving at peak hour and you are putting them on to other lines. You are doubling the traffic effectively on the other lines,” DeFalco said. “Think of it like taking traffic from a highway and moving it onto side streets.” 

Hours later, people were greeted by yellow caution tape at 53rd and Seventh.

“Got to work late, and now I’m getting home late,” said commuter Nick Arora of Farmingdale. “What a Friday.”

Elsewhere, people crowded onto platforms – as the outage cut power to signals, escalators, communication, and station lighting.

The outage had a ripple effect throughout the system, with at least 11 lines affected. 

A Con Edison spokesman said one of his electrical lines triggered the outage. CBS2 asked the spokesman why it happened.

“We know that there is some equipment on our side of the street that needs to be repaired. Why it failed, you know, we don’t know yet, but we’ll find out. We have to get to the bottom of what would cause the equipment failure,” spokesman Michael Clendenin told CBS2’s Tracee Carrasco. “Equipment does fail from time to time, and what you have is service lines and fuses and other equipment that serves the city’s subway system – specifically in this case the signals – and it goes through that train station.”

Cuomo was furious about the situation. He has called on the state’s Department of Public Service and the MTA to conduct an investigation.

“Simply put, this was completely unacceptable,” Cuomo said in a statement. “The New York City subway system is the lifeblood of the city and a critical means of transportation for millions of people, which is why we are making unprecedented capital investments into modernizing the system. The MTA will continue to deploy emergency resources to address the short-term issues, and our investigation will address all aspects of today’s events to get to the bottom of what happened.”

Late Friday, everyone was trying their best to navigate home. A street food vendor doubled as a guide for many.

“People asking for directions — that’s it,” the vendor said.

“After a long day’s work, it’s pretty frustrating,” one man said.

B, D and E trains were bypassing Seventh Avenue-53rd Street in both directions, but overall residual delays cleared up in the afternoon.

The Long Island Rail Road was crossing honoring at Sutphin Boulevard-Archer Avenue, Kew Gardens-Union Turnpike, Forest Hills-71st Avenue, 61st Street-Woodside, and 34th Street-Pen Station.

For drivers, 53rd Street between Sixth and Seventh avenues was also closed.

New York City was not the only city dealing with a mass transit mess Friday. In San Francisco, a power outage forced the closure of a key stop for all mass transit lines coming into the city. It also knocked out traffic lights and cable car lines.

The outages come after an infrastructure report card, released by the American Society of Civil Engineers, gave poor grades to both cities’ mass transit and power systems.

Con Ed now has a temporary service line to get the subway up and running, but said permanent repairs are expected to last through the weekend.

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