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Thread: 2 Subway Lines (A and C) Crippled by Fire

  1. #31


    5 years? A and C trains coming back tomorrow..

  2. #32


    February 2, 2005

    5-Year Subway Repair Is Suddenly a 10-Day Job


    t first, the estimate was grim, a subway rider's nightmare. It could take up to five years to get the A and C trains running normally after a fire in an underground signal relay room last month.

    Then the forecast improved: transit officials said it would take only six to nine months to fix the disruptions.

    Now the estimate has come down once more. The new prognosis for restoration of most service on the subway line?

    Today. Just nine days and 15 hours after the fire.

    The president of New York City Transit, Lawrence G. Reuter, announced yesterday that C trains would begin running again at 5 a.m. and that the A train would run at nearly its regular frequency, after what he called a herculean effort by repair workers toiling nonstop in 12-hour shifts since Jan. 23, when a fire at the Chambers Street station in Lower Manhattan halted the C and crippled service on the A, the third-busiest line in the system.

    Peak-hour service on the two lines will be at 70 percent of normal frequency on Manhattan-bound trains and 80 percent on Brooklyn-bound trains, Mr. Reuter said, and service at other times will be close to normal, except for partial shutdowns on occasional nights and weekends as repairs continue.

    With the revival of C service between 168th Street in Manhattan and Euclid Avenue in Brooklyn, the V train, which had replaced the C in Brooklyn, will resume its normal route between Forest Hills, Queens, and the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The B train, which has run more frequently at peak hours to serve riders on the West Side, will return to its normal schedule.

    The new timetable was only the latest episode in a bizarre chapter that began when the relay room, which transmitted vital information about train positions and movement, was gutted by a mysterious fire. On Monday, fire investigators said they had all but ended their investigation into the blaze, concluding only that the cause was "not ascertained."

    Mr. Reuter's initial estimate that service on the two lines could be impaired for three to five years was met with bewilderment from riders, outrage from public officials, widespread attention from the news media and incredulity from historians, who noted that the entire first segment of the Independent Subway System, including the A and C lines, was built in seven years, from 1925 to 1932.

    Mr. Reuter later apologized to the board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, of which his agency is the largest component, for the incorrect estimate, and said that regular service could be restored in six to nine months.

    Only on Monday night, Mr. Reuter said yesterday, did it become clear that C service could be restored far more quickly than expected. He added, however, that full or regular service would not return for at least three months and it could take several years to repair or replace the damaged equipment.

    Borrowing relays from other areas of the subway system, officials said, signal engineers devised a "very basic, temporary automatic signaling" system that will permit trains to run with automatic signal protection.

    That means workers will not have to clear every A and C train passing through the area around Chambers Street, as they have done since the fire.

    "Some people might have called this a Rube Goldberg operation," Mr. Reuter said in describing the signaling system that will be in temporary use for at least several months. He later added, "The engineers are literally drawing it on backs of paper right now."

    Mr. Reuter emphasized that he believed the trains using the temporary signaling configuration would be "just as safe as the rest of the system is now."

    During peak hours, the time between trains will be about 5 minutes on the A line, instead of the usual 3 to 5 minutes, and 10 minutes on the C line, instead of the usual 7 minutes. In sum, 18 trains - 12 on the A line and 6 on the C - will operate in the peak Manhattan-bound direction during rush hours, down from the usual 26.

    Several factors contributed to the speedy recovery, Mr. Reuter said. The most affected segment of the two lines in Lower Manhattan was closed last weekend and on several nights, giving workers time to assemble and connect new circuits and switches and run complex simulations of restored service

    In addition, the relative straightness of the tracks used by the two lines around Chambers Street, and the fact that the trains there do not regularly switch tracks, allowed for the kind of improvisational signaling system that has been created.

    Finally, Mr. Reuter conceded, his initial estimates were made before workers had made a full assessment of what he called "extreme damage" to the relay room that left behind "80-year-old wires that have been burnt and damaged, many beyond use and repair."

    Such damage required days of assessment to determine which cables, circuits and switches could be salvaged. "This is not like building a brand new rail car or a brand new signal system," Mr. Reuter said.

    Even so, Mr. Reuter appeared contrite for having altered his public pronouncements so dramatically. In the future, "we'll be more cautious in our estimate," he said.

    The handling of the fire's aftermath has been an embarrassment for Mr. Reuter, 54, who took over New York City Transit in 1996 after leading the metropolitan transit agencies in San Jose, Calif. and Washington.

    A transit veteran said he was still surprised that Mr. Reuter had given such an extreme estimate for the duration of the disruptions. "That was off the top of somebody's head and was unrealistic," said Charles Kalkhof, who worked for the transit agency from 1950 to 1984, when he retired as general manager for rapid transit, overseeing the subways. "When you're in an emergency situation, there's no reason why you can't jury-rig temporary signaling."

    Mr. Kalkhof, 78, emphasized that full repair of the signals would still take a long time. "After six to nine months, there will still be a lot of work to be done to make it a viable, permanent installation," he said. "It's never done overnight. It takes some engineering know-how and people that are aware of the safety implications."

    Mr. Reuter expressed similar caution during a news conference outside the agency's headquarters on Jay Street in downtown Brooklyn. "The job is nowhere near complete and there is still a tremendous amount of work to be completed before we can return to full service levels," he said.

    Among the officials Mr. Reuter singled out for praise were Barbara A. Spencer, his top deputy; Michael A. Lombardi, the senior vice president for subways; Keith J. Hom, chief of operations planning; Jerome Martin, chief electrical officer, and Tracy Bowdwin, assistant chief signals officer.

    Riders reacted with a mixture of relief and confusion.

    "I am totally frustrated by all the jumpy changes," Caspar Stracke, 37, who normally uses the C train from his home in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, said as he stepped off an E train in Chelsea. "Ultimately, I'm happy to have a better way back to Manhattan. I was already imagining the hell of not having C service for such a long time."

    Christopher Elcock, 39, who lives near the Rockaway Avenue station on the C line, expressed disbelief when he heard of the officials' latest prognosis. "They've done a good job at confusing riders," he said.

    Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

  3. #33


    The City Politic

    Who Failed the C Train?

    Not a homeless person. It was Governor George Pataki, and his enabler, Mayor Mike Bloomberg. A lesson in why budgets matter.
    By Chris Smith

    Out along the L-train tracks, running from Chelsea to Canarsie, small black boxes are sprouting on stubby metal poles. This is the future of the subway system: a computerized signaling network that will allow trains to run closer together.

    Well, this might be the future. The state-of-the-art signal system—called CBTC in transit jargon, for Communications-Based Train Control—has been in the planning stages for twenty years and is currently in its fourth year of construction; its debut was recently pushed back to July. Installing CBTC on a single, simple line has cost more than $288 million.

    If the future runs—someday—through Williamsburg, the subway’s past and present are in a dark tunnel beneath Chambers Street. And it is sodden and charred. This is the remains of the Sunday-afternoon fire that in three hours destroyed a signal relay room that had operated the A and C trains since the thirties.

    Replacement parts will be scavenged and the signals rebuilt in five years—scratch that, in nine months. Yet however long it takes to restore “normal” elbow-to-eyeball flesh-pile service, and whoever caused the fire—a homeless person, a giant rat—what’s really broken can’t be fixed underground. It’s the link between Albany and City Hall.

    On a frigid mid-November morning, George Pataki and Michael Bloomberg stood chatting at the center of another aging city transportation wonder, the Brooklyn Bridge. They were killing time before playing their roles in a publicity event, waiting to greet runners carrying the final “bid book” for the 2012 Olympics. Whenever the mayor spoke, he kept his head down and his eyes fixed on the bridge deck, forcing the governor, who is eight inches taller, to bend over and lean in to hear what Bloomberg was saying. The mayor and the governor profess respect and admiration for one another, but their body language told of a more complicated relationship: Bloomberg grudgingly needing Pataki’s help, Pataki pretending, uncomfortably, to care about Bloomberg.

    The dynamic between the two men has always been odd, but lately it’s grown even more puzzling. When Pataki was up for reelection in 2002, Bloomberg held off proposing commuter- and property-tax increases until after the governor won a new term. With Bloomberg running this year, Pataki shows no interest in returning the favor. Bloomberg was looking for three big breaks from the new state budget—help with the city’s ballooning Medicaid expenses, real funding of city schools as ordered by a state court, and a boost in the MTA’s capital budget.

    Bloomberg went oh-for-three. Pataki didn’t just stiff the city; he’s proposed a Medicaid formula that could cripple city hospitals, and told the city to kick in a large share of the court-mandated education money. The MTA five-year capital request? Pataki slashed it by $8.5 billion.

    “No politician wants to cut a ribbon on a rebuilt toilet. That’s how the TA collapsed in the seventies,” says David Gunn.

    Part of this is simply the annual budget farce. Pataki and Bloomberg will threaten dire repercussions if they don’t get what they want; Shelly Silver and Joe Bruno will stall; by July, both the state and the city will have staggered to new budget deals. Meanwhile, the acrid smell in the Chambers Street station will be a reminder that the sloppy budget process has real-world consequences. “Long-term capital projects suffer terribly because of the politics of the state budget,” says Richard Ravitch, who, as chairman of the MTA in the early eighties, helped rescue the subway system. Even back then, the MTA was making plans to computerize its signal system, but the rebuilding was repeatedly shelved in favor of emergency needs.

    Modern equipment can burn, too, of course, but it’s more easily replaced. And much of the transit system’s core is antiquated. “The problem you have is that the least sexy stuff you do in this business is state-of-good-repair stuff,” says David Gunn, an MTA executive in the eighties who now runs Amtrak. “No politician wants to cut a ribbon on a rebuilt toilet, you know? That’s how the TA collapsed the first time, in the seventies. There was no attention paid to the physical condition of the system. But a new route or a new service—politicians love that.” And Pataki’s budget, while trimming money for a new Second Avenue train and an LIRR link to Grand Central, does include extending the 7 train from Times Square to Eleventh Avenue—a project paid for wholly by city dollars.

    The morning of his state-budget speech, Pataki called Bloomberg to give him a quick synopsis of the bad news. Pataki, according to Bloomberg, said, “Look, I’m doing the best I can.” The mayor didn’t divulge his response. But it likely was as mild as everything the mayor has since said publicly.

    Bloomberg is admirably adult, and he’s right that name-calling is a waste of time. Pataki is doing whatever it takes to keep his presidential fantasy alive, and if that means cutting taxes while the subway crumbles, well, no one voting in the Iowa caucuses cares about the subway part. The mayor’s failure, though, is his inability to find an effective substitute for public ranting. He could have used the rebuilding of downtown as a lever against Pataki, but largely ceded ground zero to the governor in favor of taking the lead role in the development of the far West Side.

    Yet that trade-off has weakened Bloomberg’s hand even further. The state owns the stadium site, and the MTA, a state agency, controls the air rights above the rail yard where Bloomberg wants to build a stadium for the Olympics and the Jets. Making the deal happen would be easier if Pataki pressures the MTA to keep the fee low. That would further reduce the money available for repairing the existing transit system, of course. But Bloomberg would get his ballpark, and, according to the mayor’s theory, the West Side stadium would become a Vesuvius of tax revenue, spewing more than enough money to help keep the subways humming, pay the exploding civil-service pension tab, and water the flowers in Prospect Park.

    There are four main risks that Bloomberg says could blow a hole in his new budget, forcing the mayor to make large reductions in services or labor. Three of those items—the Medicaid formula, the settlement of the school-funding lawsuit, and the MTA’s capital program—depend on changing Pataki’s mind or evading the governor’s schemes. Perhaps this is all a setup, with Bloomberg lowballing the estimates of what he expects from Albany so that in June, with his reelection campaign officially under way, he can pull a fiscal rabbit out of the hat and say he’s spared the city major cutbacks. But that presumes a level of political slickness Bloomberg claims to disdain. And last week the word the mayor kept using when he referred to the coming skirmish with Albany was hope: “Hopefully, they’ll come through.”

    For a man whose business acumen and Republican ties are supposed to reap major benefits for the city, that’s pretty lame. For a mayor who wants to be reelected, it could prove downright dangerous.

  4. #34

  5. #35




    by Ben McGrath

    Issue of 2005-02-07
    Posted 2005-01-31

    In the wake of a natural disaster or a major accident, there is an inevitable rush to dredge up parallels. After the recent Chambers Street subway fire—which destroyed a Depression-era control room integral to the dispatching of the Eighth Avenue A and C trains— Stan Fischler, the hockey commentator and the author of a half-dozen books about the subway, compared it to the Astor Place flood of 1956, in which fifty million gallons of hydrant runoff spilled into the Astor Place station and collapsed the track bed. Transit workers repaired the damage in less than a week. “That was one of the greatest comebacks in the history of the city’s subway system,” Fischler said last Tuesday. “They fixed it up in record time.”

    Tuesday’s papers had carried the estimate of Lawrence Reuter, the Transit Authority president, that full train service would not return to the A and C lines for “three to five years.” Riders were aghast. “We built the whole IND subway line in under five years,” Mayor Bloomberg (an I.R.T. regular) protested, referring to the original Independent line, which now services Eighth Avenue. “We built the Empire State Building in one year.” (There’s an election coming, and you know what they say about making the trains run on time.) The tabloids pointed out that the George Washington Bridge had been built in just four years, the Titanic in three. Others, engaging in a kind of office parlor game, named some less obvious parallels. Three years: a law degree. Five years: a lion grows its mane. Three to five years: a plausible prison term for the former basketball star Jayson Williams, for shooting his chauffeur in the chest.

    By the time the M.T.A. had backtracked, later in the day, claiming that the restoration process would take only six to nine months, a couple of West Side residents had begun compiling a list of other recent “three to five year” estimates. There appeared to be a pattern. In baseball, for instance, this is the amount of time often cited as necessary for turning around a losing team (other than the Mets), or for a new stadium name to enter the public consciousness. Apparently, it takes three to five years to train an air-traffic controller, earn a black belt in karate, or, if you’re a salesman switching industries, to get comfortable with your new line of work. The same goes for stepkids adjusting to a “blended family.” The rule applies to real estate, too: it typically takes you-know-how-long for the flaws in defective houses to reveal themselves.

    The pattern, of course, is that these aren’t so much estimates as default clichés, heavy on folk wisdom and light on deduction. Reuter insisted, late last week, that he “must have misspoke,” but that, for what it’s worth, it may yet take three to five years to finish rebuilding that control room, even after the trains are back up and running. But here’s another possibility: “three to five years” has become a fixed entry on the psychological timeline, the progression from “just a second” to “two minutes” to “next week” and so on. It’s what you might call a cognitive reference point, a shorthand expression representing a perception of time rather than a literal quantification of it. (The progression is logarithmic, because we recognize fewer and fewer distinctions—three to five years, a decade, a generation, a lifetime—as time extends beyond the present.) Viewed in this way, Reuter’s initial estimate was not a calculation but an expression of magnitude: an attempt to explain that, as subterranean disasters go, the fire was a really big deal.

    Much of the relevant literature regarding temporal forecasting and “duration estimation” has dealt with smaller quantities of time (e.g., a day or less). But an informal poll last week of cognitive psychologists and behavioral economists demonstrated some enthusiasm for, if not actual familiarity with, the “three to five” hypothesis. “The span of three to five years is frequently regarded as a natural arc of personal transformation,” Mark Turner, of Case Western Reserve, said. George Lakoff, at Berkeley, added that the phenomenon of “subitizing,” which refers to our ability to count objects in a split second, might also come into play. “Between three and five is where the human boundaries are,” Lakoff said.

    A number of academics also noted the “planning fallacy,” which says that we’re all overly optimistic when projecting how much we can accomplish, and how soon. In other words, six to nine months, the amended estimate, is a fool’s bet.

    And then there’s always the cynical explanation. Stan Fischler said, “My wife’s theory is that it was an M.T.A. ploy to get more dough.”

  6. #36


    February 3, 2005

    Their Eyes Did Not Deceive Them: It Was the C Train


    An entrance to the Euclid Avenue station in Brooklyn where C trains ran once again yesterday morning.

    or a moment, Rayna Purandaye thought it might be a cruel mirage, conjured up by the commuting gods to torment her weary straphanger's soul. She had heard the rumors, of course, and read the newspaper headlines. Still, she said: "I wasn't sure it would really happen. You never know - life is funny."

    But as the ill-lighted blob of blue and white hurtling down the Eighth Avenue tracks slowly resolved into a familiar letter, Ms. Purandaye realized that her travails had come to an end: the C train was back in service.

    "My heart skipped a beat," said Ms. Purandaye, whose 20-minute commute from 116th Street to 42nd Street, she said, had ballooned to nearly two hours after fire gutted a signal-relay room near the Chambers Street station last week, shutting down the C line and crippling service on the A line, which have a combined ridership of about 580,000 each weekday. "I'm so happy."

    Ms. Purandaye is not alone. As the first train lurched out of the 168th Street station yesterday at 5:12 a.m., bound for Euclid Avenue, a note of bewilderment and good cheer could be detected amid the generally grim, under-caffeinated mood that prevails on subways in the early morning hours. The C train had been partly restored, far in advance of the three to five years originally predicted when the fire struck the signal-relay room.

    "It's great," said Jose Diaz, who commutes each day between his home in Washington Heights and the New York Police Academy on 20th Street, where he is a recruit. After the fire, Mr. Diaz said, it was taking him up to 90 minutes to reach the academy on his backup, the No. 1 train. "Now I can get a seat, take my time, because I know I'm going to get there early."

    Miguel Juarbes, who usually takes the C train as far as it goes and then car-pools to his factory job in Garden City, N.Y., said he knew the C would be running again by this morning, but he left home early anyway, just in case.

    "I'm very happy," he said. "It's much more convenient." When he heard the original repair estimate, Mr. Juarbes said: "I was shocked. The Empire State Building didn't take that long." Leaning over, he confided, "I thought maybe it was just a way to get a fare hike."

    Early in the morning, riders on the Brooklyn-bound C were sparse. A group of transit maintenance workers at one station seemed unaware of the C's restoration until a reporter pointed to the new service notice taped to a stanchion. A scent redolent of charred rubber could be detected at Chambers Street, where tracks of soot on the platform were the only remaining visible evidence of the fire that burned nearby two Sundays ago.

    But as the morning rush began, C devotees began to emerge, like jilted lovers: tentative, hopeful, expecting the worst.

    "I was skeptical when I saw it," said Sarah Sutphin, looking mildly dazed as she boarded a C train at the Hoyt-Schermerhorn station. "It says C, but I didn't believe it." Ms. Sutphin, who works in the human resources department at Citigroup, had previously used an alternative route into Manhattan, forsaking the C for the G train and transferring to the A line at Hoyt-Schermerhorn.

    "It's a relief that things are going to get easy again," she said.

    Seemingly the most pleased person was Stanley Fowler, who was the conductor on the first C train out of 168th Street yesterday morning. As the ride came to an end at Euclid Avenue, he emerged beaming from his compartment.

    "I'm glad for the passengers that they've got the service back," said Mr. Fowler, who last week was a guest conductor on the G and V lines, among others. "But it's good to be back where I'm supposed to be. This is where I want to be. This is my home."

    Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

  7. #37


    That C train conductor sounds like a great guy!

  8. #38


    Quote Originally Posted by ILUVNYC
    What is it with the rats? Ive never seen a rat in the subway, nor in NY anywhere.
    Do you ever look down at the tracks? I see them ALL the time. I find it amazing you've never seen them.

    And I see them on the street, just about anywhere there is garbage, alleys and what not.

  9. #39


    Yes, I look down on the tracks all the time. ::Shrugs:: Still have not seen one.

  10. #40


    From Newsday:

    East Side Subway Lines Shut Down

    March 16, 2005, 11:25 AM EST

    A power distribution problem on the Lexington Ave. stranded tens of thousands of subway riders during the morning commute, but some service has been restored, MTA officials said.

    The power failure on the line – the city's busiest – began at 7:20 a.m., but as of 9:50 a.m. trains were running fairly normally on the 4, 5 and 6 lines northbound, said New York City Transit spokesman Paul Fleuranges.

    Partial southbound service on the 4 and 6 was restored at about 11 a.m. between the Bronx, Manhattan and Brooklyn. No. 5 trains were still running on the No. 2 line, he said.

    Signal problems were still causing some delays, but Fleuranges said "hopefully we'll be back to normal" by the evening rush hour. "That's our goal."

    "We are back in business on parts of the Lexington Avenue lines, but it hasn't been a good morning," Fleuranges added.

    Earlier, the No. 6 line was suspended south of 125th Street to it's terminus at Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall; the No. 4 was halted between 145th St. and Nevins Street in Brooklyn; the No. 5 line was running on No. 2 tracks between 145th and Nevins streets.

    When power failed, supervisors directed train operators to enter the nearest station, evacuate commuters and remove the trains from service.

    NYC Transit officials were advising passengers to take lettered lines where they could, or buses. There were no emergency shuttles available.

    "You're really pretty stuck," admitted one transit official.

    Engineers believed the A/C electrical power failure started shortly after 7 a.m. near Grand Central Station, affecting the flow of energy to signals – the devices that allow subways to proceed with enough space between trains.

    When crews attempted to restart the power, circuit breakers failed, leaving them to conclude there was a wider proble.

    "We had a power problem, but the exact nature is not known. The cause is under investigation," Fleuranges said.

  11. #41


    1-I guess some stations don't have rats and other do.

    2-Who will take the blame on wednesday's outage. if con ed admits they did work in the manhole, it might leave them open to suits.

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