NY: Electrical Problems on L.I.R.R. Snarl Commute

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Headline: Electrical Problems on L.I.R.R. Snarl Commute

Source: New York Times, 3 October 2001

URL: http://www.nytimes.com/2001/10/03/nyregion/03COMM.html

As drivers adjust to the city's new car-pooling rules and continue to battle heavy traffic, a major electrical problem on the Long Island Rail Road threw another wrench into the morning commute yesterday, delaying some city-bound trains for more than half an hour throughout the morning rush.

Starting at 12:15 a.m. yesterday, the railroad lost all of its track signals for trains between Long Island and the city after an electrical surge from the Amtrak power station in Sunnyside, Queens, overloaded the L.I.R.R. and caused extensive damage to its signal system, officials said. All morning trains, which typically transport 90,000 people from Long Island to the city between 6 and 10 a.m., were affected, with 87 trains running late and 30 canceled. Some trains ran up to 36 minutes late, but the average delay was 15 minutes, said Brian P. Dolan, a railroad spokesman.

Mr. Dolan said that a temporary signal system was installed and that the trains were running close to on time by noon yesterday and were expected to run on time today. Maintenance workers were scheduled to work overnight to repair the damaged signal system.

Because of the signal problem yesterday, railroad trains that normally run directly to Pennsylvania Station stopped in Jamaica, Queens, allowing passengers to transfer to the subway into Manhattan or to take other trains to Brooklyn.

On the roads yesterday, transportation officials said the city's morning ban on driving alone into Manhattan across four bridges and through two tunnels mostly continued to keep the flow of traffic at significantly lower levels than normal, although traffic increased substantially on the Brooklyn Bridge from the day before. And with the Holland Tunnel still closed to inbound cars, delays at the Lincoln Tunnel were still very heavy, up to an hour, during the morning rush.

The car pool rule went into effect last Thursday, but because that was a Jewish holiday, this week is likely to serve as the real test of the rule's impact on traffic.

At crossings other than the Brooklyn Bridge, where morning traffic into Manhattan yesterday was still 24 percent lower than on a normal day, yesterday's flow across bridges and through tunnels was about the same as the day before, with reductions in traffic of 10 percent to 30 percent over normal days and officials reporting a high rate of compliance with the car pool rule.

Thomas Cocola, a spokesman for the city's Transportation Department, said he had expected more traffic as a result of the railroad delays, which were reported early enough in the morning for commuters to decide to drive instead.

"It seems that the fundamental point isn't being missed: that people can avoid all this by using mass transit," he said.

-- Andre Weltman (aweltman@state.pa.us), October 03, 2001

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