There’s no bread at the grocery store, and conservatives are denying climate change on Twitter, so why doesn’t the blizzard of 2015 feel quite right? Ah yes, we’re missing the traditional scandal over a local official’s inappropriate storm response. Thankfully, Andrew Cuomo is stepping up to the plate. On Monday afternoon, the New York governor announced that subway service would stop completely as of 11 p.m. However, shortly after the travel ban went into effect, the Brooklyn Paper reported that since halting service would be counterproductive on most lines, the subway will keep running throughout the night — the “ghost trains” just won’t be carrying passengers.
While low-lying, outdoor sections of track can’t keep functioning in two feet of snow, a transit insider tells the paper that underground and elevated lines are protected, and running trains on them helps keep the tracks clear. Plus, properly shutting down the subway requires moving trains into storage, and it takes a long time to get the system running again. Instead, trains will be running with only emergency personnel onboard, while New Yorkers find alternate (and probably more dangerous) transportation.
The MTA was reportedly “blindsided” by Cuomo’s announcement, and employees found out that they were supposed to be suspending all service from news reports. The subway has shut down as a result of tropical storms like Irene and Sandy because of flooding concerns, but this is the first time it’s been closed for a blizzard. (Second Avenue Sagas notes that closing the subway because of snow is ironic, since plans for an underground rail system in New York can be traced back to transit failures during the blizzard of 1888.)
“I think it’s horrible, purely political decision, not based on anything that’s needed,” the insider said. “It seemed like cutting out a necessary lifeline unnecessarily.” The paper also pointed to a Transportation Authority data scientist who lamented the decision to shut down the subway on Twitter. “Not a good plan from the governor,” Samuel Wong wrote shortly after Cuomo’s announcement. “The startup procedures will be fun.”
The governor’s office and the MTA have yet to respond.