As city transit approaches normalcy, PATH riders are left fuming and confused

Surveillance video shows massive flooding in a New Jersey PATH station. ()
Tweet Share on Facebook Share on Tumblr Print

As many New Yorkers began their morning with a messy commute due to slow and crowded post-Sandy subway service, residents of Jersey City, Hoboken and other nearby towns woke up still not knowing if they'd have a reliable way to get into work at all.

Word-of-mouth Sunday night was that certain lines of the PATH train, which connects to Manhattan via 6th Avenue and the World Trade Center, would be back up and running after being knocked out of service by flooding and power outages for a full week.

The Jersey City Police Department had informed a city councilman who's been active in spearheading the local recovery effort that it had received word from the Port Authority, which oversees PATH, that service would be restored Monday morning at several stations, including the downtown hubs at Grove Street and Pavonia-Newport. The Port Authority also indicated that the day's fare would be free, according to the councilman, Steven Fulop.

But after that information was widely spread, the Port Authority back-tracked and said it was premature to confirm the restoration of service, according to Fulop.

MORE ON CAPITAL

ADVERTISEMENT

"Due to the effects of the storm plans are changing by the minute," wrote Jersey City Police Captain Joseph Connors in an email posted on Fulop's Facebook page. "Please refer to the Port Authority's website for up to the minute changes on Path service. I am sorry for the information I provided. I am trying to keep you as informed as possible and in a situation such as this things are changing rapidly."

"The commander of PATH actually indicated to JCPD East District that they were opening," Fulop wrote on Facebook, adding, "thats [sic] how we knew fare was going to be free tomorrow and the detail level of stations when they heard how quick it spread they told the commander in the East District to not put it out there to which he said 'that ship had sailed.'"

A Port Authority spokesman said there were no updates about the status of PATH service. He did not immediately have a comment about the misinformation that circulated on Sunday night.

On Monday morning, the agency re-posted on its website the same statement its been giving out lately about the progress of repairs: "Due to widespread flooding in the PATH tunnels and multiple stations, as well as power outages that have shut down signals and switches, PATH rail service continues to be suspended. PATH engineers, staff and third party contractors are working around-the-clock with the goal of resuming partial service between New Jersey and New York as soon as safely possible."

(UPDATE: Puzzlingly, just hours after this article was first published, the Port Authority announced a partial but extensive reopening of the system for tomorrow. Read about it here.)

It's another example of the difference between the Port Authority's transit operation and that of the MTA, which has been participating in daily briefings, tweeting out information about planned service restorations, and maintaining an up-to-date map of service for riders. On the other side of the Hudson, residents get Facebook updates from local elected officials and the police, which are then revoked with little comment from the Port Authority.

PATH riders have been frustrated about the lack of specific information coming out of Port Authority about the status of service restoration, which has lagged behind that of the MTA and NJ Transit, although neither of those systems are running at normal levels of service today. NJ Transit reportedly had to turn some commuters away due to overcrowding.

As we reported Friday, NY Waterway ferries have become the main alternative for hordes of Jersey City and Hoboken commuters trying to get into work. Despite the fares being expensive compared to regular PATH service (and thus out of reach for many customers) they've become flooded with extra passengers over the last week.

"The ferry line today is epic," one frustrated ferry-rider emailed this morning from one of the Jersey City terminals. "Homeland security cops are down here directing traffic."