Flood waters rush into a PATH train station i
Flood waters rush into a PATH train station i Reuters

Most commuters on Thursday in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut still had no choice but to drive, clogging roads into a crawl following Hurricane Sandy's destruction. But public transportation authorities are doing their best to get their systems back up to speed, and things are slowly getting back to normal.

New York was getting itself moving by late Wednesday night, strategizing ways to clear the roads and bring commuters back to the buses and trains again.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) announced that subway, bus and commuter rail services would be free on Thursday and Friday. The free rides began just after midnight and are to last until 11:59 p.m. EDT Friday, on the NYC subway and bus network, the Long Island Railroad and Metro-North Railroad. Free travel is also available on Access-a-Ride, the MTA announced.

The move came in an effort to encourage commuters to use whatever public transportation exists, limited as it is. "The gridlock we experienced yesterday shows that the New York metropolitan region is in a transportation emergency,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement. “To get people out of their cars and onto mass transit, I immediately authorized the MTA to suspend transit fares through the end of the work week.”

Roughly half of the system's 26 subway lines have segments restored at this point, the MTA said. “Bus service will be at near normal levels on Thursday on all local, limited and express bus routes,” the MTA promised, but warned, “customers are advised to give themselves extra time for their commute, and if possible change their routine by traveling later in the morning or in the evening.” More specific information and updates about traveling around the city is available on the MTA website.

New Jersey Transit train and light rail service, as well as PATH trains are still suspended, and will remain suspended until further notice, officials said. 

The good news is that NJ TRANSIT restored bus service on 68 bus routes in northern and central New Jersey, and 18 bus routes in the southern part of the state, with all routes completely functional from one end to the other. Officials added there is also partial service restored to 58 bus routes in northern and central New Jersey, and 17 routes in the southern region, operating with detours or truncations "due to ongoing impacts" from the hurricane.

The Holland Tunnel connecting New Jersey with New York is still closed “until further notice” -- but all highways, bridges and airports in New Jersey are now open.

In Connecticut, Shore Line East train service resumed Thursday, but no connections were available west of New Haven. Authorities also warned that delays were possible and thanked commuters for “patience during this storm and recovery effort” on the CTrides commuter website. Updates are available on the site. 

Local bus services were mostly back online as well, but with more than 350,000 homes, schools and businesses still in the dark, many commuters stayed home. Others took their children and went to malls, where they were able to plug in their laptops and work while their children played on commercial jungle gyms in the shopping centers.

Out-of-state electrical crews were brought in to help Connecticut's local utility companies repair the extensive damage that resulted from the numerous downed trees. The state, which is home to much forested land, was hit hard especially along its beautiful southern coastal region that borders Long Island Sound. Insulated fiberglass poles are being used to gingerly push pieces of broken tree limbs away from fallen distribution lines, explained DL&P spokesman Mitch Gross, because wood can conduct electricity. Crews came from as far as Kansas City, MO, central Illinois, S. Louis and Louisiana to help.

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