The Slatest

Many New York Subway Trains Ran Overnight Despite Purported Shutdown

A largely deserted New York subway station on Monday.

Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty

New York City subways are open to passengers again after a storm-related shutdown ordered by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. At a press conference Monday, Cuomo said that subway cars needed to be moved during the storm to areas where they could be protected. But overnight and Tuesday morning, reports emerged that trains were in fact still running overnight—without passengers—to help keep tracks clear of snow. From the Brooklyn Paper:

The halting of subway service is the first ever for a snowstorm. It is ill-considered because an actual turning-off of the entire system requires moving all the cars to far-flung facilities for storage, as the agency did during Hurricane Sandy, when flooding was a concern, and rebooting from that takes ages, the insider said. Emergency personnel will be riding the trains overnight while no one else is allowed to, per the source. The closure will strand people and put lives at risk, not because the subways can’t run, but because Cuomo wants to look good, the source said.

“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.”

Echoing this harsh assessment was the Second Avenue Sagas blog, which covers NYC transportation issues:

It’s a noble goal to keep cars off the road so that emergency response teams and plows can move through the city unimpeded. But it ignores the reality of New York City — an often inconvenient one for Cuomo — to shutter the subway. Now, New Yorkers, from everyone building cleaning crews to service employees at bars who are on duty until 4 a.m. to nurses and hospitals on duty overnight, can’t get around the city because the Governor decided it was somehow a danger for a subway system that operates largely underground to keep running through a massive but hardly unprecedented snow storm. Cuomo doesn’t want to deal with headlines placing the blame for the next stranded subway on his shoulders so instead, the entire city is effectively shut down.

On the other hand, as Cuomo has alluded to Tuesday, the idea that a train could get stranded during a storm is not implausible. Limiting the number of trains on the tracks and keeping passengers off trains that might become stranded could avoid a potential crisis that might slow down the restoration of full service once the storm is over.

On the other other hand, Cuomo doesn’t seem to have said anything on Monday about trains running without passengers overnight, leading one to wonder whether he in fact knew that’s what would happen when he made his announcement. As writer Josh Barro observes, Cuomo has a very recent history of making bold leadership decisions that turn out not to be supported by reason or evidence.