NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — With New York City’s mass transit in the early stages of coming back on-line due to the overwhelming amount of damage caused by Superstorm Sandy, Mayor Michael Bloomberg is taking a proactive approach to keeping street traffic in Manhattan at a manageable level.
The mayor announced during his Wednesday afternoon press conference that effective Thursday morning there will be restrictions on cars entering the borough.
WCBS 880′s Rich Lamb reports
“I have ordered the four East River bridges be restricted to high-occupancy vehicles coming into Manhattan, meaning three or more people per vehicle, all day Thursday and all day Friday from 6 a.m. to midnight,” Bloomberg said.
“I think anybody that tried to drive around New York City today realized there are a lot of cars on the road; traffic is heavy. To reduce the number of cars coming into Manhattan we have to take some steps because the streets just cannot handle the numbers of cars that have tried to come in.”
The chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority applauded the mayor’s decision, saying it well help alleviate the huge backups.
“The city is at the worst level of gridlock I have ever seen,” MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota told WCBS 880 Wednesday evening.
The mayor went on to say the limitations to ridership do not apply to the George Washington Bridge and that exceptions to HOV rules, including commercial, emergency and paratransit vehicles, as well as buses, will be made. Taxis will be exempt from the restriction from 4 p.m. to midnight on both days because when drivers start a new shift they are not going to immediately have passengers.
Bloomberg spoke with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is issuing the same mandate for the Triborough and Henry Hudson bridges, as well as the Lincoln Tunnel.
“I know it is inconvenient for a lot of people, but the bottom line is the streets can only handle so much,” the mayor said. “Hopefully, we can find ways for you to pick up people who will be standing by the bridges. They’ve got a problem of getting in; you’re their solution and they are your solution as well.”
“People should use extreme caution when driving on the streets, particularly where there are no traffic lights operating,” Bloomberg said. “We’ll have Police Department recruits at these intersections starting tonight to direct traffic.”
GETTING AROUND BY CAR HAS BEEN A CHALLENGE
As CBS 2’s Amy Dardashtian reported, on Wednesday, motorists had other priorities on than safety their minds. They honked and hurled obscenities, and drivers nearly came to blows.
At one Manhattan gas station, it was an outrage as cars waited to fill up for more than half an hour, only to be cut off.
“Are you trying to cut the line?” one driver demanded.
“No, I’m not trying to cut the line,” another driver protested. “I’m trying to get in to get gas.”
It was a desperate drive for gas.
“It took me two hours to get here from Hoboken,” one man said. “I got no gas, and I got two kids.”
The man was begging for gallons to get his kids to shelter, after two days stranded without electricity.
“I want them to have a shower and food — warm food,” he said.
Few stations were open in Manhattan. Those that were open struggled to service the gridlock funneling in from every direction.
Evacuees from other boroughs and New Yorkers from the pitch black lower end of Manhattan rushed to get in and get out. And traffic guards struggled to get cars over the Brooklyn Bridge, battling blown-out traffic lights and angry drivers.
But if all goes as planned, driving through congested New York City won’t be necessary for long.
PROGRESS BEING MADE UNDERGROUND, ON THE RAILS
As for mass transit, it is up and running in stages, starting Wednesday on the commuter rails and Thursday at 6 a.m., on the subways. In fact, Lhota told CBS 2′s Marcia Kramer he expects half of all Metro-North commuters to have full service on Thursday.
He said he’s running a full complement of trains from Mount Kisco and Stamford to Grand Central.. That’s 50 percent of the ridership.
“What I will tell you and what we’re doing is going switch by switch, power substation by power substation and making sure everything is up and running,” Lhota said.
The careful check is geared to restore full service to all 8.5 million subway and rail riders. For now, commuters will have to be content with a partial loaf, with some service on the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North beginning at 2 p.m. Wednesday and partial subway service beginning at 2 p.m. on Thursday.
“Limited New York City subway service, supplemented by a bus bridge from Brooklyn to Manhattan will begin tomorrow,” Gov. Cuomo said.
What that means is since some stations remain flooded, riders will have to switch to buses to get where they’re going. In addition, there will be no service below 42nd Street because of Con Edison power outages, CBS 2′s Kramer reported.
The specific subway plan includes:
* 2 trains operating between 241st Street in the Bronx and Times Square
* 6 trains between Pelham Bay Park and Grand Central
* 4 trains operating in two sections, making all local stops between Woodlawn in the Bronx and Grand Central and then between Borough Hall and New Lots Avenue.
* The A train will operate in two sections, making local stops between 168th Street in Manhattan and Penn Station, and then between Jay Street in Brooklyn and Lefferts Boulevard.
* The F train will also operate in two2 sections, making all local stops between 179th Street in Queens and 34th Street in Manhattan, and in Brooklyn between Jay Street and Avenue X.
* The 7, B, C, E, G and Q trains remain suspended.
“That’s what we’re bringing up today and tomorrow. There will be more Friday, more Saturday. Our goal is to every day get the service back to normal, back to the situation it was last week,” Lhota said.
Officials refused to say how much the service restoration is costing in terms of staff overtime, but the MTA chairman said the agency is losing $18 million per day at the fare box, an amount that could grow exponentially now that it has been authorized by the governor to waive fares through the end of the week.
The MTA suspended bus service overnight Wednesday below 23rd Street in Manhattan due to dangerous conditions.