This Morning’s Commute: Long Delays, But No Manhattan Gridlock

Left: Passengers had long waits for shuttle buses from Jay Street in downtown Brooklyn to Manhattan. Right: Once in Manhattan, the buses moved quickly uptown on Third Avenue. Left photo: Elizabeth Press; Right photo: Stephen Miller

While New York City’s first day after Hurricane Sandy was marred by paralyzing car traffic, buses immobilized in gridlock, and the delayed release of a transportation plan from Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg, this morning’s commute was a different story as the plan went into effect, with partial subway service restored, HOV-3 restrictions in place and a temporary “bus bridge” between Brooklyn and Manhattan.

The result: Transit riders still faced longer trips than usual with the patchwork transit system, but buses and other traffic in Manhattan kept moving, for the most part. There were backups on the approaches to many crossings into Manhattan, and long waits for bus shuttles in Brooklyn. The process of transferring so many commuters from trains to buses proved tricky but manageable.

People who walked and rode bikes had the most reliable commutes this morning. Above: a bike rider on the Ninth Avenue protected bike lane this morning at 55th Street. Photo: Stephen Miller

“The trains were all right,” said James Villamar, 27, who took the R train from 21st Street in Greenwood to Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center station, where he waited an hour for a Manhattan-bound bus shuttle. Normally, the trip to work at 51st Street and 6th Avenue in Midtown takes him about one hour. Today’s commute was two-and-a-half hours long.

Traffic on Flatbush Avenue to the Manhattan Bridge was very slow, but commuters said that the buses ran express in Manhattan and moved uptown very quickly on Third Avenue. Officers were stationed along Third and Lexington Avenues with traffic cones to enforce bus-only lanes if necessary, but traffic was so light that the cones sat along the curb instead.

The commuters who had the least to worry about from post-Sandy traffic were those who rode their bikes.

“I usually don’t ride my bike to work,” said Meredith McGuinness, 43, on her way from Windsor Terrace to 55th Street and Broadway. She took the Brooklyn Bridge to Manhattan and then took the Hudson River Greenway uptown, and she said there were so many other people biking that she could ride with them in a pack on Chambers Street. “It was chilly but it wasn’t so bad,” she said.

Today was the second day Latarria Hardy, 35, has ever biked to work. Yesterday was her first, with her ride from Harlem to Times Square completely gridlocked. “It was terrible,” she said, adding that it was much easier to get around today. “Wherever there’s a bike lane is fantastic,” she said, taking a break along the 9th Avenue protected bike lane on her way to work.

This evening from 5 to 7 p.m., Transportation Alternatives will host After-Sandy Commuter Support Stops for bike commuters at 2nd Avenue and 9th Street at Veselka Restaurant, 5th Avenue and 25th Street, the Manhattan Bridge and the Williamsburg Bridge.