The biggest question after yesterday's incredible commuting nightmare of flooded subway tracks, flooded roads, and millions of people trying to get to work is what the hell went wrong. Gothamist wondered for the first time, "Do subways have drains?" and apparently they do - or at least pumps to get the water out of the subways - but it's just that they were overwhelmed. Now, it's annoying when your toilet is flooded, but taking that frustration, raise it to the 6 millionth power, and that's how most New Yorkers seemed to feel, pounding on the locked subway gates and buses that were too full to stop. Gothamist knows exactly how the frustrated commuters wanting to get to work profiled in the NY Times feel, trying to bribe people for rides and we love the resourcefulness of Melanie Gordon, paying $20 for a school bus ride to 23rd and 6th Avenue, with the bus driver announcing her to kids as their "new math teacher."
At any rate, now we know that the subway system has 700 pumps to get water out but many were very old. Transit Authority Charles Seaton's words have been repeated on the local news and papers countless times: "The pumps couldn't keep up with the large amounts of water that fell in such a short period of time." Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum sent a scathing letter to MTA Chairman Peter Kalikow: "I am outraged by this morning's severe disruption of subway service. Straphangers have come to accept as inevitable brief and occasional delays, but they should not have to accept what occurred this morning."
The NY Times elegantly notes that the rain brought "the region's finely choreographed transportation network nearly to its knees," while the Post's cover headline describes the commuters: "Storm Troupers."
The MTA's Weather Advisory was succinct and unsparing: "Due to flooding conditions as a result of heavy rainfalls, subway service on several lines has been either suspended or running with major delays at this time. Customers are advised to give themselves extra travel time." And Gothamist's favorite subway resource is NYC Subway; check what info it has about drains.
Photo of crowded subway station in Queens from Newsday