[UPDATE: Yep. It happened.] Well, this was kind of inevitable, wasn't it: with FRANKENSTORM looming around the corner, the MTA has already cancelled almost all subway and rail work, as well as put together an “orderly shutdown” preparation plan. Gov. Andrew Cuomo now says that if a shutdown happens, it'll begin at 7 p.m. Sunday night. “I have directed the MTA to put its Hurricane Plan into action to help New Yorkers prepare for the storm and protect the vital assets of the region’s transportation system,” Cuomo said. “New Yorkers need to take action now to protect themselves, and as the transportation system prepares to possibly suspend service, no one should wait until the last minute to prepare.”

Cuomo stressed that no final decisions would be made before Sunday—but judging by the response to Irene last year, and Bloomberg's comments yesterday ("if we have to make a mistake, we'd rather make a mistake in being cautious"), a system-wide shutdown is seeming increasingly likely. That hurricane plan calls for the shutdown of the transit system in advance of any storm with sustained winds of at least 39 MPH; if winds exceed 60 MPH, some bridges could be closed too. Right now, Hurricane Sandy has winds over 75 MPH.

“Suspending the largest transportation system in North America is a monumental effort, and it is imperative that we start the process before we make a final decision, and before the worst of Hurricane Sandy reaches us,” said MTA Chairman and CEO Joseph Lhota. “That means all of our 8.5 million daily customers need to prepare for the storm and be ready to complete their travels by 7 p.m. Sunday.” It's not yet clear how long a possible shutdown would last.

They note that subway service should be normal Sunday up until that time. It takes eight hours to suspend subway service, so some trains may continue to run for several hours after that 7 p.m. deadline, but they stress that there's no guarantee of service. The bus system takes six hours to suspend service, so buses would probably run their normal routes for up to two hours longer. LIRR and Metro-North Railroad would run their final trains at 7 p.m.; Grand Central Terminal and other Metro-North station buildings would be closed at that time as well.

One good change from last year: the TLC said they won't put in place a zoned fare system for taxi passengers. As one official told the Journal, it "caused some confusion" with passengers, which is a very nice way of saying people got thoroughly ripped off thanks to a byzantine system of mysterious zones and cryptic letters.