MANHATTAN — The MTA will shut down all subways and buses at noon Saturday in preparation for the arrival of Hurricane Irene, the governor announced Friday.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered all transportation services, including subways, buses and the Metro-North and Long Island railroads, to cease operations Saturday. They will begin their final runs at noon.
The shutdown also includes all Access-A-Ride services for disabled riders.
The noon shudown, MTA Chairman Jay Walder said, will "protect the safety" of riders and the transit system's equipment and allow the agency to safely get things running again afterward.
"Winds of this magnitude will be downing trees along our tracks," Walder said. "We're worried a lot about our under river tunnels," he said of the 13 subway tunnels that are underwater that could be flooded in a major storm.
He also encouraged transit riders to leave in advance of the noon deadline to ease overcrowding.
"Please do not wait for the last train," he said. "The sooner that people make the decision to leave, the better it will be for everyone."
Cuomo announced that the MTA would suspend certain fares and tolls to facilitate the mandatory evacuation of resdients. As of 8 p.m. on Friday fares on subways and train stations in the mandatory evacuation areas would be suspended as would the fares on buses throughout the city. There will be no tolls on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge and Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that starting at 9 a.m. on Saturday, taxis will be operating on a zone system rather than metered fares to make rides cheaper. Cabs will be allowed — and are encouraged — to run shared rides. Livery cabs, limos and commuter vans will be allowed to pick up street hails, similar to the 2005 subway strike.
Passengers must be allowed to travel with their pets or service animals, Taxi and Limousine Commission officials said.
If winds reach 46 miles per hour, the Staten Island ferry service may be suspended, the mayor said.
Additionally, the New York State Thruway, as well as other major highways, will be closed if sustained wind speeds top 60 miles per hour, the governor said.
Most area bridges will also be closed to traffic, including the George Washington and Tappan Zee bridges and all bridges operated by the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority.
Hudson River bridges — including the Bear Mountain Bridge, Newburgh-Beacon, Mid-Hudson (Poughkeepsie), Kingston-Rhinecliff and Rip Van Winkle (Catskill) bridges — will also close if sustained wind speeds exceed 60 miles per hour.
Most Amtrak service south of Washington, D.C., has been canceled on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Even though the evauation deadline for people living in zone A is 5 p.m. Saturday, Bloomberg noted that with the transit and bridge closures, people should leave as early as possible.
"Waiting until the last minute is not a smart thing to do," he said. "This is life threatening."