NEW YORK — The MTA restored bus service to parts of New York City at 5 p.m. Tuesday, less than one day after record floods, winds and storm-surges from Hurricane Sandy inundated the city’s mass transit system, including six bus depots and all seven subway tunnels beneath the East River.
Buses will operate on a Sunday schedule through the night, the MTA announced, then resume a full schedule of service Wednesday. Fares will not be charged.
“Our transportation system has never faced a disaster as devastating [as] Hurricane Sandy, which has caused an unparalleled level of damage,” MTA Chairman Joseph J. Lhota said in a statement posted on the MTA website.
“The challenge that we face now is one of assessment, inspection, repair and restoration. This will not be a short process, but it will be one that puts safety as its major focus.”
The storm flooded the Long Island Rail Road’s West Side Yards and two of its East River tunnels, as well as the Queens Midtown Tunnel and the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel, which was filled with water “from end to end,” the MTA said.
“It is too early to say how long it will take to restore the system to full service,” the MTA stated, calling the process “exhaustive and time-consuming.”
“Once water levels subside, the water must be pumped out and the tunnels thoroughly inspected by engineers. Subway trains and buses must be inspected along with 5,600 buses, 6,200 subway cars, 600 miles of tracks and 468 subway stations.”
To ease the burden on city buses, Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed an executive order Monday authorizing the city’s yellow cabs to accept group rides, and allowing livery cab drivers to pick up street hails until subway service resumes. About 4,000 yellow cabs were operating in the city Tuesday afternoon.