A homeless person pushed a shopping cart full of wood and other junk into the New York City A and C subway tunnel near the Chambers Street Station in Lower Manhattan on Sunday, Jan. 23, 2005. He started a fire to stay warm. Some subway wires caught fire and the flames spread into a critical switching room, the size of a small studio apartment, at the Chambers St. station. The fire disrupted service on two of the city's busiest lines for nearly 600,000 weekday commuters (about the population of Washington, D.C.) and caused millions of dollars worth of damage.
NYC Transit President Lawrence Reuter initially said: "This is a very significant problem, and it's going to go on for awhile." He stated that repairs could drag on for three to five years.
The NYC transit system is very fragile and relies on equipment installed in the 1930's and even earlier. They have also spent millions of dollars upgrading their security in the wake of 9-11, but it left many people wondering...
"If one homeless person can set a fire and disrupt the whole system ... what can one determined terrorist do?" Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D-Queens) asked at a budget hearing in Albany. "It's a very scary thought."
The Daily News reported today on the New York MTA changing their estimate on subway downtime from five years to six to nine months:
After fire destroyed a crucial signal relay room at the Chambers St. station Sunday, the subway agency suspended C trains, reduced A runs - and said it would be three to five years before full service on the Eighth Ave. line would be restored.
That sparked criticism from incredulous politicians and straphangers who wondered why it would take five times longer to rebuild one room of equipment than it took to construct the entire IND line.
By yesterday afternoon, transit bigs were backpedaling, and Reuter later unveiled plans to start building a rudimentary signal system immediately - meaning there's light at the end of the tunnel for the nearly 600,000 riders who used the A and C daily.
"The good news for our customers is we think right now, in six to nine months ... we will get 100% of the A and C service back," Reuter said.
Sample of one of many MTA Service Advisories:
There is no A service at High St, Bdwy-Nassau St, Chambers, Canal and Spring Sts.
For High St, use the York St station instead.
For service to Bdwy-Nassau St from Brooklyn, take the A to Delancey St and transfer to the J to Chambers where 4 service is available.
For service to Bdwy-Nassau St from uptown, transfer to the E at West 4 St. Take the E to World Trade Center and transfer to the 2 to Fulton St where 4 service is available.
For Brooklyn-bound service from Bdwy-Nassau St, take an uptown 4 to Brooklyn
Bridge and transfer to the J. Take the J to Essex St where A service is available at the F platform.
For uptown service from Bdwy-Nassau St, take the 2 to Park Place and transfer to the E.
For Chambers, Spring, and Canal Sts, take the E instead.
C line is kayoed by fire [New York Daily News, Jan. 25, 2005]
Blaze guts New York subway line [BBC, Jan 25, 2005]
As Impact of Subway Fire Sinks In, Riders' Frustration Rises [NY Times, Jan. 25, 2005]
A & C plan B is a 'rush' job [NY Daily News, Jan. 26, 2005]
Subway back on track in 6 months, not 5 years [NY Daily News, Jan. 26, 2005]
It was far too easy to cripple the subway [Newsday, Jan. 26, 2005]
Slowdown for NYC rail riders [Boston.com, Jan. 26, 2005]
Confusion on the Lines Adds to a Maddening Commute [NY Times, Jan. 26, 2005]
Tramp's subway fire causes chaos in New York [telegraph.co.uk, Jan. 26, 2005]