WEATHER

Officials call for answers after snowstorm wreaks havoc on transit systems

BY Leah Mishkin, Correspondent |

People are frustrated, tired, and surprised by how big a mess the storm Thursday night caused. It wasn’t much better Friday for commuters at Newark Penn Station.

“There’s no way for me to get to work,” lamented Newark resident Ifora Tshikalu.

Friday morning the North Jersey Coast Line was suspended due to downed wires. The Gladstone branch was also suspended. Bus customers were warned of substantial delays and cancellations because bus operators worked past their end times Thursday night. They’re required by federal law to have a mandatory rest period before they start their next shift.

Drivers worked late because they were stuck on roads. Massive crowds stood shoulder to shoulder at Port Authority waiting for buses to arrive Thursday night.

“I know my friend was stuck 7 hours,” said Long Island Resident Koppara Samuel.

At a news conference Friday, Gov. Phil Murphy said it was unacceptable.

“I’ve asked for an explanation as to why the bus terminal access was restricted as it was, which only made things worse last night,” he said.

A Port Authority spokesperson says Thursday during the 4 to 7 o’clock evening rush only 232 buses arrived at the terminal. That’s about 84 percent less than they typically get on a normal weekday. They say they had to limit access into the building because there wasn’t enough room and it became a public safety issue. However, they did not shut the facility down and kick people out. Free PATH service from 33rd street and free shuttle buses to the NY Waterway ferry was also offered to help deal with the crowds.

Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg got caught in the mess Thursday night at Newark Airport. She’s been vocal about wanting the Port Authority to be moved or renovated to accommodate more people.

Friday, just minutes after touched down at LAX, she sent a statement saying, “I have been in touch with the Governor’s Office and have requested an honest and public review by New Jersey Transit, as well as the Port Authority, on what occurred yesterday and what processes need immediate correction to avoid a repeat.”

“I know there were a lot of people on my flight that had to come up with some creative ideas in terms of how they were going to get home,” said Jennifer Clough, a frustrated traveler at Newark Airport.

Clough’s flight out of Newark was one of the 471 cancelled Thursday.

“Actually, we were on the plane for 6 hours. They were trying to de-ice and get more gas. And then the crew, you know, obviously put in too many hours so we had to deplane,” she said.

Clough managed to find a way out of the airport but had to sleep the night at Newark Penn Station.

“The taxi line was miles long,” she said. “I mean it was a crazy night.”

Lyft rides were running up to $650 to get from Newark Airport to Manhattan.

“No Uber, no Lyft. Taxi line was up to here for a five-hour waiting period,” said Mukta Bhatia.

It left hundreds of people stranded and sleeping on airport floors.

“We were sitting and squatting on the floor. There was no assistance,” said Bhatia. “Every counter had about 20 people in cue.”

Flight boards were still filled with delays Friday morning, and a spokesperson for the Port Authority confirmed more than a hundred flights had been cancelled.

Bhatia and her daughter were hopeful that they would finally be able to depart on their flight to India.

“I’ve come here for a 1 o’clock flight. I checked in at 9:44 so that I could get my boarding card,” Bhatia said.

So while many are just trying to put an end to a miserable travel experience, others are celebrating their best business day in a year.

“We satisfied a lot of people that felt a little strained from the weather,” said Smitty and Mo’s Chicken Kitchen owner Mike Vann.

Snow causing unexpected chaos and unexpected business.