Subway Is Closed, But New Yorkers Are Moving Again

In New York City, early estimates for fixing the damage to the mass transit system are already in the billions. But New Yorkers used to zipping around the city in subways are thrilled to get even limited bus service back after the devastating storm.

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And in New York City, early estimates for fixing the damage to the mass transit system already are going into the billions. NPR's Deborah Amos reports from New York that the subway system is still closed, but the city is beginning to move again.

DEBORAH AMOS, BYLINE: For a city that depends on traveling quickly on underground trains, the lumbering New York City buses are suddenly cool. The alerts are out on TV, on social media; a limited service, still, a way to get around the city.

ALEX JOHNSON: The governor tweeted that it would start running at 5, so we know they're coming.

REBECCA SMITH: And the New York City alert text messages.

ALEXANDRA ESPOSITO: Twitter has been vital during this super storm.

AMOS: Vital for Alex Johnston, Rebecca Smith and Alexandra Esposito to check on an apartment they were force to evacuate more than 80 blocks away.

Is the bus free today?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Yes, it is.

AMOS: Many New Yorkers took advantage of the free bus trip to see the damage from the storm that had kept them indoors for more than 24 hours, said financial advisor Tom Rado.

TOM RADO: Got to get out of the house, going crazy.

AMOS: And passenger Eric Minoff was also taking the storm tour. His neighborhood, in Harlem, was barely touched.

ERIC MINOFF: Pretty much undisturbed save for a few downed trees. Totally fine there.

AMOS: So what are you doing on the bus?

MINOFF: Exploring.

AMOS: Is this the way that you think you'll be moving around the city for the next couple of days?

MINOFF: Unless my helicopter gets repaired, yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

AMOS: It's a serious concern for commuters who have to get to jobs without a functioning subway system. Charles Sermons was on his way to work.

CHARLES SERMONS: I work for New York City Transit. I'm going to try to get the subways up. We realize how vital the trains are and we will get the trains back. Hopefully, by, I wouldn't say tomorrow, but hopefully Thursday.

AMOS: But New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo was less certain about a start date for normal service after a tour of the Battery Park Tunnel in lower Manhattan. He called the storm's water surge frightening, millions of gallons that swamped more than five miles of train tunnels. Now, he said, help is on the way.

GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO: Teams being flown in from across the country, equipment being brought in from across the country because there is a lot of water, as you can see.

AMOS: Water is the biggest problem - repairs can't begin until the water is pumped out. A specialized unit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers arrived in New York last night, called, appropriately enough, the National Unwatering SWAT Team. Unwatering is the highest priority to get those trains moving again.

Deborah Amos, NPR News, New York.

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