NYC-Area Workers Face Daunting Commute, After Hurricane Sandy

New York City commuting Hurricane Sandy

Tens of thousands of Americans still aren't going to work in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the largest tropical storm ever known to make landfall in the Northeast. Many have no work to go to -- with all the businesses in lower Manhattan still without electricity. But for those determined to get to the office Thursday, the commute became an Olympian task.

The lines for replacement buses were dystopian in scale, taxi companies refused reservations, traffic was clogged for miles, and New Yorkers pleaded on Craigslist for strangers to share a ride in their cars, in order to meet the three-person minimum necessary to cross into Manhattan -- an unprecedented mandate from Mayor Bloomberg.

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"The system has never gone through this," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday about the Sandy-beaten subway. "We still have water from floor to ceiling in some stations. These are really historic obstacles."

Not everyone had issues Thursday; commuters from uptown Manhattan reported normal travel times, as subway service returned in the area, and New Jersey Transit buses glided into Manhattan on the Lincoln Tunnel bus lanes. But almost everyone trying to get onto the island had to carefully choreograph their journey.

More: Hurricane Sandy And Jobs: A Few Pockets Of Opportunity

One brave commuter, who dared the trip from Jamaica, Queens, to the Times Square office of Ernst & Young, told Bloomberg Businessweek about his seven-hour odyssey, including four hours on a bus in gridlock, with passengers cursing at the driver to open its doors.

Residents of Brooklyn attempting to get to work in Manhattan could wait in a six-block line for a shuttle bus. "The wait for the shuttle bus to manhattan is bonkers. Feel like I'm waiting in line for a concert I don't want to see," tweeted Emily Epstein White, whose commute ended up taking two hours and 10 minutes. "I think at this point I'll be at work by noon. There better be a finish line i can run through when I get to my office lobby."

Those who made it on, crawled across the bridge in very tight quarters. "Packed on a manhattan bound shuttle bus. Someone has weapons-grade flatulence. #SeeADoctor," tweeted Anthony DeVito.

More: Makeshift Home Offices During Hurricane Sandy [Slideshow]

Some chose to hitchhike -- a rare sight in stranger-wary New York -- while others marched across bridges on foot, which many embraced as a cheerful pilgrimage. "BEST EXERCISE EVER: Walking faster than the NYC subway shuttle bus I decided not to take cuz it's so slowed by traffic in Queens," tweeted journalist Eric Hegedus. "Lotsa walkers and bikers. Many with smiling faces!"

Brooklyn resident Kate Kennedy was one of them. "Walked from bed-stuy to east midtown and loved it," she tweeted.

Those with cars could avoid hours-long strolls, but had to face hours-long delays on bridges. And just refilling the gas tank was another feat, with a fuel shortage expected to last for at least another week. An estimated 75 percent of the gas stations in New Jersey weren't open for business, reports CNBC, because of power outages and flooding that prevented fuel from getting where it was needed. Open gas stations saw half-mile-long lines.

"Ran out of gas looking for gas in Queens," tweeted Lisa L. Colangelo.

But at least one motorist saw a business opportunity in the chaos, offering up rides-for-cash on Craigslist to anyone desperate to get into Manhattan.

"I can take you across any of the HOV [high-occupancy vehicle] bridges in my smoker friendly Suzuki 646SUV 24/7," the entrepreneur wrote. "Fee."


Traffic Nightmare: Transit Shutdown Leads To Chaos On City Streets




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Filed under: Employment News

Claire Gordon

Staff Writer

Claire Gordon has contributed to Slate's DoubleX, the Huffington Post, and the book Prisons: Current Controversies. While an undergraduate at Yale University and a research fellow at Yale graduate school, she spoke on panels at Yale and Cornell, and reported from Cairo, Tokyo, and Berlin.

Follow Claire on Twitter. Email Claire at claire.gordon@teamaol.com. Add Claire to your Google+ circles.

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