Subways disrupted after power surge; MTA investigating

A momentary power surge disrupted half of the New York City subway system for several hours and stranded hundreds of passengers, Gov. Kathy Hochul said Monday.

Service was fully restored on several New York City subway lines Monday after the Metropolitan Transportation Transportation Authority shut off power to the third rail where some passengers had walked out of stalled cars. The unprecedented breakdown affected more than 80 trains.

The MTA said early Monday morning that commuters should take the letter lines or buses instead. Service was restored to the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and L lines but residual delays were anticipated.

Footage posted online showed a large column of smoke rising behind the Ravenswood Generating Station, the city's largest fossil fuel plant which is located near the housing complex.

The governor ordered the MTA to review what happened. The MTA discovered that some backup systems didn't provide power as designed because of a "sequence of failures" and that an "additional failure" was not being able to quickly diagnose the cause, Hochul said in a statement released in the afternoon.

"I have directed the MTA to retain two independent engineering firms to assist in a thorough deep dive of what happened and make recommendations to ensure this does not occur again," Hochul said. "My message to the riders is this: We are working to find out the full extent of what went wrong, and we will fix it. New Yorkers deserve absolute confidence in a fully functioning subway system, and I promise to do everything in my power to restore that confidence."

Earlier in the day, Janno Lieber, the acting chairman and CEO of the MTA, told FOX 5 NY morning program, ‘Good Day New York' that Con Edison had a dip in power at about 8:30 a.m., which triggered an MTA backup. 

"Through a series of events that we are still studying, when the system went to go back to its normal operation, there was a fail, it was supposed to fail-safe, it did not," Lieber said. "That's what we're looking into."

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A statement from the company said a momentary voltage disturbance lasted "a fraction of a second" and the MTA lost some communications. 

"We had 88 trains that were somewhere in the system, all but five of them were actually brought to stations successfully so passengers disembarked and they were safe although they were inconvenienced. We had five trains where people were stuck between stations somewhere north of an hour maybe two hours," said Lieber.

More than 500 people were stuck on the trains. Some walked off into the tunnels in frustration, forcing the MTA to turn off the power to the third rail. 

"This kind of incident has never happened before," said Lieber.

The MTA was investigating whether a fire that started in a manhole on a Queens street Sunday evening sparked the disruption which led to the rescue of hundreds of stranded straphangers but it appeared to have been unrelated, Hochul said.

The manhole fire started near a large public housing complex in Long Island City just before 8:30 p.m., the New York Fire Department said. No one was injured and the fire department said the blaze near the Queensbridge Houses was under control within half an hour.

With the Associated Press