Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials say Sunday's fire at the Chambers Street station in Lower Manhattan caused so much damage that service on the A and C trains could be affected for months or even years.
The MTA said Monday that the fire, which broke out Sunday evening, caused so much damage to the signal relay room at Chambers Street that it will cost millions of dollars to repair, and could take as many as three to five years to complete.
Transit officials believe a homeless man started the blaze that spread into the signal room, which contains sensitive signal relay equipment that controls how trains move through the station.
“The signals are basically knocked out really at the station and just south of the station,” said NYC Transit President Lawrence Reuter. “But you know, just like when you crimp your garden hose, once you've crimped the garden hose in any one spot, only so much water can go through it. It's the same thing with the trains."
As a result of the damage caused by the fire, New York City Transit says the C train, for all intents and purposes, no longer exists. The C will be replaced by the V in Brooklyn, but there will be no replacement in Manhattan.
The city is also only running about 30 percent to 40 percent of the A trains it normally does.
Transit officials say for the nearly 500,000 people who ride the A train daily, it's going to be slow going for a while.
“It will probably take us at least two weeks to get an increase in service on the A, and then still, after that, we’ll probably have no more than 60 percent of what we normally operate," said NYC Transit’s Kevin O’Connell. "The commuters on the A should definitely expect fewer trains for the foreseeable future. We're going to go through a process where we're going to try to increase the number of trains every day, but I have to tell you that no significant increase will take place this week."
Riders who normally use the A train in Manhattan are encouraged to take the 1 and 9 or the B and D. Brooklyn commuters are encouraged to stay on the 2, 3, 4, J, Z or the L.
“If there's one message that comes out of here tonight, it’s please, stay on the L to Manhattan, stay on the J to Manhattan. Do not transfer," said O'Connell.
Meanwhile there were other subway service disruptions Monday in Brooklyn
that stemmed from ice on the tracks at the Smith and 9th Street station:
G trains are running only to Bedford/Nostrand avenues in Brooklyn, and a shuttle bus will take passengers to the Hoyt Street station; the MTA hopes to have normal service back by Tuesday
F trains were terminating at Jay Street in Brooklyn for most of the day, but normal service has now resumed
All these changes made for a frustrating and confusing commute.
"I've been sitting here for about 15 minutes now waiting for the A train to Far Rockaway," said one straphanger.
“With the last events that just took place, it just compounds everything, so it's a little difficult here," said another.
"I'm waiting for either the A or the C. It'll take time, but I'll get to work," said a third commuter.
While the subways are experiencing problems, there is some good news for drivers. Alternate-side-of-the-street parking is suspended all week to help facilitate snow removal from this weekend's blizzard, and there is no garbage or recycling pickup.