Op-ed | MTA looking to stay ahead of summer storms

Janno Lieber and Governor Kathy Hochul
Governor Kathy Hochul joins MTA Acting Chair & CEO Janno Lieber, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, LIRR President Phil Eng, and SMART General Chairman Anthony Simon aboard a test train from Jamaica to the East Side Access complex at Grand Central Terminal on Sun., October 31, 2021. (Marc A. Hermann / MTA)

It’s no secret that severe weather events like extreme heat and massive storms are becoming more common. What we can do at the MTA is mobilize before, during, and after these episodes to reduce the impact to our system and customers.

That’s what we did last week when Mother Nature dumped eight inches of rain on the Hudson Valley, just in time for the 40th anniversary of MTA’s Metro-North Railroad. That crush of water caused major flash flooding, severely damaging rail infrastructure. In some locations, it swept most of the track bed into the Hudson River and left some rails completely submerged for miles.

There were boulders and fallen trees blocking the right of way. As a result, service was temporarily suspended on northern portions of the Hudson and Upper Harlem Lines. We had to bring in buses to fill in the gaps.

Experts said it could take more than a week to restore schedules, but thanks to smart planning and the hard work of the Metro-North and MTA Construction and Development teams, we had service operating for 93% of customers in a day, and the full slate back within two days. Two days! Amazing.

Huge shout out to the hundreds of crew members who worked around the clock to make it happen, and to Cathy Rinaldi, the president of the railroad.

In emergencies like this storm, we know effective communication is key. Riders have long been aware they can check social media, the TrainTime app, and MTA website for the latest service information. Now they can also sign up for a new alert system that offers personalized updates including delays, reroutes, and cancellations.

Customers can choose the day of the week, time periods for alerts, and whether to receive messages via text or email – to get more impactful information in fewer messages, and nothing you don’t need. The alerts are managed through a new subscription center, where customers can also sign up for MTA newsletters like our popular MTA Weekender, a weekly newsletter sent every Friday that gives riders a heads up about upcoming changes that will impact their commutes.

You can sign up online or by texting ALERT to 511-682.

We’ll never be able to prevent storms entirely, but we can prepare for them. New York needs strong mass transit 365 days a year, rain or shine, and we’re determined to provide it.

Janno Lieber is MTA chair and CEO.