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The Montague Tunnel Re-Opening: Revisiting Hurricane Sandy’s Effect on New York’s Equilibrium

As a city populated by millions of people, New York contains a vast network of travelers who use public transportation to commute to and from places every day. Perhaps, then, it comes as no surprise that when Hurricane Sandy hit the city back in October 2012 and damaged several structures, certain pathways of travel became inaccessible and commuting between certain places became much more difficult. One pathway that was severely damaged, the Montague Street Tunnel connecting the New York City R train from Manhattan to Brooklyn, had to be closed for more than a year and rebuilt and was just re-opened this week. While during the tunnel’s closing, R train riders had to squeeze onto other overcrowded subway lines to cross between boroughs, its re-opening has provided much needed relief for riders and the other over-worked means of transportation.

The Montague Tube’s closure forced an estimated 65,000 R train riders to seek other transportation options, such as the nearby 4 and 5 trains through the Joralemon Tube and the less convenient A and C trains through the Cranberry Tube and 2 and 3 trains through the Clark Street Tube. This caused noticeable disruption to the flow of the subway system, as all these lines are time dependent on the number of people who use them; boarding time increased at stations due to overflowed trains, and this subsequently resulted in train delays and increased travel time. But with the R train and its associated stations fully up and running again, those tens of thousands of commuters between Manhattan and Brooklyn now have an extra path to travel through; in doing so, they can avoid other delay-ridden lines and help to eliminate some of those delays in the process.

Perhaps this situation best demonstrates how a system’s equilibrium can be greatly disrupted even if only one pathway is closed off. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority of New York seems to have realized that, and it has commissioned flood prevention work to prevent such another disaster to the tubes in case of another hurricane.


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September 2014