New York — About a third of New York City's subway lines were suspended for more than an hour during Friday's hot evening commute, and the head of the city's Transit Authority acknowledged that the agency "did not know exactly where our trains were." A computer system failure that resulted in the snafu stranded some passengers underground and sent others searching for alternate ways home.
The stoppage affected the No. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 trains that serve swaths of Manhattan, the Bronx and Brooklyn. It also halted the S shuttle train that links Grand Central Terminal and Times Square — two of the city's busiest stations.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) warned that there would still be "extensive delays" in the system, which serves more than 5 million people per day, even after service began to resume Friday night.
The agency blamed the suspension on a failure in the computer system that powers the signals on those lines. Spokesman Tim Minton said in an emailed statement that there is no indication the stoppage was related to a loss of power or to the heat.
The president of the New York City Transit Authority, Andy Byford, later told reporters that the signal failure meant "we did not know exactly where our trains were, so for safety reasons, we had to ask all trains, to instruct all trains to stop where they were, to maintain their positions while we ascertained what exactly was going on such that we could safely move trains out."
Once the servers were rebooted, he said, the signals gradually came back, along with a "phased restart" of trains.
The temperature above ground was still above 90 degrees Fahrenheit when trains stopped at around 6 p.m. Friday, though meteorologists estimated that it felt like 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Minton said it did not appear that trains lost power during the stoppage.
The breakdown came as the city geared up for scorching temperatures throughout the weekend, but it generally did not result in chaos. Passengers were directed to other subway lines and the bus system — and many may have escaped the city early to get a start to the weekend.
At the World Trade Center No. 1 line station, a clerk issued refund tickets and directed people to other nearby lines. Passengers — many of them visitors to New York — seemed to take the developments in stride.
"It's about what I expected," said Derek Lloyd, who's from Hanover, Massachusetts, near Boston and its MBTA transit system. "I don't know that ours is much better," he said with a smile.
On a line that was running, passengers packed into one car that didn't appear to have air conditioning. Sweat glistened on riders' skin as they sought relief, fanning themselves and one another.
"This is dangerous," one woman noted.
It was the second time in the past week that New York subway riders got stuck underground. Last Saturday, a power outage that stretched across 30 Manhattan blocks from the Upper West Side to Times Square left passengers stranded till trains were manually moved into stations and doors opened. The outage was blamed on a system that failed to isolate a faulty distribution cable.