NEW YORK — 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.
The unprecedented breakdown affected more than 80 trains on the subway system’s numbered lines plus the L train from shortly after 9 p.m. Sunday to about 1:30 a.m. Monday, Hochul said.
The restoration of service was delayed because passengers on two of the stuck trains walked out onto the tracks by themselves rather than waiting for rescuers from agencies including the police and fire departments to help them, Hochul said.
“We never, ever want riders to do that,” she said. “It is dangerous and it caused a delay in the restoration of power.”
Speaking outside a lower Manhattan subway system, Hochul promised a thorough investigation.
“Let me be very clear,” Hochl said. “Last night was unacceptable. If you’re one of those riders or people relying on safe transport, the system failed you.”
During the investigation, the MTA found “a sequence of failures” in some of their backup systems, Hochul said. She directed the transit agency to have two independent engineering firms help them with a deep dive into what happened so they can make sure it doesn’t happen again.
“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,” Hochul said. “New Yorkers deserve absolute confidence in a fully functioning subway system, and I promise to do everything in my power to restore that confidence.”
Tony Utano, president of the union representing transit workers, said the outage was an example of the importance of having conductors and operators on trains.
“You need all hands on deck during emergencies,” Utano said. “Conductors walked through the cars of stalled trains – urging riders to remain calm, and providing them the latest information they had.”
Hochul said Con Edison reported losing a feeder “for a short period of time” just before 8:30 p.m. Sunday “that resulted in a voltage dip across New York City.”
She said the outage was “momentary” and a backup system was activated. “But when they tried to go back to normal, there was a surge — an unprecedented surge — that resulted in the subway losing signalization and communication ability,” Hochul said. “The confluence of events that led to this has never happened before to our knowledge,” she said.
A manhole fire Sunday night that was initially thought to be connected to the subway breakdown appears to have been unrelated, Hochul said.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a virtual news briefing that city agencies were working with the state and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to investigate the disruption. “We’ve got to figure out why this happened and make sure it does not happen again,” de Blasio said.
Hochul, a Democrat and former lieutenant governor who took over as New York governor on Aug. 24 following the resignation of Andrew Cuomo, said subway service was back to normal for the Monday morning commute.
No injuries were reported from the subway system disruption.