Power outages cause nightmare commute, snarl three big US cities

"Have you tried unplugging your city and plugging it back in again?"
The Commute

Rush-hour power outages hit New York, LA and San Francisco

The morning of Friday, April 21st, was one that many people in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco wished they had spent working at home. In all three cities, major power outages took out subway lines or even stoplights.

The odd coincidence had some asking if there was a connection between the rush-hour difficulties.

Los Angeles airport power outage

In Los Angeles, electricity went out at the area’s central airport, LAX, at around 8:30 am local time. Travelers, used to difficulties at the infamously unreliable travel hub, weren’t surprised.

New York subway delays

In New York, 12 of the major subway lines suffered long delays from electricity problems at 53rd Street in the city’s Midtown area, resulting in packed platforms and trains full of frustrated, wet commuters (and their elbows) for the entirety of the morning rush hour. The extensive delays and problems, which affected millions of people, prompted some to complain that the “whole alphabet was down.” Another line, the 7 train, was also delayed later due to “fire department activity.”

Again, here, there was no surprise except in the scale of the problem. The core issue, to many people sighing and complaining in cars, was the proven unreliability of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the state-city agency that manages subways and trains in the New York City area. Delays in the New York subway system have doubled in the past five years, reported the New York Times, even as fares rise to a stratospheric $2.75 per ride that places a heavy burden on middle-class and lower-middle-class riders.

“Adding to the misery is worsening mechanical performance — a troubling sign that the train fleet is not being adequately replaced or maintained and a problem that has contributed to the spike in delays,” the New York Times noted.

The state’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, tweeted that the issue related to a Con Edison power problem, however, and called for an investigation.

Because it was a rainy day, New Yorkers found it difficult to find alternative transportation to work, and Uber surge pricing was brutal.

Drivers didn’t get off easy. Later, in time for the evening commute, a giant truck burst into flames on one of the city’s main highways, the Brooklyn-Queens expressway.

San Francisco power outage

On the West Coast, San Francisco suffered an even worse power outage, which took out not only the BART public transportation system, but also cable cars, bus lines, lights in major buildings, and stoplights.

Pacific Gas & Electric connected part of the power outage to a fire at a substation, but couldn’t give more details until it had investigated.

The electricity problems caused traffic jams in nearly every street in the city’s grid downtown.

Still, the city’s residents found plenty of humor in the terrible commuting situation. They used the opportunity to poke light fun at their fellow citizens, or even bragged about benefits including kale-packed lunches.