MTA slow to find cause of service-halting subway power outage: Gov. Hochul

Officials with the MTA were slow to diagnose the cause of Sunday’s massive subway power outage, Gov. Kathy Hochul said Monday — part of a series of transit snafus that disrupted train service for about five hours.

“As a result of the review I directed this morning, the MTA has uncovered a sequence of failures that resulted in some backup systems not providing power as designed last night, including an additional failure to quickly diagnose the underlying cause,” Hochul said Monday afternoon in a statement.

The newly sworn-in governor announced she told the agency to hire outside engineers to investigate the blunder.

“I have directed the MTA to retain two independent engineering firms to assist in a thorough deep-dive of what happened and make recommendations to ensure this does not occur again,” she said.

Hochul — after earlier in the day ripping the “unacceptable” service disruption and pledging to get to the bottom of what caused the snafu — vowed work to increase local commuters’ “confidence” in the public transit system.

New York State Governor Kathy Hochul
New York Governor Kathy Hochul said MTA officials were slow to figure out the cause of the subway power outage.
Robert Mecea

“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,” she 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.”

The MTA said Monday a battery-powered backup system was activated about 8:30 p.m. Sunday, in order to keep the subways running. That system is meant to revert to regular Con Edison power when possible.

But instead, the emergency batteries kept on powering the system for roughly 45 minutes, leading them to run out of power, and in turn bring multiple train lines to a halt, according to transit officials.

Massive subway power outage
Emergency batteries kept on powering the system for roughly 45 minutes.
William Lopez

More than 83 trains along the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 lines, as well as the L train, came to a temporary halt Sunday, the governor previously said during a press conference. The five-hour subway service disruption included stranded straphangers making the “dangerous” choice to self-evacuate from halted train cars, Hochul said.

Firefighters searched subway tunnels for riders, before trains along the affected lines continued running about 1:30 a.m. Monday, according to the governor.