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NY transit gradually resumes, commuter rail still limited

/ Source: staff and news service reports

New York City subways resumed service Monday with a major test as millions of commuters ventured to work for the first time since Hurricane Irene hit.

Limited service resumed at 5:40 a.m., and Metropolitan Transportation Authority spokesman Charles Seaton said subways were running smoothly, if a little more slowly than usual. He said commuters could expect a bit more crowding but otherwise service was normal.

Metro-North Railroad, which serves the city's northern suburbs, was reopening on a limited basis Monday afternoon.

New Jersey Transit said it will restore most train service Tuesday after closing the system many commuters rely upon ahead of Hurricane Irene.

Amtrak cancelled all Acela service from Boston to Washington, and regular Amtrak service between Boston and Philadelphia was cancelled, according to the company's Twitter feed.

Riders who had expected a difficult time getting to work said they were relieved.

"The subway is running very well. I can't believe it, they did a great job," said Dominic Cecala, who took an E train from the city's west side to lower Manhattan. "If they hadn't stopped the trains on Saturday, it would have been a mess."

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the MTA announced late Sunday that the subways would reopen in time for the next day's early morning rush hour. They cautioned that service might be less frequent than normal and customers should expect more crowded trains.

The MTA's decision Saturday to halt all subways, buses and commuter trains in preparation for the storm — the first time a natural disaster ever closed the system down — had threatened to disrupt the start of the work week in the nation's most populous metropolitan area.

The Long Island Railroad resumed "near-normal service" on six branches, but there may be some cancellations and shorter trains than usual.

PATH trains in and out of the city from New Jersey were operating on a normal schedule. Greg Kurilli, an electrician who works in lower Manhattan, arrived at the World Trade Center PATH station from Jersey City on time.

"I hope I won't be working anywhere near the water," he said.

Ferries to and from Staten Island were running well. Joe Dinguis, a 56-year old career counselor, expected problems getting from his home in Staten Island to his job in Brooklyn. But as he disembarked from the ferry in lower Manhattan, he said his trip had gone smoothly so far.

"Everything's fine today," including the Staten Island Railway, he said.

The center of Irene passed over Central Park at midmorning Sunday packing 65 mph winds, but damage to New York City was less than feared. An evacuation order for low-lying city neighborhoods was lifted Sunday afternoon. By Sunday night, limited bus service started up.

With a daily ridership of more than 5 million, New York City's subway system is by far the nation's largest. Many New Yorkers do not have cars and would be hard-pressed to get around without the subway.

The MTA had done simulated runs throughout the subway system in order to be ready for Monday's commute.

"Suspending service allowed the MTA to secure equipment, thus expediting the return to service," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.

All of New York City's bridges were open on Monday, including the Brooklyn Bridge, the Manhattan Bridge, the Williamsburg Bridge, the Queensboro Bridge, and the movable bridges. The George Washington Bridge and Lincoln, Holland and Battery tunnels were also open as usual.

Yellow taxis, liveries, black cars, limousines and commuter vans were back to the normal fare system.

JFK and Newark opened to arrivals at 6 a.m. EDT and will begin handling departures at noon. LaGuardia opened to both arrivals and departures at 7 a.m., the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said.

Airports in Philadelphia, Washington, and Boston were all open as well.

Air travelers were warned that they could face delays Monday morning because of the backlog of flights and passengers.