Snow Causes Commuter Chaos at Penn Station, Port Authority and on New Jersey Roadways

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The snow that fell as forecast on Thursday caused havoc for commuters, whether they were trying to get home by train, bus or car. Even travelers at local airports experienced delays.

By 5:30 p.m., officials at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Midtown Manhattan were advising commuters to take trains or ferries. The bus terminal was so overcrowded that access to its second and third floors was blocked. The line of people waiting to get into the terminal stretched for a full block, all the way to Seventh Avenue.

A quietly fuming mob has formed at the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Second and third floors are closed and everyone is being urged to try something else. @wcbs880

Train service in New Jersey and Long Island was also delayed as the wintry weather froze switches on the rails.

New Jersey Transit warned that train delays could last for as long as an hour and suggested taking ferries or the PATH train to get across the Hudson River. By 8 p.m. NJ Transit told commuters at Port Authority that delays for buses could be as long as three hours.

“Listen, we’re getting clobbered,” New Jersey Gov. Philip D. Murphy told News 12 New Jersey. “No forecast — none — predicted this. This is slower, it’s deeper, it’s colder.”

Mr. Murphy said his own commute, which would normally take 45 minutes, had taken closer to three hours.

“The plows are out, I’m on the Turnpike and it is relatively clear,” he told the television station. “But admittedly, it depends on what road you’re on.”

The waiting areas in Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan also became dangerously crowded, commuters reported.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said on Twitter that some subway lines were delayed because of snow-related switch and signal problems.

At 6 p.m., Marlyne Page, an executive assistant who works in Midtown, had already been in line for an hour but was still a block away from the entrance to the bus terminal and the bus to Passaic. “And this isn’t even a real storm,” she said. “Someone didn’t plan.”

She was wet, cold and quietly furious, but exuding calm. “I’m not going to explode, because what would be the point?“ she said. “Unless someone cuts in front of me.”

Many commuters wondered how a minor snowfall that came as no surprise could disrupt the transportation network in the nation’s biggest metropolitan area. Drivers complained that they had not seen any plows or salt trucks. Some complained of being stuck for hours on the roads.

The Bayonne Bridge was closed in both directions for more than an hour.

“We had several vehicles that had difficulty getting up the incline,” said Steve Coleman, a spokesman for the Port Authority. “We had to do heavy duty salting and sanding to get it safe.”

The incline of the bridge was raised two years ago to allow for bigger container ships to pass under.

The storm had not caused widespread power failures. At 8 p.m., PSEG reported 260 failures on Long Island that affected about 5,600 customers. In New Jersey, PSEG reported that about 1,600 customers had lost power.

One traveler reported being stuck on a plane at Newark Liberty International Airport after being diverted en route to La Guardia Airport. He said the tarmac was crowded with a sea of planes.

Schools throughout the metropolitan area had trouble getting students home on the clogged, slippery roads. In West Orange, N.J., the school district had to order buses to “shelter in place to address the road conditions.”

At 6 p.m., school officials Tweeted out a picture of an auditorium filled with middle-schoolers, adding that “snacks are being provided, as well as activities and entertainment.”

Sarah Maslin Nir and Nick Corasaniti contributed reporting.

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