Irene causes havoc with transit services
Sunday afternoon, David Palmer, executive director of Stagecoach Transportation in Randolph, VT, stood and watched the White River that slices through the town of about 5,000 become a tsunami of damaging flood water. In the path of Hurricane Irene, Randolph and other towns in Vermont and other New England states were hammered by the fierce winds and drenching rain. The storm left in its wake disrupted transportation and electric service, whether it was small town Randolph or New York City.
“It’s a sight I’ll never see again,” Palmer told BUSRide. “We were as much of the epicenter as any area of the state was. We have experienced the full havoc of the storm.”
“The garage is located on a 100-year floodplain; Sunday night we were at year 99,” Palmer said. “Our garage was an island in a lake for a while. Fortunately, we were just high enough to where there was no damage to the facility.”
By Monday, the lake was gone and Stagecoach vehicles were out on schedule servicing its six commuter and 10 social service routes. As of Tuesday afternoon, Palmer said he still had three drivers and some volunteers who are cut off from coming to work due to high water. Electricity and phone service was intermittent.
Meanwhile, the office of Marble Valley Regional Transit in Rutland, VT became a shelter for its own employees Sunday night. Flooding from the storm swamped Rutland, leaving the MVRT offices surrounded by water and cutoff. A number of MVRT’s 50 bus drivers, dispatchers and volunteers spent the night on office sofas and on the floor.
“You couldn’t even get out of town, even on a back road,” said MVRT’s Operations Manager Ken Putnam. “It shocked everybody. We have a good crew. We all pulled together, all of our volunteers came in.”
Luckily for MVRT customers in and around Rutland, only bus routes were affected; all buses remained dry and undamaged.
“Not counting the paratransit routes, seven of the 13 routes MVRT serves were canceled on Monday due to the hurricane,” Putnam said. “With paratransit, we went to a situation of necessary medical only; we didn’t cancel anything unless we absolutely could not get there.”
Putnam added that by Wednesday all but one of the routes would be restored.
“That one is critical because it’s the one main road that connects Rutland with Killington,” Putnam said of Route 4. “We don’t have a date or estimated time on that one because part of a road and bridge were washed out. It’s not passable right now.”
Elsewhere in Vermont, the Green Mountain Transit Agency’s Berlin, VT facility sustained significant damage. By Sunday night up to three feet of water and mud filled the administrative office, maintenance facility and 26 revenue vehicles and three non-revenue vehicles stored at the Berlin site. By Tuesday, GMTA was able to borrow enough vehicles from other GMTA sites to operate all scheduled fixed route, deviated fixed route, and commuter services. Only two special purpose shuttles were not operated.
GMTA’s administrative staff, who normally work out of the Berlin office, are being temporarily relocated while the facility is repaired. Despite the significant property damage, critical services and transportation needs are being met by GMTA for the community.
Throughout the Northeast transit was disrupted. Before the storm swept through New York City, all transit from buses to subways and trains were shutdown. The same held true for transit agencies in New Jersey.
Ironically, the storm has been a boon for some. After canceling some routes on Monday, discount bus company Megabus.com has seen an uptick in the number of riders in some cities due to transit trains and other transportation modes being scaled back or shutdown due to high water damage.
— Glenn Swain