Flooding in New York's subway lines ground the morning commute to a halt on Wednesday, angering New Yorkers who are facing rail and utility fee hikes to support an aging infrastructure.
Every subway line coming into Manhattan was affected by flooding after a severe storm before dawn ripped roofs off houses, caused power outages and triggered tornado warnings.
Riders are stunned that the system is so vulnerable to rain, said Gene Russianoff, a spokesman for The Straphangers Campaign, a transit advocacy group. It's not like we live in the Gobi Desert.
None of the city's subway lines was running at full capacity during the morning rush and several were shut down completely, New York State's Metropolitan Transportation Authority spokesman Paul Fleuranges told local TV news.
Many people chose to work at home after the Metropolitan Transportation Authority urged New Yorkers to delay their travel until service was restored.
Tempers frayed and sweat stains spread as commuters packed onto overheated subway platforms hoping to catch a train while above ground buses and taxis filled to capacity sailed by throngs of would-be riders.
I'm kind of calm but people start to shout, said Raminta Sickute who had been traveling for more than two hours to her job on Wall Street.
Flights from New York's La Guardia airport were experiencing average delays of over an hour. Hundreds of people were gathered at bus stops in Times Square, where the sidewalks were even more crowded than usual.
The infrastructure in New York is just getting so old. Some of the subways were built in 1904, said Fran Valerio, who was stuck between stations on a steamy subway. She said she had noticed more frequent weather disruptions in recent years.
It's just like that steam pipe explosion, she added, referring to the explosion last month of an 83-year-old steam pipe in midtown Manhattan that killed one person and injured about 20 others.
The explosion brought the ire of city officials down on its utility company, Consolidated Edison, whose reputation was still suffering from a major blackout in the borough of Queens last summer and an even bigger one in 2003.
In July, the MTA proposed boosting fares in early 2008 to raise $320 million in the face of looming budget shortfalls and possible service cuts.
ConEd filed a nearly $2 billion electricity rate increase proposal in May.
Russianoff said the MTA undoubtedly needs to fund infrastructure improvements. He blamed the increase in weather-related subway service problems on the combination of increasingly extreme weather and a system hobbled by age.
(The MTA) is dealing with more frequent harsh weather but the handwriting is on the wall, he said. This is not going to go away. They're not blind to it, but they're sort of overwhelmed.
The Metropolitan Transit Authority could not be reached immediately for comment.