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'Summer of hell' overhyped, calm commuters say

Commuters at Penn Station on the first day of the much-vaunted "summer of hell" said they had a smooth ride.
Commuters at Penn Station during rush hour on the first day of the long-awaited "summer of hell" said conditions weren't as bad as expected. (Amy Russo)

It was a miracle one block south of 34th street.

At 6:15 p.m. at New York’s Penn Station on Monday, there was barely a delayed train on the board.

It's possible Gov. Andrew Cuomo made an overstatement when he said commuters should expect a “summer of hell” in anticipation of the transit disruptions that started Monday at Penn Station as some tracks shut down to allow for repairs.

But during rush hour Monday, aside from some additional crowding and the occasional elbow, it was business as usual at Penn Station.

Weeks of ongoing track repairs began Monsday morning, resulting in cutbacks and schedule changes for several popular routes in and out of the city. Despite altered service impacting Amtrak, the Long Island Rail Road and New Jersey Transit, commuters seemed barely fazed.

“There wasn’t any trouble,” said George Quintero, who had expected his train this morning from Elizabeth, New Jersey, to be very late. “I was surprised. I was expecting it to be a really bad day, but it's normal. I feel good.”

Diego Ortiz echoed the same thoughts before stepping onto his train back to Newark, New Jersey. “Today, there’s actually breathing room,” he said. “Typically, it's body-to-body at this hour.”

Ortiz was glad there were plenty of people directing the flow of commuters at his stop at Broad Street, but will wait before singing his praises to New Jersey Transit just yet. “It was day 1, so I think everyone was on their best behavior, so we'll see tomorrow how it goes,” he said.

Transit employees were not allowed to comment on the record on the disruptions, but some said they felt the area was no more crowded than usual this morning in spite of service cuts.

To avoid the complications, some riders have opted for transportation alternatives such as ferries and buses. However, aside from a few extra customers making a beeline for the information booth to ask about service updates, the so-called “summer of hell” is off without a hitch.