NEW YORK — Eric Gsellmeier’s shortest commute home this week began in downtown Manhattan at 4:30 p.m. and ended two hours and 20 minutes later in his three-bedroom Colonial home in Westwood, N.J., 27 miles to the north.
It included a rattling subway ride, a 30-minute wait in an unmoving line in the Port Authority Bus Terminal and a halting, hourlong bus ride in the dark, where commuters squeezed up and down the aisles, some standing with hands pressed against overhead compartments for stability.
And that was an easy day.
“The lines are insane; it’s disorganized — they just don’t have the capacity for all these people," said Gsellmeier, 29, who works in information technology consulting.
Gsellmeier is one of the tens of thousands of workers whose normal commutes are still disrupted two weeks after Superstorm Sandy flooded tunnels, shorted out power stations and destroyed signaling equipment in New York and New Jersey, upending the mass transit system. While some subways are back in service, transit officials are working to restore some of the most popular and heavily trafficked train lines, but say it could still be weeks before travel is back to normal.
“We’ve been doing the best we can under difficult circumstances," said Port Authority spokesman Ron Marsico.
PATH, the train system run by the Port Authority, used to carry 260,000 commuters on an average day, many of them through the World Trade Center and Hoboken hubs. But both hubs are out of service, and commuters are instead redirected to buses, overloading them.
The buses depart from the Port Authority terminal, which has seen lines stretching out the doors since Sandy. Officials have installed barricades and caution tape and enlisted dozens of police to keep lines orderly. Ask the frustrated commuters waiting in these lines what their longest commute is, and many will say two to three hours one way.
“This is miserable. I’ve never seen lines like this," said Denise Duran, 38, who moved to New Jersey in October, only to see her 45-minute commute to Rutherford turned into a miserable hours-long trek.
New Jersey Transit, which carries 136,000 people into Manhattan on an average day, has reduced service too. Spokeswoman Nancy Snyder said the train system was coping with washouts, broken wire-supporting poles, damaged drawbridges and power outages.