- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 27, 2015

JERSEY CITY, N.J. (AP) - The head of New Jersey’s transit agency on Tuesday defended the decision to shut down train lines after a storm that threatened to bring historic snow totals to the state fizzled and left many commuters waiting for late rides to work.

In advance of Monday night’s storm, New Jersey Transit announced it would halt rail service after 8 p.m. departures and initially said it wouldn’t resume until at least Thursday morning, but later said it could resume earlier as conditions allowed.

With only a few inches of snow in most places, a statewide travel ban was lifted by 7:30 a.m. and mass transit began rolling soon after.

On Monday night, “we were all still anticipating the likelihood of 1 to 2 feet of snow over large swaths of New Jersey,” NJ Transit executive director Veronique Hakim said Tuesday. “That forecast really didn’t change until the early morning hours.”

Hakim said the decision to resume service was made early in the morning and in coordination with Gov. Chris Christie’s lifting of the travel ban on roads. Normally, resuming service after a shutdown takes about 12 hours, Hakim said.

“We prioritized safety first, and from that perspective, considering the amount of work that went into shuttering service and bringing it back on, literally within hours, I think a lot of things went right,” she said.

Most lines were running with modified schedules Tuesday, but NJ Transit said it will operate full weekday services on its buses, trains and light rail trains on Wednesday. The agency said it will also cross-honor tickets throughout Wednesday.

NJ Transit’s Access Link was also taking reservations for Wednesday.

PATH trains and Port Authority bus service resumed at 9:30 a.m., and the Port Authority’s Hudson River bridges and tunnels reopened Tuesday morning.

PATH commuters waiting for the first PATH trains to leave Jersey City for New York Tuesday seemed relatively satisfied with how things were handled. Most didn’t blame officials for listening to weather forecasts and say it was better to be safe than sorry.

But Vikram Kanagala, 33, who works in finance and was among those who arrived at the station before the security gates lifted, said he was frustrated by the response.

“Definitely unacceptable,” he said, as he stood in the cold staring at the closed security gate. “I think they should have done a better job with real-world decisions.”

While he didn’t blame authorities for preparing, he said he wished they’d reacted sooner and moved to reopen transit as soon as it was clear the storm wouldn’t be as bad predicted.

The security gate was slowly hoisted up by workers at the Grove Street PATH station at 9:19 a.m.

“Obviously, over-effort. But better over than under,” Brian Beaudry, 55, who works in sales, said after ducking under the gate. “No harm, no foul.”

Ferries were operating on modified schedules.

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