HOBOKEN, N.J. (AP) — Brian McCarthy moved here from Manhattan last year and came to love his huge apartment and short train ride into New York. His boyfriend planned to move in this month.
But now, the couple can't get out of Hoboken fast enough.
Superstorm Sandy crippled the Port Authority Trans-Hudson line, a 24-hour subway which last year ferried 76.6 million passengers between Manhattan and New Jersey. The entire system was out for two weeks after the Superstorm. A link to the World Trade Center was out for four weeks, and the Hoboken line just restored service last week. All trains are running from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. while repairs are being done, a project whose costs are expected to ultimately exceed $700 million.
Some users of the PATH, as the train is known, are fed up. Used to a 24-hour schedule, they say the lack of service is making it difficult to get into New York for work and social functions.
Many are equally troubled that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the system, has been, in their view, less than transparent in letting riders know when service will be repaired or when system changes are made. Others are upset that shuttle buses don't run during the week.
Some have concluded it's just not worth relying on PATH service, in the short or long term, and are leaving New Jersey, or seriously considering it.
"It's totally and completely because of the PATH," McCarthy, who works in Manhattan, said of his move. "I'm really heartbroken. I liked the place."
PATH officials have defended their efforts, citing the unprecedented scope of the damage to the system, but have also acknowledged they need to continue improving their communications.
Clay Cane, a freelance journalist who lives in Jersey City, one of four cities serviced by the PATH, was one of the founders of a Facebook page and Twitter account called "Restore PATH Now," and a petition calling on the Port Authority to restore the system after 10 p.m. It has 854 supporters.
Cane hosts a radio show Thursdays at 11 p.m. in New York City and has events to attend there at night. He has been crashing with friends or doing whatever he can to get home. He is considering leaving Jersey City, which he loves and where he has lived for 10 years, for New York City.
"It's like playing a game of 'The Amazing Race,'" Cane said. "You're trying to run for a bus, run for a cab, stay at a friend's house."
In a statement, the PATH said employees have been working around the clock to restore service. It said initial estimates put a full recovery at a minimum of 6-9 months and experts have expressed "shock and amazement" at the speed of the PATH's recovery.
"Thanks to our team's herculean effort, in just seven weeks PATH is back in service at all thirteen stations including Hoboken. In a few more weeks PATH will once again be operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week."
PATH has said limited 24-hour service could be restored by New Year's Eve. Officials announced Monday that the system will run overnight Dec. 31-Jan. 1. After that the 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. schedule will continue.
Cane and others are skeptical about more limited overnight service coming soon.
"I don't even know what limited 24-hour service means," said Mandar Mirashi of Jersey City.
Mirashi works unpredictable hours, including overnights, in Manhattan, and has had to beg friends for rides home or a space on their couch or spend $50 on a cab home. He went to the Port Authority's monthly board meeting in December, where riders complained of a lack of transparency and asked for more transportation alternatives until the system is fully restored.
He said a representative from the Port Authority's website called him to ask about suggestions on making a map better, but no one gave him any information. By contrast, he said the Metropolitan Transportation Authority gave real-time updates after the storm, he said.
"Right now we're in the dark," Mirashi said.
The Port Authority has said the system suffered unprecedented damage — the entire signaling system for the Hoboken line was destroyed and had to be replaced, and some of the tunnels flooded to the top. The nighttime shutdowns are to allow workers to repair the system, Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni said after the agency's meeting this month.
"It is our top priority to bring this PATH system back. We are doing extraordinary efforts to make that happen," he said.
Baroni said he "understands the frustration" of people who use the system, and said that the Port Authority uses many of the same social media and communications tools as other agencies.
"One of the continuing lessons we will learn," Baroni said, "is to continue to improve our communications."
For some, it's too late. Lila Symons, a typeface designer from Jersey City, was doing freelance work in Manhattan when the storm hit. The New Jersey native was hoping to stay close by the city she loves.
But an opportunity came along in Kansas City that she was very interested in. She debated over it, and one thing sent her over the edge, she said: the PATH. She would have to leave hours early to get to assignments on time. She's moving this month.
"I was reluctant at first when I went to interview," she said. "But seeing what I've been through the last month and a half it was an easy decision. I don't regret it."