NEW YORK CITY — Subways started rolling in much of New York City on Thursday for the first time since Superstorm Sandy crippled the nation's largest transit system. Traffic crawled over bridges, where police enforced mandatory carpooling.
Subway platforms were not crowded. Only a dozen people waited on a platform at Penn Station, and in Brooklyn, an F train headed toward a bus stop in near silence, with a fraction of its normal passenger load.
Trains in Manhattan ran only north of 34th Street, unable to travel through flooded tunnels in downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn.
New Yorkers were grateful anyway. Ronnie Abraham, a technology worker, was waiting at Penn Station for a train to Harlem, a trip that takes 20 minutes by subway and 2½ hours on city buses that have been overwhelmed since resuming service Tuesday.
"It's the lifeline of the city," Abraham said. "It can't get much better than this."
After reopening airports, theaters and the stock exchange, city officials hoped the subway would ease the gridlock that had paralyzed the city, forcing cars and pedestrians to inch through crowded streets without working stoplights.
Television footage Thursday showed heavy traffic coming into Manhattan as police turned away cars that carried fewer than three people, a rule meant to ease congestion.
Flights took off and landed Thursday at LaGuardia Airport, the last of the three major New York-area airports to reopen since the storm, which killed more than 70 people across the Northeast and left millions without power.
Across the region, people stricken by the storm pulled together, providing comfort to those left homeless and offering hot showers and electrical outlets for charging cellphones to those without power.
The spirit of can-do partnership extended to politicians, who at least made the appearance of putting their differences aside to focus together on Sandy.