Subways Launch Six-Point Plan to Improve Service

Think subway service can be better? We do too. 

That's why MTA New York City has come up with a comprehensive, six-point plan to address ways that subway service can improve immediately, as the MTA continues work on major capital improvement projects such as signal replacement, subway station overhauls and orders of thousands of new subway cars. In the meantime, though, customers can expect to see a more immediate boost to service improvements through the NYC Transit's six-point plan, which addresses ways to mitigate main causes of delays and overcrowding.

NYC Transit has identified some of the key causes of subway system delays, such as track and signal issues; sick passengers and police activity; subway car equipment failures; loading and unloading in stations; and bottlenecks that occur at critical points in the system where lines merge. The service improvement plan will implement new technologies and programmatic changes based on best practices from around the world, beginning a system-wide initiative on the Eighth Avenue corridor from 125th Street to Fulton Street. The first phase includes this corridor, which comprises 19 stations on the A,C,E lines, plus two key hubs in the South Bronx: 149th Street-Grand Concourse and 3rd Avenue-138th Street. Altogether, they average seven major incidents per month that delay 50 trains or more on the Eighth Avenue corridor. 

This plan will roll out in phases across the line over the next 6 months, with the MTA introducing individual aspects of the plan on other lines later on. 

The plan's six points are:

  • Reorganizing MTA Leadership Structure

The MTA will seek to advance legislation to separate the chairman and chief executive officer positions. Splitting the positions allows for strengthening the overall leadership team in order to effectively implement the MTA’s Capital Plan and achieve needed operational improvements.

  • New Subway Cars and Improved Car Maintenance Procedures

The MTA is expediting the delivery of 300 new R179 subway cars with the first arriving this fall and all being delivered by September 2018. Additionally, New York City Transit will accelerate the delivery of 450 new R211 cars. 
On the Eighth Avenue line, car equipment breakdowns occur 25 times per month, last 19 minutes on average, and delay not only the affected train but other trains all along the line. The MTA will revamp its car maintenance procedures and seek the direct involvement of the original manufacturers in this new maintenance regime. This new initiative will add inspectors and redeploy resources to ensure every car receives pre-service inspection before it leaves the rail yard. In addition, key components will be proactively replaced on a regular schedule before they fail. This new component replacement initiative will initially focus on doors, heating and air conditioning, and master controllers, which historically have been the source of the most frequent failures.

  • Improving Tracks and Signals

The MTA has 837 track miles, over 1,600 mainline switches, and 13,000 signals. The system is built to be fail-safe, which means that when a sensor is tripped, all lights go red and everything stops. It keeps people safe, but it also causes delays. In order to limit switch failures, signal failures, and rail defects that cause outages, the MTA is taking four steps:  a new, intense preventive maintenance program that targets components most prone to fail; a new initiative to decrease response time when problems do occur; an accelerated move to use longer rails with fewer joints that have fewer points of potential failure; and more effective track clearing to reduce track fires.

  • Mitigating Delays Associated with Sick Passengers and Law Enforcement Activity

Along the Eighth Avenue corridor alone, sick customer incidents occur on average 28 times per month with the average incident lasting at least 12 minutes, delaying multiple trains. In the initial phase, MTA will hire or train new emergency service technicians (EMTs), placing them at key stations to speed up response times and reduce delays. In addition, the MTA will work with NYPD to increase the availability of law enforcement at key corridor stations so that they are available to respond more rapidly to address and deter unruly behavior. The MTA is also exploring ways to connect platform controllers on the same NYPD radio frequency to improve rapid response to emergency situations. 

  • Streamlining Passenger Loading and Unloading in Stations

Allowing customers to board and unload trains in a streamlined manner is key to reducing the amount of time a train needs to stay in a station. The MTA is testing different strategies that will allow staff to better communicate to passengers the location of less crowded areas within stations and on arriving trains. The MTA will improve wayfinding on the platform and train cars to distribute passengers more evenly. The MTA is also introducing new training procedures and protocols for platform controllers, who will be more visible to customers, provided with new technology, and be trained to better inform passengers about station conditions.

  • Targeting System Bottlenecks

The subway system has numerous points where lines merge and diverge, making the system remarkably flexible and providing customers with many options to get to their destinations. However, as ridership has grown and the MTA has increased the number of trains in the system, these merge points can present bottlenecks, delaying trains and slowing trip times. This program includes more active management of these merge points, utilizing experienced, dedicated service managers and better technology to ensure trains move quickly through hub merge points to avoid delays.

In addition, The MTA also has announced a $1 million Genius challenge, an international competition seeking groundbreaking and innovative solutions to increase the capacity and improve the reliability of subway service. The competition will challenge participants to find solutions for the system that can be implemented quickly and efficiently. This plan complements more than $14 billion for significant upgrades to New York City Transit that are included in the MTA’s record $29.5 billion Capital Plan.