MTA Launches Chairman Lhota's NYC Subway Action Plan

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has launched the first phase of MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota's newly unveiled NYC Subway Action Plan to stabilize and improve the subway system and lay the foundation for modernizing the New York City Subway. It comes less than 30 days after Governor Andrew M. Cuomo declared a state of emergency and directed the chairman to come up with a plan for immediate action. 

The subway system is in need of solutions following years of stress that include record ridership, aging infrastructure and lack of capital expenditure. The chairman's two-phase plan addresses 79 percent of the major incidents that cause delays in the system, such as signal malfunctions, track issues, failing power infrastructure, water-related damage and corrosion, track fires, car breakdowns, police activity and station issues. This first phase targets these components in the system that have the biggest impact on subway service. 

“New Yorkers are rightfully frustrated with the current state of the subways, and their demands for better service have been heard," Lhota said. "We are committed to earning back their trust by implementing solutions that will enhance the customer experience in the short- and long-term. The NYC Subway Action Plan marks the beginning of a new chapter for the MTA and provides an opportunity to stabilize and improve the system and lay the foundation for modernization. As we work to build a better system, customers can expect to see progress in ways both big and small.”

The first phase starts immediately and will deliver improvements within one year. It focuses on a better customer experience through increased reliability and capacity, enhanced stations and safety, and clear and accurate communication. To address signal and track maintenance, MTA New York City Transit will expedite a signal repair program targeting 1,300 of the most problematic signals, go after water leaks with sealing and street grates to eliminate drain clogs, aggressively clean the entire underground subway network to remove debris and reduce fire hazards, and dispatch special teams to locations with the highest incident rate of track issues. NYC Transit will triple the rate of planned installation of continuous welded rail (CWR), which decreases the number of rail joints where failures are most likely and also provides smoother and quieter rides, as well as launching more Combined Action Teams (CAT) to decrease response times from 45 minutes to 15 minutes.

To improve car reliability, NYC Transit will expand the number of overhauls from 950 to 1,100 cars per year. Maintenance crews will prioritize the inspection and repair of doors, which cause 40 percent of car breakdowns, and interior upgrades will be added to the regular maintenance cycle to improve customer experience. For in-service breakdowns, NYC Transit will dispatch repair teams at certain locations for quicker access to on-site repairs. 

NYC Transit will also test a pilot program on select lines, beginning with the Times Square S Subway shuttle and the L Subway line, to remove seats to allow greater standing capacity by 25 customers per car. On lines where platforms are long enough to accommodate more cars, such as the Eighth Avenue C Subway line, cars will be added to train sets to increase capacity. 

The first phase also addresses issues such as system safety and cleanliness, improved customer communications such as a new MTA app and increased staffing at high-traffic stations, and a reorganization of management and operations teams to address emergencies faster and more efficiently. Details on those initiatives and the specific steps to accomplish them are available on

The second phase of the plan looks forward to the future of the system, in particular its modernization. The details of this phase will be outlined in the coming weeks, and will address wide-ranging, long-term plans to improve the system, such as better subway cars, a new signal system, and modern communications technology. This phase will incorporate the results of the MTA Genius Transit Challenge.

An Advisory Board of transportation and infrastructure experts will advise in the execution of the plan. The members are:

  • David N. Dinkins, Former Mayor, New York City
  • Kathryn S. Wylde, President and CEO, Partnership for New York City
  • Daniel L. Doctoroff, CEO, Sidewalk Labs
  • Peter Kalikow, President, Kalikow & Company
  • John Samuelsen, President, TWU International & President, TWU Local 100
  • Dennis Rivera, Senior Advisor to the President, SEIU & Founder and Former Chair, SEIU Healthcare
  • Hector Figueroa, President, 32BJ Service Employees International Union
  • Sarah Feinberg, Former Administrator, Federal Railroad Administration
  • Gene Russianoff, Straphangers Campaign
  • Mitchell L. Moss, Director, NYU Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management

"The subway is the lifeblood of our city," said advisory board member and former New York City mayor David Dinkins. "During my time as mayor, I saw firsthand how critical the viability and reliability of the subway system is to New Yorkers and as the economic engine of our city. I am proud to stand with Chairman Lhota and the rest of the Advisory Board as we work together to stabilize and improve the current system. We need all our elected leaders to work together to implement these smart solutions and provide New Yorkers with the safe, reliable and modern subway they deserve."

Watch a video of the chairman's remarks on his plan, which also is available on the MTA YouTube channel: