MTA Press Releases

Press Release
May 23, 2017
Governor Cuomo Announces Aggressive Plan to Combat Long-Term Crisis at Penn Station
Creates Task Force to Address Short and Long Term Challenges at Penn Station; Challenges MTA to Modernize the Subway System and Expand the Number of Trains at Peak Periods and Calls for Innovative Strategies with “MTA Transit Genius Challenge”

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced an aggressive action plan to address New York’s transportation challenges starting with the near-term crisis at Penn Station and the ripple effect it will have on the entire transit system. With derailments and cancellations at Penn Station resulting in costly delays for millions of travelers, the Governor’s plan provides both short and long-term solutions to address the chronic failures at the station which sits at the heart of the region’s transit infrastructure. Each workday, more than 600,000 people travel through Penn Station, which is owned by Amtrak and the federal government – more than triple the facility’s designed capacity. Amtrak is proposing repairs that would reduce the number of trains at Penn Station by about 20 percent during peak travel times and as a result, commuters searching for alternative methods of transportation will crush an already overburdened subway system and clog roads and bridges.

Governor Cuomo is focusing on three parts:

  • Develop an immediate plan for the Penn Station summer crisis
  • Recommend viable long-term management solution for Penn Station and turning it into a 21st Century transit hub with Farley Train Hall and the Gateway Tunnel
  • Challenge MTA to modernize the New York City subway system and increase the number of trains at peak periods to relieve crowding and reduce delays

Addressing Penn Station in a comprehensive manner is the first step to resolving New York’s transportation challenges. Particularly because the issues at Penn Station with Amtrak’s service cuts will exacerbate the already overcrowded conditions of the New York City subways. The Governor is establishing a Task Force composed of leading transportation experts and stakeholders to develop both short-term transit solution, as well as long-term systemic changes. Additionally, Governor Cuomo is proposing “The MTA Genius Transit Challenge,” a competition to reimagine the solutions to the systemic challenges with the subway system.

"The intolerable state of disrepair in Penn Station and its ripple effect of delays and dysfunction throughout the subway system have reached a breaking point, and we must enact this comprehensive action plan now to find both short and long term solutions to these growing challenges, upgrade outdated infrastructure and meet the needs of current and future generations of New Yorkers," Governor Cuomo said. "This multi-pronged effort will address the chronic failures of the system and make critical, long overdue upgrades to ensure our system is of the highest caliber. After decades of neglect, it's time to seize the opportunity to make real changes to our transportation system."

View the Governor's presentation here.

Penn Station Task Force

The members of the Task Force that will advise on Penn Station include:

  • Matthew J. Driscoll, Commissioner, New York State Department of Transportation
  • Congressman Peter King
  • Kevin Law, President, Long Island Association
  • Richard LeFrak, CEO, LeFrak
  • Joe Lhota, Senior Vice President, Vice Dean, and Chief of Staff, NYU Langone Medical Center
  • Congressman Jerrold Nadler
  • Former Congressman Charles Rangel
  • Steve Roth, Chairman and CEO, Vornado Realty Trust
  • John Samuelsen, President, TWU Local 100
  • Tom Wright, President, Regional Plan Assocation
  • Carl Weisbrod, Senior Advisor, HR&A
  • New York City nominee
  • Nassau nominee
  • Suffolk nominee

Develop an Immediate Plan for the Penn Station Summer Crisis

The Task Force will focus on two areas. First, developing alternative transportation solutions to deal with the summer’s Amtrak service cuts. Including:

  • Park and Ride operations
  • Amended restrictions for the LIE HOV lanes
  • High-speed Long Island ferries
  • Privately owned express bus service

Recommend Viable Long-Term Management Solution for Penn Station and Turn it into a 21st Century Transit Hub with Farley Train Hall and the Gateway Tunnel

The Task Force will also assess the viability of any proposed long-term management solution for Penn Station. This is an opportunity to enact a long-term strategic solution to the systemic issues plaguing Penn Station’s physical plant and transit operations.

Governor Cuomo is proposing the Task Force consider the following three options:

1. New York State Will Take Over Penn Station: The State will use design-build in combination with a public-private partnership to perform the emergency repairs and operate Penn Station in the long-term. As part of this effort, the State will combine Penn with the Farley Train Hall, the new LIRR concourse, along with the Gateway Tunnel to create one reimagined, unified transit hub.

2. The Port Authority Will Take Over Penn Station: The Port Authority will create a public-private partnership to manage the emergency repairs and also take on the long-term operation of Penn Station. As part of this effort, the Port Authority will combine Penn with the Farley Train Hall, the new LIRR concourse, along with the Gateway Tunnel to create one reimagined, unified transit hub.

3. Amtrak Uses Private Contractor: Most Amtrak terminals in the country are not currently operated by Amtrak, but rather by qualified operators. This model could be adopted at Penn Station.

Challenge the MTA to Modernize the New York City Subway System

The MTA subway system is 113 years old and has nearly 6 million daily riders. It is overcapacity and has been underfunded for the past 50 years. Although the MTA has a $29.5 billion capital plan, including $8.3 billion from the state, the subway system is in grave disrepair. Last week, the Governor challenged the MTA to accelerate implementation of the $29.6 billion capital plan. In addition, the Governor directed the MTA to implement a 6 Point Plan designed to resolve immediate issues related to management structure, delays and overcrowding.

However, the standard solutions are taking too long to implement and do not address all of the issues plaguing the system. The current state of the New York City subway system requires outside-the-box thinking and innovative solutions. Governor Cuomo is proposing “The MTA Genius Transit Challenge,” a competition to reimagine the solutions to the systemic challenges with the system, all targeted on expanding the number of trains per hour at peak periods to relieve overcrowding and to enable more reliable service with fewer delays. In June, an international competition will convene participants from the technology, engineering and business sectors to address the subway’s three most vexing technology and design challenges. To address the aging signal system in a faster and more efficient way to enable the MTA to expand the number of trains per hour during peak periods; To address the subway system’s aging cars. Strategies can include the refurbishment of current subway cars, upgrading existing systems, better maintenance programs/protocols, and faster delivery of new cars; and To design communications technology for cellular and WiFi connectivity that can be installed throughout the entire subway system including tunnels.

The state will provide a $1 million “Genius” award for the best ideas in all three categories and the MTA will likely contract for those systems.

The MTA Genius Transit Challenge panelists will include:

  • Sarah Feinberg, Former Administrator, Federal Railroad Administration
  • Daniel Huttenlocher, Dean and Vice Provost, Cornell Tech
  • Charles Phillips, CEO, Infor
  • Kristina Johnson, Chancellor-elect, SUNY
  • Greg Brown, Chairman and CEO, Motorola Solutions
  • Nick Grossman, General Manager, Union Square Ventures
  • Eliot Horowitz, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer, MongoDB
  • Balaji Prabhakhar, Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Stanford University

The New York City Subway system operates 665 miles of track, 24 lines, and operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year. Demand for service is at historic levels with ridership of 6 million people per day. New York City Transit must innovate to accommodate a growing demand and to continue to be the economic engine of the city, state, and region.

Improve New York City Subway Signal System

The existing fixed-block signal system was designed over a century ago and now requires constant repair and is increasingly less reliable.

The majority of the capital investment in the subway’s signals has been focused on “state of good repair,” and not on expanding the capacity of the system. The current $29.5 billion MTA Capital Plan includes more than $2.75 billion for signals, with more than $1 billion for installation of Communication Based Train Control. Other signalization investments include roughly $850 million to modernize six signal interlockings and $250 million to upgrade conventional signals.

This competition is seeking to accelerate the implementation of solutions to bring better and more reliable signal service to the system faster.

Bring Better Subway Cars to the System

The subway car fleet was not designed in the most efficient manner for rider boarding of trains. Subway car doors open and close roughly 7 million times daily – and doors are the primary cause of car-related failures. The fastest a new car can be built is three years. The MTA is expediting the delivery of 300 new R179 subway cars with the first arriving fall 2017 and all being delivered by September 2018. Additionally, New York City Transit will accelerate the delivery of 450 new R211 cars.

The MTA’s recently announced six-point plan tackles frequent issues that cause disruption to service and discomfort to riders – including stuck doors, master controller systems, and heating and air conditioning. The transit system needs a more comprehensive, diagnostic data-driven approach that allows for predictive maintenance rather than corrective maintenance.

Increase Communications Connectivity in Subway Tunnels

The MTA succeeded in delivering cellular and Wi-Fi connectivity to every station in the system by the end of last year. However, connectivity in subway tunnels is still unavailable. Subway tunnels are narrow, which presents challenges in running cable and other necessary Wi-Fi equipment. Standard industry strategies would require completely shutting down train service to install Wi-Fi in tunnels.

The development of an alternative plan is a key concern of this Challenge. For information about how to participate, visit

Congressman Jerrold Nadler said, "Amtrak’s main issue has been a lack of funding, and the federal government has both a responsibility and an obligation to fund this vital transportation network, which is important not just to New York State but the entire Northeast corridor. I am pleased to serve on the taskforce and to be working with Governor Cuomo in order to solve these vital transportation issues. We need to thoroughly examine all of the various proposals, including the possible effects they will have on the transportation network and the riding public. This will be especially important with regards to privatization, where I have real concerns about its potential effectiveness."

Congressman Peter King said, “The disastrous situation at Penn Station affects the entire downstate region, particularly the hundreds of thousands of LIRR commuters. I thank the Governor for appointing me to the Penn Station Task Force and look forward to working with the other members to reach short and long term solutions.”

Senate Majority Leader John J. Flanagan said, "Residents of Long Island, the Hudson Valley and New York City deserve a reliable, 21st century mass transit system that gets them to work and back home at night to spend time with their families and their loved ones. Right now, those needs are not being met and New Yorkers are fed up with the delays, cancellations and the lack of empathy, and they want something done. I am pleased to join the Governor and others, including my Senate colleague Elaine Phillips, who is Chair of the Senate's Committee on Infrastructure and Capital Investment and a champion for Long Island commuters, in announcing these actions today. This is not a partisan issue, it's a quality-of-life issue, and it is essential that we all work together to get results as soon as possible. I thank the Governor for his leadership and am excited by the solutions that are within our reach."

Speaker Carl Heastie said, "Every day, hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers rely on Penn Station as a part of their daily commute, but unfortunately current conditions have created chaos and delays. This month the Assembly, led by Corporations, Authorities and Commissions Committee Chair Jeffrey Dinowitz, held a public hearing on Amtrak’s Penn Station Infrastructure Renewal Program to examine its impact on the system-wide operations of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Long Island Rail Road. Although Amtrak has announced they will do emergency repairs this summer, the work will require a 20 percent service cut – further compounding the already intolerable conditions. Today I join Governor Cuomo and the New York Congressional Delegation in calling on the federal government to step up to the plate to provide immediate funding to address the ongoing issues and much needed repairs at Penn Station."

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said, "New York's aging infrastructure has been a growing problem for years, but we have reached a breaking point on Long Island and must take decisive action to find solutions to these challenges and ensure that our transportation network can meet the needs of current and future generations. Governor Cuomo has proven the capacity of our government to not just talk about major infrastructure projects, but actually get them done. Under his leadership, we are building today for a better tomorrowý, and I am proud to work with him on this aggressive plan."

Nassau County Executive Edward P. Mangano, "The Long Island Rail Road is the busiest commuter rail in North America and essential to Nassau County’s economy. I thank Governor Cuomo for his leadership in seeking to solve the dysfunction at Penn Station and help Long Island Rail Road commuters."

New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer said, "After years of underinvestment, the dysfunction at Penn Station has become intolerable -- failing to meet our needs and to live up to our standards as New Yorkers. With this multi-pronged plan, Governor Cuomo is taking action to prevent those challenges and build a better system for the future. I look forward to working with Governor Cuomo to address the needs of our citizens and create a system that all New Yorkers can be proud of."

New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said, "New York is the world’s leading City and reliable, sound public transportation is the artery that help keeps our City, and our businesses running. I commend Governor Cuomo for thinking big and for taking an important step forward to reduce the strain on public transit for New York City and Long Island residents and look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues at all levels of government to strengthen our investment in critical transportation infrastructure."

John Samuelsen, President, TWU Local 100, said, "Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, New York is building for the future. From the new LaGuardia Airport to the new Tappan Zee Bridge, the Governor’ has an unparalleled record of tackling the most complex infrastructure challenges of our time. Building out our transportation infrastructure network creates and sustains jobs, and a pathway to economic security for working New Yorkers. With this new comprehensive, aggressive plan to combat the systemic issues of our transportation network, Governor Cuomo is once again taking action to improve the lives of all New Yorkers."

Joe Lhota, Senior Vice President, Vice Dean, and Chief of Staff, NYU Langone Medical Center, said, "Commuters and travelers alike along the Northeast Corridor are fed up with the mess that is Penn Station, and the delays plaguing the whole of New York's transit system. The Governor has put forward a smart action plan that will address systemic problems that have lingered for decades and ensure that our transportation systems meet the needs of current and future generations of New Yorkers. I applaud the Governor for his leadership and look forward to working together to building the world-class transportation infrastructure that New York deserves."