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Deciphering the MTA's Plan to End Subway Delays

May 19 2017

Newsflash, the MTA has only now realized what we riders have known for years, that subway service is sub-par. Constant delays and changes in service cause headaches to commuters on a daily basis. Now the MTA has finally decided to own up to these service issues.

MTA six point plan>
<p>Earlier this week, the MTA released a six point plan to

The top five causes of delays

The MTA has identified the top causes of delays on the subway, and this initiative will directly address these problems. The issues are mostly due to archaic equipment, but are also caused by riders such as sick passengers, holding the subway doors or police activity. If we would all stop pushing each other in or out of the subway, we could all get to where we are going a little bit faster.

The top five causes of delays are:

  1. Track and signal issues
  2. Sick passengers and police activity
  3. Subway car equipment failures
  4. Loading and unloading in stations
  5. Bottlenecks that occur at critical points in the system where lines merge

Breaking down the MTA improvement plan

The new initiative plans to target the above causes of delays. The six point plan will begin immediately, with the 8th avenue corridor being addressed first. Here is what's behind the MTA's six-point improvement plan.

1. Reorganizing MTA leadership

This entails separating the position of Chairman and CEO. By doing so, the MTA believes it will strengthen its leadership roster and be better able to tackle the capital improvements required. The positions are vacant after the departure of Chairman/CEO Tom Prendergast earlier this year. The MTA Search Committee is actively looking working to fill the two positions.

2. New subway cars and improved car maintenance procedures

On order are 300 new R179 subway cars, the first batch of which will be arriving this fall and the rest delivered by September 2018. An additional 450 new R211 cars are also on track to be delivered.

Subway car breakdowns cause delays not only to the affected train but for trains all along the line. For example on the 8th Avenue line, delays last 19 minutes on average. That 19 minutes of breakdown can cause a ripple effect of delays. To address this, the MTA will conduct a complete overhaul of its car maintenance procedures, adding additional inspectors and ensuring that every car is inspected before it leaves the rail yard. In addition, they will be more proactive in replacing key components before they fail, focusing on doors, heating and air conditioning, and master controllers, which historically have been the source of the most frequent failures.

3. Improving tracks and signals

When riding the subway it seems like signal and switch failures are constantly cited as the reason for the delay. That is because when a failure is sensed, this engages a fail-safe and everything stops. Although this ensures rider safety, it also causes timely delays. Plans are underway to improve the way tracks and signals work to reduce the amount of time needed to check and respond to issues.

4. Mitigating delays associated with sick passengers and law enforcement activity

The main reason why sick passengers and police activity cause such long delays is because of the amount of time it takes EMT or police officers to reach the individual. To address this, more EMTs and law enforcement officers will be placed at key stations along the track to be more accessible.

5. Streamlining passenger loading and unloading in stations

It's a pipe dream to expect New York-ers to line up in an orderly fashion like they do in Japan, but couldn't we all just be a little bit more civilized? The MTA will try different strategies to better communicate to passengers where less crowded areas and cars in order to distribute passengers more evenly. But we all know that everyone just wants to be at the exact car that will deposit them at the exact exit to get them to their destination in the shortest amount of time.

6. Targeting system bottlenecks

Bottlenecks occur where system lines merge and diverge. The new initiative will better manage train flow with dedicated service managers and new technology. It seems a little vague but at least they've identified where the problem is.

Is it too little too late?

Subway delays are part of daily life in New York City. But it is refreshing to see the MTA acknowledge their inadequacy. It remains to be seen if these improvements will make a difference. The NYC subway system is still light years behind the modern railway systems that other metropolitan cities enjoy. These changes may just be putting a bandage on a bigger problem.

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