To: Metropolitan Transit Authority Board of Directors
Metropolitan Transit Authority Ridership
From: Michael Cortez M.C.
Nur Mohammad Mazumder N.M.M.
Xiaohu Zheng X.Z.
Subject: Metropolitan Transit Authority’s Signal Repair and Replacement Issues
Date: October 19, 2020
The purpose of this memo is to address the lingering concern of train delays and accidents mainly caused by outdated subway signals in the New York City transit system. We will offer a recommendation to improve signaling and ensure a safer and more timely train service for MTA ridership.
Signal equipment is a key factor in train operation in New York City. However, there are numerous outdated signals that pose threats to MTA infrastructure and most importantly, their ridership. We propose budget cuts to allow for increased funding towards signal modernization.
Train Delays Due to Signal Issues
Delays seem to be a new norm mainly due to a lack of funding towards signal equipment that has been outdated for decades. According to MTAMovingForward.com, “fifty-six percent of signal equipment is more than 50 years old.” There is no surprise that delays are bound to occur due to more than half of the MTA’s signal equipment being over a half-century old. This poses a clear hazard to MTA ridership because the aging signals will not operate to their fullest capacities with the modernization of track and the newest additions to the rolling stock such as the R179 and R188 fleet, which have operational problems of their own.
Train Accidents Due to Signal Issues
Delays are not the only issue caused by old signals. A train accident in 1995 resulted from a train operator disregarding a red light signal and crashing his J train into a halted M train on the Williamsburg Bridge. Despite the involvement of human error, this could have been fully prevented if the signal system tripped an emergency brake to avoid the crash. There have been a few train accidents like this in the past due to old signals that did not adequately protect trains from the “overspeed on curves and switches, and in some cases, rear-end collisions” (DigitalCommons.pace.edu, 22).
MTA’s Proposed Signal Repair and Replacement Plans
The MTA has made several efforts over the years to improve its signaling equipment. Under the Fast Forward Plan introduced in 2018, there will be Communications-Based Train Control (CBTC) in operation on five train lines over the course of five years. CBTC allows for trains to move more closely and safely at fixed intervals. This plan has implemented CBTC on two train lines so far. Under Phase 1 of the Moving Forward Plan, the MTA will introduce a signal modernization program consisting of specialists that will “fix 1,300 of the most problematic signals” (MTAMovingForward.com). Unfortunately, there has been no estimated completion date for this plan. On top of that, the recent coronavirus outbreak cut funding on both plans to fund car interior and station disinfecting, further delaying this gradual progress.
Our Recommendation for Signal Repair and Replacement
We recommend a reevaluation of the MTA’s budget to prioritize signal repair and replacement. Increased funding towards the Fast Forward and Moving Forward Plans will provide the repair and replacement of signal equipment that the MTA needs for faster and safer service. Decreased funding towards less important issues such as modernization of car interior and station renewal should be in effect. With the necessary budget cuts and a dedicated labor force, the signal system could be restored within a decade, and delays and train accidents could be a thing of the past.
Memo Model: Technical Communication, 372-374
- McGinn, Sydney. “Branding the Unbrandable: A Solution to Rebranding the MTA.” Pace University Digital Commons, 2018, digitalcommons.pace.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1249&context=honorscollege_theses.
- NYC Subway Action Plan. (n.d.). Retrieved October 19, 2020, from http://www.mtamovingforward.com/