MTA reveals plan for massive overhaul of the New York subway

5 June 2018

US – MTA New York City Transit president Andy Byford announced May 23 its plan to “completely modernize every major aspect of the organization and its services, from subways to buses to accessibility to corporate culture.”

The plan, called Fast Forward: The Plan to Modernize New York City Transit, focuses on four major priorities which Byford identified on his first day in office earlier this year: transforming the subway, reimagining the city’s public bus network, improving accessibility for all modes, and engaging and empowering NYC Transit’s workforce to deliver the best service possible. MTA has not released an official cost estimate for the plan.

“As I said when my appointment was announced, what is needed isn’t mere tinkering, a few tweaks here and there,” Byford wrote in the Fast Forward Plan’s opening letter. “What must happen is sustained investment on a massive scale if we are to deliver New Yorkers the service they deserve and the transit system this city and state need…. Now is the time to think big and transform our network so it works for all New Yorkers.”

The plan calls for installing the latest computerized signal and track infrastructure on five lines, within five years. This work will also require the refurbishment, replacement or upgrading of myriad supporting infrastructure and equipment such as power systems, shops and yards, and cars.

Critical structural and functional repairs, maintenance and improvements will be performed at more than 150 stations over the course of five years, and more than 300 stations within 10 years.

Also on a five-year schedule the plan will have more than 50 new stations will be made accessible, ensuring that all subway riders will not be more than two stops away from an accessible station. Within 10 years, this will expand to a total of more than 130 additional stations, with the balance of all possible stations completed by 2034. Elevator and escalator maintenance and repairs would also be enhanced.

The Fast Forward Plan embraces and builds upon the emerging recommendations from the MTA Board Work Group on Cost Containment and Procurement in order to ensure the efficient use of capital funding, overhaul processes for faster, more efficient project delivery, and better measure, track and report publicly on performance. This includes clearer lines of accountability and strengthened project management to improve adherence to schedule and budget, improving the design process to reduce unnecessary change orders, simplifying the procurement process, and modernizing the supply chain.

Within five years there will be more than 650 new subway cars, more than 1,200 refurbished cars, and 2,800 new buses including 200 electric buses, provided that there will be industry capacity to meet the demands of such a large-scale design and manufacturing initiative. Within 10 years, the plan calls for another 3,000 new subway cars and 2,100 new buses, including 1,600 electric buses.

The plan also covers ways to improve the employee experience – and, as a result, performance – by creating new programs for recognition and for dialogue with management, by streamlining bureaucratic processes, by improving opportunities for internal promotion, by better maintaining and improving employee facilities such as bathrooms and crew rooms, by working with labor unions to refresh the approach to discipline, and by working with NYPD and prosecutors to take a strong stand against

As part of the plan the MTA will support a new “innovation unit” that incubates new solutions to improve, among other things, the increased use of public-private partnerships, operational efficiency and integration of new technology in operations.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has since expressed support for the plan, and this week suggested congestion pricing could help cover the yet undeclared costs. Cuomo is up for re-election in November running as a democrat. Marcus Molinaro, a Dutchess County official, has secured the republican nomination.

MTA named Byford president in January, after a five-year stint with the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC). He began his transit career at London Underground where, over 14 years, he rose to the position of general manager of the Central, Bakerloo and Victoria Lines.

At the TTC, Byford spearheaded several prominent initiatives including the development of a corporate plan aimed at completely modernizing the TTC and improving all aspects of operational performance. Under his leadership a number of major projects progressed, including the phased introduction of a modern signal system and the imminent completion of a major subway line extension. These improvements led to the TTC being named by the American Public Transportation Association as its Outstanding Transit System of the Year for 2017.