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Here’s MTA’s Fix for Overcrowded Subways

(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

MTA Chairman Joe Lhota announced Tuesday an $836 million action plan to improve the agency’s infamously distressed system. The 30 bullet points he outlined include subway repairs, longer trains and more workers.

“The subway system is no doubt in distress and we’re here for solutions,” Lhota said Tuesday, according to NBC New York.

In the last five years, the number of subway delays has nearly tripled to 70,000 per month, NBC reports. In the last month alone, the agency has been involved in what the station describes as “near-daily debacles,” including derailments, track fires and switch and signal problems. Lhota’s plan includes:

  • Creating new teams to fix 1,300 of the most problematic signals by the close of 2018
  • Tripling the installation rate of continuous welded rail and adding 50,000 friction pads to reduce incidents impacting service
  • Adding cars on the C line, where platforms can accommodate longer trains
  • Launching a pilot program on the S and L lines to remove seats from certain cars, thus increasing passenger capacity by about 25 riders per car
  • Expanding the overhaul capacity of cars, and prioritizing the inspection and repair of doors, which cause about 40 percent of breakdowns

Lhota’s announcement comes during the so-called Summer of Hell, with the tracks at Penn Station undergoing emergency repairs for over a month (So far, the delays haven’t been quite as hellish as many riders expected). And it’s reignited a debate between New York City and New York State officials over who, exactly, is responsible for the beleaguered subway.

“I emphasize always: The state of New York controls the MTA and the state of New York needs to own up to its responsibilities because it controls the MTA,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in his own press conference yesterday.

The mayor called Lhota’s plan “a positive step,” and emphasized that the city would work with the state and the MTA through its police, medical and homeless services, to help with law enforcement on the system and dispatch EMTs in medical emergencies.

But Lhota and Governor Andrew Cuomo have pressured de Blasio to contribute more than EMTs, according to AM New York. They want him to split the $836 million price tag, but de Blasio says he won’t give the MTA more city dollars until the agency spends its money more wisely. The city has already offered $2.5 billion towards the MTA’s five-year, $32 billion capital plan.

Some transit advocates, however, believe the mayor should step up in the face of extraordinary circumstances. Gene Russianoff, spokesman for the Straphangers Campaign, told AM New York that while governors are usually responsible for the MTA, the subway’s current operating record complicates things.

“It’s an inconvenient truth for Governor Cuomo,” He said. “But it’s not unreasonable for a governor to say, ‘Look, in this crisis, let’s do this … let’s get these programs out and then we’ll work things out long-term through the whole system.’”

Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian.

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Tags: new york citytransportation spendingsubways