Photo Courtesy MTA New York City Transit
New York City Transit President Andy Byford tries to hitch a ride on the No. 1 Train.
By Forum Staff
In total, since the late summer of 2018, a safety committee has approved increases to speed limits at more than 100 locations, and MTA New York City Transit has implemented more than 50 of them. These increases follow recently announced improvements in service showing that the Subway Action Plan is working, including a 50-percent reduction in major incidents and a 32-percent rise in on-time performance system-wide, NYCT President Andy Byford announced on Friday.
According to Byford, more than 20 new locations have received speed-limit increases since the last update announcement on this program on Jan. 21. When eventually implemented throughout the entirety of the system, the speed limit increases will manifest as “tangible, noticeable improvements” to commute times for many subway users, Byford said.
In order to identify areas in the system through which trains can safely pass at higher speeds, a special team known as the “SPEED Unit”—Subway Performance Evaluation, Education and Development Unit – was assembled in 2018. Composed of NYC Transit employees with various specialties and established in tandem with union officials, has traversed almost every mile of track over the last several months, Byford reported. The team conducts various tests to determine whether or not certain segments of track might be able to support higher speeds than currently permitted, without compromising existing standards for safety and passenger comfort.
In addition to testing for raising speed limits, the SPEED Unit is also tasked with testing the accuracy of speed regulating signals called “grade time signals” or “timer signals,” with more than 95 percent of some 2,000 such signals tested since the initiative began in summer 2018. Byford pointed out that approximately 350 faulty timer signals have been discovered, and 105 of them have been recalibrated so far in very labor-intensive work to inspect, diagnose and repair or replace numerous possible pieces of equipment during times of exclusive track access for workers such as weekends or nights.
Byford also noted that the safety committee reviewing speed-limit increases includes members of NYC Transit’s Office of System Safety, as well as other personnel who work on operations planning, service delivery, and track and signal maintenance and repair.
“Since I first arrived here, I have been relentless about identifying ways to improve our daily operations and bring better service to the millions who ride our trains each day,” Byford said. “By meticulously examining places where trains can go faster safely, we are bringing tangible daily benefits to our customers. As always, I commend all of our workers who are working so hard to improve the lives of our customers.”
The $20 billion Subway Action Plan was launched in July 2017 at the direction of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and funded by the governor, State Legislature, and the City, with the goal of taking extraordinary measures to stabilize and improve the more than 100-year old subway system.
“With the SAP fully funded, we are accelerating the plan’s completion and are seeing the results,” MTA Acting Chairman Fernando Ferrer said in January. “Our customers and the city are already benefiting from these programs, and we look forward to building upon this progress as the plan continues.”