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New signals in NYC subway went live for an hour before something broke



7 train queens long island city subway
of the Manhattan skyline can be seen as a Flushing-bound 7 train
arrives at Queensboro Plaza station after limited subway service
was restored following a winter storm, Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015, in
the Queens borough of New York. Gov. Andrew Cuomo says a
snowstorm-related New York City area travel ban is lifted, except
for Suffolk County on Long Island. )

AP Photo/Jason DeCrow

  • New York is in the process of updating its subway signals to
    a modern, “communications-based”
  • After plenty of delays, the 7 train is the second of 27 lines
    to get the technology. 
  • A circuit failure less than an hour after the agency said the
    system had been switched for the entire line on had commuters

At long last, modern signaling went live on a line of New York
City’s subway that
desperately needs any relief it can get.

Communications-based train control, or CBTC for short, has been
in the works on the 7 train from Manhattan
to Flushing, Queens for nearly seven years. After a myriad of delays,
the $810 million
was finally switched on for the entirety of the line
on Tuesday.

But less than an hour later, commuters once again heard a common
refrain: 7 trains are running with delays.

In a statement, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority — a
state agency responsible for the subway — heralded the activation
as a “milestone” but said the “track circuit failure” that caused
delays was not necessarily the culprit.

“Over the next few weeks we’ll be working with the vendor to
optimize the system and doing other signal work on the line to
complete the transition,” it said. “Customers will soon enjoy the
enhanced reliability and, eventually, increased train frequencies
that CBTC allows, as currently seen on the L line.”

Read more: 

the century-old technology delaying the New York City subway
every day

But commuters, who have faced weekend after weekend of service
changes due to the upgrades, were having trouble feeling the same
optimism for the future service improvements.

Screen Shot 2018 11 27 at 11.48.39 AM


Shirley Limongi said her commute took double the usual 45
minutes, and that cops had stopped allowing passengers onto the
platform at Grand Central due to overcrowding.

“Your timing is hilarious,” another
 “Everyone stuck queens bound 30 minutes

“Modern as in sitting in the car at the station for 15
minutes?” Eric
Devitto asked
. “I could have walked to work faster.”

And by the Tuesday rush hour, there were more delays plaguing the

Screen Shot 2018 11 27 at 11.51.41 AM

CBTC works by allowing
trains to digitally communicate with each other in real-time
and have signals along track respond in real time. (Previously,
much signaling and switching
was done by hand.

This means higher speeds and smaller gaps between trains. Under
the old system, known as fixed-block signaling, a specific length
of track would remain “red” after a train passes
through. It’s completely fail-safe, but prone to signal
malfunctions thanks the century-old equipment, which can trip
even when a train has not passed through.

Here’s how the two compare:

MTA new york city subway CBTC video

At the current rate of upgrades,
the New York Times estimates
the MTA could spend $20 billion
over 50  years to upgrade the remaining 25 lines. 

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