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New York City Transit Authority - Subways

Andy Byford’s “Way Forward”

I would urge the legislature to not give the MTA a nickel.  In fact, I think that anyone who gives them a penny is a fool.

And the statement that Andy Byford is the best manager that the NYC Transit Authority has seen is absurd.  He doesn't hold a candle to Peter Gunn.

His Fast Forward plan is absurd.  He rejects out of hand many easier and far less expensive solutions to the TA's problems.  Most lines are capable of handling 11 car trains.  So why doesn't he buy some single unit cars that can be attached to existing train consists?

The TA shops have demonstrated (under Peter Gunn) that they are capable of rebuilding subway cars at far lower cost than buying new cars, and the rebuilt cars  work as well or better than new.  So why does he want to only buy new cars?

And what are the benefits of CBTC (Computer Based Train Control)?  The ability to run more trains per hour?  Well, yes.  But far less of a capacity increase than adding a car to each train.

CBTC is said to also eliminate delays caused by failures of the current signal system.  But he refuses to provide explanations of the cause of the signal system failures.  Do they occur because of gross negligence in maintenance (electro-mechanical relays require regular maintenance - "dressing" of the contacts)?  Of course the relays can and should be replaced with computer controls without building an entirely new system.

Are the delays caused by cable failures?  Certainly, only the MTA would expect paper or fabric insulated cables to have a hundred year life.  The cables can and should be replaced by multiplexed fiber optic communications.

Or are the delays caused by the failure of the compressed air operated trip arms?  Once upon a time, small, reliable electric motors were unknown but today they are common.  They are now used to operate the doors on trains instead of the old air system and they should be used to operate the trip arms.

These solutions wouldn't be cheap.  But they would cost far, far less than the $40 billion that Andy Byford wants.


This article, and an excellent one by Adam Pearce on May 9 discussing how MTA decisions lead to delays omit a key discussion of queuing theory.

A system tends to operate fairly well and smoothly at about 85% of its design capacity.  At 98% of capacity, it appears to not move at all.  In fact, about 95% of capacity is the best that can realistically be achieved without lines becoming intolerably long, and at about 90% of capacity the lines will lengthen to the point that there will be significant complaints.

Thus the various MTA actions that have slowed the system have generated much of the problems as pointed out in the May 9 article, but the real problem is the MTA's total lack of understanding of anything related to the "system."

IF the Transit Authority did ALL of the following, the system would be running fairly smoothly in a very few years at minimal cost:

1) Modify all "consists" - i.e., cars and multiple units so that there is a tripper every 60 feet (IND / BMT).

2) If a tripper is activated (a train is "dumped"), apply the brakes electrically to the entire train before the "train line" air pressure drops to the point of applying the brakes.

3) When a train is dumped, used the ABS braking system which prevents wheel lockups (skids) so that the train stops more quickly.  It also prevents rail damage.

4) Return the signal system to the 1938 IND design.

5) Buy additional original (60'-IND/BMT) cars to provide a 10% increase in capacity.

6) Give track crews low powered radios that would emit a beep in operator cabs to alert train operators that someone is on the tracks, regardless of safety zone setup.