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New NYCT chief has a plan to modernize the subway in the next decade

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Andy Byford is unveiling all the details at an MTA Board meeting this morning

Max Touhey

As a follow up to last summer’s emergency plan to fix the city’s crumbling subway system, the MTA is set to unveil a comprehensive plan to modernize the transit system today. The details of this plan will be unveiled at an MTA Board meeting this morning, but the New York Times managed to learn about many of the salient features prior to that.

The focus of this plan, which is being put forward by the new New York City Transit chief Andy Byford, is understandably the sputtering signal system. Byford’s plan significantly speeds up the original new signal timeline; the agency previously estimated that a signal overhaul could take 50 years, but under Byford’s plan, major changes could be seen as soon as five years.

The signal modernization efforts could be a mix of the communications-based train control (CBTC) system already installed on the L train (and presently being installed on the 7 train), and the relatively untested ultra-wideband system, which uses GPS, according to the New York Post, which also learned details of the Byford plan prior to the MTA’s board meeting.

The first five years will focus on signal improvements along the 4,5,6 and A,C,E lines, the installation of 50 elevators across the subway system to make it more accessible, the creation of a new payment system, and the addition of 650 new subway cars, among other additions. Other upgrades involve creating bathrooms at stations, and doing general repair work at 150 stations.

What does this mean for riders? For the first few years it will be closures of stations on nights and weekends, but not at a greater frequency than what’s being done right now, Joseph Lhota, the MTA Chairman told the New York Post.

The project could cost as much as $19 billion in the first five years, and an additional $18 billion in the five years after that; Lhota cautioned both the Times and the Post from relying on these figures as the cost studies were still in the preliminary stages.

Transit advocates have praised the Byford plan but questioned where the funding will come from (let’s not forget the battle between Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio over the emergency subway funds), and whether the MTA will able to finish the work on time—new signal installation on the 7 line is already several years late.

Stay tuned for more on the Byford Plan as new details emerge throughout the course of the day.