Andy Byford, the new president of the New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA), the authority that runs New York City’s metro system and busses, has released a document urging for short-term sacrifices for long-term gains. 

The idea of short-term sacrifices for long term-gains touches on a number of challenges the agency will face, such as implementing a multitude of weekend and weeknight repairs that either are disrupting or shutting down service intermittently. In his modernization plan Mr. Byford calls for bolder action that is not ‘incremental’ and requires robust investment that as a state agency would require the governor to provide a significant change in funding.

It is important to mention that Mr. Byford will also be the agency’s president as the NYCTA shuts down the L-Train’s tunnel between Brooklyn and Manhattan next year for 16 months. This tunnel on average carries over 200,000 riders daily and is a crucial link for many communities that either work in Manhattan or rely on customers who travel through Manhattan.


Transforming the Subway

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In his plan, Mr. Byford discusses four major points that are critical for reforming the system in the next five years. One of the primary points mentioned is the need for an investment in signaling and systems, followed by the need for new subway cars and maintenance facilities, reshaping how station management is undertaken, including aiming to repair facilities proactivelyand implementing a tap-and-go fare payment system.


One of the most ambitious aspects of this plan is theaim to complete in only 10 years the massive modernization of the system’s signaling system - what is currently planned to be finished in 40 years. The report calls for a communications-based train control (CBTC) system. An example of a full implementation of this system can be found in Singapore,where the city-country’s transit system was converted to a new signaling system and has faced the multiple challenges of merging old and new signaling. Mr. Byford is proposing implementing the new system across many of the major lines in the first five years – requiring significant funding resources from the state and city.

Reimagine the Bus Network

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In the face of huge demographic shifts, changing neighborhoods, the rise of private E-hailing services and ridesharing companies, and increasing road traffic impacting the speed of the bus system, Mr. Byford is concerned that there is need for a complete revaluation for how the NYCTA runs its bus system as well. 

In the modernization plan, Mr. Byford calls for a redesign of the network routes in Staten Island and the Bronx, and to reevaluate the current operations in other boroughs. The plan also calls for corridor improvements to ensure key routes are not bogged down in traffic, and to expand off-peak services in strategic areas to better serve local needs. 

Another key element is prompting the New York City Police Department to enforce bus prioritization initiatives, such as fining vehicles that violate the bus lanes and training officers to support the consistent flow of busses on busy streets.

Structural Reform

The modernization plan contains a multitude of great ideas that independently can improve the performance of a particular department or branch of a transit agency. It links to the Subway Planreleased last year, and is an interesting opportunity to see how Mr. Byford has evaluated the current progress and where he’d like to take the system in the upcoming years.

Last, but not least, the plan calls to empower employees, establish new accountability mechanisms to evaluate performance, and to keep safety, security and resiliency in mind during the implementation of a variety of projects. 

You can read the full modernization plan here