Tunnel Vision

The MTA Wants to Fix NYC's Other Subway Lines Before the L Train Shutdown

On Monday the MTA announced a six-point plan to stop sucking so hard.
May 16, 2017, 7:04pm
Photo courtesy the MTA

In early 2019 the L train in New York City will shut down for 15 months to repair damage caused during Hurricane Sandy. Leading up to the closure, VICE will be providing relevant updates and proposals, as well as profiles of community members and businesses along the affected route in a series we're calling Tunnel Vision. Read more about the project here .

To put it simply, last week was a living hell for New York City's subways.


On several mornings straight, millions of commuters were stuck below ground, either due to switch problems, power failures, or signal issues. It was the latest clusterfuck in what has been a tidal wave: since 2012, delays have increased from 28,000 per month to roughly 70,000. Who (or what) is to blame for this is debatable (culprits include: an antiquated signal system, politics, public disinvestment), but as the Times wrote, the underlying issue here is clear: "The subway—a crown jewel of urban diversity, a vital piece of the local economy and a point of pride for millions of New Yorkers up and down the economic ladder—is rapidly deteriorating."

Let's not forget that the century-old subway system's worst condition in decades also comes in the leadup to its single greatest transit challenge yet: the L train shutdown, which will divert countless New Yorkers to these delay-plagued lines. Which makes fixing them in time that much more urgent.

Faced with a barrage of criticism, the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) announced a 6-point plan on Monday to get its act together. "Increasing delays are simply unacceptable, which is why we have to commit to addressing the immediate problems with all the tools at our disposal," said Ronnie Hakim, the MTA's Interim Director, in a statement. "We are implementing long-term capital improvements. But we also need a comprehensive approach that focuses on reducing the system's failures while our capital investment is underway."

The plan—which will likely not calm any New Yorker's nerves until delays subside—includes putting forth legislation to separate the roles of Chairman and CEO, while first focusing attention specifically on the 8th Avenue line, which sees about 25 car equipment breakdowns a month, as well as other 'bottlenecks.' The MTA is hoping to revamp their signals, more efficiently clean track trash, get passengers on and off the train faster, and deploy EMTs to key stations as a preventative measure for sick passengers, who often delay trains. They're also trying to get those new 'centipede' trains sooner, rather than later.

How much immediate effect this plan will have on transit time, of course, remains to be seen. But the problem is, for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who take the L train every day, the subways are already bad. And come April 2019, they're going to get much worse.

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