Lhota unveils $830 million subway plan

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The MTA chairman’s aggressive effort to repair, reinvent and reorganize the system


  • Joseph Lhota, in his first stint as MTA chairman, after Superstorm Sandy in November 2012. Photo: MTA, via Wikimedia Commons

Seats will be removed from the Times Square Shuttle and the L line under a pilot program to increase train capacity by 25 riders per car — and curb the sardine-like overcrowding that has plagued the subway system.

Dedicated teams whose mission is to launch an expedited repair program will fix 1,300 problematic subway signals, attacking a problem that causes multiple breakdowns because 56 percent of the signal equipment is over 50 years old.

Meanwhile, 31 other specialized teams will be empowered to root out track problems, remove tons of debris and reduce fire hazards by cleaning out the entire underground system, which includes 837 track miles and 472 stations.

Those were among the highlights of an aggressive plan to repair, reinvent and reorganize the subway system unveiled on Tuesday, July 25 by MTA chairman Joseph Lhota.

The proposal followed an order from Governor Andrew Cuomo — who on June 29 declared a “state of emergency” for the subways — to come up with a “start-all-over-again plan,” also known as a “blank-slate plan,” within 30 days. Lhota beat the deadline by a few days.

He said he harbored “no doubts” that the MTA had been failing its riders, adding, “We are here today because of the deterioration of the quality of service and the performance of the New York City subway system.”

In a statement accompanying the plan, the state-run transit agency was, uncharacteristically, even blunter: “We know you’re frustrated, so we have a plan to improve a 113-year-old system that’s failing our customers and give you the quality service you expect,” it said. “We’re making improvements to stabilize the system and laying the foundation for modernization.”

The plan calls for bringing on board roughly 2,400 new workers charged with stabilizing and improving the system by targeting the “key drivers of 79 percent of major incidents that cause delays,” the MTA said.

The cost? An estimated $830 million in both operating and capital expenses, which Lhota said should be divvied up between City Hall and Albany. Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has repeatedly clashed with Cuomo over funding, is not expected to embrace the cost-sharing element of the proposal.

“The demands of New Yorkers for better service have been heard,” Lhota said.

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