Saturday, April 10, 2021

New York City Subways Has Made Signifcant Speed Improvements During Height Of The Pandemic; Service Changes Coming To The Weekend (D) Service In April

R142A (6) Train

MTA New York City Transit last month unveiled a series of encouraging updates about the success of its ongoing efforts to safely speed up trains throughout the system, including the installation of 919 new digital timers on grade time signals, 270 civil speed increases across the system over the past two years, and a reduction in time trains spend holding at station platforms. The work builds on recommendations made in the “MTA NYCT Subway Speed and Capacity Review, Phase 2 Report," which was commissioned as part of the Speed and Safety Task Force launched by the Governor Of New York on July 2019.

Aging and faulty grade time signals and excessive time spent holding at station platforms were among the biggest factors that led to slower train speeds and comparatively poor on-time performance in the subway system prior to the creation of a dedicated SPEED Team in 2018. Despite the pandemic, New York City Transit remained focused on safely increasing speeds and achieved several key accomplishments in 2020 which are expected to result in reduced running times for customers as they return to the system.

Interim New York City Transit President Sarah Feinberg said this in a statement: "We've continued to identify root causes for slower speeds, and we've continued to move rapidly to fix grade time signals that were defective and to increase speeds where it’s safe to do so. But make no mistake, this is not the end. We will continue to inspect the system so that as new speed-related challenges emerge, we are prepared to address them promptly. We can't return to an era when these things weren't being effectively monitored – that's not fair to our customers or our train operators, who need to be confident they can travel at the maximum safe speeds possible when moving our millions of customers. My thanks to train and speed safety task force chair Jane Garvey, TWU Local 100 President Tony Utano, former FRA Chief Safety Officer Bob Lauby, and the men and women of NYC Transit for helping us to accomplish these goals."

Members of the dedicated SPEED Team have continued to work closely with employees in several divisions within the Department of Subways to check on the reliability of grade time signals so that train operators are able to move customers at the maximum safe speed possible throughout the system. The dedicated unit has also traveled the system to identify parts of the system where previous speed limits can be safely increased.  Many locations had speeds doubled or increased significantly. Some examples include changing the northbound curve entering City Hall (BMT Broadway) from 6 m.p.h. to 15 m.p.h., changing the southbound speed limit at President Street (IRT Nostrand Av) from 15 to 35 m.p.h., changing the speeds on the express tracks on Queens Blvd. from 35 to 50 m.p.h. at multiple locations, and removing the 25 m.p.h. limit on the IND Concourse express line in the Bronx, allowing for speeds about 40 m.p.h. near Fordham Rd and Kingsbridge Rd. STV’s Phase Two report delivered in Dec. 2020 verified that an increased speed on curves – labeled as ‘v6’ to denote a normal increased operating speed or “Comfort Level Speed” – is both safe and comfortable for customers (based on comprehensive testing and a balanced sample of riders). The report also estimates that running times could be reduced by a median of five minutes and 30 seconds on lines if grade time signals are working correctly and train operators drive the full speed limit and offers a set of recommendations for sustaining and continuing the progress on speeds that we have achieved to date.

Over the decades, car design and track geometry have improved, allowing cars to maintain stability and safe operation at higher speeds, but the speed limits were not always changed to reflect these advancements in safety and comfort. Meanwhile, timer signals continued to be installed throughout the subway system, with an uptick after two fatal crashes in the 1990s; one at Union Square on the Lexington Avenue Line and one on the Williamsburg Bridge on the Jamaica Line. Eventually, the number of timer signals grew to approximately 2,000 system-wide.  Over time, a number of these signals became overly restrictive. Over time, both safety measures, which have been extremely effective at their intended goal of preventing accidents, had the unintended consequence of slowing some trips and causing delays by forcing trains to go much slower than allowed.


Not In Service R68A signed as a (C) train. Credit: csouth28

In other news, The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) announced that inspection of the Manhattan Bridge by the NYS Department of Transportation, as well as track maintenance work by NYC Transit personnel, will require the complete closure of the tracks used by the (B) and (D) trains between Brooklyn and Manhattan, and changes to subway service for two weekends in April.

On the weekends of April 16-19 and April 23-26 beginning at 11:30 p.m. Friday until 2 a.m*. Monday, trains will run in Brooklyn only, between Coney Island-Stillwell Av and Atlantic Av-Barclays Center.  trains will not run in the Bronx and Manhattan. (C) trains will replace (D) trains in the Bronx and Manhattan between 205 St and 59 St-Columbus Circle. Overnights and early mornings when the (C) does not operate, (D) Shuttle trains will operate between 205 St in the Bronx and 145 St in Manhattan.  Additionally, free shuttle buses will make all stops between W 4 St and Grand St in Manhattan. For full information, please visit the MTA website for full details.

This year marks one year that two MTA Transit employees passed away from COVID-19; one bus operator and one subway conductor. Last Saturday, March 27th, will also mark one year of the passing of Train Operator Garrett Goble from the heinous subway fire that has also injured 16 others. Mr. Goble will always be remembered as a hero. Here is Interim NYCT President Sarah Feinberg's statement: "This has been a year of intense grief and heartbreak for the New York City Transit family. In addition to the losses caused by COVID-19, we continue to mourn our beloved colleague Garrett Goble, who was senselessly murdered one year ago. We will never forget Garrett’s service or heroism. He showed New York City and the world what it means to be a public servant. Garrett was also a loving father, husband and son, a cherished friend and a kind and generous colleague. We look forward to joining with Garrett’s family to continue to honor his service, sacrifice and legacy with a permanent art memorial, which will be unveiled and installed later this spring at the Flatbush Junction subway terminus.” Please stay tuned for a podcast remembrance episode later this week. 



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