New York City

MTA ‘network communications issue’ halts subway service

The Fast Forward plan would modernize the subway system’s decades-old signaling system over the next 10 years.

1 train

1 train Shutterstock

In the middle of a long holiday weekend, service was temporarily halted on six different subway lines because of a loss of signal controls – the latest reminder of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s ongoing struggle to modernize its signaling system. 

The “network communications issue” affected trains on the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 lines on Saturday morning, halting service for roughly an hour. New York City Transit officials said a full investigation into the “highly unusual incident” to determine its root cause was underway, while the temporary loss of signals spurred renewed calls for progress. The Fast Forward plan, spearheaded by NYC Transit President Andy Byford, would modernize the subway system’s decades-old signaling system over the next 10 years, but the plan has raised questions about the best methods to use to reach that goal. The Fast Forward plan is focused on implementing communications-based train control, although Gov. Andrew Cuomo has floated the idea of another technology the MTA is testing, known as ultra-wideband radio, as a quicker and less disruptive option.

While it’s still not clear what caused the signals issue over the weekend, the MTA’s master plan will attempt to root out widespread signal delays in the future. A message on the New York City Transit Twitter account suggested as much once service resumed on Saturday, tweeting that “We are committed to improving service, and our ongoing work to modernize the signaling system will help ensure these types of failures do not occur again.”

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