May
19

The MTA is Andrew Cuomo’s problem whether he wants it or not

By

We have lot of catching up to do, but let’s start with a true statement: Subway service has been abysmal lately. Not a rush hour goes by without signal problems somewhere, delays, rerouting, cramped quarters and unhappy commuters. With no real fixes to the MTA’s problems on the short-term horizon, the agency recently announced a modest plan to improve subway reliability. But without a multi-billion-dollar commitment to quickly overhaul its signal system, the plan — faster dispatching to fix problems — amounts to lipstick on a rapidly aging pig.

While talking about this plan earlier this week, Ronnie Hakim, the MTA’s interim director, told Dana Rubinstein that it “really started with a series of conversations with Governor Cuomo, where he just clearly recognized that from his perspective, subway service is just not meeting the needs of New Yorkers.” Service, Cuomo is reported to have said, is “not satisfactory.”

This sounds very much like something Cuomo, who has recently taken a keen interest in ribbon-cutting and fancy renderings, would want to avoid, and lo and behold, here is the latest via Dana Rubinstein at Politico New York:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, following weeks of service failures in New York City’s subways, told reporters Thursday that his responsibility for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority merely consists of appointing a few people to its board, a responsibility shared by Mayor Bill de Blasio and county executives across the state. The state-run authority, he said, is a “regional transportation system.”

“I have representation on the board,” the governor said. “The City of New York has representation on the board, so does Nassau, Suffolk, Dutchess, Putnam, Rockland, other counties, okay?”

…When asked about that [six-point] plan on Thursday, Cuomo had this to say: “First, I didn’t propose short-term fixes. The MTA did.”

This is not, you may remember, the first time the Governor has tried to distance himself from the MTA’s problems. He tried to claim in 2015, unbelievable, that the MTA wasn’t a state agency because its services are provided downstate. But submitted for your consideration is a screenshot of my inbox:

GovCuomoAnnounces

Cuomo clearly wants to own all the good news produced by the MTA, but when it comes to the bad, he cuts and runs. It’s his MTA when he wants to host a party to celebrate the opening of the Second Ave. Subway. It’s his MTA when the city’s bridges begin to light up. It’s his MTA when it comes to building the Backwards AirTrain or overhauling the aesthetics of Penn Station. But he doesn’t want the MTA that can’t provide adequate and reliable rush hour service and would need to reconsider 24/7 citywide service to truly address its problems. He doesn’t want the MTA we all hate. He just wants the photo ops.

That’s now how this works; that’s not how any of this works. If Cuomo wants to be the man with the plan for New York state, let alone a national leader (Hah. I know.), this mess belongs to him, and he has to own it and fix it. It’s your MTA, Governor Cuomo, whether you announce it or not.



Categories : MTA Politics

36 Responses to “The MTA is Andrew Cuomo’s problem whether he wants it or not”

  1. bigbellymon4 says:

    Nice to read your posts again, Ben. Been quite some time, but it is worth it 😉

    The only way the MTA can quickly overhaul the signaling system, and perform necessary repair work to the system, is by shutting down certain sections of the system for 24 hours, no weekend or weekday late night fixes. Yes, the system is crowded, and displacing riders from a crowded line to another is stupid. However, to make sure we as New Yorkers get the biggest bang for our buck, the MTA needs to bite, chew, and swallow the bullet to permanently shutting sections of the system for repairs. This goes for track work, signal work, Sandy tube work (exclude 14st) and any other work that gets dragged out due to the fact the weekend is not long enough to complete all the work assigned to the section of the line.

    • O'tte' says:

      I agree. At some point they’re going to have to seriously consider permanently shutting down sections of the subway just to get in and get out on these signal modernization projects.

      • Phantom says:

        I would endorse closing off sections at a time if it will get modernization/repair done faster and cheaper.

        I volunteer my home line ( R in Bay Ridge ) first.

    • Jon says:

      I thought that was the whole point of FASTRACK? Do we now need FASTRACK+?

      • ChrisInEngland says:

        Fasttrack is basically just doing day to day stuff and not major improvements.

        You still only get 5 hours or so time to do any work before you have to pack up and get the system back up and running – hardly conducive to installing new signals or relaying long lengths of track etc.

  2. Stephen Bauman says:

    The canard that only a brand new “state of the art” signal system can fix the subway ills, is as much a cop out for MTA management as Cuomo’s dodge that the MTA isn’t his responsibility.

    The existing signal system isn’t responsible for 5%+ rush hour trains never starting. The existing signal system isn’t responsible for making schedules that create numerous merging conflicts. The existing signal system isn’t responsible for an inadequate number of spare trainsets. The existing signal system isn’t responsible for adopting a service loading criterion that’s been documented to cause dwell time delays.

    All these ills and many more, are management not signal system shortcomings. Until such time as these management shortcomings are addressed, the system will not improve regardless of how many billions are expended.

    • Chris says:

      True, but, CBTC will allow more trains to be run, which will help with loading guidelines, and will make it easier to recover from any mechanical issues.

      • Stephen Bauman says:

        CBTC will allow more trains to be run

        The maximum number of trains that a single track with intermediate stops can operate is determined by: service braking rate; service acceleration rate; dwell time and minimum emergency braking distance/time. The signal system does not enter into the equation. The nominal capacity for operating equipment that has not changed for over 100 years is 40 tph.

        Another parameter that affects overall line performance is the terminal geometry. This constraint is usually tighter than the intermediate stop constraint, mentioned above.

        …which will help with loading guidelines

        If a the passenger load prevents passengers from freely entering/leaving cars, dwell time will increase. It’s irrelevant whether such loads occur at 20, 30, or 40 tph.

        will make it easier to recover from any mechanical issues.

        When safety margins are applied, CBTC does not provide any advantage over a properly designed conventional block system.

        The safety margin for a block system includes the uncertainty of a train’s location within a block.

        The safety margin for CBTC includes the allowed delay between the central controller’s status request and the train’s reply. If a train does not reply before that time has expired, all trains on the line go into an emergency stop.

        The minimum block length at station approaches and the equivalent block length for the CBTC watchdog timer are around 100 feet. Both are factored into the emergency braking rate parameter mentioned above.

        Regardless of where a mechanical problem occurs, recovery still requires trains to stop at stations. Headway is limited by this constraint. It’s the same for a properly designed block system and CBTC.

    • I think we’re all conflating a few issues here. One is signal reliability and the constant breakdown of old signals. Two is a modern signal system that can support more capacity. You’re right, Stephen, in noting the problems with management, but a new signal system would also ideally break down far less frequently that the current one, thus improving reliability across the board.

      • SEAN says:

        Well put – both here & the above headline.

        I was worried that my favorite transit blog was some how derailed, but you came through.

      • Stephen Bauman says:

        You’re right…in noting the problems with management, but a new signal system would also ideally break down far less frequently that the current one, thus improving reliability across the board.

        The L Train, the sole CBTC equipped line, has been subject to signal failures with similar frequency of the other lines. That’s not a good omen.

        One big problem is that any signal system replacement will be implemented by the same MTA management that got the subway system into the current mess. The doctrine that a new signal system will be the subway system’s salvation, was offered by the same MTA management.

        Can the MTA management be trusted to rectify the damage it has wrought? The L Train signal system signal system has been a disaster in terms of performance (TPH), reliability, maintainability, compatibility, and expansion capability.

        Tom Sullivan was the the L Train CBTC project’s first manager. He left the MTA, when he was overruled in critical technical decisions. He became a consultant and wrote extensively about CBTC.

        One critical CBTC component is its Digital Communications System (DCS). The MTA made the wrong choice. Mr. Sullivan wrote about the various options. Here’s a link to the draft of an article that appeared in Railway Age, shortly before his death.

        http://www.tsd.org/papers/CBTCRadios.pdf

        • Oscar says:

          New here, but very appreciative of this information and insight. As a 7 train rider, I’m not holding my breath for significant improvements when CBTC is finished.

          For the money spent, the MTA could probably covert all the lines to a more reliable monorail system. Any thoughts? Try out a line?

        • mfs says:

          has anyone done an analysis of the delay archive to see if the L train has signal problems at the same rate as other lines?

        • Someone says:

          Stephen I am not sure where your getting your information from, but incorrect and outdated information does a disservice to us all. Arm chair analysis of complex technical systems can only end up with misunderstandings. This is a long post but it’s important to clear some things up.

          You state “The L Train signal system has been a disaster in terms of performance (TPH), reliability, maintainability, compatibility, and expansion capability” lets break this down.

          @”Performance (TPH)”

          You have posted several times over and over that CBTC does not bring higher TPH to a line and claim that a the signaling system shouldn’t even factor in to the calculation. Yet the principle difference between fixed block based wayside signals and moving block CBTC signaling is the removal of the empty buffer block concept. Under CBTC and Automatic Train Operation (ATO) the space between the next train is dynamically computed based on the real distance to the next train or switch. Where as in fixed block signaling even if the last axel of train is exiting the front of the buffer block, the whole buffer block will be signaled as occupied. It is this removal of the fixed space in between trains and making it “moving” that allows more efficient use of track space and thus higher maximum TPH.

          Looking at a letter the MTA has published from 2011 [1] they state that prior to the installation of CBTC that the realistic max TPH on the Canarsie Line was 20 TPH and that after installation of CBTC with ATO that they expect to have a higher maximum of 26 TPH with installation of additional transformers to supply more 3rd rail current. A report done in 2013 by the FTA [2] shows that during testing they were able to achieve the 26 TPH maximum. Furthermore, during the 2019 Canarsie tunnel repair the MTA has stated that they plan install the additional transformers needed to support the hire current loads of running 26 TPH on the line.[3]

          Nearly all discussion of CBTC/ATO line re-signaling world wide has always mentioned increased capacity as one of the benefits. Numerous sources including the RPA[4], TTC[5] and TFL[6] all claim CBTC/ATO allows for real capacity increases on an existing line.

          @”Reliability, Maintainability”

          Certainly one can agree that static items (ie. fixed and don’t move) require less maintenance than ones that are moving (switches and stop arms). The move to CBTC allows elements of the Auxiliary Wayside System (AWS) to be removed. In fact, the MTA states on the Canarsie Line that removing portions of fixed block signaling it no longer needs and keeping it only at interlockings, has reduced the amount of equipment it need to maintain regularly by 75%.[7] This is substantial savings in track outage time, personnel and parts required to maintain the Canarsie Lines signals.

          You are correct in some sense that the move to CBTC has not been with out the introduction of new maintenance issues, but they are not for the reasons you point out. One of the most obvious is the integration of the AWS with the CBTC system. By having traditional fixed block systems integrated with CBTC systems the overall project complexity, cost and risk increases. Furthermore, it means that the MTA now in effect needs to maintain two systems on right of way, both the new CBTC and the remaining portions of the block based system. This also means that failures of the blocked system can halt the operation of the CBTC portion since they are linked. The MTA’s rational for keeping the AWS and not removing it completely is that it allows backwards compatibility with non CBTC equipped trains, such as maintenance trains, by allowing them operate on the line with the AWS operating as a secondary train detection method.[8]

          The second new maintenance issue lies in design that the trains on the Canarsie Line use to determine their exact position and speed. Since a free axel (axel with no motor) was not available on the R143’s Siemens decided to use a laser based linear scan speed detector rather than a traditional tachometer. The laser is mounted on the bogie and scans the track and calculates the speed and distance travelled based on the change in collimated light seen. This positioning device has “generated a significant increase in the maintenance as it requires frequent cleaning of the camera lenses and chamber” and “the performance of the system is also affected when trains are stopped on curves as the device cannot take adequate pictures of the rail.”[9] As a result the MTA and Siemens are replacing the OSMES system with redundant tachometers and accelerometers. For reference the Flushing Line CBTC trains use free axels which are equipped with a tachometer, speedometer and IMU to get positional information.[10]

          In terms of reliability it has been documented that during commissioning and initial use the CBTC system was actually less reliable than the block signaling system due to various software bugs and car interfaces issues. These issues however can be expected on any large engineering project and after being resolved, NYCT indicated that subsequent major failures of the CBTC system have been rare and the probability of having such failures in the future is very remote.[11]

          Just to give you a sense of how complicated re-signaling a line is, we can simply look at London who had a failed re-signaling project that resulted in TFL having £886m less to spend on infrastructure projects.[12] After Bombardier’s failure the contract was given to Thales, the same vendor doing the CBTC work on the Flushing Line.

          @”Compatibility, and expansion capability”

          Because of the interconnectedness of the NYCT property the MTA, properly so, decided to design a set CBTC/ATO/AWS “Interface Interoperability Specifications” to assure interconnectedness between various CBTC subsystems thus allowing multiple vendors to supply different portions of the entire system after become qualified/certified. This strategy of a modular procurement is based off of the strategy the RATP in Paris has pioneered for its CBTC re-signaling projects. [13]

          You seem to take issue with the choice of radio selected and link a document that recommends inductive loop over radio based communications. You are correct that choice of radio they made was somewhat flawed. They set out to have multiple radio systems that were interoperable and instead ended up with a single proprietary radio with Siemens owning the intellectual property. This is a failure of the MTA management not following its own advice of having open interfaces. However, it should be noted that the result isn’t as cataclysmic as you make it seem. The QBL West Phase 1 will use the same radio’s used on the Canarsie Line. This vendor lock-in is clearly detrimental to MTA’s bargaining capability and leaves them open to price gauging which is why they have decided to enter into long-term agreements with Siemens over the radio availability and pricing.[14] The issues you point out with the radio selection being proprietary are true, but there is no indication that the radios are the cause of failures occurring on the Canarsie Line post CBTC installation.

          With respect to expansion capability, QBL West Phase 1 project plans today indicate that the onboard car equipment will be Siemens based and Thales providing the zone controllers and ATS. Time will tell how well this project will work but this is a clear indication that they do have interoperable equipment.[15] On top of this they have a third contractor, Mitsubishi, who is currently qualifying their equipment on the Culver test track to become a third vendor[16] after Alstom dropped out.

          @Addendum

          I completely agree with you that the signaling system is not responsible for some of the issues we see today. I also agree that CBTC on its own will not cure all the problems. Does the MTA’s management of these projects have room for improvement? Yes, however CBTC and its associated technologies do bring a host of improvements beyond higher capacity and reduced maintenance including higher safety for workers and passengers alike (including avoiding another Unioin Station Derailment [17]) and less need for employees operating trains. Former CEO Tom Prendergast even has mentioned some of the lessons learned during the project during an interview, principally doing the car born upgrades, interlocking modernization and CBTC installation as 3 separate activities, rather than as a monolithic project.[18] As a result most interlockings modernized since 2005 are CBTC ready.

          The Canarsie Line project clearly had a significant learning curve for the agency, but the project is by no means a disaster as you put it. Belittling the agency or the technology as whole because you don’t like some of the decisions management made is unfair and unproductive.

          If I have made any mistakes or omissions in my analysis feel free to let me know.

          [1] http://s3.documentcloud.org/do.....-m-t-a.pdf (Page 8)
          [2] https://www.transit.dot.gov/sites/fta.dot.gov/files/docs/FTA_REPORT_No._0045.pdf (Page 64)
          [3] http://web.mta.info/nyct/procu.....755sol.pdf (Page 8, note that the TPH numbers referenced in the synopsis is service delivered TPH, not maximum TPH the line supports)
          [4] http://library.rpa.org/pdf/RPA-Moving-Forward.pdf (Page 22)
          [5] https://www.ttc.ca/About_the_TTC/Projects/Automatic_Train_Control/index.jsp
          [6] http://www.irse.org/nearyou/pu.....202017.pdf (Page 32)
          [7] http://library.rpa.org/pdf/RPA-Moving-Forward.pdf (Page 64)
          [8] http://library.rpa.org/pdf/RPA-Moving-Forward.pdf (Page 43)
          [9] http://library.rpa.org/pdf/RPA-Moving-Forward.pdf (Page 66)
          [10] http://web.mta.info/mta/news/b.....0_CPOC.pdf (Page 10)
          [11] http://library.rpa.org/pdf/RPA-Moving-Forward.pdf (Page 63)
          [12] http://londonist.com/2016/03/s.....qus_thread
          [13] http://library.rpa.org/pdf/RPA-Moving-Forward.pdf (Page 35)
          [14] http://www.irse.org/knowledge/.....v%2003.pdf
          [15] http://www.railwayage.com/inde.....tract.html
          [16] http://www.mta.info/news-cbtc-.....ed-install
          [17] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1991_Union_Square_derailment
          [18] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=obGxUx3miik (Starts at 6:20)

          • Stephen Bauman says:

            Under CBTC and Automatic Train Operation (ATO) the space between the next train is dynamically computed based on the real distance to the next train or switch. Where as in fixed block signaling even if the last axel of train is exiting the front of the buffer block, the whole buffer block will be signaled as occupied. It is this removal of the fixed space in between trains and making it “moving” that allows more efficient use of track space and thus higher maximum TPH.

            First, NYCT does not have a fixed length block system. The blocks are static (don’t move) but vary in length, depending on their location.

            If two trains operate on the same speed and station dwell profile but are separated by departure time, then their separation will be at a minimum when the follower is approaching a station that the leader is in or just leaving. This is the only location and time, when the follower must know the position of the leader’s rear axle with great precision and accuracy. Block lengths approaching and within NYCT subway stations are as short as 100 feet.

            The uncertainty for CBTC’s position determination must include the timeout for lost status transmissions and responses. It’s 2 seconds. If a train does not respond within 2 seconds, the CBTC system will stop all followers. This 2 second timeout, must be factored into the minimum spacing between trains because status responses can be 2- seconds late and the system should still operate. This distance traveled by a train operating at 34 mph for 2 seconds is 100 feet.

            Thus, the distance measurement that controls how close followers can close in on their leaders is equivalent for both NYCT’s century old block system and CBTC. If they are equivalent, then CBTC cannot provide increased TPH because it permits reduced follower close in distances.

            Looking at a letter the MTA has published from 2011 [1] they state that prior to the installation of CBTC that the realistic max TPH on the Canarsie Line was 20 TPH

            Two of the MTA’s predecessors, NYCBOT (1949) and NYCTA (1954), reported operating the Canarsie Line at 24 TPH. Both agencies reported these service levels in annual reports. Here’s a link to the 1954 service levels.

            N.B. if you wish to raise the key-by canard, the practice of keying-by for purposes of maintaining schedule was outlawed by the NYSPSC in 1929.

            after installation of CBTC with ATO that they expect to have a higher maximum of 26 TPH with installation of additional transformers to supply more 3rd rail current. A report done in 2013 by the FTA [2] shows that during testing they were able to achieve the 26 TPH maximum

            There has been no test with live trains and live passengers. The FTA Report is rather vague on what the “endurance” test was.

            The move to CBTC allows elements of the Auxiliary Wayside System (AWS) to be removed.

            CBTC does not eliminate all the block functions. You mentioned interlockings. CBTC does not do switching. Another function CBTC does not perform is broken rail detection. Therefore, an AWS is required. The length of the AWS’ blocks determines the AWS’ service level. It’s 3 TPH for the Canarsie Line. If a work train or a CBTC equipped train loses radio communication, the entire line reverts to the AWS 3 TPH mode. It’s the nature of CBTC. The MTA’s only contribution was deciding what the AWS service level should be.

            The second new maintenance issue lies in design that the trains on the Canarsie Line use to determine their exact position and speed.

            This is an important issue for a system that relies on the train to know its position.

            Since a free axel (axel with no motor) was not available on the R143’s Siemens decided to use a laser based linear scan speed detector rather than a traditional tachometer.

            Most AC motor controllers use a tachometer for closed loop control for motor speed. A tach output usually comes free. I’m told that the MTA’s AC propulsion system is open loop – no feedback to correct command errors. That’s the subject of another discussion about the MTA’s engineering decisions.

            As a result the MTA and Siemens are replacing the OSMES system with redundant tachometers and accelerometers. For reference the Flushing Line CBTC trains use free axels which are equipped with a tachometer, speedometer and IMU to get positional information.

            The stated need to remove a motor for the tachometer was to eliminate wheel slippage as an error source. It’s easy to place an external tach sensor on a motor assembly. There are shaft encoders, optical and magnetic detectors that can be placed in the gearbox. All these are removed from the elements. The problem with a tachometer for measuring distance traveled is that it relies on the accuracy of the wheel diameter. The spec is that it must be within 1/8″ of 34″. That’s 0.37%, which is not a bad mechanical tolerance for something that big.

            Let’s say the train travels 1 mile, the calculated distance calculated error based on the diameter will be 0.37% of 1 mile or within 19.4 feet. That’s not good enough for the ATO to know where to stop the train. Let’s assume the train has to stop within 1 foot of its mark, then the position calculation will exceed this spec after 272 feet.

            The solution is to place a “beacon” on the tracks every 272 feet that will correct the calculation back to zero error. The train’s position will be calculated by dead reckoning from the tach between beacons. I believe in practice they are placing the “beacons” every 600 feet. Given that position calibration is required so often, the free axle did not buy much accuracy.

            Of course, these beacons will subject to the harsh right of way environment and will have to be regularly inspected and maintained. Eliminating the signal blocks did not end the need for expensive and frequent right of way maintenance. The number of “beacons” is probably equivalent to the number of blocks.

            Accelerometers have their own error source. According to the theory of general relativity, one cannot design an instrument that can distinguish between gravity and inertial acceleration. This means that the accelerometers are measuring both the train’s acceleration and the earth’s gravity.

            Inertial navigation systems try to compensate by calculating gravity from the current calculated position and subtracting it from the accelerometer reading. The problem is that the equations are unstable. The error function is an exponentially increasing sinusoid. The error isn’t a problem for short trips like ballistic missiles trajectories. Longer trips require frequent resets to keep the error within reason. The Apollo astronauts had to frequently point a telescope at some stars and enter their readings into a guidance computer. That’s why they hit the moon.

            Because of the interconnectedness of the NYCT property the MTA, properly so, decided to design a set CBTC/ATO/AWS “Interface Interoperability Specifications” to assure interconnectedness between various CBTC subsystems thus allowing multiple vendors to supply different portions of the entire system after become qualified/certified. This strategy of a modular procurement is based off of the strategy the RATP in Paris has pioneered for its CBTC re-signaling projects.

            There already an international standard for interconnection. It’s the ISO 7498 or simply the OSI layered model. This standard has been around since 1984. Almost the entire electronics industry supports it. It’s the reason electronic communications devices are commodities.

            By writing its own, the MTA risks making a major error in its specification and/or limit interest to only those manufacturers that will humor the MTA.

            The MTA and the railroad industry seems to think it’s a big market. It’s not the the electronics industry. The railroad industry’s propensity for insisting on custom equipment is the major reason railroad electronics is so expensive.

            About 25 years ago, GM wanted to establish its own factory floor communications interconnection standard. The electronics industry told GM to get lost because GM wasn’t a big enough to interest them.

            The MTA and the railroad industry have a much smaller presence. The result will be that the railroad industry will be served by only a few companies that will sell it equipment that hundreds of other companies sell for orders of magnitude less money. GM had enough sense to adopt the OSI model.

            You seem to take issue with the choice of radio selected and link a document that recommends inductive loop over radio based communications.

            No. The article compared 3 choices for radio communications: custom made; commercial off the shelf; and open standard (IEEE). The costs for same function differed by an order of magnitude between each type, with the custom radio being 100 times more expensive than the IEEE standard. The MTA chose the custom radio.

            it should be noted that the result isn’t as cataclysmic as you make it seem. The QBL West Phase 1 will use the same radio’s used on the Canarsie Line.

            Let’s first examine the cost implications. The custom radio costs at least $22K, as per the Tom Sullivan article. The MTA operates approximately 600 trainsets. Each trainset will require 4 radios. The cost will be $52.8M, or roughly half of what the RATP is paying to convert 5 lines to CBTC (radios included). Using IEEE radios would cost $528K.

            This vendor lock-in is clearly detrimental to MTA’s bargaining capability and leaves them open to price gauging which is why they have decided to enter into long-term agreements with Siemens over the radio availability and pricing.

            Obviously, one needs to look at the details, which were not presented in the referenced article. One major problem with the Siemens radio is that it does not conform to the OSI standard for interconnection. It uses its own proprietary interface that is designed for Siemens equipment This will effectively kill any interest by independent vendors that might want to design equipment for the MTA. Their sales pitch would be lower cost. The use of the Siemens radio proprietary interface will drive up the development cost for independent developers. Siemens might make its radio available to the MTA at low cost (I doubt it would be as low as an IEEE radio). Unless, it’s made available to everyone at the same low cost, its incorporation into the MTA’s CBTC will serve as a barrier to additional vendors doing business with the MTA.

            QBL West Phase 1 project plans today indicate that the onboard car equipment will be Siemens based and Thales providing the zone controllers and ATS.

            Thales, of course, is the old Alcatel. This is the same duopoly from the Canarsie project. I assume the reason they are getting a few more crumbs is that they threatened to drop out, if they did not. :=)

            they have a third contractor, Mitsubishi, who is currently qualifying their equipment on the Culver test track to become a third vendor after Alstom dropped out.

            At this point, Mitsubishi has not qualified. Even if it qualified, there’s no indication they would bid competitively on future contracts. They may come to Alstom’s conclusion, that effectively being a subcontractor to Siemens isn’t in their interest.

            Belittling the agency or the technology as whole because you don’t like some of the decisions management made is unfair and unproductive.

            No, my opinions are based solely on the technology’s shortcomings. The MTA’s management decisions turned what would have been a failed effort into a disaster.

            If I have made any mistakes or omissions in my analysis feel free to let me know.

            You have lumped CBTC, ATO and ATS (Automatic Train Supervision) together. Each is separate and can be implemented with or without the other two. The important question is which is critical to reliably achieving greater service levels?

            • Someone says:

              Thank you for taking the time to respond, I appreciate it. I will look into your comments and research further.

        • Some One says:

          Stephen I am not sure where your getting your information from, but incorrect and outdated information does a disservice to us all. Arm chair analysis of complex technical systems can only end up with misunderstandings. This is a long post but it’s important to clear some things up.

          You state “The L Train signal system has been a disaster in terms of performance (TPH), reliability, maintainability, compatibility, and expansion capability” lets break this down.

          @”Performance (TPH)”

          You have posted several times over and over that CBTC does not bring higher TPH to a line and claim that a the signaling system shouldn’t even factor in to the calculation. Yet the principle difference between fixed block based wayside signals and moving block CBTC signaling is the removal of the empty buffer block concept. Under CBTC and Automatic Train Operation (ATO) the space between the next train is dynamically computed based on the real distance to the next train or switch. Where as in fixed block signaling even if the last axel of train is exiting the front of the buffer block, the whole buffer block will be signaled as occupied. It is this removal of the fixed space in between trains and making it “moving” that allows more efficient use of track space and thus higher maximum TPH.

          Looking at a letter the MTA has published from 2011 [1] they state that prior to the installation of CBTC that the realistic max TPH on the Canarsie Line was 20 TPH and that after installation of CBTC with ATO that they expect to have a higher maximum of 26 TPH with installation of additional transformers to supply more 3rd rail current. A report done in 2013 by the FTA [2] shows that during testing they were able to achieve the 26 TPH maximum. Furthermore, during the 2019 Canarsie tunnel repair the MTA has stated that they plan install the additional transformers needed to support the hire current loads of running 26 TPH on the line.[3]

          Nearly all discussion of CBTC/ATO line re-signaling world wide has always mentioned increased capacity as one of the benefits. Numerous sources including the RPA[4], TTC[5] and TFL[6] all claim CBTC/ATO allows for real capacity increases on an existing line.

          @”Reliability, Maintainability”

          Certainly one can agree that static items (ie. fixed and don’t move) require less maintenance than ones that are moving (switches and stop arms). The move to CBTC allows elements of the Auxiliary Wayside System (AWS) to be removed. In fact, the MTA states on the Canarsie Line that removing portions of fixed block signaling it no longer needs and keeping it only at interlockings, has reduced the amount of equipment it need to maintain regularly by 75%.[7] This is substantial savings in track outage time, personnel and parts required to maintain the Canarsie Lines signals.

          You are correct in some sense that the move to CBTC has not been with out the introduction of new maintenance issues, but they are not for the reasons you point out. One of the most obvious is the integration of the AWS with the CBTC system. By having traditional fixed block systems integrated with CBTC systems the overall project complexity, cost and risk increases. Furthermore, it means that the MTA now in effect needs to maintain two systems on right of way, both the new CBTC and the remaining portions of the block based system. This also means that failures of the blocked system can halt the operation of the CBTC portion since they are linked. The MTA’s rational for keeping the AWS and not removing it completely is that it allows backwards compatibility with non CBTC equipped trains, such as maintenance trains, by allowing them operate on the line with the AWS operating as a secondary train detection method.[8]

          The second new maintenance issue lies in design that the trains on the Canarsie Line use to determine their exact position and speed. Since a free axel (axel with no motor) was not available on the R143’s Siemens decided to use a laser based linear scan speed detector rather than a traditional tachometer. The laser is mounted on the bogie and scans the track and calculates the speed and distance travelled based on the change in collimated light seen. This positioning device has “generated a significant increase in the maintenance as it requires frequent cleaning of the camera lenses and chamber” and “the performance of the system is also affected when trains are stopped on curves as the device cannot take adequate pictures of the rail.”[9] As a result the MTA and Siemens are replacing the OSMES system with redundant tachometers and accelerometers. For reference the Flushing Line CBTC trains use free axels which are equipped with a tachometer, speedometer and IMU to get positional information.[10]

          In terms of reliability it has been documented that during commissioning and initial use the CBTC system was actually less reliable than the block signaling system due to various software bugs and car interfaces issues. These issues however can be expected on any large engineering project and after being resolved, NYCT indicated that subsequent major failures of the CBTC system have been rare and the probability of having such failures in the future is very remote.[11]

          Just to give you a sense of how complicated re-signaling a line is, we can simply look at London who had a failed re-signaling project that resulted in TFL having £886m less to spend on infrastructure projects.[12] After Bombardier’s failure the contract was given to Thales, the same vendor doing the CBTC work on the Flushing Line.

          @”Compatibility, and expansion capability”

          Because of the interconnectedness of the NYCT property the MTA, properly so, decided to design a set CBTC/ATO/AWS “Interface Interoperability Specifications” to assure interconnectedness between various CBTC subsystems thus allowing multiple vendors to supply different portions of the entire system after become qualified/certified. This strategy of a modular procurement is based off of the strategy the RATP in Paris has pioneered for its CBTC re-signaling projects. [13]

          You seem to take issue with the choice of radio selected and link a document that recommends inductive loop over radio based communications. You are correct that choice of radio they made was somewhat flawed. They set out to have multiple radio systems that were interoperable and instead ended up with a single proprietary radio with Siemens owning the intellectual property. This is a failure of the MTA management not following its own advice of having open interfaces. However, it should be noted that the result isn’t as cataclysmic as you make it seem. The QBL West Phase 1 will use the same radio’s used on the Canarsie Line. This vendor lock-in is clearly detrimental to MTA’s bargaining capability and leaves them open to price gauging which is why they have decided to enter into long-term agreements with Siemens over the radio availability and pricing.[14] The issues you point out with the radio selection being proprietary are true, but there is no indication that the radios are the cause of failures occurring on the Canarsie Line post CBTC installation.

          With respect to expansion capability, QBL West Phase 1 project plans today indicate that the onboard car equipment will be Siemens based and Thales providing the zone controllers and ATS. Time will tell how well this project will work but this is a clear indication that they do have interoperable equipment.[15] On top of this they have a third contractor, Mitsubishi, who is currently qualifying their equipment on the Culver test track to become a third vendor[16] after Alstom dropped out.

          @Addendum

          I completely agree with you that the signaling system is not responsible for some of the issues we see today. I also agree that CBTC on its own will not cure all the problems. Does the MTA’s management of these projects have room for improvement? Yes, however CBTC and its associated technologies do bring a host of improvements beyond higher capacity and reduced maintenance including higher safety for workers and passengers alike (including avoiding another Unioin Station Derailment [17]) and less need for employees operating trains. Former CEO Tom Prendergast even has mentioned some of the lessons learned during the project during an interview, principally doing the car born upgrades, interlocking modernization and CBTC installation as 3 separate activities, rather than as a monolithic project.[18] As a result most interlockings modernized since 2005 are CBTC ready.

          The Canarsie Line project clearly had a significant learning curve for the agency, but the project is by no means a disaster as you put it. Belittling the agency or the technology as whole because you don’t like some of the decisions management made is unfair and unproductive.

          If I have made any mistakes or omissions in my analysis feel free to let me know.

          [1] http://s3.documentcloud.org/do.....-m-t-a.pdf (Page 8)
          [2] https://www.transit.dot.gov/sites/fta.dot.gov/files/docs/FTA_REPORT_No._0045.pdf (Page 64)
          [3] http://web.mta.info/nyct/procu.....755sol.pdf (Page 8, note that the TPH numbers referenced in the synopsis is service delivered TPH, not maximum TPH the line supports)
          [4] http://library.rpa.org/pdf/RPA-Moving-Forward.pdf (Page 22)
          [5] https://www.ttc.ca/About_the_TTC/Projects/Automatic_Train_Control/index.jsp
          [6] http://www.irse.org/nearyou/pu.....202017.pdf (Page 32)
          [7] http://library.rpa.org/pdf/RPA-Moving-Forward.pdf (Page 64)
          [8] http://library.rpa.org/pdf/RPA-Moving-Forward.pdf (Page 43)
          [9] http://library.rpa.org/pdf/RPA-Moving-Forward.pdf (Page 66)
          [10] http://web.mta.info/mta/news/b.....0_CPOC.pdf (Page 10)
          [11] http://library.rpa.org/pdf/RPA-Moving-Forward.pdf (Page 63)
          [12] http://londonist.com/2016/03/s.....qus_thread
          [13] http://library.rpa.org/pdf/RPA-Moving-Forward.pdf (Page 35)
          [14] http://www.irse.org/knowledge/.....v%2003.pdf
          [15] http://www.railwayage.com/inde.....tract.html
          [16] http://www.mta.info/news-cbtc-.....ed-install
          [17] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1991_Union_Square_derailment
          [18] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=obGxUx3miik (Starts at 6:20)

      • Larry Littlefield says:

        The bad news is that as a result of pauses in signal replacement, some of the systems on the IND are more than 75 years old, which is considered 15 years past their useful life and beyond the “drop dead” date.

        The worse news is that signals installed in the past two decades seem to fail as frequently as the old ones.

        The worst news it that while the cost of everything else electronic plunges, the cost of signal replacement soars, with no explanation or even discussion.

        • Stephen Bauman says:

          The worst news it that while the cost of everything else electronic plunges, the cost of signal replacement soars, with no explanation or even discussion.

          Modern switching design dates from 1940. Prior to that, switching design was more art than science. There were two major industries used relay switching logic prior to 1940: the telephone and railroad industries.

          The telephone industry embraced the new switching logic science; the railroad industry did not. The result was that new industries were attracted to the new and ever improving switching design science, while the railroad industry remained locked into pre-1940 designs and components.

          • Spendmore Wastemor says:

            And of course we continue to install idiots to run stuff, because the public likes idiots and, usually, hates technical competence.

  3. BrooklynBus says:

    Just perfect.

  4. JJJJ says:

    Cuomo is the absolute worst kind of politician. We all most work together to ensure that in 2010, he gets no further than Martin O’Malley did.

  5. Waldo Grade says:

    Great discussion on some fundamental controlling issues underlying the complexities in modernizing the old war horse known as the subway system. But back to Cuomo for a moment. Even the casual observer of the MTA knows that over the last four years, Andy has inserted himself into every “public-facing” issue involving its operations: stations, subway cars, buses, etc. He has ruthlessly ransacked state of good repair funding to support vanity and unnecessary modifications in stations, totally upended long deployed car/bus procurements in order to rebrand exteriors or add goofy add-ons, e.g. phone chargers, etc. Not one procurement can be advertised unless his staff has approved it, subjecting critical work to wasteful delays. The repairs to the Canarsie Tube should have been initiated a year ago, but have been delayed by the Cuomo Team’s second and third guessing every detail of the repair and procurement approach, the schedule of outages and the project’s duration. On 2nd Ave, Andy’s almost daily presence on-site was disruptive and resulted in an “opening” which was a great ceremony but which masked the fact that a huge amount of work was incomplete and needed to continue but now under costly, unsafe operating conditions. For one to witness, Andy’s presence and influence over all aspects of the MTA, one need only take a walk down the corridors of its 20th floor HQ where dozens of his handpicked minions occupy seats of power.

  6. Mike D says:

    Was really great to see you getting recognition in the NYT this past week, Ben. This blog has been my go to source for transit news, and has been ahead of the curve in almost every single way.

    It’s clear that the maintenance chickens are coming home to roost. I, for one, will be writing Mr. Cuomo’s office weekly until he commits to finding a sustainable funding source for transit investment and 2. dedicating real resources to expanding capacity and decreasing delays. Glamorous infrastructure projects don’t help the vast majority of straphangers! This piece on Gothamist is enough to make my blood boil.”

    Stop treating NYC residents like suckers, Governor. The city is starting to see through your charade.

  7. Peter L says:

    Political dynasties are bad. *I* would never have voted for John Quincy Adams, for example. I thought it was a bad idea when Bill Clinton’s wife ran (even if she did end up being better than the alternative). Even Jerry Brown, who has a successful and much longer record than his father, won his first election because of his name. At least with those examples, the relative (or progeny) was qualified to hold the office (well, maybe not Jerry, but he’s done just fine). In Cuomo The Younger’s case, that’s clearly not true.

    Dynasties = bad.

    • Fool says:

      I would have voted for JQA over Jackson while complaining about dynasties any day.

      Just like I voted for Clinton over Trump.

      • Spendmore Wastemor says:

        The Adams family was actually worthy of office. Today’s political spectre more resembles the family Addams.

  8. Lady Feliz says:

    I finally got so sick of waiting and waiting and waiting for NYC to do something about its abysmal subway system that I actually moved out of my beloved city. It occurred to me that the city, the state, and the MTA really just doesn’t give a shit about you, your commute, or your complaints via blogging. I was pushing 50 at the time I moved and didn’t want to put up with 1.5 hour commutes twice a day for the next 20 years. I live out west now, my commute is literally six minutes each way by car, and the weather is capital-G gorgeous. I make the same decent annual salary as NYC and my rent is half of what it would be had I stayed.

    It was hard at first, but you can get used to six minute commutes, 72-and-sunny every day, and a ton of nice restaurants REALLY quickly. Last time I came back to NYC to visit and rode the subway, everyone was dressed in black and had that death stare. Couldn’t wait to get back home after that, and left NYC two days early because it was soooo depressing.

    Pull the trigger folks and get out of Dodge while you can.

    • Spendmor Wastemor says:

      Smart move!

      What line of work allowed you to make an x-country transfer and maintain income? I suspect many in NYC stay because their job/career is based here.

    • David M says:

      I’m curious – where’d you move to? I’m guessing Southern California, but where specifically?

    • Waldo Grade says:

      …and yet you still read Second Ave Sagas…

      I moved from So Cal over 20 years ago and enjoy my occasional return visits. But warts and all, NYC is home.

      Glad it worked out for you.

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>