Home MTA Economics Report: Stimulus dollars for transit remain unspent

Report: Stimulus dollars for transit remain unspent

by Benjamin Kabak

These days, the MTA’s federal stimulus grants have become hot topics of conversation. Some would prefer to use the legally permissible 10 percent siphoned from the stimulus grant to help cover the ever-widening operating deficit. Others don’t feel comfortable taking money away from the also financially distressed capital budget. But what if the money isn’t being spent?

According to a report issued recently by the New York Building Congress, few of the city’s $1.57 billion in transportation stimulus funds have spent. In fact, the city itself has spent only $857,000 of that money, and while the MTA has spent more of its allotted dollars, spending is far off pace. Of the MTA, the NYBC said:

According to the State Comptroller’s figures, the MTA has spent $39,000 of stimulus funds on a bridge replacement on South First Avenue over the MetroNorth Railroad. Approximately $10.9 million is earmarked for this project.

At the end of 2009, no federal stimulus money had been spent on the two MTA projects slated to receive the most ARRA funds; the Fulton Street Transit Center, which is expected to receive $423 million, and the Second Avenue Subway, which has been approved for $276 million.

According to MTA, the agency has been allocated a total of $1.075 billion in ARRA funds and has awarded contracts worth $886 million. However, the MTA acknowledges that just $14 million has been spent to date.

This data underscores a point I’ve made about the stimulus grants in the first place. Generally, shovel-ready projects were mostly funded, and the MTA — along with many other state organizations — used its stimulus dollars to cover project deficits. NYBC’s head echoed this sentiment.

“As New York City nears the first anniversary of federal stimulus legislation, we remain greatly concerned about the slow pace of capital spending on transportation projects,” NYBC President Richard T. Anderson said. “Virtually all of the stimulus money spent and received to date has been devoted to programs designed to lessen the impact of the economic downturn on individuals, bolster the operating budgets of local governments, or fund small-scale construction projects. While such spending is important, it does little to stimulate the broader economy, create new jobs and prepare the region for renewed growth.”

So what is to be done? If anything, this latest development strengthens the case for the Russianoff Plan. Congress passed the stimulus money in order to stimulate the economy, and an operating budget crisis at the MTA will lead to job losses that we as a city would prefer to avoid. If those federal dollars can be used to avert some cuts and some staff reductions, then, the money would be going to good use. Of course, some of the payroll fat at the MTA deserves to be cut, and some of the efficiency-based service changes should be implemented anyway. As of now, though, this money is just sitting there.

I’m still not on board with the Russianoff Plan, but I can see where this debate is leading. Eventually, the MTA, faced with a huge debt and a pile of unused cash just sitting there, will take some of the stimulus funds from projects that, in a few years, will need more money. The economics of it all just keep getting more and more muddled as time goes on.

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Scott E February 5, 2010 - 8:15 am

How has no stimulus money been spent on Fulton St. and Second Ave Subway? There’s been work going on for quite some time here — after the stimulus grants were awarded. Is the money earmarked for more specific aspects of the project only? Maybe utility relocation (Second Ave) and existing corridor/passageway/staircase realignment (Fulton St.) doesn’t qualify? Is the MTA paying for this out of their own pockets?

Redbird February 5, 2010 - 10:42 am

The work currently progressing at Second Avenue was started before the Stimulus and was thus funded by previous funding allocations. The current money allocated for SAS will likely go toward the next contract for the 72nd street caverns and short tunnels linking to the existing tunnels. This job is out to bid now and is set to bid in late March. By the middle of the year, the work should be well underway. Also, the Fulton Street above-grade structure is to be bid in the next few months as well so monies will be spent soon on this job. A smaller project (the Dey Street Corridor finishes) was bid using stimulus money and will soon be awarded by the MTA so work will start on that.

Something that people need to keep in mind is that many of these mega contracts take several years and payments to contractors lag several months behind work put in place (as the full NYBC report mentioned) so more work may have been done but not paid for yet. One cannot assume that someone will magically snap their fingers and $275M in work can happen. Plus, you can’t start these projects without full funding in place as few (if any) contractors would bid knowing they may not be paid for their work. Indeed, MTA has encumbered over $800M of its money so you can’t say they have just sat on their money. This stimulus funding has kept these mega projects alive and ensured that they will continue.

Streetsblog New York City » Today’s Headlines February 5, 2010 - 8:58 am

[…] …And Even Though Stim Cash for Mega-Projects Isn't Creating Many Jobs (SAS) […]

Older and Wiser February 5, 2010 - 8:58 am

Stimulus dollars, construction dollars, it doesn’t really matter at this point. It’s no time to be building a new two-car garage if you can’t afford to gas up the family car in the first place (or feed the family for that matter).

What the MTA clearly needs at this point is enough cash to buy a year’s worth of time. The magnitude of reorganization it will take to reduce deep structural deficits cannot be done, or even properly analyzed, overnight. If provided a temporary modicum of converted capital, Jay Walder would be able, by mid-2011 to come up with a leaner, more fit MTA.

Boris February 5, 2010 - 11:16 am

I can see the headlines now: “The MTA has more money- why is it laying off workers?” The MTA exists in an environment where all anybody ever wants to do is “buy a year’s worth of time.” That strategy has failed repeatedly in the last 40 years. The MTA is short on operating money not because the problem is intractable, but because the solutions are politically unpopular. And the MTA has little sway over the politicians.

It will take a major catastrophe for people to wake up and realize what the real problem is: inaction in Albany. At this point, I’d rather have the catastrophe now and all at once, rather than later and spread out. That’s the only way it’ll make headlines.

Benjamin Kabak February 5, 2010 - 11:17 am

I think we’re watching that catastrophe unfold. If the budget projections are true, the MTA will have to raise its fares or fire a lot of people or cut service to unacceptable levels this year. If Albany won’t remove its collective head from its ass, the MTA can’t close an $800 million budget gap without these measures.

Mike February 5, 2010 - 12:49 pm

The MTA needs to just immediately cut service in a major way and stop wasting time with the threats!!! This is the ONLY way that albany and Bloomberg step up and do something.

Yes I know that NYC is broke but that shouldn’t be an excuse to not pay there “fair” share of money to the transit system that benefits the city more than any other region of the state.

Walter Sobchak February 6, 2010 - 4:16 am

Off topic, but I HATE how even official publications get a major regional railroad’s name wrong, and it is an insult to the railroad that it’s name is noted incorrectly. It’s not “the MetroNorth Railroad,” it’s “MTA Metro-North Railroad” or even simply “Metro-North Railroad.” “Metro North” or the old Metro-North Commuter Railroad” could even work.

John of the Bronx February 7, 2010 - 8:02 pm

The main problem with the Russianoff Plan is that it isn’t specific enough. The MTA responds that it doesn’t want to endanger any of its projects/programs. It is necessary to name the programs:

1. Fulton Transit Center, i.e. the domed building in particular. This has no popular support and is not even a transportation project–it’s for tourists. Even the MTA’s ex-chief, Lee Sander, said that the money should be spent on real transportation projects. The project should be stopped with the major connecting passageways and the rest of the money diverted to the Operating Budget.

2. CBTC/OPTO/Automation: The MTA wants to spend 327 million on CBTC for the #7 and to begin the E/F lines in its capital plan. Subway riders, the TWU, and most City Councilpeople hate this project. It will result in a de-humanized subway which the people do not want and will drive people away from mass transit. Even the line that more trains will be run is exagerrated: 2 would be added to the 7 and 3 to the E/F. For all that money, it’s not worth it.

The overall problem is that the MTA is an independant public authority and its policies are isolated from the political process. The MTA does whatever they want whether the public likes it or not. Yet, they need public money! Ex-Councilman Tony Avella is right that our subways should be severed from the MTA and run by NYC i.e. the mayor and the City Council. Neither the Fulton Street Transit Center nor CBTC would ever have been approved.

Alon Levy February 7, 2010 - 8:42 pm

John, I get your criticism of Fulton Street Temple, but CBTC is a different issue. The ability to run 30 tph is crucial for a crowded subway, and sometimes even 2 extra tph make all the difference. For example: right now the LIRR runs 26 tph on the Main Line, whereas its signaling supports 24 tph; therefore, it runs trains one-way, with no reverse peak service for one hour in the morning and one in the afternoon. Even an increase of capacity to 26 tph would make the Main Line far more attractive.

While I think having the subways run by the city would be a good thing, I don’t think it would cut the Fulton Street waste. The city was perfectly capable of funding the 7 extension boondoggle on its own.

John of the Bronx February 8, 2010 - 9:56 am

The key question for CBTC is: “Is it worth the cost?” 586 million (total cost) for the #7. Plus, severe service disruptions and probably some hidden costs such as operating shuttle buses during service disruptions, far more expensive subway cars, hiring expensive computer consultants to run the system, etc. To save money, the MTA has bought new subway cars in 4 and 5 car sets. In case of a breakdown, the entire set is out of service. The married pair concept was ideal.

I agree that even 1 extra train makes a difference but again, 586 million for 2 extra trains!

The MTA argues that CBTC will save costs in the long run. How? By eliminating the conductors position! OPTO is a big policy mistake. NYC trains are 8, 10 and 11 cars long and need 2 people. It’s too much for one person. As noted above, specialists would have to be hired to maintain the system. What would the net savings be?

In off-peak hours, people cluster in the 1st car and the middle cars. They feel safer and, I feel, are safer because of the conductor.

A subway train run by a motorperson is basically an independent entity. Imagine if someone, particularly a terrorist, hacked into the system! There is no computer that is completely tamper-proof.

Aging signals should be replaced by far less expensive conventional ones. And, I do not agree with the line that only computerized trains can run more closely together. The TWU people store trains in yards right next to each other and we don’t hear about “regular” crashes.

So, is it worth the cost? I don’t think so. Money should be invested in the so-called Queens by-pass which would yield far more trains.

I’ll comment on the #7 later.

Alon Levy February 8, 2010 - 12:23 pm

Long trains routinely run OPTO in other cities. The Moscow Metro system is entirely OPTO; trains there are up to 160 meters long. Singapore’s MRT, the Shanghai Metro, the Tokyo subway – all of them run trains as long as the longest trains in New York with just one person (zero people, sometimes).

The part about terrorist hacking is pure FUD. The automatic train stop system is the same as before – if the train runs a red line, it’s automatically stopped. And terrorists do not hack those systems anyway outside of TV shows. In Tokyo they released sarin gas instead of try to make a train crash; in Madrid they exploded bombs at the station; in London they exploded bombs on the trains.

Russell Warshay February 8, 2010 - 1:46 pm

“The key question for CBTC is: “Is it worth the cost?””

$568 million for two more trains? Yeah, that’s definitely worth the cost. That money will be amortized over a sufficiently long period of time so that it will pay for itself.

“NYC trains are 8, 10 and 11 cars long and need 2 people. It’s too much for one person.”

That’s a fallacy propagated by the TWU. If other systems can do this, than so can New York.

“…specialists would have to be hired…”

Um, what specialists? To maintain supporting equipment for the train operator to perform a conductor’s job?

“What would the net savings be?”

What does the MTA pay conductors each year, including all benefits? I don’t have the answer in front of me, but that should be at least hundreds of millions each year.

Totally worth it, and the sooner the better.

Alon Levy February 8, 2010 - 4:29 pm

I don’t think the savings from conductor-free trains would be even in the mid-tens of millions. The 7 runs about 250 trains per day per direction, with a total roundtrip time of a little more than an hour. That’s about 2,000 train-hours a week, or 50 conductors. Conductors don’t make millions of dollars.

It’s a saving, and the extra capacity is another saving, but it’s not that huge a deal. The main benefit of super-expensive OPTO implementations is that they allow the MTA to implement cheaper OPTO in the future.

Russell Warshay February 8, 2010 - 5:37 pm

Even if its not hundreds of millions per year, it is still significant. Based on your numbers above, 50 conductors, including benefits, should cost the MTA $4 million/year. That’s just for the 7 train. Add in the other lines, and I’m guesstimating $20-40 million/year.

The numbers probably get very interesting with LIRR and MetroNorth.

Alon Levy February 8, 2010 - 9:30 pm

With LIRR and Metro-North, the numbers are a slam dunk for three reasons:

1. Five conductors per train instead of one.

2. The LIRR and Metro-North unions have gotten their members exorbitant pay, which the TWU has not.

3. Implementing proof of payment costs very little.

Bear in mind, going for OPTO on the existing line shouldn’t cost too much, either. The 42nd Street shuttle ran automatically for a few years in the 1950s, and the L ran OPTO without CBTC for a while. Just move the CCTV screens at the platforms to the front of the train.

Russell Warshay February 9, 2010 - 4:14 pm

I just found a number. According to this NPR piece, the subway system has 3,000 conductors.

If the MTA pays $80,000 (a guess) per conductor/year including benefits, that’s $240 million.

Looks like subway conductors really are an unaffordable luxury.

Andrew February 8, 2010 - 10:47 pm

The signals on the Flushing line are very old – the entire signal system needs to be replaced soon, either with CBTC or with a new fixed-block system. If you’re going to complain about the cost of installing CBTC, do you plan to compare it with the cost of installing a new fixed-block system that maintains or exceeds the capacity of the existing one? Fixed-block signal systems aren’t cheap either.

OPTO (which is independent of CBTC, so I don’t know why you lump them together) is used by nearly all rail transit systems around the globe – both newer and older than ours, running trains both shorter and longer than ours. (But I don’t understand why one conductor per train is enough for you. Maybe there should be one per car. Or even one per door! Why not?)

The existing signal system has plenty of specialists. You’d be replacing one kind of specialist with another. I’ll bet CBTC specialists aren’t as costly as wayside signal specialists, since they can do a lot of their work from their desks. Wayside signals are extremely maintenance-intensive, and most of that maintenance takes place on the right-of-way of an active railroad.

In off-peak hours, people fill up all cars. Have you ridden the subway in the past 15 years?

Perhaps you’re unaware of the field of computer security, but somehow I doubt that a terrorist would be able to simply log into the CBTC system remotely. How do I know that the train operator on the train I board tomorrow morning isn’t a terrorist?

Yard trackage doesn’t have full signal protection. Trains move slowly in yards and passengers aren’t allowed on trains in yards. Signal protection on mainline trackage keeps trains safely separated:

The Queens bypass has nothing to do with the Flushing line. It would also be exceedingly expensive, and it wouldn’t address the aging signal system on the Flushing line that needs to be replaced.

Russell Warshay February 7, 2010 - 9:31 pm

“It will result in a de-humanized subway which the people do not want and will drive people away from mass transit.”

Do you have any proof that people don’t want CBTC, or that it “will drive people away from mass transit?”

Most people with whom I speak could care less about CBTC, and really don’t care about the presence of people operating the train. They only care about trains that are frequent, reliable, comfortable and safe.

Alon Levy February 7, 2010 - 11:15 pm

Wait, the assertion was supposed to be that CBTC was equivalent to automatic train operation? That’s just stupid…

John of the Bronx February 8, 2010 - 10:08 am

The MTA calls subway riders “its customers.” Companies spend millions in trying to determine what their customers want and design their products accordingly. In contrast, the MTA goes against what their “customers” want.

Do you remember the huge protests over the closing of the token booths? These continue even today as more and more booths are closed and the wandering station agents are removed. The people have simply given up trying to fight–especially when they feel that fighting the omnipotent MTA is a waste of time.

On the so-called “Robo-Train.” John Liu heard hearings on this and not one councilperson supported the idea. The Daily News published a poll on 10/22/09 p. 28 in which only 6% of the respondents felt money should be spent on computerized trains. In the Bronx, I have yet to meet a person who does not complain about stations without station agents and who likes the idea of eliminating the conductor–a central feature of the “Robo-Train.”

The “prime directive” is to encourage people to leave their cars at home and to use mass transit. In off-peak hours, I guess that we will never know just how many people hop into their cars and avoid the subway because their nearest station entrance has no staff.

Russell Warshay February 8, 2010 - 10:54 am

“The MTA calls subway riders “its customers.” Companies spend millions in trying to determine what their customers want and design their products accordingly. In contrast, the MTA goes against what their “customers” want.”

Most companies also have to turn a profit or they go out of business. Customer needs are met as long as they fit in a viable business model. No company fulfills all customer wishes without regard to cost.

“Do you remember the huge protests over the closing of the token booths?”

There were not “huge” protests over this, they were dominated by TWU members, not riders.

“These continue even today as more and more booths are closed and the wandering station agents are removed. The people have simply given up trying to fight–especially when they feel that fighting the omnipotent MTA is a waste of time.”

Most people were never fighting this at all as these employees are widely viewed as rude, lazy and unnecessary.

“On the so-called “Robo-Train.” John Liu heard hearings on this and not one councilperson supported the idea. The Daily News published a poll on 10/22/09 p. 28 in which only 6% of the respondents felt money should be spent on computerized trains. In the Bronx, I have yet to meet a person who does not complain about stations without station agents and who likes the idea of eliminating the conductor–a central feature of the “Robo-Train.””

Not one councilperson has to balance the MTA’s budget, so they can pander to constituencies with irrational issues. That Daily News poll was a reader poll, and it was not scientifically conducted. Its not valid evidence.

“The “prime directive” is to encourage people to leave their cars at home and to use mass transit. In off-peak hours, I guess that we will never know just how many people hop into their cars and avoid the subway because their nearest station entrance has no staff.”

There is no correlation. If, however, redundant personnel were eventually eliminated, and the cost savings were used to improve service, ridership would climb.

Going back to your statement that “It will result in a de-humanized subway which the people do not want and will drive people away from mass transit,” where is the proof? All that you have provided are personal observations, cynical positions by politicians and unscientific polling data.

John of the Bronx February 8, 2010 - 7:16 pm

I absolutely disagree with several of your statements:

1)”They were not huge protests…dominated by TWU and not riders.:

I was a member of the Token Booth Coalition, I testified at the public hearings and heard the testimony of many people–not TWU members–bitterly opposed to this policy.

Today, articles regularly appear in local newspapers whenever a booth is closed or an agent removed denoucing it. At my station which is not in a bad neighborhood, the overwhleming majority of riders enter and exit on the side with the token booth–even with the extra walk. The side without the token booth keeps the local precinct busy in evicting vagrants and drug dealers.

2)”Most people were never fighting this at all…since these employees are widely viewed as rude, lazy and unnecessary.”

HOW CAN YOU CONDEMN A WHOLE GROUP OF EMPLOYEES! Yes, a few are lazy and rude but most are definitely not. They are very necessary as a safety feature. The “Off Hour Waiting Areas” make sense only with station agents and are a necessary component of public safety.

I don’t consider politicians a heroic class but your condemnation is far too severe.

3) We are at a stalemate. I cannot provide a reputable poll to demonstrate my position and you cannot do the same for your position.

Thus, we agree to disagree and it’s time to move on. Thank you for your comments.

Benjamin Kabak February 8, 2010 - 7:19 pm

Today, articles regularly appear in local newspapers whenever a booth is closed or an agent removed denoucing it.

And yet, subway crime isn’t up and ridership isn’t down. The booth clerks, as I’ve written numerous times, gave others the illusion of safety. They couldn’t do anything to stop crime, and in fact, they couldn’t see most of the crimes in subway stations even happening. That’s a false arugment, and just because people support station agents doesn’t mean we should listen to them. Running the MTA by public fiat would lead to a terrible transit system. That’s one of the reasons why the authority exists as a public authority in the first place.

John of the Bronx February 9, 2010 - 9:05 am

Whether in fares, tolls, taxes, etc., the people of NYC pay for their subway and use it the most. To lock them out of mass transit policy is wrong, undemocratic and ultimately self-defeating. That the NY City Council has no power at all over NYC’s own subway & local buses is mind-boggling.

At a NY Civic Forum in July, Assemblyman Richard Brodsky lamented that if mass transit had the public interest and support that education does, things would get done. But why should the people do this if their ideas to quote ex-MTA Board member David Mack “go into the trash can.”

I don’t know what you mean by “public fiat” but I suggested that the Mayor and the City Council have the ultimate say over mass transit policies. If there is a public debate, if what the people want is taken seriously and then a decision is made, it’s more likely that the decision will have strong public support and far better chances of funding.

Today, the MTA makes decisions by fiat. The result: their credibility is almost zero, the agency is hated and getting more transportation funding is extremely difficult.

In the current crisis, the MTA could avert most of the service cuts by following the Russianoff Plan and also, by axing the non-transportation Fulton Transit Center Building. Providing basic services comes first but apparently, not with the MTA.

Democracy is messy but it works in the long run. Bring the people and their elected officials into mass transit policy and we will have a better system and a better funded system in the future.

Alon Levy February 9, 2010 - 11:25 am

People aren’t being locked out of anything. You’re claiming, without evidence, that riders don’t want technological improvements such as OPTO (why? Did they complain about the L? Did they complain about the automated shuttle?) or CBTC. The burden of proof is on you.

Benjamin Kabak February 9, 2010 - 11:52 am

Both the City Council and the State Assembly and Senate have oversight over the MTA, and these politicians drag the MTA heads into hearings far more often than you would suspect.

Having an uninformed electorate — people who are, by choice, largely ignorant on matters of transportation policy — determine everything just isn’t the best solution. That’s why the state establishes these public authorities in the first place. If you feel the public doesn’t have enough say, the solution is more oversight.

I’m still like to hear you explain how, despite the lack of do-nothing station agents — people not required by law to do anything in the event of a crime — crime is down and ridership is up. Those station agents offered the illusion of safety and nothing more. Maybe for a handful of people that matters for ten seconds, but once you’re on the platform, the station agents can’t do anything, see anything or help anyone.

John of the Bronx February 9, 2010 - 6:57 pm

If you’re “still waiting,” here I am!

Crime is down on all levels and in all areas. I hope this trend continues but no one can guarantee that it will.

One of the best features of the stations is the off-hour waiting area. Many people use but it would become obsolete without station agents. Oh yes, we would have intercoms but would they even work?

Planning to eliminate them, the MTA reduced their tasks such as single rides or receipts for monthlies, etc. Station agents also give directions, buzz people with luggage or carriages through gates, are in a fixed location so that anyone needing help knows where to go whether crime or sick passenger or some other problem. Oh yes, we will have intercoms. But will they work.

Station agents and conductors are an institution in the subways and are vital to the perception, not illusion, of safety. Would you like to enter an empty station or sit in an empty subway car? Perhaps, you are not old enough and therefore, fortunate not to have experienced the crime wave in the late twentieth century.

People not gadgets increase the comfort level and well-being of subway riders and are vital. I will always support the retention of both the conductors and the agents.

Here is an example of an issue which should be decided by the elected representatives of the people and not imposed by a band of omnipotent technocrats beyond the public reach.

Russell Warshay February 9, 2010 - 9:49 am


I didn’t. Please re-read what I wrote. The key phrase is “widely viewed as”

Alon Levy February 8, 2010 - 12:24 pm

OPTO isn’t a robo-train. It’s a train with an employee.

John of the Bronx February 8, 2010 - 7:01 pm

I appreciate all your comments! We generally agree on the Fulton Transit Center and NYC running its own subways and buses.

We must agree to disagree on CBTC/OPTO. Our system, built in the early 20th century, was not built for CBTC: we have extra sharp curves (as between Queensboro Plaza and Hunter’s Point) and most lines don’t have tail tracks which are critical in adding more trains. I feel that money (when available) should be spent on subway expansion, BRT and light rail.

I will never be swayed on OPTO. I am not affiliated with TWU in any way but agree with their position. OPTO is my biggest objection to CBTC. What works in “other cities,” a favorite MTA line, is not necessarily best for NYC.

I know that there will be an employee on a CBTC run train but call it “Robotrain” which is used by the City Councilpeople. It was Simcha Felder who raised the issue of computer hacking. The MTA response was “we never thought of it.”

Moving on, you called the the #7 extension a boondoggle. Not quite. Building a subway line in anticipation of major development was the rationale behind the Dual Contracts. And there definitely will be major development on the Far West Side. I am not a complete fan of the #7 extension because it won’t provide a station at 10th Avenue for the residents of Hell’s Kitchen.

When this was discussed back in 2000-2001, I actively campaigned for extending the L train via the High Line to 34th St. with new stations at 10th Ave./14th St. and at 23rd St. This line could have been extended north beyond 34th St. But, the Friends of the High Line locked the support of community residents to use an excellent rail line as a park. They succeeded.

Likewise, Vision 42 was not given the proper attention. It would have been far less costly and the light rail could easily have been expanded in any direction.

Alon Levy February 8, 2010 - 9:27 pm

The Dual Contracts expanded into areas that were doubling in population every decade. The Far West of Manhattan is increasing at, what, 10% per decade? It’s not the same. Meanwhile, an existing neighborhood got shafted with the 41st/10th station. Bloomberg, as we all know, does not actually care about residents, only developers.

I read the Vision42 reports a few months ago. The proposed construction cost was $200 million per route-km, which is a little less expensive than new deep-level subways in Paris and a little more expensive than new deep-level subways in Copenhagen.

OPTO/CBTC doesn’t have anything to do with curves, or tail tracks, or age. Paris and London both use OPTO, I believe, and both are working on automating their busiest lines, some of which were built before any subway in New York. Capacity has nothing to do with curves or tail tracks or age, either. Trains run at 30 tph on two-track lines with sharp curves and no tail tracks. Hell, they run 30 tph on the Lex and QB express lines, in principle.

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