Stephen J. Smith provides analysis of a recent report by the Regional Planning Association (RPA) about the implementation of Communications-Based Train Control (CBTC) on the New York City subway system.
As explained by Smith, CBTC is the remaining option for improving train service on urban transit systems like New York's—organizational fixes are maxed out, and construction is prohibitively expensive. But "London, Paris, Madrid and other cities in Western Europe are making great strides in equipping their generations-old lines with CBTC, while Japan has systems that achieve similar results." However, "New York City, as always, is the laggard."
The MTA, however, is targeting CBTC upgrades of 16 track-miles per year. "Up until now, the MTA has averaged only four track-miles of CBTC upgrades per year," reports Smith. The RPA report recommends 21 track-miles a year.
Smith's analysis provides additional insight into the complexities of upgrading the MTA system as well as more of the benefits of the switch, beyond increased speed and capacity in the system: "CBTC systems are also more resilient than complex traditional signaling systems. The L train’s transponders survived five days under the salt water that Sandy washed in, while the old 'fixed block' systems required much more work to get back in working order."