MTA unveils multibillion-dollar plan to save the subways

The MTA on Tuesday released its new plan to tackle problems with the city subway system. NY1's Jose Martinez filed the following report.

A rescue for a subway system reeling from increasing delays, derailments and overcrowding.

"The New York City subway system, no doubt, is in distress, and we're here looking for solutions," said MTA Chairman Joe Lhota.

On Tuesday, the new MTA chairman unveiled a 25-point plan of immediate fixes for the aging system, addressing the major causes of service disruptions: car breakdowns, signals, track and power problems, water damage and track fires. A long-term plan will be proposed later this summer.

"We've got to take this system and get it out of the late 19th century and get it into the 21st century as quickly as we possibly can," Lhota said.

The plan will increase the number of subway cars overhauled to 1,100 a year from 950. And to ease overcrowding, the MTA will add cars to C trains, and remove seats from some cars on the L line and the 42nd Street shuttle.

"We're not doing this citywide yet," Lhota said. "We want to test it. We want to understand the best way to configure and reonfigure our cars."

The plan targets a leading cause of delays, a World War II-era signal system, by repairing 1,300 of the most problematic signals by the end of next year.

"We have the technology to know exactly where to prioritize those in the busiest parts of the city," Lhota said.

And Lhota promised specific and timely on-board announcements about service problems rather than generic explanations like "train traffic ahead."

"Let's tell the people. They deserve to know exactly what's causing the delay," Lhota said. "It doesn't make sense with having these recorded announcements."

To combat track fires, station cleaning will increase 30 percent. And to cut delays, the number of EMTs in the subway to help sick passengers will double.  

Politicians and transit advocates praised the plan, but not the planned removal of some seats.

"People are not going to like that. They're not going to see that as an efficiency," said Gene Russianoff of Straphangers Campaign. "They're going to see that as putting the burden on them at the end of the day."

The quick fix will cost nearly $1 billion, and the MTA is pressing City Hall for a 50/50 split. 

And as the one who presented the subway rescue plan, Lhota says he's the one who will be ultimately held responsible whether it fails or flies. 

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