The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is taking a step toward easing the crunch of commuters along four subway lines along one of the busiest stretches of the system, beneath Queens Boulevard and into Manhattan in Queens. Riders on the E, F, M and R lines shouldn't expect any immediate relief, though. NY1's Jose Martinez filed this report.

It tops subway riders' wish lists and that of the MTA: more breathing room on trains that run more frequently.

"For the most part, they're just excessively crowded," one rider says. 

"We have to wait for everybody to come in and that takes a few more minutes," says another.

The MTA's solution won't come quickly—or cheap.

It's called Communications Based Train Control, a modern signaling system that's presently only on the L, and is being installed over several years on the number 7 line.

CBTC allows more trains to run per hour, boosting capacity on a system being stretched by nearly six million riders each weekday.

"The system is at or above capacity on almost every line during morning rush hours, so what we need to do is spread out the crowd," says Sarah Kaufman of the NYC Rudin Center for Transportation.

On Monday, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority approved a $205 million in contracts to bring CBTC to a busy stretch of the E, F, M and R—the four lines running beneath Queens Boulevard. It's set to start being installed in mid-2017, but won't be fully operational for years.

"The increase in capacity that it gives us, the improvements in safety that it gives us, are so critical to the future of providing transportation," says Carmen Bianco.

It requires new trains and track technology along the length of the line, intricate work that's led to years of work on the 7 and the L.

It took seven years and a billon dollars to install CBTC on the L train. The job on the 7 won't be done until at least 2017.

MTA officials estimate that converting the whole system to CBTC could cost $15 to $20 billion, and then there's the question of when to do the work.

"Many systems have it on their newer lines, as we have it on the L. And in these cities, most of them do not operate 24 hours a day," Kaufman says.

 The current system is nearly a century old, with tower operators using levers to manually operate switches and signals.

"It works, but it's an antiquated way to run a subway," one man says.

It's one where more than just the stations are old.