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M.T.A. Struggles to Deliver New Subway Cars and Signals

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https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/07/nyregion/mta-subway-nyc.html


 

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M.T.A. Struggles to Deliver New Subway Cars and Signals

By EMMA G. FITZSIMMONS MAY 7, 2018

 

An order of 300 new subway cars should have arrived in New York City by January 2017, months before the system was officially declared to be in crisis.

Instead, only 32 of those cars are now on the tracks. The order is at least two years behind schedule.

The new subway cars may not have averted the current emergency, but they sure could have helped. Deploying some of the oldest trains in the world, the subway has been plagued by an increase in breakdowns.

In an effort to save the subway, officials at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority are promising ambitious plans that will cost billions of dollars. But two key projects — the train order and a plan to modernize the signals on the No. 7 line — are significantly behind schedule.

The delays raise a central question: How can subway officials tackle a soup to nuts overhaul of the system when they cannot finish what they have already started?

Any hope that subway riders will see better service in the near future will depend on sweeping changes at an agency that is not known for its nimbleness.

“The M.T.A. doesn’t have to do it two or three times faster — they have to do it five or 10 times faster in order to stick to a timeline that would make a noticeable difference in people’s lives,” said John Raskin, the executive director of the Riders Alliance, an advocacy group.

Instead, the authority has a reputation for finishing projects late and far over budget. The latest embarrassment came last month when the authority acknowledged that a project to build a new train station deep beneath Grand Central Terminal will now cost over $11 billion and will not open until 2022 — about 13 years past the original estimate.

The delayed subway cars, known as R-179s, are being built by Bombardier, a Canadian company that so poorly managed the contract that it was blocked from winning a different order for as many as 1,612 subway cars that could be worth nearly $4 billion. The $740 million contract for the R-179s, which was awarded in 2012, has had problems, including malfunctioning door lights.

Bombardier must produce one car each day to meet its current promise to deliver all of the subway trains by early next year.

At the same time, a plan to install modern signals on the No. 7 line, which connects Manhattan to densely populated neighborhoods in Queens, appears to be delayed again, until the end of this year. The signal work by Thales, a French company, has already taken more than seven years and is at least two years overdue.

The No. 7 line would be the second route to have its signals modernized under a timetable that would not see all of the system’s signals updated for almost 50 years and that officials are striving to accelerate. The L line, which runs between Manhattan and Brooklyn, was the first to receive the new signal system, which is known as communications-based train control, or C.B.T.C.

The subway’s new leader, Andy Byford, said he has spoken frequently with executives from the two companies involved in the overdue projects — Mario Péloquin at Thales and Benoit Brossoit at Bombardier — and had stressed the urgency of finishing the work.

“They’re both on my speed dial,” Mr. Byford said. “I’m all over both projects.”

The two projects promise to bring some relief to frustrated riders, though more comprehensive overhauls are still years away. The new signals on the No. 7 line will allow two or three additional trains to run each hour, reducing wait times and alleviating overcrowding. The new subway cars should break down less frequently, improving reliability.

But with software problems plaguing the new signal system, Thales wants to push back the completion date. The signals were supposed to be installed by April 2016 under a $588 million contract the company won in 2010. Queens residents who live along the No. 7 line have grown exasperated over recurring station closings necessary for the work.

Mr. Byford said he would push for the signals to be finished in the next few months.

“They may be saying the end of 2018 — I’m saying no, this summer,” Mr. Byford said. “I’m insisting they get to the bottom of these software problems.”

Mr. Péloquin, president of Thales’ transportation business in the U.S., said he would work with the transit agency to determine whether the project could be finished earlier.

“It is our goal to deliver a safe system which everyone can be proud of and provides better reliability and on-time performance,” Mr. Péloquin said in a statement.

The transit agency’s most important task now is to regain its credibility so that the public believes it is capable of pulling off a rescue plan, Mr. Raskin said.

“We know that it’s possible to modernize a transit system much more quickly because it’s happened in other places,” Mr. Raskin said, pointing to London, where the subway is older than New York’s and officials have upgraded the signals far more rapidly.

Mr. Byford, who cut his teeth on the transit systems in London and Toronto, plans to release a comprehensive plan to modernize the subway this month. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who controls the authority and is running for re-election this year, has pressed him to upgrade all of the subway signals in under a decade, though Mr. Cuomo has touted a new technology that has not been used on a major transit system.

As for the setbacks on the subway car order and signal work, Mr. Byford blamed the suppliers for failing to meet their deadlines. He is eager to set a new tone.

“I can’t turn the clock back, but I’m determined going forward that we will deliver on our promises,” Mr. Byford said.

The first R-179 cars started to appear on New York’s subway in January. But four months later, with only 32 cars, there are just four, eight-car trains running on the J and Z lines. An additional 21 cars are still being tested.

Bombardier plans to deliver all of the cars by the first quarter of 2019, according to Maryanne Roberts, a spokeswoman for the company. The workers at their factory in Plattsburgh, N.Y., about 300 miles north of the city, are working to finish the cars “as quickly as possible while maintaining the highest standards of quality,” Ms. Roberts said in a statement.

The oldest subway cars, known as R-32s, arrived in the 1960s. They break down more frequently than other cars and should have been retired years ago. While newer cars can travel nearly 500,000 miles between failures, the R-32s go only about 33,000 miles between failures.

Andrew Albert, an M.T.A. board member who represents riders, said the system desperately needs the new Bombardier cars as soon as possible.

“It’s way past time,” Mr. Albert said. “Subway cars are not meant to be kept this long.”


 

 

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Posted (edited)

This isn't the first time that Bombardier has built cars for the (MTA), so why are these cars so delayed? I also am curious to hear about this "new" subway plan and how it differs from the so-called "rescue" plan that promised relief that has yet to arrive? Trains are still insanely crowded off-peak and delayed. Yesterday I took a (D) train from Bryant Park to West 4th street. Two stops... It took almost 15 minutes because we crawled and crawled and crawled. Just ridiculous. If the so called improvements they're doing involve trains moving that slow, they need to just re-route the trains or not run them.

It's become so bad that I basically re-arranged my weekend travels on the subway. I now have to make one trip via the subway instead of two and for a much shorter distance. It may make more sense to just use Uber for the trip. I would probably get Downtown faster than with the subway, which shouldn't be.

Let's see how much money they want for this plan after asking for $836 million just some months ago with nothing to show for it thus far.

Edited by Via Garibaldi 8
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Posted (edited)
57 minutes ago, Via Garibaldi 8 said:

This isn't the first time that Bombardier has built cars for the (MTA)

This also isn't the first time Bombardier built lemon cars. Pretty much anything Bombardier had in the subway had at least some sort of issue while entering service.

 

But yes Bombardier should of at least been able to successfully built these cars, but they obviously didn't learn their lesson, which will definitely cost them the fate of other companies like St. Louis and Orion.

Edited by MysteriousBtrain

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Posted (edited)
3 minutes ago, MysteriousBtrain said:

This also isn't the first time Bombardier built lemon cars. Pretty much anything Bombardier had in the subway had at least some sort of issue while entering service.

I used to live not too far from the Bombardier factory and actually recall when they were building the first set of 142s.  I literally used to see them testing the trains on the tracks up in Plattsburgh.  When I returned to NYC, I remember riding them on the (2) and they were good cars.  This is just a prime example of what happens when you only have a handful of vendors to choose from. Sure the (MTA) banned them from another order, but they'll have to use them again at some point. There just aren't enough options out there.

Edited by Via Garibaldi 8
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1 hour ago, Via Garibaldi 8 said:

This isn't the first time that Bombardier has built cars for the (MTA), so why are these cars so delayed?

Didn't they syphon resources from the rail division to bail out the production delays on the planes and almost go bankrupt in the process?

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4 minutes ago, Deucey said:

Didn't they syphon resources from the rail division to bail out the production delays on the planes and almost go bankrupt in the process?

I don't know, but I do know that Bombardier is very important to Montréal and Plattsburgh. It would be devastating to have them shut down.  That region really depends on them for a lot of the jobs, especially Plattsburgh, so hopefully they get this mess straightened out.

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9 minutes ago, Via Garibaldi 8 said:

I don't know, but I do know that Bombardier is very important to Montréal and Plattsburgh. It would be devastating to have them shut down.  That region really depends on them for a lot of the jobs, especially Plattsburgh, so hopefully they get this mess straightened out.

There was some pat on the back piece in either the Globe and Mail or the Toronto Star about how the CEO rescued it from bankruptcy and turned it's 100-130 jet arm into a joint venture with Airbus, so I figured that's how the "turnaround" happened - focus on the profitable plane division and gut the marginally profitable rail division until the moneymaker makes money again.

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3 minutes ago, Deucey said:

There was some pat on the back piece in either the Globe and Mail or the Toronto Star about how the CEO rescued it from bankruptcy and turned it's 100-130 jet arm into a joint venture with Airbus, so I figured that's how the "turnaround" happened - focus on the profitable plane division and gut the marginally profitable rail division until the moneymaker makes money again.

I wouldn't be shocked. The place was very different when the air force base was open.  Without Bombardier it would be a disaster.  I haven't been in Montréal or Plattsburgh in a while, but I'm sure the local economy is still very dependent on them.

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1 hour ago, MysteriousBtrain said:

This also isn't the first time Bombardier built lemon cars. Pretty much anything Bombardier had in the subway had at least some sort of issue while entering service.

 

But yes Bombardier should of at least been able to successfully built these cars, but they obviously didn't learn their lesson, which will definitely cost them the fate of other companies like St. Louis and Orion.

Bombardier isn’t only delayed with the MTA but the TTC and BART. It’s on their end on why they messed up. These contractors need to be managed better and the agencies that lease them need to set strict guidelines. 

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Posted (edited)
10 minutes ago, Brillant93 said:

Bombardier isn’t only delayed with the MTA but the TTC and BART. It’s on their end on why they messed up. These contractors need to be managed better and the agencies that lease them need to set strict guidelines. 

They can set all of the strict guidelines they want.  As I said before, this is what happens when you don't have choices.  If they ditch Bombardier, who is left to build train cars?  We only seem to use Alstom (France) and Kawasaki (Japan), neither of which are American (neither is Bombardier - Canadian).  Granted they have factories here but still.  The buy American provision essentially stipulates that the trains have to be made here for the (MTA) (I agree that they should be since our tax dollars are paying for them - better to have the monies recycled into the economy than going overseas), but I don't understand why more vendors can't be found. There are basically no true American options available as in an actual American company to build cars because they've all folded to my knowledge. I'm guessing if they did find another vendor, they'd have to build a plant here and then take it from there, which would take a while.

Edited by Via Garibaldi 8

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The problem with the lack of builder options is that nobody seems to be interested, whether it's foreign or domestic. The recent R211 order was shopped around to several builders beyond Kawasaki and Bombardier. Bombardier was eventually banned from the order due to their inability to deliver a product in a timely fashion. Almost immediately afterwards, Chinese car builder CRRC dropped out of the running, possibly due to their ongoing commitments for the CTA, SEPTA and LACMTA, which left only Kawasaki and Alstom as contenders. I understand the concerns for a near-monopoly in the car-building business for the MTA, but when everyone else either drops out or outright refuses to put in a bid for the project, what is the agency to do? They can't delay the bidding process on the hopes someone else will come in at the eleventh hour.

As for the lack of vendors, I think you may have answered your own question. With the stipulation you mentioned above, I have a feeling that most vendors that aren't Kawasaki, Alstom or Siemens don't believe it's worth the expense to shell out for a factory when most transit agencies will continue to use the vendors they currently employ. And because the vendors refuse to spend the money on a bunch of maybes, there's a significant lack of available options. It's a bit of a catch-22, don't you think?

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Department of Subways upper management still refuses to allow the existing signals to be maintained because "the new signals are only a year away." Meanwhile, the new signals have been "only a year away" for several years already.

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, Via Garibaldi 8 said:

  We only seem to use Alstom (France) and Kawasaki (Japan), neither of which are American (neither is Bombardier - Canadian)

Is there even an American railcar company around that can compete with those two in terms of quality? We shouldn't be buying worse equipment on the grounds that they are made by an American company, that's just plain stupid.

 

Also, there's a new Chinese company making stuff for CTA and the MBTA, so it's safe to say that we could see them bidding on some future projects. 

Additionally, if I'm not mistaken, a lot of the reason we only see those two vendors is because there's a requirement that the cars are assembled in New York, if we got rid of that we would see a significant jump in vendors.

 

Edited by kosciusko
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5 minutes ago, kosciusko said:

1. Is there even an American railcar company around that can compete with those two in terms of quality? We shouldn't be buying worse equipment on the grounds that they are made by an American company, that's just plain stupid.

 

2. Also, there's a new Chinese company making stuff for CTA and the MBTA, so it's safe to say that we could see them bidding on some future projects. 

3. Additionally, if I'm not mistaken, a lot of the reason we only see those two vendors is because there's a requirement that the cars are assembled in New York, if we got rid of that we would see a significant jump in vendors.

 

1, 2 & 3. I don't believe there is.  The fact that we don't buy American is precisely why we have no railroad companies left.  The Europeans do it.  The Chinese do it. The stipulation isn't stupid to manufacture the cars in New York. It's a necessity.  As it stands right now, Upstate New York is bleeding taxpayers because good jobs are leaving and so people are leaving as well from there.  Most of the growth financially is coming from Downstate (as in NYC - 5 boroughs).  That puts an enormous strain on financial resources because the fewer taxpayers you have, the less money there is for all sorts of things - infrastructure and many other projects.  

We have to protect our industries here and if you can't see why then I don't know what to tell you, but then again you're barely old enough to start working and paying taxes. lol

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Why I'm I surprised to see this. It's been known for quite a while now that the (MTA) fails to get these things delivered on time. Unless there's some dramatic change in management, it'll stay like this for years to come. 

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Lance said:

The problem with the lack of builder options is that nobody seems to be interested, whether it's foreign or domestic. The recent R211 order was shopped around to several builders beyond Kawasaki and Bombardier. Bombardier was eventually banned from the order due to their inability to deliver a product in a timely fashion. Almost immediately afterwards, Chinese car builder CRRC dropped out of the running, possibly due to their ongoing commitments for the CTA, SEPTA and LACMTA, which left only Kawasaki and Alstom as contenders. I understand the concerns for a near-monopoly in the car-building business for the MTA, but when everyone else either drops out or outright refuses to put in a bid for the project, what is the agency to do? They can't delay the bidding process on the hopes someone else will come in at the eleventh hour.

As for the lack of vendors, I think you may have answered your own question. With the stipulation you mentioned above, I have a feeling that most vendors that aren't Kawasaki, Alstom or Siemens don't believe it's worth the expense to shell out for a factory when most transit agencies will continue to use the vendors they currently employ. And because the vendors refuse to spend the money on a bunch of maybes, there's a significant lack of available options. It's a bit of a catch-22, don't you think?

The stipulation was put in with good reason. Perhaps it needs to be revisited, but even with these companies manufacturing upstate, New York overall is hemorrhaging taxpayers up there, which means less revenue for the state to address critical needs.  Sure, we could amend the stipulation, but that would mean more taxpayer dollars going out of the State.  I'm not so sure we can afford that and risk more tax hikes on all of us to make up for the lack of tax revenues not coming in.  We're already tax burdened as it is.  

Edited by Via Garibaldi 8

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36 minutes ago, Via Garibaldi 8 said:

even with these companies manufacturing upstate, New York overall is hemorrhaging taxpayers up there, which means less revenue for the state to address critical needs.

Damn man... 

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7 hours ago, Via Garibaldi 8 said:

This isn't the first time that Bombardier has built cars for the (MTA), so why are these cars so delayed? I also am curious to hear about this "new" subway plan and how it differs from the so-called "rescue" plan that promised relief that has yet to arrive? Trains are still insanely crowded off-peak and delayed. Yesterday I took a (D) train from Bryant Park to West 4th street. Two stops... It took almost 15 minutes because we crawled and crawled and crawled. Just ridiculous. If the so called improvements they're doing involve trains moving that slow, they need to just re-route the trains or not run them.

It's become so bad that I basically re-arranged my weekend travels on the subway. I now have to make one trip via the subway instead of two and for a much shorter distance. It may make more sense to just use Uber for the trip. I would probably get Downtown faster than with the subway, which shouldn't be.

Let's see how much money they want for this plan after asking for $836 million just some months ago with nothing to show for it thus far.

It’s not like the roads are that reliable either. I took a trip to Queens by train and that took only 35 minutes. The same trip in reverse by car took an hour due to congestion on the highways and traffic lights on the local roads. Competent management would make the subway amazing. But we don’t have that.

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, Via Garibaldi 8 said:

1The fact that we don't buy American is precisely why we have no railroad companies left.  The Europeans do it.  The Chinese do it. The stipulation isn't stupid to manufacture the cars in New York. It's a necessity

2We have to protect our industries here and if you can't see why then I don't know what to tell you, but then again you're barely old enough to start working and paying taxes.

1 Why do you think people stopped buying American railcars? It's because they were inferior. From a pragmatic perspective, buying an inferior product will end up costing the taxpayers more money, because it will require more upkeep. China literally uses designs bought from Kawasaki/Hitachi/Sharyu etc. and builds them to a much poorer standard. Europeans buy their own trains.

Saying that Europe "buys it's own trains" isn't 100% accurate. For starters, they buy each-other's train. It's not uncommon to see a Spanish-built train in the UK, or an Italian built train in the Netherlands. Secondly Europe also buys trains from Japan. 

The made in New York stipulation drives away bidders and creates a local monopoly resulting in inflated prices, which means more public money wasted. If we removed that stipulation there would be access to cheaper rolling stock. Train companies don't exist to provide jobs, they exist to make trains. You cant have your cake and eat it too, we either drop the stipulation or we are stuck with a small amount of bidders.

2 see: http://www.econlib.org/library/Smith/smWN13.html#B.IV

Quote

To give the monopoly of the home-market to the produce of domestic industry, in any particular art or manufacture, is in some measure to direct private people in what manner they ought to employ their capitals, and must, in almost all cases, be either a useless or a hurtful regulation. If the produce of domestic can be brought there as cheap as that of foreign industry, the regulation is evidently useless. If it cannot, it must generally be hurtful. It is the maxim of every prudent master of a family never to attempt to make at home what it will cost him more to make than to buy. 

 

Edited by kosciusko
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1 hour ago, TheNewYorkElevated said:

Damn man... 

It’s true. I’m 37, and for the first 18 years of my life my native California was the most populous state, New York was number 2, then Texas and Florida at 3 and 4. Since then, NY dropped to 4th despite NYC gaining 2 million residents.

The BRAC commission along with Albany not governing upstate effectively made that reality.

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3 minutes ago, Deucey said:

The BRAC commission along with Albany not governing upstate effectively made that reality.

In all fairness, what does Albany govern effectively?

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Dunno, but I think America was better governed when the states at both ends of Interstate 80 had the largest congressional delegations - since even when they were purple, they moderated the excesses of the radicals in the Confederacy in Congress.

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Posted (edited)
9 hours ago, Via Garibaldi 8 said:

This isn't the first time that Bombardier has built cars for the (MTA), so why are these cars so delayed? I also am curious to hear about this "new" subway plan and how it differs from the so-called "rescue" plan that promised relief that has yet to arrive? Trains are still insanely crowded off-peak and delayed. Yesterday I took a (D) train from Bryant Park to West 4th street. Two stops... It took almost 15 minutes because we crawled and crawled and crawled. Just ridiculous. If the so called improvements they're doing involve trains moving that slow, they need to just re-route the trains or not run them.

It's become so bad that I basically re-arranged my weekend travels on the subway. I now have to make one trip via the subway instead of two and for a much shorter distance. It may make more sense to just use Uber for the trip. I would probably get Downtown faster than with the subway, which shouldn't be.

Let's see how much money they want for this plan after asking for $836 million just some months ago with nothing to show for it thus far.

Hopefully, this one doesn't get its head up its own a$$ in blaming maintenance. I know I'm sounding about as repetitive as groundhog day here, but the issue really isn't that -- it's operations management. Maybe Byford has something in the pot to address that.... 

FWIW R179 delays and 7 line signal issues are old news. This article reeks of filler. 

Edited by RR503
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10 hours ago, Via Garibaldi 8 said:

1, 2 & 3. I don't believe there is.  The fact that we don't buy American is precisely why we have no railroad companies left.  The Europeans do it.  The Chinese do it. The stipulation isn't stupid to manufacture the cars in New York. It's a necessity.  As it stands right now, Upstate New York is bleeding taxpayers because good jobs are leaving and so people are leaving as well from there.  Most of the growth financially is coming from Downstate (as in NYC - 5 boroughs).  That puts an enormous strain on financial resources because the fewer taxpayers you have, the less money there is for all sorts of things - infrastructure and many other projects.  

We have to protect our industries here and if you can't see why then I don't know what to tell you, but then again you're barely old enough to start working and paying taxes. lol

The problem is there used to be a lot of American railcar companies, they just made shit products. It's interesting to note that European companies always managed to sell their products to foreigners, yet American companies had no track record of doing so - it's not as if Europe is making trains on the cheap.

The American subway market is also very, very, small - by length, New York's subway is already more than half of the subway track in the country! Given that trains have a shelf life of forty years, its no wonder that no American company has survived.

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