“The bet paid off and now the MTA can move forward to give New York subway riders a modern, high-capacity signal system.”
Eight state-of-the-art signalling systems, rolling stock and communications technologies have taken the top prize in an innovation challenge set up by New York’s public transport network, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), to upgrade its subway’s capacity and reliability. Called the MTA Genius Transit Challenge, ideas have been contributed from companies including Ansaldo STS, CRRC and Bechtel Innovation for delivering a “positive impact on subway service and customer experience”.
Picking up four recommendations for the Genius Transit Challenge as to how those signalling systems could look, Metrom Rail and Robert James both submitted proposals for their systems that use competitively priced ultra-wideband wireless technology that can give centimetre-specific information for subway car locations. Meanwhile Ansaldo STS and Thales Group suggested on-board train sensors that also offer highly accurate location information but in equipment that can be more easily transported than before.
The Genius Challenge came to being after being set up by the governor of New York, Andrew M. Cuomo, who spoke strongly last year about his disapproval of the timescale predicted by the MTA for an overhaul of the city’s signalling system, sections of which has been in place since 1937. Previous estimates to bring the New York metro up to date were placed at between 40 and 50 year – seven to 10 years for each of the network’s lines. “Forty to 50 years. You have countries that are building entire subway systems in a matter of years,” pleaded.
To address the state of the metro cars on the rail network, 700 of which are “past their expiration date literally should be in a museum” said Cuomo, three rail companies logged three very distinctive and different bids for the Genius Challenge. China’s CRRC said it would contribute $50m of its own money to help create a lighter train equipped with modern train control technology; lawyer and train enthusiast, Craig Avedisian, suggested the use of longer trains with updated loading procedures so they can fit in stations; and CSinTrans came up with the answer to the network’s software problems: one that can diagnose faults with subway cars and relay information back to maintenance crews before problems lead to broken-down trains.
The final entry was submitted by Bechtel, the project management and engineering company, which devised improved communications and control infrastructure in subway tunnels. If chosen the communications system would be installed by a “semi-automatic robotic system”, development of which would be aided by $500,000 of investment from Bechtel. The eight winning proposals will be immediately researched and tested by New York City transit staff.
Speaking about the eight entries, the @MTA chief development officer, Janno Lieber, said that most people were unsure of what the reaction would be after governor Cuomo called for action, but heralded the action that has been taken. “The bet paid off, and now the MTA can move forward much faster than the previous 40-plus year timetable to give New York subway riders a modern, high-capacity signal system,” said Lieber.