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MTA Announces Extension of Signal Modernization on the Queens Boulevard Line

New York City Transit
Updated December 15, 2021 7:30 p.m.

E and F Line Between Union Turnpike-Kew Gardens and Jamaica-179 St Will Be Fully Equipped With CBTC


The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) today announced that the MTA Board approved the first of three contract awards that will extend signal modernization along the Queens Boulevard Line east of Kew Gardens-Union Turnpike station with Communication-Based Train Control (CBTC). The upgrade of the signal system to CBTC will allow trains to safely run at a greater speed and at closer distances, providing more efficient and reliable service on the   and   lines.

The Queens Boulevard Line East Project will modernize four interlockings, at Jamaica-179 St, 169th St, Parsons Blvd, and Briarwood. The interlocking at Union Turnpike, which currently has CBTC functionality only toward the west, will be fully equipped with CBTC functionality.

“Reliable high quality public transit plays a huge role in giving people maximum access to jobs, education and opportunity,” said MTA Acting Chair and CEO Janno Lieber. “CBTC signal systems have delivered major improvements in service on those subway lines that already have them, and we look forward to continuing to implement this technology across the system.”

“A modern signal system is critical to the delivery of the 21st century transit system that our riders deserve,” said Jamie Torres-Springer, President of MTA Construction & Development. “The signal modernization program is being vastly accelerated throughout the subway system and the addition of a quality new equipment vendor to diversify our vendor pool will drive competition and ensure faster and cheaper delivery.”

“CBTC is key to improving subway service because it allows dispatchers to know real-time positions of trains in a much more precise way, which allows the MTA to schedule more trains and operate them more reliably,” said MTA Interim NYC Transit President Craig Cipriano. “This expansion of CBTC will improve train service on this busy corridor and allow us to provide more accurate real-time arrival information for our customers.”

This first contract award is for the design, delivery and testing of the CBTC equipment, and is valued at $62.6 million over 55 months. The second award will be for the installation of the CBTC equipment. The third contract will be for the installation of the Data Communication System. CBTC uses radio communications to constantly connect the MTA’s trains and signal system, with service managed dynamically by a computer system in New York City Transit’s (NYCT) Rail Control Center.

Trains operate with CBTC on the and lines, which were brought online in 1996 and 2019 respectively. The MTA is currently installing CBTC on two-line segment expected to go into service next year: the Queens Boulevard Line between Kew Gardens-Union Turnpike and 50 St in Manhattan, and the  line between Church Av and West 8 St-NY Aquarium. The MTA is also installing CBTC on the line between 59 St-Columbus Circle and Jay St-MetroTech, which is expected for completion in 2025. Future line segments to receive CBTC are the line between Hoyt-Schermerhorn and Court Square, the line between High St and Euclid Av, and the line between Jay St-MetroTech and Broadway-Lafayette St.

Benefits of CBTC

More efficient service. Because it allows dispatchers to know exactly where trains are on the track, CBTC enables the MTA to run trains closer together. The and lines, which both use CBTC, are the best-performing lines on the New York City Subway. On-time performance on our existing CBTC lines is consistently near or above 90%.

Lower operating costs. Accelerating trains is expensive, so intelligently controlling the speed of trains saves the MTA money. Maintenance is also cheaper with CBTC because it isn't as hardware intensive, and software can be upgraded as technology improves.

Faster service. Running trains closer together helps the MTA increase capacity on a line. Trains can also travel at higher speeds without compromising safety.

More reliable service. Signal problems are among the leading causes of delays in subway service. Upgrading the technology means fewer issues, and when delays happen, crews will be able to get service back on track more quickly. The existing signal system east of Kew Gardens is more than 85 years old, one of the oldest segments remaining in the system.

A smoother ride. The computerized automatic train operation (ATO) system means there are fewer variations between how train operators run trains. Acceleration and braking are controlled by the system so customers can expect more consistency and improved performance.

More accurate arrival information. CBTC gives the MTA much more precise information about where a train is in the system. This improves the accuracy of the real-time arrival information in stations and apps.