Overhauling Our Radio Communications System

Parts of NYC Transit’s radio communications system have been in service for many years. They still use legacy analog technology, and are near the end their useful lives. In addition, soon we’ll be prohibited from using certain radio frequencies due to a congressional mandate that is set to take effect in the coming years. So, we’re replacing our old analog systems with new, more efficient, more reliable 700 & 800 MHz digital radio communication systems. The new systems will help us improve service, emergency response, maintenance, and service restoration communications.

The Projects

Subway Maintenance Operations

To improve the reliability of the radio communications network used by our subway maintenance operations team, we will install equipment to support a new, 800 MHz radio system at five sites. The equipment includes new antennas atop monopoles (long, thin radio towers), and radio equipment in 10-foot by 16-foot pre-fabricated shelters. We chose these five sites because they provide the necessary coverage and are close to existing transit network access points. Enhancing this system will help provide outdoor street coverage to crews responding to subway incidents.

Staten Island Railway

SIR train operators, conductors, engineers, and maintainers will use the new, 800 MHz digital system for day-to-day operations. The project requires new infrastructure at eight locations in Staten Island along the SIR tracks. At seven sites, we will install antennas atop new monopoles, and radio equipment in pre-fabricated shelters. Control consoles and a central server will be housed in existing facilities at the eighth site, St. George Ferry Control Center. Construction will begin in late 2019/early 2020.

Bus System

There are two parts to the overhaul of the radio system we use for our bus network. The first involves constructing three new lattice-type towers and 19 new monopoles at locations across the city to augment our existing radio tower infrastructure.

The sites chosen for new construction are in locations that can effectively relay radio transmissions, and nearly all are MTA-owned properties. The typical radio network site will include a 12-foot by 25-foot pre-fabricated shelter that houses radio equipment, an antenna structure for 700 & 800 MHz radio antennas, and one-to-two microwave dishes.

The pilot phase of the radio-site construction began in Staten Island and the western part of Brooklyn earlier this year. It includes retrofitting 200 buses to test the new bus radio system, which begins this summer.

Our Commitment to Radio Frequency Emission Safety

Our bus radio contractor, Parsons, partnered with Skyblue Engineering, PLLC to review, analyze, and confirm that the proposed pilot sites for the bus radio system fully comply with the limits established by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for safe human exposure to radio-frequency (RF) fields. They confirmed that RF emission from the pilot sites are less than one percent of the allowable limits.

All other sites will have analyses prepared. As the designs for each remaining site only vary slightly, we anticipate that RF emission at these sites will be far below acceptable limits.

We are also reviewing RF emission reports for the proposed SIR and Department of Subways maintenance operations radio sites that have been prepared by JACOBS Engineering.  Not only will these sites comply with the FCC rules, but they will be designed to emit only a fraction of the maximum allowable level of RF emission as well.