NEW YORK — New York City's delay-ridden subway system would undergo a massive overhaul in a fraction of the time originally estimated for it, with new signaling and new subway cars along with a new fare payment system, according to a proposal introduced Wednesday by the head of the system.
NYC Transit President Andy Byford introduced the "Fast Forward" plan at a board meeting of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The MTA is NYC Transit's parent agency and would have to decide whether or not it goes forward.
"I truly believe we have a choice to make," Byford said, adding, "Not acting now is not an option, and it will only get more difficult and more expensive."
He and MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota were both quick to emphasize that a price tag for the plan, which would compress what had been proposed to be done over a 40-year period into a 10-year timeframe, had not been finalized. Lhota said he wanted to put any cost estimates "through a very rigorous process."
But published reports put estimates at tens of billions of dollars over the life of the entire project, which raised concerns over where the funds would come from.
The MTA is controlled by the state, with the agency's chairman picked by the governor. Lhota is in his second stint as the MTA's chairman, and was brought back to the job in 2017 at the urging of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, both Democrats, have sparred over the agency, arguing over who's responsible for the system's deterioration and who should pay how much to fix it.
Cuomo declared a state of emergency for the public transportation system last year after a spate of derailments and lengthy delays.
In Byford's plan, the first five years would include adding more than 650 new subway cars and 2,800 new buses; redesigning bus routes in all five of the city's boroughs; installing state-of-the-art signal systems on five of the system's subway lines impacting 3 million riders; making 50 subway stations accessible through new elevators; and the new fare payment system.
The following five years would see the signal systems added to six other lines, as well as 3,000 new subway cars and 2,100 buses.
Byford acknowledged the overhaul would be hard on the system's millions of riders, with shutdowns on nights and weekends, some short-term station closings and changes to bus routes.