Brooklyn Boro

A, C and E subway lines to get historic signal upgrade

Travel to and from Brooklyn could be faster in the foreseeable future.

January 16, 2020 Mary Frost
MTA is replacing decades-old signaling technology with a new type called Communications-Based Train Control (CBTC) on the A, C and E lines. Photo: MTA

Traveling to and from Brooklyn will be faster and more reliable after a historic upgrade is put in place.

MTA NYC Transit has approved a $246 million contract to install a new type of signaling technology along the A, C and E lines that will bring these routes into the 21st century.

Many of the machines controlling the subway system were installed as far back as the Great Depression. Workers still use levers to move the some of the switches by hand, and an MTA video shows relays with stickers dating to the early 1950s.

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The new type of signaling is called Communications-Based Train Control. MTA says it will speed up trains because it’s more flexible than the current “block signaling” system: CBTC continuously updates train positions, distances and travel speeds, and will allow the system to recover faster from delays.

This means “significant upgrades on major corridors between Manhattan and Brooklyn,” according to MTA.

Inspection stickers on old relays date back to the 1950s. Photo: MTA
Stickers on old relays date back to the 1950s. Photo: MTA

The A, C and E lines connect Manhattan’s west side with Brooklyn, and also connect with lines that interface with nearly every subway line throughout the system. The project corridor serves more than 700,000 riders each weekday, but will benefit riders on other routes as well since the system is so interconnected.

Design work will start immediately, and construction could begin by the end of this year. The entirety of the E line and the A and C lines from Columbus Circle to High Street in Brooklyn will receive the upgrades by 2025.

“This progress in our Eighth Avenue line resignaling project is a major milestone and a sign of what’s coming as we push forward to modernize the system as quickly as possible,” NYC Transit President Andy Byford said.


NYC Transit has already implemented CBTC on the Canarsie L and Flushing 7 lines, where the new signaling system boosted performance improvements to more than 90 percent, according to MTA.

In addition to the signaling upgrade, MTA says it will “bundle” additional improvement work in at the same time to minimize the amount of future service disruptions.

This project also represents the first time NYC Transit will use “axle counters” (which detect the presence and traveling direction of wheels at various points along the track) in the place of traditional track circuits. Axle counters use less equipment and more resilient components than traditional methods, MTA says.

The MTA awarded the contract to L.K. Comstock & Company. Siemens Mobility Inc. will provide the CBTC system and equipment.

NYC Transit previously announced plans to bring CBTC to the Culver F line in Brooklyn, and the MTA 2020-2024 Capital Plan also includes $7.1 billion to resignal six additional subway line segments.


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