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But it is so outdated that it cannot identify precisely where trains are, requiring more room between them.
And when it fails, trains stop, delays pile up and riders fume.
London has installed a computerized signal network on four of its 10 main subway lines, and work is underway on four more. In New York, the plans have been hobbled by an anemic schedule for upgrading tracks, a struggle to secure necessary funding and logistical challenges on a system that never stops running.
Of New York’s 22 lines, only the L train has the advanced signal system. Officials have also been reluctant to anger riders by closing stations to do the work.
The authority also had to develop a design and software that was tailored to New York’s subway.
Over the years, the authority has kept pushing back the timeline for replacing signals.
Much of the signal equipment at that station, at West Fourth Street, is decades beyond its life span, and it is one of the main culprits plaguing the overburdened subway.
As New York City’s sprawling subway faces a deepening crisis over delays, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority says that modernizing the signals is a top priority.
Amtrak, which owns the station, plans to close several tracks for repairs that will disrupt service this summer on New Jersey Transit and the Long Island Rail Road, two of the nation’s busiest commuter railroads. The train operator was speeding after he had been drinking.At a subway station deep under Manhattan, a dingy room is filled with rows of antique equipment built before World War II.The weathered glass boxes and cloth-covered cables are not part of a museum exhibit, however — they are crucial pieces of the signal system that directs traffic in one of the busiest subways in the world.Most of New York’s subway system still relies on antiquated technology, known as block signaling, to coordinate the movement of trains. C., is more dependable and exact, making it possible to reduce the amount of space between trains. More than 25 years later, the authority has little to show for its effort to install modern signals.A modern system, known as communications-based train control, or C. The L line began using computerized signals in 2009 after about a decade of work. 7, should have received new signals last year, but the project was delayed until the end of this year. It requires installing transponders every 500 feet on the tracks, along with radios and zone controllers, and buying new trains or upgrading them with onboard computers, radios and speed sensors.