“Decades of underinvestment in the century-old New York City subway has led to a system that is excessively vulnerable to failures,” says the MTA. While the MTA’s $US 29.5bn Capital Plan, which includes more than $14 billion for New York City Transit, focusses on renewing, enhancing and expanding the system by replacing and upgrading infrastructure for the long-term, this new initiative targets short-term, achievable service improvements.

“Increasing delays are simply unacceptable which is why we have to commit to addressing the immediate problems with all the tools at our disposal,” says the MTA’s interim director, Ms Ronnie Hakim. “We are implementing long-term capital improvements. But we also need a comprehensive approach that focuses on reducing the system's failures while our capital investment is underway. Attacking the five key causes of subway delays enables New York City Transit to take a targeted approach that can produce results.”

Those causes are track and signalling issues; sick passengers and police activity; train equipment failures; passenger boarding and alighting delays; and bottlenecks at critical junctions on the network.

The first phase of the initiative will begin immediately on the Eighth Avenue corridor from 125th Street to Fulton Street, affecting 19 stations on the A, C, E lines; and at two key hubs in the South Bronx: 149th Street-Grand Concourse and Third Avenue-138th Street. MTA says there are an average of seven major incidents per month, delaying 50 or more trains, on the Eighth Avenue corridor.

MTA will roll out the plan in phases across the line over the next six months, introducing some aspects of the plan to other lines later.

MTA is expediting the delivery of 300 new R179 metro cars with the first arriving this autumn and all being delivered by September 2018. It will also accelerate the delivery of 450 new R211 cars.

MTA plans a top-to-bottom revamp of its rolling stock maintenance procedures and will seek the direct involvement of the original manufacturers in new maintenance. It will add inspectors and resources to ensure every car receives pre-service inspection before leaving a yard, to reduce the likelihood of failure. Key components, such as doors, heating and air-conditioning, and master controllers, which historically have been the source of the most frequent failures, will be replaced on a regular schedule before they fail.

MTA is doubling its ultrasonic testing from once a month to twice monthly to detect track defects, make repairs and prevent recurrence.

Rapid response teams will be deployed near the busiest stations to address track and signalling issues, with additional emergency-dispatched repair vehicles and trained staff to get repair crews where they are needed, faster. MTA is focused on reducing average response time of its emergency crews to 15 minutes or less, to restore service faster.

At track level, MTA plans to install a total of 900m of continuous welded rail along the entire Eighth Avenue corridor by September 2017.

The initiative will deploy emergency service technicians at five corridor stations to aid sick passengers, and MTA is working with the police to increase the presence of police officers at these stations. MTA is also testing strategies to improve passenger boarding and alighting.

With more trains and increased ridership, more managers and technology will be added to move trains quickly through junctions to avoid delays.

MTA’s management restructuring will separate the roles of chairman and chief executive. Hakim has served in the dual roles since Mr Thomas Predergast retired at the end of 2016. This change follows the recent appointments of Mr Janno Lieber as chief development officer and Mr Phil Eng as chief operating officer.