Second Avenue Subway open for business

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief

New Year’s Day, 2017: Nearly 88 years after the first bond issue was floated to finance construction of a subway under Second Avenue on New York City’s East Side, the first MTA New York City Transit Q Trains began rolling between 63rd and 96th Streets on the Second Avenue Subway. Thousands attended the inauguration of service.

The nearly-two-mile, $4.4 billion Phase 1 segment adds new stations along Second Avenue at 96th, 86th and 72nd streets and a new connection to the Lexington Avenue Line (4-5-6 Trains) at 63rd Street. The Q Train now operates between Coney Island in Brooklyn and 96th Street. Phase 2, estimated to cost $1.5 billion, will extend the line up to 125th Street.

The first revenue train left 96th Street Station at noon on Jan. 1 after a speech by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who pushed to meet a New Year’s Day deadline for the long-delayed project. “I hope when you go down there you really feel how much hard work and time and patience it’s taken to get to this point,” Cuomo said. “It’s incredible. This is not your grandfather’s station.”

Cuomo and New York MTA Chairman and CEO Tom Prendergast had previously hosted several pre-public-opening press and VIP events, among them a ceremonial opening of the 96th Street Station on Dec. 23, 2016, and a ceremonial operation of a Q Train on Dec. 31, New Year’s Eve.

SecondAvenueSubwayOpeningCompositeFor Tom Prendergast, inauguration of the Second Avenue Subway is a capstone in a distinguished transit career. Prendergast, Railway Age’s 54th Railroader of the Year, has announced his retirement from the agency where he has spent much of his career. “Opening the Second Avenue Subway this weekend was a crowning achievement for the MTA, and I’m proud to have been a part of such a historic moment,” he said. “It has not only changed the daily commute for hundreds of thousands of customers, it has helped change the face of the MTA—showing the public we can meet the deadlines we set for ourselves. I’m also proud of the work we have done to integrate new technology into all aspects of our system to keep up with the growing needs of our riding public and of the way we recovered and fortified our assets from the devastating damage left behind by Hurricane Sandy. It’s never easy to leave an organization after 25 years of service, but I do so knowing that the MTA will continue to serve the public so well and that our governor will ensure New York continues to have the most robust transportation system in the country.”

Prendergast will retire in early 2017, according to Cuomo. “Tom Prendergast has overseen the reimagining and modernization of the MTA and will be remembered for improving the commute, and the lives, of millions of New Yorkers who depend on our mass transit system,” he said. “Tom has been an incredibly effective chairman and CEO and among the finest public servants I have had the privilege of working with. I thank him for his hard work and dedication to the people of New York and wish him and his family the best. The on-time completion of the Second Avenue Subway would have been impossible without Tom’s leadership and relentless commitment to meeting the goal, and is an incredible way to end his long and successful career.”

Prendergast has been in his current role as chairman and CEO since June 2013, but his career with the MTA spans more than a quarter-century, having served as president of New York City Transit and the Long Island Rail Road. Among his noteworthy accomplishments:

• Prendergast expertly led New York’s transit network through Superstorm Sandy—by far the worst disaster to ever hit the MTA network—and created the plan that would serve as a blueprint for service restoration. Buses were up-and-running seven hours after the storm. Only nine hours after that, buses were running full-schedule. Commuter trains were running less than 24 hours after Sandy hit, and subways were back 36 hours after the storm. The New York Times hailed the rapid restoration of MTA services as a “miracle.” Following service restoration, he worked tirelessly to fix and fortify the system, overseeing more than $5 billion in repair and resiliency work, including a 40-foot sea wall to protect subway tracks in the Rockaways; rebuilding and fortifying the Montague and Greenpoint tunnels; and custom-designed covers and closures to seal up hundreds of water-access-points at Lower Manhattan subways.

• Prendergast secured the largest MTA Capital Program in history: $29.5 billion over five years. New York City added more than a billion dollars to its usual commitment, for a total of $2.5 billion. New York State contributed $8.3 billion, the largest-ever investment in MTA infrastructure. The remainder of the funds come from federal sources, MTA bonds, and the MTA’s own efficiencies.

• Under Prendergast’s leadership, the MTA has continued the most aggressive cost-cutting in its history, implementing savings programs that have reduced annual operating expenses by $1.3 billion in 2015. The MTA continues to push for cost savings, which is why by 2020, the organization expects to save almost $2 billion every year.

• Prendergast worked to ensure that safe operations are at the very foundation of every MTA agency. Among his many safety-related initiatives, he created a new executive-level position, Chief Safety Officer, and added a new Safety Committee to the Board to provide focused oversight on safety issues. The MTA will also spend more than $1 billion to fully install Positive Train Control throughout its entire railroad network by the end of 2018.

• Prendergast has lead the MTA during a period of record ridership, and has taken a number of steps to not only accommodate unprecedented growth, but to prepare for more. Through projects like the Second Avenue Subway, the No. 7 Train Extension, the Fulton Center, East Side Access, and second and third tracks for the Long Island Rail Road, he has overseen or is overseeing the first major expansion of New York’s transportation network in more than 60 years. The MTA is installing safer, more modern, and higher-capacity signaling and train control systems throughout the subway, including CBTC. The MTA will acquire more than 700 “open-gangway” high-capacity subway cars.

• The MTA has been integrating new technology into the its 100-plus-year-old network. This year, the agency introduced MTA e-Tix—a new, mobile ticketing app that allows Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North customers to buy train tickets anytime, anywhere. The MTA will install by 2018 a new contactless smartcard fare payment technology across tits entire network. Today, more than 200 A Division (numbered lines) subway stations have Countdown Clocks. This year, the MTA began installing clocks on the B Division (lettered lines), working under an accelerated rollout for the balance of stations. All 279 underground subway stations now have Wi-Fi connectivity, with cell phone service coming early in 2017. NYCT is also beginning work to re-envision, modernize and completely overhaul 31 New York City subway stations. This year, 200 new subway cars will be delivered with USB charging stations, digital video screens, Wi-Fi, outlets, and security cameras. In 2018 an additional 400 subway cars will have these amenities. Going forward, all new subway cars will have them.

• Prendergast also recruited three of the nation’s top passenger railroad managers—Veronica “Ronnie” Hakim, Joseph Giulietti, and Patrick Nowakowski—to run NYCT, Metro-North, and the LIRR, respectively.

Tom Prendergast will receive the Railroader of the Year award at the traditional dinner of the Western Railway Club on March 14 at the Union League Club, Chicago.

The MTA’s video on the Second Avenue subway is available on YouTube at this link:

News footage of the Second Avenue Subway’s opening is available at these links:



















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