MTA gets federal funding to reduce bus blind spots, enhance worker safety

The MTA has received $1.5 million in federal funding for two safety projects to reduce bus blind spots and improve track worker safety, officials announced Thursday.

New York Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer said that $880,035 will go toward developing a new street-side mirror design to curb MTA bus blind spots—an issue that both MTA operators and Mayor Bill de Blasio have highlighted in the era of the administration’s Vision Zero initiative.

The funding will be provided through the Safety Research & Demonstration Program of the Federal Transit Administration.

“These federal funds, made possible through the FAST Act, which we worked so hard to pass, will help make New York’s transportation systems safer for passengers, pedestrians and workers,” Schumer, the Senate minority leader, said in a statement.

“I am pleased that the Department of Transportation is providing these funds to the MTA—North America’s largest transportation network—and using monies we secured in Congress towards smart upgrades to our transit systems,” he said.

The other $688,448 will fund a collaborative project between the MTA and the Maryland Department of Transportation to improve on-track communications for MTA crews working on the rails. The project will enhance systems involving “wearable alert units” that will be able to communicate with technology installed in railcar cabs.

Transit worker safety, especially on the tracks, was a key bargaining point for the TWU Local 100, the union that represents about 38,000 MTA employees, as it negotiated with the MTA over a new contract this year. Shortly before contract talks began, worker Louis Gray, 53, was working as a flagger on the tracks when he was struck and killed by a G train at the Church Avenue station last November.

“This critical federal funding for the MTA will help strengthen our transportation infrastructure,” Gillibrand said in a statement. “I will continue to fight for investments like this one which helps enhance safety protocols, safeguarding New York’s transit employees by improving the technology they use to communicate underground and upgrading mechanical designs in buses to better protect pedestrians.”