Subway riders should prepare for major snags in their commute next week as work begins on implementing modernized signaling on the A/C/E in Manhattan.
Starting at 9:45 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 17, until the morning of Monday, Feb. 27, straphangers can expect significant service changes on the A, C, D, E, F, and M lines in Manhattan. That’s so the Metropolitan Transportation Authority can formally begin replacing Great Depression-era signaling technology on the Eighth Avenue line, between Columbus Circle and High Street, and replacing it with modern communications-based train control (CBTC) technology.
February’s work will take place between 42nd and 59th streets. Uptown service on the A/C/E will not be impacted.
The snag will most significantly affect M train riders. During the weekday rush, M train service will not operate at all in Queens or most of Manhattan; the M will run on the J/Z line between Delancey-Essex streets and Chambers Street, with no service from Delancey-Essex to Forest Hills. In lieu of that, the E will run on the M line from 53rd Street to West 4th Street. The following weekend, from Feb. 25-27, the M will run on the F and Q lines in Manhattan, terminating at 2nd Avenue and 96th Street.
From Tuesday, Feb. 21 to Friday, Feb. 24, the normally-local downtown C train will run express from 145th Street to Canal Street, while the typically-express D train will run local from 145th to Canal. A trains will run express at all hours.
F trains will operate on the E line during President’s Day weekend, from Friday, Feb. 17 till Tuesday, Feb. 21, and during the weekday rush. During President’s Day Weekend and the following weekend, A and C trains will run express from Columbus Circle to Canal Street.
The augmented service will enable “critical” work to begin in earnest on CBTC installation on Eighth Avenue. It would replace the pre-World War II analog signals which the subway has long relied on with modernized, wireless communication arrays that enables the MTA to know exactly where a train is at any given time. Agency brass say that will enable them to safely run trains closer together, and hence, run more trains period.
Currently, CBTC is only fully installed on the L and 7 lines; both have seen substantial increases in on-time performance since being equipped with the newfangled tech. In December, the MTA approved a contract to fully install CBTC on the G line by 2027.
Last year, the MTA shuttered weekend service on the F line in southern Brooklyn to begin installing CBTC on that corridor. Finishing touches are being put on the installation of CBTC on the E/F/M/R line on Queens Boulevard, but the tech on that stretch, installed by German multinational Siemens, is riddled with glitches tanking its reliability and delaying full conversion on the line.
On the Eighth Avenue line, the MTA says CBTC will be fully installed by 2024. That’s just in time for the rollout of brand-new R211 subway cars, factory-equipped with CBTC tech, which are expected to begin their tenure on the A/C by the end of this year. The R211 will replace the R46, which dates back to the Abe Beame administration and is some of the oldest rolling stock in the MTA’s portfolio.