Speed limits increase across subway as MTA continues project launched by former NYC Transit president Andy Byford

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Clayton Guse, New York Daily News
·2 min read
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Straphangers should notice slightly faster subway rides as the MTA has increased outdated speed limits in dozens of locations across the system.

Transit officials said 65 speed limits were increased in 2020, even as the pandemic strained the agency’s ability to do work on the subway. Most of the changes are on the subway’s numbered lines.

The program to increase speed limits on the subway dates back to late 2018, when former NYC Transit president Andy Byford launched an initiative called “Save Safe Seconds” to recalibrate them.

Roughly 280 speed limits have been changed since the program began, MTA officials said Tuesday.

“We will continue to inspect the system so that as new speed-related challenges emerge, we are prepared to address them promptly,” interim NYC Transit president Sarah Feinberg said in a statement.

Train operators for years griped that speed limits posted throughout subway tunnels were inaccurate. The limits sometimes caused trains to trip signal arms that activate emergency brakes when they move too fast — even when the operators ran slower than speeds posted on signs in the tunnels.

Those situations sometimes led to discipline train crews felt was unjust.

The discipline charges began to lessen in the summer of 2019 when Byford sent a memo to MTA supervisors telling them to ease off on crews trying to hit the new speed limits.

A month after Byford sent that memo, Gov. Cuomo announced an initiative called the “Speed and Safety Task Force” that also aimed to increase subway speed limits. MTA officials said Byford’s “Save Safe Seconds” program was folded into Cuomo’s program.

Speed limits were reduced across the subway system following a train crash on the Williamsburg Bridge in 1995 that killed a train operator. Investigators later determined the operator fell asleep before the crash.

Now that many of those changes have been reversed over the last two years, some trains are able to roll as fast as they did 30 years ago ago.