Metropolitan Transportation Authority

20-Year Needs Assessment | Improve

Subway turnstiles wrapped in caution tape

Our mandate has grown to meet changing needs

A lot has changed since the transit network was first created more than a century ago. Although the system has remained remarkably vital and essential to the region's success, it was not designed to meet the needs of today's riders.

It is time to accelerate our progress and bring our infrastructure into the 21st century, driven by our modern values of accessibility, resilience, sustainability, and innovation.

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Equity underpins our work

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Equity underpins our work

Equity is a key driver in our investment decisions. When we upgrade a station's accessibility, replace a route with emission-free buses, or enhance the resiliency of a subway line, historically underserved communities are at the forefront of our engagement, planning, and investment. Examples of how equity is integrated into our plans to improve the MTA system:


Equity is an important consideration in our process for determining what subway stations should be prioritized for accessibility. Among other criteria, we consider community feedback, the number of people living in poverty near a given station, the number of reduced fare riders that station serves, paratransit use in the area, and the geographic proximity of other accessible stations, so that areas that might have been overlooked in the past now get priority.


Some of the riders who are the most dependent on transit are the most vulnerable when extreme weather disrupts service. Climate change will disproportionately burden historically disadvantaged communities. Our data-driven approach to evaluating future climate risk considers the social implications of climate change and its impacts on the MTA and our customers, to ensure that resources allocated to climate resilience will address these burdens.


We've developed an environmental justice score that looks at both equity and air quality across the MTA bus service area for the zero-emissions bus fleet transition. Areas with higher environmental justice scores are prioritized for earlier and larger zero-emissions deployments to improve the health of our riders who have been most impacted by poor air quality.


The original design of our century-old stations excluded too many people because it did not fully account for the diverse needs of our riders. We are now on course to change that and can make tremendous progress in the next 20 years if the MTA's capital plans are adequately funded.

In 2022, the MTA announced an agreement alongside accessibility advocates that reaffirms our commitment to systemwide subway accessibility and provides a clear path and timeline to get there. The subway accessibility plan will make at least 95% of our subway stations accessible by 2055.

We are also continuing to work toward improving accessibility on our commuter rail stations by building new elevators and ramps, and replacing old ones.

Explore the ADA Case Study


This critical improvement plan is not a small undertaking. The lack of accessibility in our system affects hundreds of stations—and therefore the lives of millions of people. For example, to make our subway stations accessible, we face the following challenges.

A vast undertaking

With 493 subway and SIR stations, New York City has more subway stations than any subway or metro system in the world. Our vast network is a boon to most riders, but the sheer size of the network means maintaining and upgrading our system to modern standards for accessibility is an enormous undertaking, especially coupled with historic system disinvestments that we are working to overcome. We've made a lot of progress, having made 142 stations throughout the five boroughs ADA-accessible (as of Sept. 1, 2023), but that is only about a quarter of our 493 subway and SIR stations.

No cookie cutter solutions

Space for new elevator shafts and equipment, or for ADA-compliant ramps, is limited in the close quarters of subway stations and in the dense street environments where subways run. Typically, subway stations are surrounded on several sides by existing buildings and above or below busy streets. Throughout the past 100 years, a complex web of underground utility lines has grown around the subway system, and these utilities sometimes must be relocated. In addition, the station's structure has to be modified—cutting holes in concrete floors and metal beams to make room for the elevator shafts and machinery. For these reasons, each new accessibility project is a major undertaking that must be designed and constructed to a station's individual constraints.

Logistically challenging

These projects require a tremendous amount of intra- and inter-agency planning as well as extensive coordination with several public utilities, the New York City Department of Transportation for impacts to city streets, the New York City Parks Department any time we touch public park land, private property owners, and many other external stakeholders. We strive to minimize construction impacts to our riders and to the neighborhoods where work is taking place, but we're committed to getting the work done—and doing it the right way—and that takes time, effort, and collaboration.

What we've done

We have already begun making historic progress in the current capital plan. When completed, this program of investments will deliver 67 new accessible subway stations, more than were completed in the last three capital programs combined. This pace sets the tone for investments in future capital plans over the next 20 years.

Since 2020, we've awarded ADA projects at 36 subway stations. Another 16 are forecast for award by the end of 2023, and another 29 are funded in the current capital program and are scheduled to be awarded in 2024 or soon after.

Currently 84% of full-service LIRR and Metro-North stations are fully accessible, and we are improving accessibility at 11 more stations under the current capital program.

MTA B&T has already made significant progress toward improving bicycle and pedestrian access on our bridges in the current and previous capital programs. Once the current program is completed, the lower level of the Henry Hudson Bridge will have an ADA-compatible shared use path, as will the Cross Bay and the Robert F. Kennedy Queens Suspension bridges. Other portions of the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge complex will have been upgraded to have ADA-compatible shared use paths as well, including a newly completed bicycle/pedestrian ramp connecting the Harlem River Lift Span to the future Manhattan Greenway.

Our 20-year plan

Over the next 20 years, we will continue our bold pace toward an accessible system. This means reaching 95% of subway stations being accessible by 2055, 95% of full-service commuter rail stations by 2045, and improving accessibility on our bridges where feasible. Highlights include:

We have more to do. View the Appendices.

Accessible infrastructure

In addition to creating step-free access to trains, we will also make other accessibility improvements like upgrading tactile warning strips on platform edges, raising platforms so they are more level with train doors, and working to install fare payment gates that allow for easier access for customers with mobility devices, luggage, or strollers. Building off of existing and past pilots, we also plan to add accessibility features that improve customer wayfinding and the reliability of the accessible path of travel. Compliance with the ADA is a minimum standard and we look to go above and beyond the ADA as we modernize the system in the next 20 years.

At Bridges and Tunnels, we will advance accessibility improvements like a shared use path on the RFK Bridge's Harlem River Lift Span, making the Manhattan to Randall's Island connection a fully ADA-compliant path from end to end.

Renew existing elevators and escalators

Even as we add new elevators, we must also continue addressing existing elevators that need replacement. The large expansion of the station accessibility program over the next 20 years will ultimately lead to a doubling of the lifecycle replacement needs by the 2040-2044 timeframe; for example, over 350 subway station elevators will be due for replacement over the next 20 years.

Efficient and cost-effective upgrades

Our plan bundles these upgrades with planned station repairs to make the process as efficient and cost-effective as possible. Additionally, we will continue collaborating with the private sector to make our network more accessible more quickly. In New York City, we're taking advantage of Zoning for Accessibility, which requires developers of sites adjacent to stations to work with us to provide an easement on their site if we can use it for future station entrances, such as elevators and stairs, and includes incentives for developers of eligible properties to build station accessibility improvements at no-cost to the MTA in exchange for more density in their developments.

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Efficient and cost-effective upgrades

How we select subway stations for accessibility upgrades

When determining which stations to include in each capital planning cycle, by statute we consider the following factors:

  • Coverage: A critical strategy for increasing accessibility across the subway system is to reduce gaps in coverage—in other words, to reduce the number of stops between accessible stations. This way, customers in neighborhoods across the city are never too far from an accessible station.
  • Destinations: Participants in our public meetings have given us input on local preferences and priority destinations in their communities, such as schools, parks, retail, cultural hubs, medical centers, and other community institutions served by different subway stations.
  • Ridership: Within the framework of increasing geographic equity and systemwide coverage, we consider which stations could serve the greatest number of customers. We also consider which neighborhoods are growing.
  • Demographics: To ensure that accessibility investments reach communities with the greatest need, the MTA gathers data on the populations of seniors and people with disabilities, and the socioeconomic status of neighborhood residents surrounding each station.
  • Transfers: Making the subway system's major transfer points accessible helps customers travel more seamlessly throughout the region. This includes subway stations that are transfer points between subway lines, as well as stations that are major connection points to bus or commuter rail lines.
  • Constructability and cost: The cost and time required to retrofit a station can vary dramatically based on site conditions. By considering project costs and complexity in our selection process, we can extend the reach of our accessibility investments and more quickly deliver benefits to our customers.
Construction happening in a tunnel


Climate change is here—and we must prepare. Over the next two decades, climate change projections indicate that the New York region will experience more frequent and intense coastal storms, more than twice the current number of torrential rainfall events, and triple the current number of extreme heat days over 90 degrees. Meanwhile, sea levels will rise approximately 2.5 feet by the 2050s and almost 5 feet by the 2080s.

Our infrastructure was not built to withstand future climate conditions. We've made significant progress retrofitting, renovating, and rebuilding infrastructure in anticipation of future climate conditions, but climate change won't wait for us to finish. For our systems to keep running as lifelines through the coming climate-induced crises, we must move faster.


Over the next 20 years and through the end of the century, climate change vulnerabilities will permeate every MTA system.

We will work to minimize the impacts of extreme weather events on the safety of our riders and workforce, on service reliability, and on infrastructure. The scale and urgency of the task will transcend capital, operational, and emergency planning functions across the MTA.


Over 400 miles of subway tracks are below grade and potentially exposed to inland floods caused by torrential rainfall.

Torrential rain can flood tracks through vents, stairs, and other openings, causing damage to electrical equipment and service disruptions.

Above-ground tracks can expand during heat waves with sustained temperatures above 90 degrees, posing derailment risks and speed restrictions.

Metro-North Railroad

Around 50% of the 74-mile Hudson Line is in a FEMA floodplain today. Flood exposure will grow over time as sea levels rise, surface runoff from adjacent properties increases, and as coastal storms become more frequent and intense. At the same time, inland floods caused by torrential rainfall at critical locations, such as Mott Haven yard in the Bronx, are already disrupting East-of-Hudson services at least once a year.

Long Island Rail Road

Stations like East Rockaway, Oyster Bay, Island Park, Douglaston, and Oceanside are susceptible to flooding during torrential rainfall. These same stations may also experience regular, tidal flooding shortly after the 2050s due to sea level rise.


Depots like Castleton, Michael J. Quill, Yukon, and Grand Ave are vulnerable today to inland flooding caused by torrential rainfall. Inland flood risks will expand to more depots by the 2050s.

Bridges and Tunnels

Bridges and tunnels are vulnerable to flooding. Stormwater drains, both on and off property, are no longer capable of handling the torrential rainfall events that are occurring on a regular basis, leading to flooding events that impact traffic flow. An example of this is the regular flooding of the Cross Island Parkway approach to the Throgs Neck Bridge.

What we've done

Since Superstorm Sandy, we've invested more than $7.6 billion in repairs and in entirely new classes of climate-resilience infrastructure to protect from powerful coastal storms.

When Superstorm Sandy hit the region in 2012, the coastal storm surge flooded 58.2 miles of subway track, the Queens Midtown and Hugh L. Carey tunnels, three bus depots, LIRR, and other infrastructure. Sandy impacts cumulatively caused $5 billion in infrastructure damage and lost revenue across all MTA agencies.

Investments undertaken include perimeter flood walls, marine doors, and vent closure devices. Both LIRR and Metro-North advanced extensive programs to rebuild and replace damaged equipment. At the same time, repaired equipment was elevated above the coastal floodplain to reduce exposure to future surge events.

As regional climate change projections are updated with greater levels of certainty, the scale and breadth of climate change impacts on MTA systems is emerging. Going forward, the MTA will incorporate climate risk information into capital plans and project designs to proactively reduce climate risk exposure.

Our 20-year plan

We will advance climate resilience strategies to reduce exposure before impacts occur.

We have more to do. View the Appendices.

Install new climate resilience protections

We will install new climate resilience protections to reduce climate risk exposure before impacts occur. For example, locations such as Metro-North's Hudson Line and Mott Haven yard, NYCT's Westchester Yard and Castleton Depot are all locations facing current challenges that will likely require the installation of dedicated climate protection infrastructure.

Explore the Hudson Line Case Study

Incorporate climate-resilient design strategies

We will incorporate climate-resilient design strategies into capital projects. This approach will inform the scope and performance requirements of capital projects and enable us to design risk mitigations that correspond to the asset's useful life.

Explore the Subway Resilience Case Study

Engage partners to address climate vulnerabilities

We will engage partners to address climate vulnerabilities in areas where successful mitigations extend beyond our jurisdiction.

Learn more

Staten Island Mill Creek Bluebelt

The Mill Creek Bluebelt, recently completed by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), reduces tidal flooding risks on the SIR that runs over the waterway. DEP's Bluebelt system manages stormwater by restoring and expanding natural drainage systems to divert flood waters from surrounding areas. Flooding interrupts service south of Huguenot several times a year. Bluebelts not only benefit the passengers who rely on MTA service, they also bring ecological habitat and neighborhood stormwater management co-benefits.

Leverage future-facing climate change projections

We will normalize the use of future-facing climate change projections to proactively assess the multiple risks facing our assets, including increasing temperatures, torrential rain, sea level rise, coastal storms, and other emerging hazards. We will complement climate change projections with on-the-ground observations and data from remote equipment, such as flood and temperature sensors, to investigate how climate change is impacting our assets, to evaluate potential mitigation options, and to deploy the most effective strategies.

Construction happening in a tunnel


MTA transit is a climate solution. The typical subway commute is 10 times greener than the same commute by car. In 2019, MTA riders in aggregate avoided more than 20 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, helping to earn New York one of the lowest statewide per capita greenhouse gas emission rates in the country.

Greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector are the largest source of national emissions and are on the rise. Retaining and growing transit ridership is the best way to fight transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions. We stand ready to deliver on this critical mission as a partner in the climate fight.

But fighting climate change requires an all-hands-on-deck approach. Therefore, in addition to supporting the region with very low emissions transit services, we will cut our own operational emissions by at least 85% by 2040, from a 2015 baseline of 2 million metric tons. The result will be a reduction of at least 1.75 million metric tons of emissions per year by 2040.


We must achieve our own operational emissions reduction goal without compromising the safety, affordability, and reliability of our transit services. There are three main challenges in realizing this goal.

Rising electricity demands

The MTA consumes a lot of electricity, mostly for traction power to move subways and commuter trains. Our electricity demand will increase as we expand service and transition fossil-fuel fleets and building systems to electric, elevating the importance of carbon-free energy sources.

Emerging technologies

As we transition fleets, we are encountering challenges associated with emerging technologies, including supply-chain constraints for zero-emissions buses and limited commercially viable options for low-emissions locomotives. In parallel, transitions to battery electric vehicles require significant investments in charging infrastructure and supporting building systems.

Complex building system updates

Most of our facilities, including stations, depots, and shops, rely on complex building systems powered by fossil fuels, including complex systems like HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning). Updating these systems is challenging due to the typical age, size, and function of our facilities. For similar reasons, incorporating new renewable energy infrastructure in our facilities will require updates to building systems, particularly electrical utilities.

What we've done

The pathways to 85% operational emissions reduction builds on multiple programs already in motion. Most significantly, we have initiated a transition of the entire bus fleet to zero emissions by 2040. Fifteen electric buses are already operational and an additional 60 electric buses are scheduled to start this year.

Explore the Zero-Emissions Fleet Case Study

In addition to initiating the transition of fleets, we have implemented a tremendous portfolio of energy efficiency projects in multiple facilities over the past several years. Examples include lighting upgrades, replacement of inefficient HVAC systems, and installation of automatic rolldown doors that keep heat in the building when buses or trains are not passing through. These projects reduced our total energy consumption and cut annual greenhouse gas emissions by 100,000 tons per year.

Our 20-year plan

We will deepen our stakes in the regional climate fight. Highlights include:

We have more to do. View the Appendices.

Attract new riders by supporting sustainable transportation and transit-oriented development

We look forward to partnerships with local and county governments that bolster transit ridership by supporting new construction around transit stops, particularly new affordable housing opportunities, and improving adjacent properties and roadways for sustainable transportation, including exceptional bus service and dedicated bicycle, pedestrian, and micro-mobility infrastructure.

Cut agencywide operational greenhouse gas emissions at least 85% by 2040

We will achieve this goal by focusing on three strategies:

Transition fleets

Zero-emissions buses and accompanying charging infrastructure will be key components of our future capital programs and our commitment to cut operational greenhouse gas emissions by 85% by 2040. We are also transitioning other MTA fleets from fossil fuels.

Learn more

Multiple types of fleets


The purchase of zero-emissions buses and setting up charging infrastructure will be key components of future capital programs, and they are crucial to our commitment to cut our greenhouse gas emissions by 85% by 2040.


Locomotives move trains when there is no electric power available. They are the toughest type of vehicle to decarbonize, given few commercially viable alternatives.

We will achieve significant emissions reductions as we replace existing locomotives with new dual-mode technologies. Going forward, we'll continue to survey the market for new technologies, with the ultimate goal of deploying low- or zero-emissions alternatives.

Non-revenue vehicles

Non-revenue fleet vehicles support our services and are not used to move passengers. Planning is underway to transition fossil-fueled non-revenue vehicle fleets to zero-emissions alternatives. Like buses, this transition will be accompanied by the installation of charging infrastructure at select facilities.

Update facilities

  • We will update fossil-fueled building systems to low- or zero-emissions alternatives and install renewable energy infrastructure, including solar panels, where feasible. These actions will advance our operational emissions reductions, unlock energy cost savings, and reduce demands on the electrical grid.
  • MTA building systems

  • We maintain over 16 million square feet in facilities such as train shops, bus depots, stations, and administrative buildings. Over the next 20 years, we will update these facilities as a part of the state-of-good-repair capital investment process.
  • As we replace aging building assets, we will prioritize sustainability as a guiding principle. By installing more efficient HVAC units, doors, and lighting systems, along with roofs that harvest solar power, we can save energy, decrease operational costs, and reduce emissions.

Improve energy efficiency

  • We will employ strategies, in particular emerging technologies, to reduce energy use. Since most of our electricity use is for traction power, we will investigate ways to capture and re-deploy regenerative braking energy from trains, which could allow us to utilize the stored energy during peak demand on the electrical grid.
  • Emerging technologies saving energy

  • We recently piloted wireless controls and sensors to reduce natural gas and oil consumption for HVAC systems and boilers in several facilities across the system. The pilot project demonstrated fuel reductions of 33% to 66%, indicating potential to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save on energy costs.
Construction happening in a tunnel

Innovation and technology

We must continue to innovate to create a world-class 21st century transit system.

Innovations in technology and infrastructure are essential to enhance the efficiency, safety, and reliability of our vast network. That means constantly working to upgrade our system, experiment with new tools and processes, and incorporate the most promising solutions to improve service and rider experience.

Innovation is more than following trends. Rather, it means investing in foundational infrastructure that can be adaptable to increasingly advanced technology. Whether it's communications or artificial intelligence, when new technologies mature from the "next big thing" to "proven and scalable," we will have the backbone in place to take advantage of those developments.


Aging technology

Much of the MTA's critical infrastructure was built over a hundred years ago, with technology modern for its time but antiquated today. This means that our systems are not as efficient or effective as they could be to deliver world-class service.

Difficult to scale

Given our intricate and vast system, we must take a strategic approach when implementing new technologies at scale. While technological innovations have the potential to greatly enhance experiences when successful, their failure can be costly. Preparing our complex and interconnected system for change necessitates meticulous planning and testing, even for the most promising tools and technologies.

Unpredictable change

Predicting the exact trajectory of technological advancements is challenging due to the rapid and often unpredictable nature and pace of innovation.

What we've done

In recent years, the MTA has embraced innovative technologies and approaches to improve the customer experience.


The transition to the OMNY contactless fare payment system represents a first-of-its-kind open loop system that allows riders to seamlessly travel throughout the New York region.

Apps and screens

A revolution in trip-planning ability for our customers, signal upgrades, and extensive investments into our communications systems enabled us to share real-time transit arrival updates through apps and nearly 10,000 screens in stations.

Industry partnership

The MTA has also formalized ways to stay on top of the latest technological innovations in industry, including launching the Transit Tech Lab, a public-private initiative with the Partnership for New York City to solicit and implement promising pilots from the tech sector.

Our 20-year plan

We will invest in the assets that enable technological innovation in the system.

We have more to do. View the Appendices.

A seamless, upgraded experience for riders

  • We aim to create an easier travel experience, where riders can smoothly tap in using OMNY and enter through a new generation of fare gates that accommodate mobility devices, luggage, and bicycles.
  • We aim to limit fare evasion, with retrofits to existing fare lines and use of laser sensors, AI, and other technology that detect and prevent evasion.
  • We aim to improve the experience in station with enhanced customer communications, allowing riders to receive live service updates from service supervision staff at our centralized train control centers and cellular service in stations and subway tunnels.

Safer, more reliable service

  • We are developing our next generation of operational command centers, which are the critical nerve centers that ensure smooth and efficient operation of services. These new facilities will have greater monitoring and management capabilities for higher-quality, safer, and more secure service to customers.
  • We are using cutting-edge technology to combat track intrusion, keeping our riders safe and avoiding disruptions and delays. Through laser intrusion detection systems, video analytics, and AI-powered forward facing cameras, we can prevent track intrusion incidents and respond better to those that do occur.

Use of innovative tools in design and construction

  • We are expanding the use of Building Information Modeling (BIM) technology and digital twins to create a digital representation of MTA assets, track changes, and perform analysis for more cost-effective and accurate design, construction, and operations.
  • We are expanding the use of unmanned aerial systems and laser technology for inspection and surveying of difficult-to-reach infrastructure, significantly reducing time-intensive data collection and risks to worker safety.