Metropolitan Transportation Authority

20-Year Needs Assessment | Rebuild

Subway turnstiles wrapped in caution tape

Our future depends on a commitment to rebuild our aging system

The system is more than a century old and critical infrastructure is at risk of failure.

+ Click on the icons to explore our infrastructure

Behind the scenes…

411 power substations

704 stations

6,540 subway cars

5,840 buses

2,229 railroad cars

1,907 miles of track

We must rebuild our system for the next hundred years

In some ways, the MTA system has never been stronger. Subway service is performing at its highest level in a decade. LIRR and Metro-North are at greater than 95% on-time performance. Ridership is recovering post-pandemic, and customer satisfaction is increasing.

Keeping our system running requires a comprehensive approach to rebuilding it

See how
Equity underpins our work

Read more

Equity underpins our work

New York as a whole depends on the MTA, to access jobs and basic needs (85% of jobs are within walking distance from rail and subway), but this is especially true in historically underserved communities, where high concentrations of low-income, minority, and transit dependent populations live, and auto ownership is low. In New York City, the average percentage of zero-vehicle households in Equity Areas is 65%, compared to 29% in non-Equity Areas.

This means that investments we make to rebuild the system, ensuring its reliability and longevity, are also equity investments. The converse is also true—if we fail to invest in rebuilding our system, the delays and disruptions will hit disadvantaged communities the hardest.


Rebuilding the MTA's aging assets—from structures to shops to substations—is essential to ensuring a safe, reliable transit network for the New York region. A robust and efficient transit system is the key to connecting all communities—but particularly those who have been the most underserved—to employment, education, and healthcare.


Keeping our fares affordable is an important part of making the transit system as accessible to all as possible. When our system is in good physical condition, it means fewer operating dollars need to be spent to constantly fix broken parts. When we spend fewer operating dollars, it means there is less pressure on fares.


We know that most of our riders depend on reliable service, and we take that seriously in our planning. This includes prioritizing investment in reliability—key among them modernizing our antiquated signals system—for subway lines that serve communities that are most transit reliant. For the 2020-2024 capital program, this means we advanced signaling upgrades to improve on-time performance and reduce delays on the A C Fulton Line and G Crosstown Line.

Construction happening in a tunnel


Our transportation system has served the region for more than 100 years. It is an old system with out-of-date infrastructure, and much of it is now in desperate need of replacement.

Over the next 20 years, we will be celebrating the 200th birthday of the LIRR, the 125th birthday of the subway system, the 125th birthday of Metro-North's Grand Central Terminal, and 100th birthday of MTA Bridges and Tunnels.

Now we must reconstruct some of our foundational assets or risk catastrophic failures and disruptions across the system.

Explore the Metro-North Case Study


The system—and the need—is vast.

The scale of our infrastructure is enormous—and a significant portion needs to be rebuilt over the next 20 years. That is especially true of the system's "hidden infrastructure," despite its essential role in safe and reliable service. This includes the power substations that provide electricity to the tracks, the shops and yards where railcars can be safely stored and maintained, and the tunnels and structures supporting the tracks that keep the trains running safely.

Deteriorating structures

Multiple essential reconstruction projects of some of our most critical infrastructure are needed over the next 20 years to avoid catastrophic shutdowns.

Learn more

Deteriorating structures

Long Island Rail Road

There are 76 of 568 bridges that are in need of comprehensive rehabilitation. These critical line structures allow trains to go over and under obstacles like roadways, bodies of water, and along varying terrain.

Metro-North Railroad

Platforms along the Harlem Line are crumbling and currently shored up with added wooden supports to avoid collapse.

Bridges and Tunnels

The lower-level suspended span deck on the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge is in need of replacement to ensure the structure can continue to support the tens of millions of vehicles that travel on it every year between Brooklyn and Staten Island.

Aging power substations

We have a large network of substations across our system that are crucial to delivering power to keep our trains running. However, many of these substations have been around for decades and have major components that are at risk of failure.

Learn more

Aging power substations

New York City Transit

  • Over the next 20 years there will be a threefold increase in the number of major substation components that are at least half century old—from almost 300 (25%) today, to over 900 components (77%) in 20 years.
  • Additionally, the outdated power control system limits the ability to respond to power related problems, such as an unexpected loss of power.

Metro-North Railroad and Long Island Rail Road

Approximately 88% of Metro-North substations providing traction power have already exceeded their useful life; more than half of LIRR's substations were built in the 1970s or earlier. New substations need to be designed to meet the increased power demand of current and future train service, as well as upgraded technological features such as cameras and climate control equipment.

Outdated shops and yards

Shops and yards are where we perform maintenance and repairs for our trains and other equipment. These vital support facilities are essential for maintaining a safe and reliable fleet. However, many of these facilities are in extremely poor condition, with leaking roofs, inefficient work areas, poor heating and ventilation, and insufficient employee spaces.

Learn more

Shops and yards

New York City Transit

  • Over 200 shop components are in poor or marginal condition, including 73% of subway maintenance shop structures.
  • Several of the oldest facilities, including the 240th St and Livonia Shops, are not able to accommodate modern subway cars and must be reconfigured or entirely reconstructed.

Metro-North Railroad and Long Island Rail Road

  • 89% of Metro-North shop equipment used for maintaining railcars—such as car cranes and equipment lifts—is in poor or marginal condition.
  • 94% of LIRR work locomotives are beyond their useful life and must be replaced.

What happens at our shops and yards?

Elements of Shops and Yards

Click to enlarge

Elements of Shops and Yards

What we've done

Staten Island Railway Clifton Maintenance Shop: We comprehensively rebuilt this facility after it suffered severe damage from Superstorm Sandy to create a modern, storm-resistant, and much more operationally efficient home base for Staten Island Railway (SIR) operations.

L Train Tunnel We avoided the full closure of the L line as we reconstructed and strengthened the Hurricane Sandy-damaged Canarsie Tube and completed the project ahead of schedule and $100 million under budget.

Harmon Shop: We will soon complete the replacement of the 100-year-old Harmon Shop, with new, modern facilities for the inspection and maintenance of locomotives, coach cars, and electric railcars. The new Harmon facility provides Metro-North with sufficient space to carry out its preventative maintenance activities, and unscheduled and major repairs so trains can quickly resume operation with minimal delays to service.

Grand Central Train Shed: Work is underway on a small section of the Train Shed to replace the roof on E 47th and 48th streets and a portion of Park Ave between them.

Explore the Grand Central Case Study

Cherry Valley Avenue Bridge: We have replaced the Cherry Valley Avenue Bridge, which was built in 1905 and expanded in 1918. The original bridge had been struck by oversized trucks dozens of times in recent years. The new bridge has additional clearance to prevent delays and safety issues caused by these incidents.

The majority of the Bronx-Whitestone and Henry Hudson Bridges, as well as a significant portion of the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge, have been reconstructed. In addition, the Throgs Neck Bridge suspended span deck has been replaced, and the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge approaches and upper-level suspended span deck have both been reconfigured and reconstructed.

Our 20-year plan

By making essential investments in our critical infrastructure, we can secure the foundation of our system and prepare it to deliver reliable, modern service for the coming generations of riders.

We have more to do. View the Appendices.

Rebuild critical, at-risk structures

  • We must reconstruct the deteriorating infrastructure that leads to Grand Central to ensure continued Metro-North service to Midtown Manhattan. This crucial work would be completed in phases over the next 20 years to address the Grand Central Train Shed, Park Avenue Viaduct, and Park Avenue Tunnel provide access to and from Grand Central Terminal and New York City's Central Business District in Midtown.
  • We must replace the deteriorating platforms at more than 19 Metro-North stations along the Harlem Line.
  • We must fix the LIRR Atlantic Avenue tunnel to keep Brooklyn service running.
  • We must rehabilitate nine LIRR viaducts, encompassing 341 individual spans.
  • We must rebuild parts of our bridges and tunnels that are at risk, including the lower span of the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge.
Explore the Third Track Case Study

Upgrade aging power substations

  • We must repair critically poor conditions at power substations across the system at an unprecedented pace. This includes upgrading nearly 180 NYCT substation locations to avoid subway slow-downs and the potential for extensive power outages.
  • We must replace major components of over 50 Metro-North substations and install nine new substations in areas lacking sufficient power to maintain reliability across our system.
  • We must completely replace or replace critical components at 72 LIRR substations.

Modernize shops and yards

  • We must reconstruct functionally obsolete shops including Livonia and 240th Street to ensure facilities are safe, comfortable, able to meet current operational needs, and are prepared for future demand.
  • We must renovate railcar and maintenance support shops to 21st century standards that can handle modern trains and support a modern workforce, which will allow us to service newer railcars and infrastructure with updated technology that our riders deserve.
Explore the Livonia Case Study
Construction happening in a tunnel


Since the first capital plan in 1982, we've made significant investments in the system—and it has made a difference. The graffiti-covered subway railcars are gone. Those trains could travel only 7,000 miles between failures; the railcars that replaced them (many of which are still in service) average 129,000 miles—and the newer ones can last more than 250,000 miles at their peak. Investment matters. And even more so, continuous investment matters; we have to continue replacing assets as they become outdated and beyond their useful life.

New York's future depends on keeping up with that investment. Aging assets demand increased maintenance attention, resulting in higher costs to keep them safe and operational and to avoid and more disruptive shutdowns for repairs. Today, we have assets across all categories that are in poor or marginal condition that we must address, including 21% of subway station components, 32% of Metro-North bridges, and 52% of LIRR substations.

We can't uphold our commitment to reliable service if critical components no longer function as intended.

Explore the B&T Case Study


Every asset has its own lifecycle for replacement. Some assets may need replacing every 10 years, others every 20 years, and still others, every 100 years.

During their functional years, these assets fulfill their purpose. However, as they age, they become prone to age-related wear-and-tear or even outright failure. This moment is approaching for a significant percentage of the system over the next 20 years.

Aging subway railcars

  • Over the next 20 years, over 3,900 railcars will reach the end of their useful life and will require replacement. Nearly 1,500 railcars currently in operation are already past their 40-year limit.
  • Keeping up with railcar replacements is one of the most effective ways of ensuring reliable subway service. New railcars average over 200,000 miles between failures, making them more than 2.5 times as reliable as older "legacy" railcars. Nearly two-thirds of all August "hot car" incidents involving air conditioning breakdowns over the past three years, occurred in older railcars with underbody-mounted air units, compared to the newer ones cars with modern overhead AC units.

Necessary bus replacement

Each of our 5,840 buses gets replaced every 12 years. That means over the next 20 years, we will need to replace the entire fleet.

Deteriorating stations

With 704 subway and commuter rail stations, our transit network has more stations than any other subway or metro network in the world. Some of these stations are nearly 120 years old, and each station is made up of hundreds of components that need attention and are on different replacement cycles. The age and sheer size of our station footprint create a huge maintenance challenge.

Elevated line structure corrosion

Our exterior steel infrastructure needs regular painting. This is not for aesthetic purposes. The paint on our outdoor structures, like our 61 miles of elevated subway structures and several hundred railroad overpasses, protects the steel against corrosion by providing a barrier from water and other weather-related damage.

Suspension bridge preservation

The life of a suspension bridge is governed by the longevity of its main cables, which are the primary load-carrying elements for a suspension bridge and are extremely difficult and cost-prohibitive to replace.

Cable dehumidification is a proven technique used world-wide to minimize corrosion and preserve the remaining strength of main cables by reducing the relative humidity levels within the cables.

Implementing cable dehumidification on our four suspension bridges is one of our highest priorities.

What we've done

We are constantly renewing the many complex components of our system.

Fleet upgrades: NYCT new R211 cars are in service, the first of the 1,175 new railcars that will be deployed across the subway and SIR over the next few years. These new railcars feature wider door openings, digital displays, CCTV, and other modern amenities and are equipped with the technology required for a modern signal system.

Station improvements: In the current five-year capital plan, we are repairing over 1,400 subway station components including stairs, platforms, canopies, mezzanine components, and station ventilators.

We are also renewing 78 station elevators and 66 escalators to keep this equipment available over 95% of the time.

Station improvements: Over the last five years, we have completed vital repair and rehabilitation work at 20 LIRR stations—with more underway. This work includes platform replacements, station building renovations, pedestrian overpass improvements, and installation of new customer amenities like digital screens and platform shelters.

Cable dehumidification: We are protecting the main cables at the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge and the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge against future corrosion.

Our 20-year plan

By keeping up with our replacement needs, we can avoid the cycle of deterioration, breakdowns, and emergency action—and reap the benefits of safe, consistently reliable, and convenient service.

We have more to do. View the Appendices.

Replace aging fleets

We need to replace eight railcar types totaling over 5,000 railcars for NYCT, Metro-North, LIRR and purchase 9,000 buses over the next 20 years.

Learn more

Replace aging fleets

New York City Transit


We must complete the replacement of all "legacy" subway railcars built prior to 2000. Continuing to transition to our newest railcars, which have equipment malfunctions a fraction of the time compared to older ones, as well as have improved features like wider doors to expedite boarding, security cameras, digital information displays, and automated announcements, is important. Modernized railcars are also essential to the rollout of a modernized signal system.


We must transition our entire bus fleet to zero-emissions by 2040, significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The new fleet will also feature digital information screens and other modern technology to enhance safety and customer experience.

Long Island Rail Road

We must purchase up to 340 new railcars to expand the fleet and replace old ones so that the entire passenger railcar fleet is within its useful life. Expanding the fleet will allow us to provide more travel options and run service to match the expected changes in ridership demand caused by the opening of Grand Central Madison and the boost in "reverse peak" service that is possible with the recent completion of the Main Line Third Track expansion project.

Metro-North Railroad

We must replace aging locomotives, coaches, and railcars by purchasing over 750 new vehicles, including up to 15 new locomotives for West-of-Hudson service, all while preparing for expansion of service from the New Haven Line into Penn Station. With these investments completed, all revenue equipment would be within their useful life.

Prolong the lifespan of our structures

  • We must complete painting all 61 miles of elevated steel subway structures and repairing thousands of priority structural defects that will help our structures last longer.
  • We must dehumidify the main cables of the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge and Throgs Neck Bridge to preserve their strength.
Explore the Painting Case Study

Upgrade stations

  • We must implement station repair projects quickly when deteriorated components or other needs are identified so that we expedite fixing our stations in a shorter timeframe and improve our customers' experiences.
  • We must enhance security by improving lighting, CCTV, and other station elements.
  • We must improve circulation within selected stations by adding stairs or reconfiguring station elements.
  • We must address degraded station electrical utility conditions and upgrading station lighting.
  • We must rehabilitate or replace aged, deteriorating station components, including platforms at 70 stations and 160 elevators throughout the LIRR and Metro-North systems.
Construction happening in a tunnel


To reach our region's potential, we will need a transit system that can meet the needs of 21st century riders. We must modernize some of our outdated and deteriorating infrastructure to create a system that is more efficient, reliable, and easier to navigate. By making these foundational investments, we can prepare our network for its next century of service.


Today we are using signal technology developed during the days when radio was considered cutting-edge, created decades before the invention of the internet. Some of our technology is so old that its components are no longer manufactured, forcing the MTA to painstakingly craft its own replacement parts. By modernizing the grossly outdated and wildly inefficient parts of our system, we can avoid breakdowns and support safer, more reliable service. Two particularly important systems we need to modernize are signals and communication technology.


The current signaling system on the majority of the subway, known as fixed-block signaling, is both safe and effective at directing trains along lines. It uses green, yellow, and red lights, much like road traffic signals, to direct operators on how fast they can operate trains relative to others. By now, however, this system is significantly outdated, with many parts of it dating back to the 1930s. The age of the signal infrastructure leads to all too many signal failures, a top cause of delays on the subway system, and it limits the number of trains we can run and our ability to track them precisely throughout the system.

We know the solution. Communications Based Train Control (CBTC) technology allows trains to move closer together, increasing throughput capacity and allowing service to recover from disruptions more quickly. Paired with advanced Automated Train Supervision (ATS) systems, CBTC also allows more accurate train movement monitoring and, therefore, more accurate customer information. But given the size and age of our system, it is a significant undertaking to execute.

Communication technology

Providing information about train arrivals, service changes, or other important messages has become a standard our customers expect. But currently, just over half of our stations can deliver this information effectively due to outdated systems.

Communication technology becomes obsolete faster than other assets due to rapid technological advancement and innovation. That means that while other assets have a typical lifespan of 25 to 50 years, communication assets tend to have shorter lifespan of 10 to 15 years.

Though each technology has different challenges and vulnerabilities, as well as compatibility requirements, updating them is essential. In addition to informing customers, this infrastructure also facilitates clear and timely communication between train operators, control centers, and station personnel. It is also critical in emergency response situations.

What we've done

New York City Transit

CBTC installation

  • Subway signal modernization has been fully completed on the L and 7 lines. Since the upgrades, they have become our highest performing lines, both consistently exceeding 90% on time performance.
  • Modernization is also completed on portions of the E F M R (Queens Boulevard West) and currently underway on the Culver F G, 8 Avenue A C E, and Crosstown G lines.
  • Plans are underway to award signal modernization projects on the Fulton A C, 6 Avenue B D F M, and 63 St F lines by the end of 2024.

Communication upgrades

  • We have been making advances in rehabilitating and upgrading communication assets across our subway system. Our 2020-2024 Capital Program included a 97% increase in funding for communications infrastructure over the previous capital program.
  • We are currently rolling out connection-oriented ethernet (COE) across the system. This will enable us to upgrade security and communications capabilities.

Our 20-year plan

We will embrace changes that improve service and reliability into the next century.

We have more to do. View the Appendices.

Modernize signals

  • We must modernize our signaling system across the MTA system. Updating signals is one of the most important things we can do to improve service reliability, reduce delays, and allow us to increase train service in the future if needed. For the subway system alone, this means improvements to 315 miles of signals.
  • We must expand modernized signaling from approximately 234 signal miles (already complete or underway) to 549 total signal miles, resulting in improved service for about 90% of riders.
  • We must upgrade the entirety of Metro-North's Harlem and Hudson lines to operate with next generation signal systems. This means replacing over 150 route miles of outdated signal system assets, installing next generation train supervision systems, and building a modernized Operations Control Center.
  • We must modernize approximately 50 miles of signaling and complete the installation of signal and communication systems to provide LIRR passengers with better and more timely information.

Update customer communication technology

  • We must upgrade our communication systems across our network so riders can plan their trips and their days with confidence, thanks to easy-to-read digital screens and audio announcements that are clear and easy to understand.
  • We must modernize customer communication systems so that all stations have public address systems and customer information screens that can broadcast clear and accurate information to all riders.
Explore the Public Address and Customer Information System Case Study