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Cuomo gets government out of building business and puts private sector in charge of new subway

Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled design plans for a “reimagined” New York City subway system on Monday.

The improvement plan, which Cuomo described as a “bold and visionary reimagining of the quintessential commuter experience,” features various tech upgrades and redesigned subway cars.

The plan, which will be funded through the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s $27 billion capital program, involves the renovation of 31 subway stations and the addition of 1,025 cars to the system.
“I am excited about the design. I am excited about the innovation. The challenge now is to get it done,” said Cuomo during a speech at Brooklyn’s Transit Museum.

“New York deserves a world-class transportation network, worthy of its role as the heartbeat of the 21st century economy. We are going to do more than renovate — we are bringing subway stations to a higher standard than ever before, and the new vision for subway cars will increase capacity and reduce overcrowding and delays.”

Out of the total number of cars that will be added to the subway system, up to 750 will have an “open car end” design. This scheme will replace doors between cars with accordion-like connectors. The new cars will also come with upgrades such as WiFi, USB chargers, digital information displays, digital ads and illuminated door opening alerts.

Subway cars will also be revamped to have wider doors, expanding from the current MTA standard of 50 inches to 58 inches.

Meanwhile, the 31 subway stations included in the program will have improvements such as countdown clocks and digital signs that show service changes at subway entrances.

Officials said that the renovation process will “consider the architectural legacy of each station.”
The MTA will use design-build contracts for all 31 stations. Cuomo pre-empted dissent by pointing to the Tappan Zee Bridge as a model. He claims that design-build reduced the estimated time of completion for the project from 15 years to four year.

“What is design-build? Government gets out of the business. The old business was government designed and then government constructed, or government designed and then government bid out the construction to a developer. That system never worked well and it was never fast,” he said.

“We have had enough experience to know the best way to do this now is contract the entire project to a private sector developer who does this, who can design the project to your specifications, can build the project, is incentivized to get it done quickly, and is penalized if they are late. These endless construction projects, that just go on and on and on, and they seemingly have no end, have to stop.”
The project is said to be on an expedited timeline, with the first request for proposals coming out next week for three stations in Brooklyn (Prospect Avenue, 53rd Street and Bay Ridge Avenue).

The remaining RFPs will be released over the next year, with the first contracts being awarded next fall. The stations included in the plan may be closed for as long as six months.

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