Project Management Institute

The Big Grapple

New York Eyes Subway Upgrade; Lack of Funding Remains a Challenge



Subway riders in New York, New York, USA

The United States' most heavily used rail system is in a state of crisis. The subway in New York, New York sees more than 5 million daily riders. But it's in massive disrepair, with roughly 76,000 weekday subway trains delayed in January 2018, for instance. State Gov. Andrew Cuomo placed the system in a state of emergency in 2017. Now, a government-backed plan is looking to gain momentum.

In May, the state-run Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) proposed a 10-year program to overhaul the system. With no clear path to funding, the plan remains just a proposal for now.

“This plan will need money, it will need time, it will need political will, and it will need the forbearance of New Yorkers,” Andy Byford, president of MTA's New York City Transit, told The Wall Street Journal. The MTA hired Mr. Byford last year after he spearheaded a successful turnaround of Toronto, Ontario, Canada's transit system.

—Andy Byford, Metropolitan Transportation Authority, to The Wall Street Journal

The project will also need “stronger project management,” according to the MTA's proposal, which calls for more efficient procurement, strict project controls, greater transparency, and a single point of contact responsible for scope, schedule and budget.

The proposed program focuses on the outdated signaling system, installed over a period stretching from 40 to 80 years ago. The antiquated system not only leads to delays but also prevents more trains from running on its 27 lines. In the first five-year phase, the plan aims to upgrade signals on the five busiest lines, with the second five-year phase upgrading six more lines. The project team would meet the ambitious timeline by completing signal upgrades simultaneously rather than sequentially and by closing lines most nights and weekends.

Still, the question remains: Who will foot the bill? The project's first phase will cost as much as US$19 billion, with an additional US$18 billion for the rest, according to preliminary estimates. Even with budgeted fare increases, the MTA projects a US$400 million deficit by 2020. The project's enormous cost is the “elephant in the room,” Mr. Byford told The New York Times.

The Young and the Fearless

As Gen Z joins the workforce (and project teams), project managers are learning what makes them tick. A September survey by EY finds this new generation is less fettered by fear of failure.

believe that failure may ultimately help them become more innovative.

want feedback after a large project or at a regular cadence.

value bringing a curious and open mindset to the team more than having a specific skill or expertise.

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