A subway car arrives at the 42nd St. station in Manhattan (Getty Images)

On Tuesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed the MTA Genius Transit Challenge, an international competition meant to reimagine solutions to the systemic problems faced by the beleaguered NYC subway system.

 

Aiming to increase the number of trains per hour at peak periods, a statement from Gov. Cuomo’s office indicated that the competition will bring together “outside-the-box” ideas on how to address three of the subway’s most vexing problems: the problem-prone signal system, aging train cars and inconsistent Wi-Fi connectivity.

 

The state will provide $1 million awards to be issued to the best ideas in each of the three categories, the governor’s statement explained. Eight panelists will be involved in that selection process and will include notable individuals in academia, including Cornell Tech. Dean and Vice Provost Daniel Huttenlocher and SUNY Chancellor-elect Kristina Johnson, and individuals in the business world, such as Motorola Solutions Chairman and CEO Greg Brown.

 

Regarding the subway’s aging signal system, the competition is meant to foster ideas for accelerating the implementation of better and more reliable signals to alleviate the strain on the existing fixed-block signal system, which was designed over 100 years ago and requires constant repair, according to the governor’s statement. Pointing to train-car doors as a main culprit for train malfunctions, the competition will also focus on generating ideas for increasing and improving predictive maintenance rather than corrective maintenance for the subway’s aging fleet of trains.

 

Wi-Fi connectivity, though available in stations, is still unavailable in subway tunnels because they are narrow, which presents difficulties in distributing cables and other needed equipment, according to the governor’s office.

The governor’s challenge was unveiled alongside a plan to address the ongoing repairs, problems and cancellations that have frustrated commuters at Penn Station in recent weeks. To that end, the governor announced a variety of approaches to help alleviate strain on the way-over-capacity train station, including expanding Park and Ride operations, amending restrictions on LIE HOV lanes, and adding high-speed Long Island ferry service and private express bus service.

Demand for increased transit service it at a historic high, with the NYC subway’s daily ridership reaching 6 million people commuting along 24 lines covering 665 miles of track, and Penn Station’s daily ridership totaling 600,000 passengers – more than triple its intended capacity, according to the governor.

The international MTA Genius Transit Challenge competition will convene in June. For information about how to participate, visit www.ny.gov/MTAGeniusTransitChallenge.