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Magnetic wands may be answer to fixing subway delays: Cuomo

The MTA is getting more magnetic wands — an "innovative technology," the governor said, that can help prevent subway delays.
cuomo, subway delays, signal delays, nyc transit, nyc subway
Gov. Cuomo demonstrated the magnetic wands at the 9th Avenue subway station on the D Line in Sunset Park. Photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

What’s the answer to the dreaded subway delays? Not the wave of a magic wand, but a magnetic wand, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo toured the 9th Avenue subway station in Sunset Park on Thursday to demonstrate what he says is an innovative technology the MTA will be deploying in full force to speed up subway repairs and address signal delays.

The magnetic wands help remove conductive material, like steel dust, that builds up on the tracks, according to the governor’s office.

When those materials build up, it causes “insulated joint failures,” essentially tripping the electrical circuit which then leads to delay-causing red signals.

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Insulated joints are the points of electrical connection used in the subway’s signal system. When a train is on a section of a track, that turns the signal red to let other trains know it’s there and to prevent collisions.

When the insulated joints are “compromised” by those conductive materials, it turns the signal red, delaying a train when it should actually proceed down the track. This is one of the most common causes of signal-related delays, the governor’s office said.

"New York City subways are reliant on 100-year-old track and signal technology that will disrupt a commute on a moment's notice," Cuomo said in a statement. "While we invest in 21st Century technology to modernize the system in the long term, we're also supporting the MTA's work to stabilize the system in the short term.”

The Subway Action Plan is now fully funded by the recently passed state budget, and now, the governor added, that will allow the MTA to deploy this technology reduce signal-related delays.

The MTA is ordering 700 additional magnetic wands to have a total of 1,000 in its arsenal. NYC Transit plans to clean all 11,000 priority joints (out of 22,000 total joints) by November 2018.