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MTA Targeting Fast Fixes, Signals To Help Speed Up Subway Service

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - While the MTA says on-time performance is the best it has been in four years, often when trains are delayed, signal problems are to blame.

So how is the MTA working to speed up service?

Marcia Kramer went along for an exclusive ride-along with the speed team for an up close look at exactly how this is all happening.

Kramer rode in the motorman's cab aboard a special train that went nonstop through stations on the Fourth Avenue corridor in Brooklyn.

She was traveling with an elite group from the MTA for a behind-the-scenes look at efforts to make trains faster to speed up the commute.

"What we're doing is we're identifying the whole populations of fixes that are necessary and we're going after the ones that we get a lot of benefit from and do quickly," said MTA subways senior vice president Sally Librera.

Quick is the name of the game for the "SPEED" team, which stands for subway performance evaluation, education and development. Librera is leading the charge. She's the first woman to head the Department of Subways. She says speed is the priority in their "save safe seconds" campaign, where their mission is to identify locations for signal and speed upgrades.

"So we are studying every bit of our 700 miles of track and we are looking at everywhere we have those civil speed designations," Librera told Kramer.

Librera and her team pinpoint older signals and speeds limits that need recalibrating and updating: Fast fixes that can have a big impact.

A radar gun checks the accuracy of the speed. Getting signals fixed means fewer delays: Trains run faster and more efficiently, but there is still more work to be done.

When the special train they were aboard came to a sudden stop, Librera explained what happened.

"We went into emergency, the train's brakes were activated," she said.

That can mean the train was going faster than the posted speed or the signal was out of sync. Either will stop it automatically. A team will upgrade and designate a new speed, and also double checks fixes that have been implemented.

Librera says the quick fixes have had a noticeable impact: Trains running faster and fewer delays. It remains to be seen how long this will stay on track.

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