NYC subway security system: past due, over budget

Published 28 January 2010

In 2005 the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) awarded Lockheed Martin a $212 million contract to create a cutting-edge security system the city’s subways, buses, and commuter trains; the cost of the security system has ballooned to $461 million and is now over-schedule by a year-and-a-half; The MTA. has $59 million left in capital funding

The agency responsible for the New York City transportation system does not have enough money to complete a state-of-the-art electronic security system okayed after the attacks of 9/11, according to a state comptroller’s report released Tuesday.

The electronic security system is only one part of a Metropolitan Transportation Authority (M.T.A.) system-wide security overhaul that’s also overbudget and behind schedule, New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli said in a statement Tuesday. In 2005 the MTA awarded Lockheed Martin a $212 million contract to create a cutting-edge security system for the city’s subways, buses, and commuter trains that could detect abandoned packages and intruders in off-limit locations underground. Things have not gone as planned, according to The New York Times:

[M]any elements of the program, including the installation of digital surveillance cameras and motion detectors, have yet to be completed, and the authority no longer has enough money to finish them, according to a report released Tuesday by the state comptroller’s office.

“The M.T.A. is struggling to bring the security of its system into the 21st century,” the comptroller, Thomas P. DiNapoli, said in a statement. “The project is taking too long, costing too much, and there is no end in sight.”Matthew Harwood writes that the project, estimated to originally cost $265 million, has ballooned to $461 million and is over-schedule by a year-and-a-half. The MTA. has $59 million left in capital funding, which the agency says it will use to complete as much of the original project as possible.

The original price tag for the system exploded because the MTA added additional facilities to the original project; while upgrading MTA computer networks and purchasing and renovating new facilities to house command and control centers also cost additional money, the report states.

Legal disputes between the MTA and Lockheed Martin made things even worse. The agency says the defense contractor’s system failed tests while the contractor counters the agency did not give its workers access to various work sites and other complaints. Lockheed Martin has sued the MTA for a maximum of $138 million for breach of contract while the agency has countersued for $92 million to complete the project as well as for damages.

Harwood writes that in response to the legal proceedings, MTA has hired other contractors to finish as much of the electronic security system as they can with the remaining funds. “Two MTA agencies are now benefiting from the electronic security program,” the report notes, “but three others are lagging far behind and there is no target date to complete the project.”

An MTA spokesperson told the New York Post that “We have already installed more than 2,300 cameras in our subways alone and will continue our efforts to provide real-time alarms and situational awareness at key facilities.”

Nevertheless, key improvements languish. In June 2010 the M.T.A. Police Department is scheduled to move into their new command and control center. The report says the officers will have to rely on their own legacy systems to watch over the system rather than the state-of-the-art system they planned on.

Since the attack of 9/11, jihadists have attacked the transportation systems of Madrid in 2004 and London in 2005. The Post reports that the NYC subway system is “a huge target for terrorists.”

Despite the continued threat of terrorist attack, DiNapoli said that “The transit system is safer than before September 11, 2001, due in large part to the efforts of the MTA Police Department.”