NYPD refuses to use $140 million subway radio system

Published 26 January 2007

Long overdue and overbudget, the system is troubled by widespread interference and decrepit cabling; E.A. Technologies and Petrocelli Electric struggle to explain the problem

Can you hear me now? How about now? Such words have not been heard over New York City’s new subway police radio systems, and the reason is unfortunately not because the E.A. Technologies and Petrocelli Electric-installed system is perfectly installed. Rather, it is so useless that the NYPD has chosen not to turn it on at all — even though the project was supposedly finished in October and came at the hefty cost of $140 million. “What you get is distorted audio,” said Joseph Yurman, a communications engineer for New York City Transit. “You can hear it, but it sounds as if you’re talking through a glass of water.” Fixing the problem will now cost an additional $20 million just for new radio equipment, and the hope is to have it completed by next year — four years behind schedule and way beyond the estimate total cost of $115 million.

The problems were apparent almost from the get-go. The new system — which was intended to permit police working deep in the subway’s bowels to communiacte with colleagues above — relied on an already existing network of antenna cables. Soon enough, however, planners realized that seventy-two miles of cable was decrepit and could not carry the neccesary signal. Replacing the useless cable will cost an additional $36 million. Interference is another major challenge, as signals from aboveground enter stations through gartings and subway entrances to create an irritating buzz. “In New York it’s a very tough problem because of the number of portals that go into the subways and the number of vents and so on,” RCC Consultants’s Michael Hunter said. “Some of the newer subways don’t have this problem.”

-read more in William Neuman’s New York Times report