Study finds ‘critical flaws’ in MTA’s $90M bus command center

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The MTA’s $90 million boondoggle bus dispatch war-room has “critical design and execution flaws” that could render it useless in the event of an emergency power outage, The Post has learned.

An outside engineering assessment obtained by The Post found several “single points of failure” in the back-up power system of the NASA-like command center, which has sat mostly empty for three years since former Transit President Andy Byford and other bigwigs held a celebratory ribbon-cutting there in June 2019. 

Several features of the building’s back-up generators could shut down the MTA’s entire bus dispatching operation were they to fail, according to the report by energy consultant SKAE Power Solutions.

Such a catastrophe is not improbable — and one actually occurred at the “old” bus command center when ConEdison experienced a city-wide power surge last summer, MTA internal documents show.

The outage at 8:25 p.m. on Aug. 29 knocked out the command center’s connection with MTA HQ and shut down multiple dispatching applications — including GPS tracking of bus locations, according to a Dec. 17 draft report prepared by JFK&M Consulting.

New MTA Bus Operations Command Center, 51 Fanchon Place, Brooklyn, New York.
MTA employees have yet to work inside the new command center after the facility opened in 2019.
Gregory P. Mango

The consultants said the router that failed was not supported by any back-up power source, and was housed in an overheated room “wholly unsuited for housing a critical application.”

“The router room… was not intended to ever be used as an IT router room,” the consultants wrote. “The room is subject to solar heat gains and humidity, making it very difficult to maintain the proper cooling temperature in the space.”

The room was so filled with wires and cables that inspectors decided it was “too risky” to trace their origins, according to the report. The room’s AC unit was busted, and workers installed a window unit and kept the door open “as a band aid fix,” the consultants said.

Energy consultant SKAE Power Solutions claimed the MTA’s command center could never provide “proper cooling temperature inside the building.
Energy consultant SKAE Power Solutions claimed the MTA’s command center could never provide “proper cooling temperature in the space.”

“To prevent the outage that occurred on 8/29/21, the MTA enterprise router currently in Room 28A must move to a stable environment,” they wrote. Those changes had not been made as of the draft report’s submission to the MTA in December, the report said.

The MTA’s old bus command center, which houses 15 dispatcher consoles, was built in 1948 and has outlived its functionality — but the new command center is already showing signs of deterioration despite remaining mostly empty.

The Post reported in October that the command center building at Jamaica Avenue and Fanchon Place has faced leaks, faulty heating and bug-infested bathrooms. In January, workers found one of the building’s HVAC units burnt to a crisp.

An HVAC unit on the roof of the MTA’s command center was blackened by an apparent fire.
An HVAC unit on the roof of the MTA’s command center was blackened by an apparent fire.
The energy consulting firm found the MTA’s command center had weak back-up generators.
The energy consulting firm found the MTA’s command center had weak back-up generators.

JFK&M’s report found that the heating system for the new center’s massive NASA-like “operational theater” will be “hard pressed to properly heat the space.”

MTA leaders have said the full use of the new command center is stalled indefinitely because “poor contractor performance” has prevented the completion of a new bus radio system necessary to operate the new facility.

A spokesman told The Post in October the building would open “in the first half” of 2022; on Tuesday, the authority said just one-third of dispatchers currently work in the facility.

“As a result of the power outage incident that occurred at the RCC on August 29th, the MTA commissioned a thorough review of all of its critical systems at its command centers, which identified a number of needed improvements at both the new and existing Bus Command Centers,” spokesman Eugene Resnick said in a statement.

“The MTA is prioritizing and developing a plan to address these identified improvements thanks to the rigorous work of our Transit team.”

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