A Real-Time Service Management Decision Support System for Train Dispatching at New York City Transit

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - north america, place - urban, mode - subway/metro, planning - methods, planning - service quality, technology - intelligent transport systems, technology - passenger information


New York City Transit’s (NYCT), train dispatchers, real time service


With ridership near modern highs, New York City Transit’s (NYCT) subway network frequently operates at or near capacity. This makes maintaining a high-quality service both challenging, due to the lack of “slack,” and exceptionally important, due to the large number of riders affected by disruptions. To this end, train dispatchers constantly monitor the network and adjust service to respond to delays. This paper presents a decision support system developed by NYCT which uses real-time train movements and historical ridership information to provide dispatchers with recommendations for holds and station skips in real time. The system uses heuristic headway criteria to determine hold or skip candidate trains, and then estimates the net passenger time savings of each potential hold or skip using estimated origin–destination flows and basic assumptions about passenger behavior. Potential actions that meet a passenger benefit threshold are recommended, and communicated to dispatchers with a simple dashboard. A pilot implementation of the system has been in use at NYCT’s Rail Control Center (RCC) for several months, though many details of the system are still in development. Initial observations indicate the system is helping dispatchers manage train service more effectively, producing large passenger time savings.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by SAGE, copyright remains with them.