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In 1997, officials said that every line would be computerized by this year.By 2005, they had pushed the deadline to 2045, and now even that target seems unrealistic.“We have to find a way to shorten that.”New York’s more than century-old subway has been essential to the city’s growth, but there is increasing alarm that after years of progress, the system is sliding backward.

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It took about a decade to complete the signal network on the L line, and work on the No. Confronted with infrastructure dating to the 1930s and a vast system of 472 stations (the most of any subway in the world), officials are forced to decide which projects to prioritize with limited financing.

The transportation authority asked for $3.2 billion for signal and communications work in its latest five-year capital proposal — about 10 percent of its $32 billion budget request — but $400 million was cut from the plan approved by state leaders last year. Cuomo, a Democrat, like the mayor, was focused on finishing the first segment of the Second Avenue subway on time, but critics say he has shown far less urgency about the deteriorating condition of the subway’s signals.

At the current pace, transforming every subway line could take half a century and cost $20 billion.

The signal system is the hidden, unglamorous backbone of the subway, controlling when trains can move down the tracks.

Most of New York’s subway system still relies on antiquated technology, known as block signaling, to coordinate the movement of trains. C., is more dependable and exact, making it possible to reduce the amount of space between trains. More than 25 years later, the authority has little to show for its effort to install modern signals.

A modern system, known as communications-based train control, or C. The L line began using computerized signals in 2009 after about a decade of work. 7, should have received new signals last year, but the project was delayed until the end of this year. It requires installing transponders every 500 feet on the tracks, along with radios and zone controllers, and buying new trains or upgrading them with onboard computers, radios and speed sensors.State and city leaders feuded over the agency’s current capital plan for a year, and the agency still does not know how Mr.Cuomo will finance much of the billion he committed toward the pared-down .5 billion five-year plan.But it is so outdated that it cannot identify precisely where trains are, requiring more room between them.And when it fails, trains stop, delays pile up and riders fume.London has installed a computerized signal network on four of its 10 main subway lines, and work is underway on four more. In New York, the plans have been hobbled by an anemic schedule for upgrading tracks, a struggle to secure necessary funding and logistical challenges on a system that never stops running.

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