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As ridership exploded on the L line, which runs between Brooklyn and downtown Manhattan, the agency did not have enough train cars built to communicate with the new signals.“It took way too long, but it was a confluence of things that made it take a while,” said Richard Barone, a vice president at the Regional Plan Association, an urban policy group that has studied New York’s signals. 7 line work in 2010, but Hurricane Sandy struck two years later, damaging subway tracks and delaying the project.And officials have been reluctant to frustrate riders by halting train service for long stretches, leaving workers with few windows to finish the work, Mr. Then there is the constant uncertainty over the authority’s finances.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.Of New York’s 22 lines, only the L train has the advanced signal system. Officials have also been reluctant to anger riders by closing stations to do the work.The opening of the Second Avenue line and its ornately decorated stations in January was a high point for the agency, but the signal system — the least visible yet perhaps greatest challenge of all — remains mired in an analog era.

The weathered glass boxes and cloth-covered cables are not part of a museum exhibit, however — they are crucial pieces of the signal system that directs traffic in one of the busiest subways in the world.

But the rollout of a new signal network is unfolding at a glacial pace even as the subway system is straining under the demands of a booming ridership.

Two decades after the agency began its push to upgrade signals, work has been completed on just one line.

The request reflected the need, and it was higher than in the previous two capital plans, when the agency requested .4 billion, on average, for signals and communications. Transit advocates say the agency must pour more money into signal work and accelerate the schedule.“Fifty years is way too far out there,” Thomas F.

Though many New Yorkers believe that Mayor Bill de Blasio runs the subways, the agency is, in fact, controlled by Gov. Prendergast, former chairman of the authority, said in his final interview before leaving the job in January.

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