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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.

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Transit advocates say that having a stable funding source would benefit signal work and other long-term projects.

As its population climbs, London is facing similar concerns about subway overcrowding.

But it is so outdated that it cannot identify precisely where trains are, requiring more room between them.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.

At a subway station deep under Manhattan, a dingy room is filled with rows of antique equipment built before World War II.

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.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.Signal problems account for about 13 percent of all subway delays, and are the second most common reason for weekday delays, after overcrowding, according to statistics from the agency. is also safer because trains can be stopped automatically.The authority also had to develop a design and software that was tailored to New York’s subway.

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