Name: Kemal Gefar
Employer: Mitsubishi Electric
Title: Systems Engineer
Bio: Kemal is a transportation professional with over 10 years of experience in engineering and infrastructure projects, 8 of which are focused on train control systems for metro and commuter rail systems with progressively responsible roles at transportation agencies, an engineering consultancy, and a multinational supplier. He currently works for Mitsubishi Electric as a systems engineer helping to modernize NYCT’s traditional signaling system by designing, installing, and commissioning Communication-Based Train Control (CBTC) technology on the subway network.
What is your favorite YPT-NYC memory?
The Holiday party hands down. There’s food to nosh on, interesting people to schmooze with, and an all-around great time and atmosphere.
If you could snap your fingers and make one change to regional transportation, what would it be?
While the IBX is a good start I’d like more circumferential subway lines for the outer boroughs. As a Queens kid traveling to see friends in Brooklyn was always a trek, The Bronx was nigh impossible, and just forget about Staten Island!
What sparked your passion to work in the transportation industry?
I fell into it. Right before joining the industry I was living in the suburbs of CT and found myself having to drive everywhere to attend social events, visit people, or even simply buy groceries. I hated it! I’m a born and bred New Yorker, a true city rat if you will, so it was quite the shock to have my life centered around an automobile.
Sitting captive behind the steering wheel on my daily commute I realized that I took a well-functioning transportation system for granted and that my whole life prior to that point was enabled by a functioning transportation system in a dense urban environment. I remember going to preschool on the subway with my mother, waiting for the Q8 in the bitter cold to go to JHS, or the mad dash across Utica Ave. station from the A to the C (because in my bones I could feel an upcoming delay caused by the Hoyt-Schermerhorn interlocking – you just knew it). My first passport was my lime-green MetroCard, as a kid that third swipe opened up so many different neighborhoods and cultural experiences in NYC. In retrospect, I appreciate that these memories and experiences were centered around effective transportation and really shaped my outlook on life.
So when I had the opportunity to come back to an urban lifestyle (and ditch the car) I jumped at the opportunity.
What are you working on that you’re most excited by?
Right now I’m working on the ‘QBL-East’ project which will extend CBTC operation for the E and F lines between Union Turnpike-Kew Gardens and Jamaica 179th St. in Queens. It will allow trains to run closer together with reduced headways. We are also removing lots of conventional equipment (e.g. hundreds of decades-old electromechanical relays) and replacing them with newer technology which means fewer maintenance problems over the long term.
CBTC projects require both wayside and onboard installations so I also get to think about technical designs and strategies for retrofitting CBTC technology into decades-old subway cars or planning for deployment in upcoming subway fleets.
I think it’s pretty cool that the projects that I work on will help transport thousands of people daily for the next few decades. And I like that there’s always a fresh technical challenge that keeps me engaged.
What career advice would you give to other YPT’ers interested in your career path?
Network with and without purpose. By building and actively nurturing relationships with people in my immediate industry I’ve graciously been helped on the job, taught valuable industry lessons, and on more than one occasion offered new opportunities. Whereas building relationships with people outside of my immediate industry (YPT social events is fantastic for this!) I’ve been exposed to different viewpoints and perspectives which helps round out my vision of a cohesive and integrated transportation network and the role I play in making it come to fruition.
What famous celebrity do you think should be given the opportunity to voice an NYCT Subway Announcement?
Oscar the Grouch, a true OG! Actually, different subway lines should have different muppets do voiceovers. Sesame Street’s varied cast is a perfect match for all our different subway lines.