The MTA has unveiled the first of the brand new subway cars that will begin replacing some of the system's creakiest trains at the end of next year.
At a rail yard in Sunset Park on Thursday, transit officials pulled back the curtain on a handful of long-awaited R211 cars. The new model — part of a $1.4 billion purchase from Kawasaki Rail Car Inc. — comes equipped with communications-based signal technology and wider entryways intended to reduce dwell time at stations.
Twenty of the roughly 500 new cars will also feature the open-gangway design, meaning the cars won't be separated by interior doors but linked by flexible connectors. The prototype, which has been shown to increase capacity in cities like Berlin and São Paulo, has been in the works at the MTA for nearly a decade.
Riders will have to wait a bit longer to cram into the tube-like subway cars of the future. While a few of the new R211s will head to the lettered lines for testing in the coming weeks, the first fleet of 535 passenger cars won't start running until September of next year, officials said. The new cars will primarily be on the A/C line, as well as the Staten Island Rail Road.
The transit agency will then have the option to purchase another 1,077 cars — including up to 640 of the open-gangway variation. The $6 billion price tag for the full fleet would be covered by the MTA's $51.5 billion capital plan to modernize and update the subway system, which was largely halted during the pandemic.
Kawaski was also supposed to deliver the R211 cars more than a year ago. But that shipment was delayed by COVID-related supply chain challenges and other technical issues.
"We are back on track, the capital program is alive and well, and we managed to get some great work done during the last year," Janno Lieber, president of MTA construction and development, said on Thursday. "We’re now ready to take things up a notch."
The brand new cars will replace the 1970s-era R46 trains. Beloved by some for their faux-wood paneling and autumnal color palette, the R46 cars have been plagued by maintenance issues and some of the more high-profile subway breakdowns of recent years.
"We’re happy to see them go," Lieber said.
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