The MTA’s newest batch of subway trains will start hitting the tracks later this year – including some with an accordion-style setup that allows straphangers to easily move between cars.
The open gangway trains are expected to roll out by December, MTA officials said Friday. The layout, which should be familiar to MTA bus riders, hasn’t been used since the early days of the subway.
The accordion trains are in a pilot phase for now – only 24 cars out of 640 will feature open gangways. That represents only two whole trains.
The rest have bench seating similar to the newest train cars currently in the system. Those trains, known as R211s, have wider doors so passengers can board and exit more quickly. They also have dedicated space for wheelchair users, as well as built-in surveillance cameras.
The total order will cost $1.7 billion.
Straphangers will first see the new trains on the A and C lines and Staten Island Rail Road starting in the spring. They’ll replace the oldest trains in the system, which have been in service for more than 50 years.
“New Yorkers always want and deserve train cars that haven’t lived through eight presidents,” MTA Chairman Janno Lieber said.
The rollout spells the end of the popular “conversational seating” arrangement on the oldest trains.
“The cars these will replace will qualify for their AARP card in 18 months,” New York City Transit President Richard Davey joked.
As with many initiatives in the MTA, the rollout is behind schedule.
The MTA ordered 535 new train cars from Kawasaki in 2018 and expected them to be fully delivered by July 2023. But supply chain issues as well as labor disputes at the Kawasaki plant in Lincoln, Nebraska, caused delays.
Last October, the MTA increased the order to 640 new train cars, with a final delivery date between February 2025 and December 2026.
“Putting their feet to the fire is a nice way to put it,” Lieber said when asked how he’ll make sure the order arrives as expected. “We are insisting they fix things and get the delivery back on schedule.”