First new futuristic subway cars arrive in NYC for testing

July 2, 2021

All photos: Marc A. Hermann / MTA on Flickr

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority on Thursday unveiled the first batch of subway cars of a brand new fleet that will serve passengers starting next summer. With wider doors and better signage, the long-awaited R211 cars are designed to increase capacity and provide commuters a more modern experience. The test cars that arrived this week fall under a $1.4 billion order from Kawasaki Rail Car Inc., which includes 535 subway and Staten Island Railway R211 cars. A few of the cars will hit the rails in the coming weeks, but won’t serve passengers until next September.

The cars feature 58-inch door spans, eight inches wider than the doors on existing cars. The wider doors are expected to allow for easier on- and off-boarding of cars, ultimately reducing the dwell time, which is the time a train spends in the station loading and unloading passengers.

New cars will also have digital displays with real-time service updates, brighter lighting, and better signage. The cars are also equipped with the MTA’s new communications-based signal technology, which can run more trains closer together.

“The arrival of the first of the R211s marks a critical milestone in the MTA’s broader efforts at modernization,” Janno Lieber, President, MTA Construction & Development, said in a press release. “They are a vital element of our historic Capital Plan that is continuing to pick up steam as we begin to emerge from the pandemic.”

The roll-out of the R211 model has been in the works for about a decade, with the pandemic delaying this initial order of cars by about 13 months.

The full base order of R211s includes 535 new cars, but the contract will include options for roughly 1,600 cars that NYCT may employ if the testing goes well. The order would be delivered sometime in the fall of 2023.

Down the line, 20 of the additional R211 cars will feature an “open gangway” design, soft accordion-like walls located at the ends of the cars. The design allows riders to move freely between cars and distribute passenger loads more evenly throughout the train, according to the MTA.

The new cars will eventually replace the MTA’s fleet of R46 cars, which were built in the late 1970s and run on the A, F, R, and C lines, as well as the Staten Island Railway.

The R211s are covered by the MTA’s $51.5 billion current capital plan to upgrade the system, which was on hold during the pandemic.


All photos: Marc A. Hermann / MTA on Flickr

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