West siders in recent days may have caught one of the new brand of subway train in that will enable riders to walk halfway down the ten car length without having to open a door or step outside onto the platform. And it features security cameras in each car.
Like many developments here, the gestation from idea to oohing-and-aahing by riders did not happen in a New York minute; it took 13 years.
Made by Kawasaki, the new cars are technically called the gangway R211T trains.
After Straus News took a ride on the new train, we can report that passing through cars for the most part is a breeze. One caveat is that even though the 211Ts are 10-car trains in total, it is really two 5-car units, which prohibits direct movement from the first car to the tenth car; anyone ambitious enough to walk from front to back will still need to walk out on the platform and switch to the next set of cars.
The new trains were part of a new subway order in 2011, with original planning the next year calling for 75-foot long subway cars. Three years later, the car length was downgraded by 15 feet. With additional later changes, the MTA awarded the contract to Kawasaki in early 2018; the majority of the order was for standard cars with doors at each end of the individual cars.
The first of those cars, the R211As, were delivered in June 2021, and finally placed in service in June 2023. All the new cars were funded by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), which included funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill. The R211As are in current use on the A Line, which runs from Inwood to Rockaway, Queens and along the west side when it reaches Manhattan. Another variation on the order is the R211S, that will serve the Staten Island Railway between St. George and Tottenville. This order of over 500 cars will eventually replace older equipment in all five Boroughs, some over 50 years old.
A new change mandated in the order before awarding the contract, was to have some cars with a “gangway” passage. This feature was last used by a subway train here from 1925 to 1965. The new trains share passageway DNA with similar subway cars in Toronto, Paris and London. The new NYC trains offer two different styles of gangways, one with panels along the inter-car passage, the other, with bellows that afford a wider connection passageway for riders. Each system also should prevent subway surfing on top of cars.
The exterior sports a blue front with large windows and LED headlights. Greeting passengers at platforms the subway cars are equipped with 58” wide doors, wider than the current 50” standard, allowing cars to be loaded and unloaded more quickly than the longer cars they are replacing.
All the R211 cars have security cameras in each car adding to the 1,000 subway cars that already have in-car cameras throughout the system. The other 5400 of the NYC Transit subway fleet should have in-car camera installations completed by January 2025.
“New train cars, additional security cameras and more reliable service will make the subway system even better for decades to come,” said Gov. Kathy Hochul as she kicked off the first trip for the new cars on Feb. 1 at the 168 St station, which serves as the line’s northern terminal, accompanied by MTA excutives and local officials. Metropolitan Transportation Authority leadership.
MTA Chief Accessibility Officer Quemuel Arroyo noted the open gangways finally allow mobility-challenged riders or riders traveling with a stroller to navigate between train cars without having to open and close car end doors.