New York City’s subway system is not going to get fixed overnight, but the MTA is preparing to take a major, expensive step toward improving service for straphangers. The Times reports that the authority is gearing up to approve a multibillion-dollar purchase of up to 1,612 new subway cars from Japanese company Kawasaki.
At a meeting of the MTA’s Transit Committee on Monday, officials ironed out key details of the contract, including delivery deadlines for the new cars and pricing. The first phase of the deal would bring 535 new R211 model subway cars come July 2020. Under the current plan, 440 of those would have a conventional closed design, 20 would have a much-anticipated open gangway design and the remaining 75 would be go to the Staten Island Railway. If Kawasaki delivers the cars on time and they meet the MTA’s newly heightened performance standards, the company will be approved to deliver the remaining 1,000-plus cars in two more phases. When it’s all said and done, the whole batch is expected to cost nearly $3.7 billion.
If that seems like a jaw-dropping price tag to you, it’s because it is. Malfunctioning, outdated trains are a leading cause of delays for the subway system, and investing in more reliable cars is a logical way to fix that issue. The new R211 series will also have more room to help curb overcrowding (another major cause for delays) and the bulk of them will be equipped with communications-based train control, a step toward modernizing the subway’s arcane signaling system.
The contract isn’t yet final—it still requires sign off from the MTA Board, which meets later this month. But if all goes as planned, New Yorkers could finally start seeing some long-term solutions for their subway woes.