The MTA has begun running a few longer train cars on the C line in order to accommodate neighborhood growth around it, according to agency spokesman Jon Weinstein.
The longer cars, known as the R46 model, were built in the 1970s and currently run on other lines including the A. These cars are 75 feet long — 15 feet longer than the current models that run on the C.
That added space increases capacity on the line by 25 percent per train set. In total, five sets of eight-car R46s are running on the line, mixed in with two other models. The changes, which took effect Saturday, were first outlined in MTA chairman Joseph Lhota’s Subway Action Plan, but the MTA also believes the longer trains will help during the 2019 L train shutdown.
“Lengthening C trains was a promise made — and kept — under the Subway Action Plan to increase capacity and improve service for our riders,” Weinstein said in a statement.
Even though the C train platforms can accommodate standard full-length trains, the line has always run shorter trains. The MTA reasoned in 2015 that, when looking at current ridership trends balanced against the cost of new subway cars, paying for new train cars for the line wasn’t worth it. But Weinstein said that “more efficient car maintenance” developed since then has allowed the agency to put R46s into service.
Andrew Albert, an MTA board member who lives near the line, said that riders will notice the added room during a typical rush hour. But increased service, not longer cars, will still be the strategy for slower weekend service.
“It’s great that there’s more capacity, obviously,” Albert said, “But I think riders would prefer more frequency than longer trains on the weekends. A 12-minute wait on weekends is not [good] enough.”
The C will still feature the now infamous R32 subway car, distinguished by its ribbed stainless steel exterior, old-school roll signs and general creakiness that comes with age. Once heralded as the subway car of the future when they first introduced in 1964, the 53-year-old model is now the oldest in the MTA system, and among the oldest still in operation worldwide. The R32 cars will have to stay online if the MTA is to boost subway service through the 2019 L train shutdown, Weinstein said.
It also doesn’t help matters that the R32’s eventual replacement, the R179, has experienced a two-year delay in delivery. The R179s have also experienced several testing failures since entering service earlier this fall — though Lhota has described those failures as “absolutely consistent with what’s happened in the past” with new train cars.
“To me the most important thing is we expected these cars two years ago. I need the cars,” Lhota said after a board meeting this month. “The more cars we have the better off it’s going to be for all of our customers.”