MTA unveils new R211 train cars for Staten Island Railway; first major fleet upgrade in five decades

Five new R211S cars have been transferred to the Staten Island Railway Clifton Maintenance Shop on Oct. 17, 2023, and will enter service, eventually replacing the old R44 car fleet.
Five new R211S cars have been transferred to the Staten Island Railway Clifton Maintenance Shop on Oct. 17, 2023, and will enter service, eventually replacing the old R44 car fleet.
Photo courtesy of Marc A. Hermann / MTA

For the first time in 50 years, the Staten Island Railway is getting brand new train cars, MTA leaders announced Tuesday.

The five new R211 cars mark the first step in a long-awaited modernization of the borough’s public transportation system. The R211s, which are the newest model in the MTA’s arsenal, feature wider doors, and accessible seating, along with a host of behind-the-scenes improvements like security cameras and upgraded signal equipment to improve reliability.

“For the first time in 50 years, brand new, faster, cleaner and safer trains are coming to Staten Island,” said New York City Transit President Richard Davey. “These new, top-of-the-line R211 cars feature security cameras and digital displays, along with wider doorways that will help speed up boarding times and run more reliable service. I look forward to delivering Staten Island Railway customers a totally modernized fleet as we introduce more new cars in the future.” 

Inside the new R211 subway cars.
Inside the new R211 cars.Photo courtesy of Marc A. Hermann / MTA

The MTA made the announcement on Oct. 17 at the Clifton Maintenance Shop on Staten Island, where the trains were on full display. They served as a stark contrast to the out-of-date cars currently being used on the Staten Island Railway system that were put into use in 1973. 

With 58-inch-wide door openings (eight inches more than doors on the current model), the new cars make getting onto the train much easier, which, the MTA says, will help reduce wait times at stations and keep the transit system moving. 

“Wider doors and additional accessible seating will drastically improve the experience for all riders, particularly those with disabilities, parents with strollers and seniors,” said MTA Chief Accessibility Officer Quemuel Arroyo. “I’m excited for riders on Staten Island to experience a more comfortable and convenient ride.”

The R211 cars were first introduced on the A line in March, and the MTA has been slowly introducing more of the models into service across the city. Tuesday marks the first time the new trains were designated specifically for the often-overlooked Staten Island Roadway system. 

“I’ve heard from time-to-time that Staten Island feels like it’s the ‘forgotten borough,’” said Davey. “But I am here to tell you that it is the ‘remembered borough.’” 

The new subway cars (right) in comparison with the older models (left).
The new tain cars (right) in comparison with the older models (left).Photo courtesy of Marc A. Hermann / MTA

Elected leaders hailed the arrival of the new trains, and the state-of-the-art features coming along with them. 

“These new railway cars will go a long way in improving accessibility, public safety and the overall commuter experience on the Staten Island Railway,” said U.S. Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, who represents Staten Island, in a statement. “We appreciate the MTA’s attention to our borough’s transportation needs.”

The MTA is planning to replace all existing Staten Island Railway cars with the newer R211 models by the end of 2024. 

“These cars will ensure the customer experience continues to improve with features like security cameras which make a difference and help address public safety concerns,” said Assembly Member Charles Fall. “We’re going to continue to fight to deliver on other projects that can improve the lives of Staten Islanders.”

With the addition of the new train cars, the MTA hopes to increase usage on the railway, which saw nearly 4 million passengers throughout 2022, and connects to the Staten Island Ferry at the borough’s northern tip. 

“We’ve spent many years talking about modernizing our transportation infrastructure — now, I am glad to see that we are finally doing it,” said Assembly Member Michael Reilly. “These R211 cars will ensure quick, comfortable, and reliable transportation for Staten Islanders who use the Staten Island Railway as part of their daily commute.”