The subway car of the future has arrived — sort of.
Riders can catch a glimpse of the next generation of subway cars at the 34th Street-Hudson Yards station in Manhattan, where the MTA has unveiled two sections of the model they expect to hit the rails for testing in 2020.
Riders can tour the two models through Dec. 6, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends. Surveyors from the agency will be stationed alongside the models to collect feedback — feedback the MTA says will influence the final design.
“Developing a first-in-class subway car is an essential part of modernizing our subway system,” said MTA chairman Joe Lhota in a statement. “It is important that our subway customers provide their feedback in this process and we hope they will do so after visiting the prototype. Ultimately, our customers will be riding these cars each day and their input is very important.”
The car, known as the R211, will run on lettered lines and feature the most significant design changes in recent years — most notably the open-ended, accordion-style connection between cars, which will give riders free movement from one end of the train to the other, ultimately reducing crowding and boarding times. The design will be used for a majority of the new cars ordered.
The models also feature wider, 58-inch train doors, digital screens displaying precise arrival times, collapsible seating for wheelchair users and brighter lighting.
“It’s bright, there’s a lot of light. That’s the first thing I noticed,” said Candice Agard, 27, of Manhattan’s West Side, who liked the idea of being able to move freely between trains. “The train is aesthetically pleasing. Maybe because it’s new, clean, and there’s not footprints over the floor.”
The prototypes’ exterior features New York State blue-and-yellow paint, a design under Gov. Andrew Cuomo that is also showcased on new buses and some other refurbished train cars.
Many other details of the new train design are borrowed from trains already in service around the world.
Niko Goutakolis, 18, a New York Transit Museum educator from Astoria, was one of the first in line to see the display Thursday morning. Goutakolis said the models rank among the tops of what he’s seen at other transit agencies, though he worried that by the time the MTA actually rolls out the models, the tech might already be outdated.
“This is really surreal to see,” said Goutakolis. “I really think it’s among the best of the world’s designs and it makes New Yorkers proud of their transit. And I think that’s good.”
The prototypes had been stashed on the mezzanine of the station, behind wooden construction walls, for months. After a reporter managed to snap photos of the cars over the fence, the MTA took additional steps to keep the prototypes hidden from the public. The models were covered with a sheet and a security guard was stationed at the site to keep curious commuters moving.
Though riders were mostly approving Thursday, a few concerns were called out. The subway map is still positioned rather awkwardly above seating. There was a debate among visitors over whether the ceiling hand bars were positioned too low — to the point riders might hit their heads. Others thought the amount of digital screens was overwhelming.
But most opinions were positive.
“It looks really impressive,” said Richard Clarke, 20, of Canarsie. “I’m looking forward to seeing them out on the subway system.”