New MTA subway cars to arrive for testing, will replace oldest fleet

New subway cars that are poised to replace the oldest in the MTA’s fleet will begin arriving in New York City this week for testing, amNewYork has learned.

Manufacturers Bombardier will deliver five of its fleet of 300 new cars, known as the model R179, to the MTA’s 207th Street rail yard in Manhattan starting Tuesday night, MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz confirmed.

One train car will arrive over each of the next five nights via flatbed truck from Bombardier’s factory in Plattsburgh, New York. Next month, another batch of five cars is scheduled to make the 300-mile journey for delivery.

The train cars will eventually serve on the J, Z, A, C and M lines, replacing MTA’s ancient R32 subway cars that first entered service in 1964.

From that 52-year-old fleet, 222 of 600 cars are still in service, now primarily assigned to the C, J and Z trains.

Those remaining cars will be replaced along with 50 R42 cars, which are the second-oldest in the MTA’s fleet.

But don’t expect these new trains any time soon. The MTA has said that it would like the new fleet ready ahead of the 2019 L train shutdown in order to add trains and boost service at nearby lines. And there’s not a clear timeline for retirement of the old cars.

Testing is the first step in getting the R179s rail ready. That will begin this month, as soon as the agency receives its first five-car set.

“We need to make sure everything works in our unique subway environment and make sure the cars meet all our specifications,” Ortiz said.

The new cars were ordered in 2012 at a cost of $735 million, taken from the MTA’s last five-year capital plan from 2010-2014. They were originally set to serve the riding public in 2017 and 2018, but delays in delivery from Bombardier pushed that date back and inflated the original $600 million price tag.

Nicknamed “brightliners” for their stainless steel exterior, the R32 was the first full fleet of corrosion-resistant cars to take to the MTA’s rails. Once distinguished by their ribbed bodies, they’re now also known for their unrivaled rattle, among other trademark maladies.

“To the beleaguered riders on the C and J lines, these cars can’t come soon enough,” said MTA board member Andrew Albert. “[The R32s] have very jerky starts, stuck door panels and A/Cs that don’t work. Generally, they really, really outlived their useful life.”

Maintenance on the new cars is anticipated to be much cheaper. The remaining R32s and R42 are the worst-performing in the MTA’s rolling stock. The R32s break down an average of every 33,996 miles—compared to contemporary train cars, which at best travel an average of 436,023 miles without failing, according to the most recent MTA data.

“Instead of throwing good money after bad we really need to get on with giving riders new state-of-the-art trains,” Albert said.

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