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MTA Approves Purchase of Next Generation of Subway Cars

R211 mock-up on display

Get ready for the future of the subways: The R211s are coming.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Board voted on Wednesday to approve the purchase of 535 state-of-the-art, next-generation R211 subway cars for use on the lettered subway routes and the Staten Island Railway. The cars will be built and designed by Kawasaki Rail Car Inc., with options for up to 1,077 additional cars. If the options are exercised, the total purchase would go up to 1,612 cars, at a cost of $3.7 billion, pending future Board approval.

The funding for the initial base contract, for $1.4 billion, will be provided by the Federal Transit Administration. 

The base contract includes 440 new closed-end cars for the B Division, 75 closed-end cars for Staten Island Railway, and 20 open gangway cars. The open gangway cars, which allow customers to move freely between cars, will be part of a pilot program for MTA New York City Transit. The open ends let customers move from car to car if one car is crowded, therefore distributing passenger loads more evenly throughout the train. 

The R211s feature 58-inch wide door openings, which are 8 inches wider than standard doors on existing cars. The expanded doors are designed to reduce delays and speed up train movement by speeding up boarding and reducing the amount of time trains sit in stations. Cars delivered to the lettered subway routes will be compatible with an advanced signaling system known as Communications-Based Train Control, enabling New York City Transit to deliver more frequent and reliable service by operating trains more closely together. All cars will also have digital displays to provide real-time, location-specific information about service and stations, new grab rails including double-poles, and brighter and clearer lighting, signage, and safety graphics.

In December 2017, New York City Transit presented prototypes of the new R211 designs at the 34 St – Hudson Yards 7 Subway station to seek customer feedback, as well as introduce the future of the New York City subway to the public. Photos from the open house are available here

Kawasaki has a history of successfully delivering subway cars for MTA New York City Transit. Transit's R160 and R188 subway cars were also designed and built by Kawasaki. 

"The R211s will be a welcome addition to New York City Transit’s next-generation fleet. As both the R160 and R188 subway cars produced by Kawasaki have proven to be some of the most reliable in their class, we look forward to working with Kawasaki on the production of these cars," said MTA Managing Director Ronnie Hakim.

"It is imperative that we provide a first-in-class subway car that can live up to the rigor and expectations of New Yorkers," said MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota. "As part of our commitment to modernize the subway system, we have expanded and accelerated this contract to provide more reliable, more comfortable train cars that are easier to board and exit and provide more useful real-time information to riders."

Delivery of new cars for testing will begin in 2020. The base contract for the new R211 cars was approved after a competitive procurement process involving bidders from around the world. The cars will be built and tested in Kawasaki facilities in Yonkers, N.Y. and Lincoln, Neb. Kawasaki, along with its subcontractors, has committed to provide approximately 470 U.S. jobs for the base award with a total estimated value of $125 million.  If both options are exercised, the total potential value of U.S. jobs from this contract is estimated to be $270 million.