Riding an R160 down the N lineBy
New subway cars are popping up all over the place these days. While they’re similar to the cars that have been running down the IRT lines for a few years, the new R160 cars sure do carry a novelty factor.
First, some history: In 2002, the MTA signed a $2.3 billion deal with Kawasaki Heavy Industries of Japan and Alstom of France to build the new cars. The estimated target date for the roll-out of the first 660 cars of new rolling stock was mid-2006; the order had an option for another 400 cars.
In 2005, the project turned from gold into lead as disaster struck. The 10-car test train, on the way from Alstom’s factories in Brazil to New York City, were heavily damaged. The project was delayed for months due to shoddy construction work. Finally, in the fall, the MTA completed a test run of the cars on the N, Q and A lines, paving the way for the current roll-out of the new cars.
So how do these new cars rate? Well, as Chris pointed out yesterday, they certainly have that new train smell. The one I took in June had that faintly rubbery smell of nothingness that you certainly can’t find on an unairconditioned R42 car during rush hour. Even the crowded train I took on Monday had a faintly non-descript and not-unpleasant odor about it.
As for the amenities, well, let’s just say the kinks need some working out. Take a look at my less-than-ideal Blackberry camera pictures of the ride.
Here, we’ve got the nifty “next stop” banner. Unlike the moronic maps on the IRT’s R142 cars, half of which point the wrong way, the route maps on the R160s update as the train goes along. Or at least, they’re supposed to update as the train rolls along.
I got on a Brooklyn-bound N train making local stops in Manhattan and Brooklyn. The map had the right set of stops but the order was completely off and backwards. For the entire ride, the train map kept telling me that the next stop was 86th St. followed by Ave. U. That’s useful if you’re at Coney Island and less so if you’re leaving Prince St. heading south. The pre-recorded station announcements were correct though.
I love this “future stops” function here. It allows the riders to relax knowing their stops are well into the future. It does help if they’re set properly though. This train wasn’t even programmed to display the local stops while running on the local tracks due to a service change.
Finally, after we left City Hall and started the slow crawl toward Cortlandt St., the train’s destination signs and pre-recording stop announcements told me that the next stop was Cortlandt St. Well, as I well know, Cortlandt St. is closed (and has remained closed well past the intended completion date for the renovations).
The conductor came on to correct the announcement, but as we rolled past Cortlandt St., the pre-recording voice again told us all we were stopping. Oops.
Anyway, I always love riding new rolling stock. What subway blogger wouldn’t? But even though these trains are supposedly through their testing periods, it seems to me that the kinks still need to be ironed out. Otherwise, the MTA may find itself with a bunch of very confused straphangers on their hands.