Riding an R160 down the N line

By · Published in 2007

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.

Categories : Rolling Stock

18 Responses to “Riding an R160 down the N line”

  1. epc says:

    Did they really misspell Cortlandt or is the “T” hiding behind the pole?

  2. It’s behind the pole. The trains are spelling-challenged.

  3. wayne's world says:

    How were the bathrooms?

  4. Victoria Jeter says:

    Well, I rode one that wasn’t incorrect at all, and I thought it was really cool (I was particularly excited when my stop had made it to the “next stop” box). It’s especially pathetic that they say they stop at Cortlandt Street, as those trains didn’t even exist when trains were still stopping at Cortlandt Street.

  5. Quinn says:

    When will they replace the other trains? The E train needs some new ones & maybe the R & F. Why are they putting it on the old lines that nobody uses. & the trains always run in the less used direction.

  6. Marc Shepherd says:

    The N was running a lot of old equipment that was ready for replacement. The R and F equipment is in comparatively good shape. The E equipment is probably ready for an overhaul, but sometimes the busiest line in the system isn’t the place to try out new technology.

  7. mg says:

    The good news is a lot of the new(er) trains will be moved to the A/E and other lines with ancient equipment when the R160s take over on the N,Q,J,M and L. Although I agree putting them on the J and M is a little silly since they are lightly used and few people visiting NY will ever use those lines.

  8. Bowery says:

    will the B get new equipment?

  9. Todd says:

    They’ve been running for a while now, but I still get excited when I get on one.

    Now WTF is up with the month long “Downtown N running local” bullshit?! Rush-hour service has been hell!

  10. Jan says:

    The Reason the announcements were wrong are that the conductor messed something up in the computer and couldn’t fix it. New trains and the crew still don’t know how to use them properly. My friend is a train operator on the N line and he usually gets them. I was with him and the conductor messed something up and couldn’t fix it so he just shut off the computer that controlled the announcements and went to manual announcements.

  11. Jose Martinez says:

    I don’t think the A line will be getting the R160’s,mg.and
    the reason the J and M lines are getting the R160’s because
    if you HAVN’T noticed,the cars on those lines are almost 40
    years old and the line needs new cars.and you think the J and M lines are lightly used?ride it in rush hour and you’ll
    see those trains are sometimes PACKED.

  12. Mike says:

    The trains are not from Brazil – only the body shells are. Other parts are from France. However, the Alstom trains have had numerous quality problems which delayed the rollout (because of reliance on third-world labor) while the Kawasaki trains did not. I also think it’s fraudulent that the Alstom builder plates inside the trains (which the public can see) states that they are ‘Made in Hornell, NY’ when only the final assembly takes place there. Most of the parts are imported.

  13. Larry says:

    The R 160 A cars on the J/z, M & L are in 4 car sets, and were ordered that way to run on those 8 car lines only. It does seem as though these high tech cars should be running on more mainline lines, though.

  14. George Worotikan says:

    My opinion is the A and C trains needs the new R160 cars because they use old equipments. The A and C lines uses R32 and R38 and they’re over 40 years old.

  15. Randy says:

    I Have to agree with George Worotikan on that the A, C, & E Trains all need the New R160’s real soon because the R-32, 38, 44, & 46’s have been running a long time and really starting to brake down. The MTA May even need to make speical R160 cars for just the A train like R44’s that just the A Train and SI Railway have.

    • Gerald says:

      I agree with Randy. The whole 8th avenue subway lines should be the ones with R-160 trains. Especially the R-32 trains are really old, and the R-44 trains do indeed to breakdown too much, and that’s not even good at all. But if the C train line rolls with the new R-160 trains, they most like have to go its full 10 car trains? Soon, the E-line will be next to be 100% fully equipped with the R-160s. I’ve seen at least a minimum of 12-15/26 R-160 trains in service on the E-line, the F-Line seems to be the next line to be tested for the R-160s. The A line runs 38 trains and the C line runs 18 trains. Now I’d say they need to run more trains than that, cuz the fact that their routes are long, the service needs to improve a lot more.

    • Kevin Xie says:

      I’m not really sure about the A because the MTA tested a R160 on the A line and it failed because the line didn’t have enough power to support the R160.The E already has some but has Route map problems and the C might not get r160’s until 2012.


  1. […] the MTA will not be fulfilled on time because of a mechanical problem. This time, a whole bunch of R160 cars won’t hit the tracks on time due to a gearbox defect, according to the Daily News. Pete […]

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