The MTA’s R32s are a holdover from the Swingin’ 60s. Budd’s Brightliners made their debuts in 1964 and have been rolling along for nearly 50 years. Today, these cars aren’t holding up so well. They have the lowest mean distance between failures, and regular riders on the A, C and E come to fear their air conditioners in the summer. When they debuted, they had ceiling fans, but the 48-year-old cars underwent some fairly comprehensive reworking about twenty years ago.
Last year, the MTA announced another six years for the R32s. Because of structural problems with the R44s, Transit had reprioritize rolling stock replacement, and the R179s would likely be on hold until 2017. To ease the end of life, though, Transit will invest some $25 million into these train cars, overhauling the remaining 222 cars over the next few months.
On Friday, with the rehab moving along and some photos floating around, Transit announced some details concerning the investment. The agency is calling the work a “limited-scope maintenance makeover.” The goal is to improve performance and reliability as we await the R179s, now slated to start arriving in 2014. As the R32s generally make it just over 57,000 miles between failures as opposed to a fleet-wide average of over 171,000 miles, anything to improve service will be welcome for IND riders.
“The work currently being performed on these cars will help increase customer comfort and insure service reliability until their replacements arrive,” Carmen Bianco, Senior Vice President of the Department of Subways said in a statement.
For $25 million, the MTA is going to upgrade numerous car components and systems including air brakes, auxiliary electric, car body, couplers, car body hoses, door systems and propulsion systems. Vandalized windows — scratchiti is a hallmark of these cars — will be replaced as well. Furthermore, the AC/HVAC systems will be improved in advance of next summer. Perhaps the summer switch will go smoother in the remaining few years.
Despite promises from the MTA of a 2014 arrival date for the R179s, the truth is that only the initial models will arrive then. Tests are set for the end of that year with more cars arriving beginning in 2015. Some of these R32s will have to last until 2017, a whopping 53 years after they made their New York City debut. It’s hard to believe that some of the system’s rolling stock actually predates the MTA itself, but there you go.