When the MTA Board gathers to meet later this morning, the august governing body will vote to determine the fate of the system’s next rolling stock purchase, and all signs indicate that they will award Bombardier with a $599 million to build out the R179s. The entire construction process, as Joe Lhota told me on Monday, will take place in New York state, and the MTA will receive 300 new cars as it gears up to retire the oldest rolling stock in the system.
As of now, the exact technical schematics of the new cars are unknown. It appears as though they will be surveillance-camera ready and will likely be modeled off of the R160s currently in service. We know that the 300-car order will spell the end of the line for the R32s and R42s currently in use along the C and J/Z lines respectively. Bombardier, builders of the R62A and R142 cars, bid approximately $57 million less for the project than ALSKAW, according to MTA documents.
Impressively enough, the cars these R179s will replace beginning in approximately 38 months — or by mid 2015 — have held up remarkably well considering their age. The R32s were the first mass-produced stainless subway cars and entered service in the mid-1960s. They will be past 50 by the time they are shelved, and their current upkeep and maintenance stats show their age. These cars breakdown more frequently and require more maintenance than the MTA’s newer models. The R42s, the city’s first fully air conditioned cars, entered service in 1969 and 1970.
The history of the R179 is an interesting one as well. When the MTA wraps Phase 1 of the Second Ave. Subway in 2016, it will need additional car sets to maintain service levels along the BMT Broadway line and the four-stop extension to the Upper East Side. Originally, the authority had planned on requesting a base order of 290 cars for the R179s with a purchase option for an additional 80 cars that would service Second Ave.
As the MTA notes in the staff summary, though, the funding didn’t materialize as expected and the authority weighed demand. “A reassessment of projected ridership growth as well as anticipated changes in ridership due to changes in demographics in certain parts of New York City led to the conclusion that 300 new cars would satisfy NYC Transit’s need in lieu of the original 290 plus 50 cars,” the document says. “It was determined that car requirements for 2nd Avenue Subway Phase 1 can be accommodated with existing spare cars.”
So with the impending end of the 222 R32s and 48 R42s still in service, straphangers want to know if their line will get the shiny new toys. Will the C train move up from worst to first? And what of the sets along the Jamaica lines? Early reports indicate that the new cars will head elsewhere while the C line will get the hand-me-downs. I’d imagine the A will enjoy the R179s while the C gets the old R46s that run along the A.
And so, the upgrade of the rolling stock, an unsung hero in the revival of the subway system, will continue. Now how about those R211s?