Brand new NYC subway cars make inaugural run on A line — ‘essential’ to transit system’s growth, says MTA chief

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Shiny new subway cars with dark blue accents took to the tracks of the A train tracks in upper Manhattan on Friday afternoon, becoming the first R211 cars to enter service.

“No offense to the R46s,” MTA Chair Janno Lieber said of the current A train rolling stock, which dates to the 1970s.

“But they’ve lived through eight presidential administrations — New Yorkers deserve better and more modern.”

Lieber, along with other MTA top brass and local officials, welcomed the new train Friday with a ribbon cutting at the station at the northern end of the A line.

The new cars, with bright LED headlights and a stainless steel skin, rolled into the station a little after 1:30 p.m.

The R211s are built to be compatible with the MTA’s efforts to modernize the subways’ signal system. Over the coming years, the MTA hopes to switch the subways to communication-based train control, or CBTC, which will let trains run faster and closer together.

Only the 7 and L train lines are currently fully equipped with CBTC. The MTA has said it hopes to modernize the signaling along the Eighth Ave. portion of the A line this year.

“These new train cars allow us to run more service, [and] to run more frequent service ... That’s why they’re so essential to the growth and development of our subway system,” Lieber said.

The new R211s also have wider doors, improved accessible seating options, and on-board security cameras.

The new cars, built in Nebraska by Kawasaki, first arrived in New York for testing in June 2021 — a year late due to pandemic supply chain issues and early design problems. The MTA has ordered 1,175 R211s from the firm.

Friday’s inaugural run was crewed by train operator Tito Thorpe and conductor Roy Castillo.

“I appreciate this opportunity to be the first conductor on a 211,” Castillo, said. He expressed confidence despite having been an MTA conductor for only five months. “I’m gonna rock it,” he said to applause.

Thorpe, a four-year MTA veteran, was all business. “It’s just a modern train,” he said. “It’s up to date.”

“It grows on you as a train operator. It’s like a new shoe,” Thorpe added.

It will take time before the R211 — a version of which is also slated for service on the Staten Island Rail Road — makes it to the city’s other subway lines, NYCT head Rich Davey said.

Lieber said it makes sense to start the R211s on the A line. “This is one of our longest lines. It’s a line that serves a lot of different communities,” he said. “And it’s a line that we have prioritized for the new signals because we want to improve service on the A line,” he said.

City Councilmember Selvena Brooks-Powers (D-Queens), who chairs the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and represents Far Rockaway at the opposite end of the A line, agreed.

“I’m particularly excited to see these cars rolled out along the A Train line,” she said Friday. “Too often, constituents in the outer boroughs are the last to benefit from these major investments in our infrastructure.”