That’s More Like It: Cuomo and MTA Commit to High-Capacity Subway Cars

Governor Cuomo and the MTA announced today that up to 750 of over one thousand new subway cars will have "open gangway" designs. Image: MTA/NY Governor's Office
Governor Cuomo announced today that the MTA will purchase up to 750 subway cars with open gangways. Image: MTA/NY Governor’s Office

After spending the first half of the year touting frills like Wi-Fi and charging ports on buses, Governor Cuomo finally delivered some news this morning that will make a real difference to transit riders. The MTA plans to buy hundreds of open gangway subway cars, which can carry more passengers and help relieve crowding on maxed-out lines.

Later this week, the MTA will release its request for proposals for the construction of 1,025 new subway cars, up to 750 of which will have the open gangway design, as well as an RFP for the redesign and construction of the first three stations of 31 across the city slated for upgrades.

Open gangways are accordion-like passageways between cars, which create a nearly seamless space inside the train and yield as much as 10 percent additional capacity. The train design unveiled this morning also calls for 58-inch-wide doors, which the MTA said will speed boarding 32 percent compared to the current 50-inch design.

Both design changes should improve reliability by reducing crowding-related delays, which the MTA says account for a substantial share of all subway delays.

Previously, the MTA had said that it would only try out 10 open gangway cars in its next train purchase. A purchase of 750 cars is a vast improvement and should make a noticeable difference on crowded lines, though the MTA has yet to announce where the new cars will be deployed. It also bodes well for future purchases as the MTA refreshes its 6,400-car subway fleet.

While 31 percent of subway cars in London and 56 percent in Toronto have open gangways, no transit system in the United States has implemented the design, according to the governor’s press release.

Speaking this morning at the New York Transit Museum in Brooklyn, Cuomo said the new cars “are very exciting to me” and that he hears complaints about crowding “all the time.”

He also noted the necessity of expanding transit capacity to handle the region’s growth. “The volume just cannot be handled by the current road transportation system,” he said. “The MTA is going to have to increase their capacity to manage that higher volume.”

A rendering the new features coming to 31 subway stations in the coming years.
A rendering the new features coming to 31 subway stations in the coming years.

The MTA will also release an RFP this week for three station redesigns that will include above-ground service announcements, enhanced lighting, and new countdown clocks. The three stations are all in Brooklyn: Prospect Avenue, 53rd Street, and Bay Ridge Avenue. The same upgrades are slated for 28 additional stations in the MTA’s five-year capital program.

Neither the governor nor MTA officials gave a timeline for putting the open gangway cars into operation, though the agency said in January that it expected its new batch of trains to start service in 2020.

Displays at station entrances would show service status to people at street level.