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New NYC subway cars make maiden run on Line A: ‘essential’ to growth of transit system, says MTA chief

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

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

“But they have survived 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 on the north end of the A line.

The new cars, with bright LED headlights and a stainless steel cover, arrived at the station shortly after 1:30 p.m.

The R211s are built to be compatible with the MTA’s efforts to modernize the subway’s signal system. In the next few years, the MTA hopes to switch subway trains to communications-based train control, or CBTC, which will allow trains to run faster and closer together.

Currently, only the 7 and L train lines are fully equipped with CBTC. The MTA has said it expects to upgrade signage along the Eighth Avenue portion of the A line this year.

The first R211 train in service entered the 207th Street stop on the A line on Friday afternoon.

“These new rail cars allow us to provide more service, (and) provide more frequent service…That’s why they are so essential to the growth and development of our subway system,” Lieber said.

The new R211s also have wider doors, better accessible seating options and onboard 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 supply chain issues from the pandemic and early design issues. The MTA has ordered 1,175 R211 from the company.

Train operator Tito Thorpe prepares to take the helm on the first leg of the R211 as Train A.

The inaugural race on Friday was crewed by train operator Tito Thorpe and conductor Roy Castillo.

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“I appreciate this opportunity to be the first driver in a 211,” Castillo said. He expressed confidence despite having been an MTA driver for only five months. “I’m going to 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 updated”.

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

The 207th St. - Inwood stop on the A

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

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

City Councilor 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 am particularly excited to see these cars rolling along the A train line,” she said Friday. “Too often, voters in the outer districts are the last to benefit from these significant investments in our infrastructure.”

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