Coney Island

MTA Brings New Open Gangway Trains to Coney Island for Sneak Peek

Passengers will be able to move freely between cars on some trains starting later this year.

February 7, 2023 Emily Swanson and Hiram Alejandro Durán, The City
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Death-defying walks between the subway cars could become a thing of the past.

The MTA on Friday announced that a new fleet of 1,175 cars — including 24 “open gangway” cars — are scheduled to start carrying passengers in the last quarter of this year, according to MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber. The new cars will run on the A and C lines and on the Staten Island Railway.

Officially called the R211, the open gangway subways are designed to let riders move freely between cars, which has its pros and cons. They are part of a major nationwide investment in transportation upgrades that includes $2.8 billion for the MTA’s new cars, said Steve Goodman, regional administrator of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).

An interior view of a new subway car, showing that it has more room for wheelchairs than current cars.
The new subway cars have more room for wheelchairs. | Hiram Alejandro Durán/THE CITY

“New Yorkers always want and deserve train cars that haven’t lived through eight presidents like our beloved R46,” said Lieber, referring to cars with orange bucket seats found on the A, C, N, Q and W lines, which first went into service in the mid-1970s.

New Look and Feel

Rich Davey, president of New York City Transit, noted that the new trains will feature wider doors for faster loading, improved ADA accessibility, enhanced lighting, and security cameras.

According to Lieber, riders will likely spend less time waiting at stations since the new cars will operate on a digital signaling system that “allows us to run more trains safely and closer together.”

Lieber said the 24 open gangway cars have “soft accordion walls that allow the entire train set to be connected,” which should help decrease overcrowding in any one car.

A view from the outside of the car of the black accordion-like connection between cars.
In the new articulated subways, the “open gangway” is a covered connection between cars. | Hiram Alejandro Durán/THE CITY

Although the new cars are set to start service later this year, Lieber explained that the MTA is still waiting on Kawasaki to deliver the last of the shipment following supply chain issues that have slowed the timeline, as THE CITY reported in 2020.

Others agree with Lieber that the upgrade is long overdue. As Goodman of the FTA put it: “I have to say that these cars will be replacing some of the cars that I actually used to ride as a child back in the mid-70s.”

Davey added, “Yeah, it’s shiny and it’s new, but it’s all about delivering better service.”

Pros and Cons

Queens resident Ryan Fan, 40, a corporate bank employee, was in favor of the upgrade. “The New York subway is too old. Sometimes I see people go between the cars and it’s dangerous, so I think it’s good.”

But some residents were skeptical about safety on open gangway cars. Dawn Haywood, 54, a government employee from Brooklyn, worried that they could become “more of a breeding ground for criminal activity.”

A close-up of the covered, designed passage between cars.
The new trains allow passengers to pass between cars, but you will not reach a cafe car. | Hiram Alejandro Durán/THE CITY

Subway rider Magdalia Martinez echoed that. “There’s a lot of weird stuff happening on the train,” said Martinez, a 31-year-old administrative assistant from Brooklyn. “There’s more police on the train nowadays, so I guess it’ll be safer.”

Still, she worried about having nowhere to flee — especially when a car is commandeered by subway gymnasts. “How am I supposed to run away from ‘Showtime!’”

THE CITY is an independent, nonprofit news outlet dedicated to hard-hitting reporting that serves the people of New York.

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