Did the MTA Make the Right Decision Buying the R179s?
The majority of Brooklyn Tech students use public transportation to get to school. However, this can be tricky considering that New York City’s transit system is run by the MTA. The MTA, Metropolitan Transit Authority, is known for their outdated cars and system riddled with delays. One big cause for these delays is because of the trains breaking down frequently, especially the ancient relics of the ‘60s that are the R32s which are still in service today.
In April 2011, the MTA had awarded a $599 million contract to Bombardier Transportation for initially 440 cars of the R179, then 298, and finally 316 cars. The organization, Alskaw, made up of Alstom and Kawasaki, actually protested this but the MTA refused to hand the contract to Alstom. The first test R179 was planned to arrive in December 2013, first production unit scheduled for July 2014, and the entire set was planned to be finished in January 2016.
However, there was a problem with these cars. Inspectors from NYCTA and Bombardier found cracks in the prototype’s chassis. Another mechanical issue was that the springs between the cars were wound so tight that they ripped holes in the hull of the cars. The scheduled delivery was delayed by three years, which in turn caused the cost of the cars to increase from $599 million to $735 million.
The hike in cost and the massive delay got Bombardier banned from bidding on the upcoming R211 contract, which would replace older B Division trains. But now the question is, did the MTA make the right decision buying the R179s? There are many pros and cons to integrating the R179s into the subway system.
For pros, the R179s are a lot smoother to ride on. They offer a less bumpy journey to commuters (which can lead to less standing commuters bumping into each other with the rough braking the current trains have). They also help the driver maintain and control the speed of the trains. For instance, when the A or C train approaches Broadway Junction, a very busy stop especially during rush hours, the drivers approach the station as slow as 3 MPH! This is because the posted speed limits can be false and if the driver goes too fast in a designated area, the system automatically applies the emergency brakes. Every time this happens to a driver, they get reprimanded. With every instance, the reprimand gets more extreme and continuation of the brakes being activated could cause drivers to lose their jobs. Nonetheless, the R179s’ technological advancements can show the driver the actual speed limit of a certain area of track and can help improve the time it takes to get to pull into the actual station.
However, there are also some drawbacks to R719s. For one thing, they are still susceptible to breakdowns, which are likely considering the track record they have when it comes to defects in the hulls. Another factor is the wear and tear these trains face on a daily basis due to the amount of passengers they carry, amount of stops they have, and actual distance they cover. The J covers 13.29 miles, and the C 19 miles. Extensive use of any train, even R179s would cause it to eventually break down, considering the workload they have. The R179s are still susceptible to other delays. On February 28th, southbound C and E trains were delayed because someone required medical attention at 34th Street. Eventually a Far Rockaway-bound A train got to Hoyt-Schermerhorn but was forced to run local up until Nostrand Avenue. Many Brooklyn Tech students take the Church Avenue-bound G train (which also happened to be delayed by around 15 minutes) to Hoyt-Schermerhorn to catch the Queens-bound A train. With these delays, many Brooklyn Tech students got to their destination late. Many people didn’t find much reason for the new cars. As one Brooklyn Tech teacher put it, “What’s the point of these cars? There’s still the other problems… signals… corruption in the MTA.”
The system can never be perfect as at the end of the day, as it is run by human beings. Human beings do have flaws, which is understandable. When someone needs medical attention on the subway, should the system cripple on such a scale as it did on February 28th? With all of the facts and data in consideration, did the MTA make the right choice investing in the R179s?