If $1.8 Billion Project Is Approved, New Trains Would Hit Rails In 2017

HICKSVILLE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – New and improved train cars could be hitting the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad tracks, pending a vote scheduled for this week.

As CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, the MTA plans to replace half the new fleet on the LIRR. The new cars on both lines would feature more and roomier seats, upgraded air conditioning and larger windows, WCBS 880 Long Island Bureau Chief Mike Xirinachs reported Tuesday.

The current LIRR cars are showing their age – at 30 years old. In transportation terms, that makes them antiques.

“They are an old fleet they are tired, they don’t have diagnostics for us to do quick repairs,” said LIRR President Helena Williams.

The LIRR plans to replace all 180 of its old M-3 cars, which sport duct-taped repairs and paneled walls as dated as their vinyl seats.

The plan is to roll out 584 new electric cars starting in 2017. They are not yet designed, but they will be an upgrade even over the newer M7 cars in the fleet.

Some riders said they have a wish list, such as onboard wi-fi or even a bar car.

And the new train cars will indeed have wi-fi, as well as electrical outlets in every row. They will also feature eight more seats, sliding doors between cars, improved air conditioning, bigger windows, electronic signs, and a clearer public address system.

Middle seats will also be wider.

“Sometimes that’s the only seat available,” said LIRR Commuter Council President Mark Epstein, “and you get that feeling of dread and say, ‘Oh no, I have to sit in that seat.’”

Riders were also glad that arm rests will be redesigned.

“You get up, and it gets caught and rips your suit — not a fun way to start the day,” one rider said.

Riders can offer input on the process. The Commuter Council is soliciting suggestions, such as tinted windows and cup holders.

Railroad officials said they will incorporate what is feasible.

But some commuters at the Hicksville LIRR station said they are most concerned about reliability and avoiding a fare increase, rather than new car designs.

“As long as it gets me into the city every day when I’m supposed to get there, I really don’t care. Any improvement is nice, any luxury is nice,” a commuter named John said. “We need more seats, these trains are getting very crowded now and they’ve got to do something with all the people’s luggage.”

“It sounds wonderful. The only thing I’m concerned about is my pocketbook. All of these improvements are lovely, but at what expense to the commuter?” a woman added.

The comfort of the new train cars does, in fact, come at a cost. They would mean the execution of a $1.8 million contract between manufacturer Kawasaki and the MTA, which would be implemented in phases.

“I don’t think it’s needed,” one rider said. “I think we should spend our money in other places.”

The railroad president said the old cars have come to the end of the line.

The MTA Board votes Wednesday on the first phase of the plan, which calls for 92 cars for 2017.

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