By Jonathan Sperling
Long Island Rail Road riders have a bit more to look forward to on their commutes after the rail service’s new fleet of train cars took to the rails for the first time starting Wednesday.
Eight new M9 cars made their first scheduled run yesterday as the 6:50 a.m. train from Huntington, Long Island due into the Hunterspoint Avenue station in Long Island City at 7:49 a.m. The cars feature slightly wider seats, no-touch flushing toilets in the bathrooms and other amenities, according to LIRR President Phillip Eng.
“These new cars will offer new amenities and a better environment for our customers,” Eng said in a statement. “Even if your train isn’t composed of these cars, there’s a good chance they will benefit you because as we receive more of them, we will lengthen many of our busiest trains, providing more seats for more customers.”
A total of 202 M9 cars will enter regular service, with the last expected to hit tracks in March 2021. Beginning on Friday, the LIRR expects to lengthen the trainset from eight to 10 cars and operate it on a different set of trains. The trainset will be lengthened again by two more cars on Friday, Sept. 20, with the resulting 12-car trainset serving yet a different collection of trains throughout the days that follow.
Other amenities on the new cars include exterior destination signs on the front of cars that are visible to passengers on the platform as the train approaches the station, electrical outlets on both sides of the car in each seat row, closed loop armrests that won’t tear clothing or catch on bag straps and additional speakers in the vestibule for clearer public announcements
And, for the first time in the region, according to the LIRR, the new cars will feature an electronic display that shows passengers what car within the train they are seated — “Car 3 of 10,” for example — helpful for customers exiting at stations where not every car meets the platform, such as at Forest Hills and Kew Gardens. In the same vein, doors between cars will be able to open as the push of a button, allowing for easier movement between cars.
The new cars are a long-awaited addition to the LIRR — too long, in fact. The first of the cars were originally scheduled to debut in May 2019, but were pushed back while the manufacturer resolved “a variety of issues.”
The cars are also equipped for Positive Train Control, a safety enhancement that uses a network of computers to communicate rail conditions in real time. The feature, which debuted on the Port Washington branch late last year, will contribute to a reduction in train-to-train collisions, trains traveling into zones where railroad employees are working on tracks, or derailments caused by a train traveling too fast into a curve or into a misaligned switch.
The cars are designed and manufactured by Yonkers-based Kawasaki Rail Car. The first 14 pilot cars were built in Japan and the first eight were tested in Pueblo, Colorado, before further testing on the tracks of the LIRR. The remaining 188 cars are being manufactured in Lincoln, Nebraska and the final assembly will take place in Yonkers.