The R211 subway car was unveiled by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) in July 2021. Credit: Marc A Hermann / MTA.
The new R211 subway cars are expected to replace the MTA's fleet of R46 trains and the Staten Island Railway (SIR) fleet. Credit: Marc A. Hermann / MTA.
The R211 subway cars feature expanded door spans. Credit: Marc A Hermann / MTA.

The R211 subway car is a next-generation subway car being built by Japanese rolling stock manufacturer Kawasaki Rail Car for the New York City’s subway system. The new vehicles are being introduced as part of New York City Transit’s (NYCT) modernisation efforts to provide improved passenger services.

The subway cars were unveiled by the New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) in July 2021. The MTA is investing $6.1bn in rolling stock, including the R211 cars, in the current capital plan. The new cars are intended to replace the R46 models that have been in service with the MTA for 40 years.

The R211 cars are being assembled at Kawasaki’s facilities in Lincoln, Nebraska, and Yonkers, New York. The Lincoln facility is engaged in the manufacturing of car body structure and the installation of interior equipment, while the Yonkers and Lincoln facilities are responsible for the final assembly and function testing.

The cars will undergo qualification testing to prepare for the service entry, which is anticipated in September 2022.

R211 orders and deliveries

The MTA and NYCT awarded a purchase contract worth JPY156bn ($1.45bn) to Kawasaki for 535 new-generation R211 series subway cars in January 2018.

The contract also includes options for an additional 1,077 vehicles, which, if fully exercised, will increase the total number of vehicles to 1,612 and the total contract value to JPY400bn ($3.69bn). The R211 subway cars are expected to be delivered to the NYCT by 2023.

The base order is for the delivery of three types of R211 subway cars, including 440 standard NYCT (R211A) cars, 20 open-gangway (R211T) cars, and 75 Staten Island Railway (SIR) (R211S) cars.

The additional options include 640 cars in the first option and 437 in the second option. The delivery of the two options is anticipated to be completed by December 2024 and October 2025 respectively.

Design and features of R211 subway cars

The new R211 subway cars feature a sleek design and a full-colour digital line identifier along with an end route sign.

The door of the subway car is 58in-wide, which is 8in wider than normal doors on the existing vehicles. The wider doors enable quicker movement of passengers, including boarding and minimise the amount of stopping time at stations.

Colourful door lights are integrated to notify which side the doors will open for the passengers to exit the train.

Floor graphics at the doorway alert passengers to clear boarding areas, while niches are installed adjacent to the doors to ensure passengers stay away from the doors while the train is on the move.

The new cars include an improved interior design, network-based controls, and a communication-based train control (CBTC) system.

Monitoring systems integrated into the vehicles will send important information to the wayside, while multiple digital screens will display real-time passenger information.

Improved horizontal and vertical grab rails, including looping vertical poles, will provide better safety by providing multiple gripping options for persons of various heights. The cars are equipped with brightly coloured grab rails to assist persons with visual impairments.

Open gangways will be incorporated into 20 of the cars ordered in the initial contract, connecting individual cars with accordion-like walls. The gangways allow the passengers to move freely between cars.

Traction system

The new R211 Subway car features a traction system named OPTONIX, which is similar to the one used by MTR CNR Changchun electric multiple unit and Buenos Aries Series 300 underground cars.

Designed and developed by Alstom, the OPTONIX propulsion system helps to reduce travel time and increase the frequency of the train operation.

Contractors involved

US-based design and architecture firm Antenna Design New York was awarded a contract to design the exterior, interior, and customer information displays for the new R211 subway cars in 2017. It also produced a full-scale mock-up presenting the new design and features to the public.

Transportation engineering firm Hatch LTK is overseeing the supervision of the design, manufacturing, delivery, testing, and acceptance of the R211 cars built by Kawasaki.

Jacobs Engineering Group, a joint venture between LTK Engineering Services based in New York and CH2M Hill New York, was contracted to provide post-award consultancy services for the New York subway vehicles.

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