MTA previews new LIRR cars, going into service Wednesday for AM commute

HICKSVILLE, Long Island (WABC) -- The Long Island Rail Road is putting the first of its new M9 cars -- the first step in replacing its aging fleet -- into service beginning Wednesday.

The MTA previewed eight new train cars Tuesday, taking LIRR President Phillip Eng and other MTA officials on a ride between Jamaica Station and Hicksville.

The LIRR will add new cars every month until reaching a total of 202 new ones on the tracks by March 2021.

"These new cars will offer new amenities and a better environment for our customers," Eng said. "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."

The electric M9 cars are the first new trains the LIRR has gotten in nearly 20 years, and they will provide a much-anticipated modern upgrade to the outdated existing cars.

The cars will have exterior destination signs on the front of cars that are visible to passengers as the train approaches the station, similar to the new cars on Metro-North's New Haven Line. They will have electrical outlets on both sides of the car in each row of seats, and closed loop armrests that won't tear garments or catch bag straps.

The cars will feature an innovation that is new for the first time in the region: an electronic display that will let passengers know what car within the train they are seated, which will be of help to customers exiting at stations where not every car will meet the platform.

Walking from car to car will become easier, as well, because between every other car will be a door that operates at the push of a button.

The seats in the cars will also be slightly wider than the seats on the M7 cars, and the cars will seat more people with up to six additional seats in each pair of cars.

The cars are fully equipped for Positive Train Control, a major safety enhancement that will reduce the potential for human error to contribute to train-to-train collisions or derailments. They also have cameras in the train engineer's cab facing into the cab to monitor the engineer's alertness and facing forward to show the tracks ahead, and cameras in passenger area of the cars to serve as a deterrent to criminal activity.

The bathroom experience will be enhanced on the new cars, which will have better restroom design that improves cleanliness. There will be no touch needed for flushing the toilet, dispensing sink water and hand soap and drying hands. There are improved restroom doors and coat hooks and additional air quality treatments.

The cars will have additional speakers in the vestibule for clearer public announcements, threshold illuminating lights at the side and end doors, and are anticipated to offer a smoother ride than the M7 cars and reduce sun glare with a slightly increased level of window tint.

The cars are being designed and manufactured by Kawasaki Rail Car, based in Yonkers. The first 14 pilot cars were built in Japan, with these first eight aggressively tested in Pueblo, Colorado, before further aggressive testing on the tracks. The remaining 188 cars are being manufactured in Lincoln, Nebraska, with final assembly taking place in Yonkers.

The new cars were ordered in 2013 in response to increased ridership on the LIRR, but they were delayed due to multiple problems.

The refreshed fleet will hopefully fix the "constant problems" caused by the outdated trains, rider advocates have said.

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