Report Calls for NYC to Adopt Long Accordion Trains

An interior view of an accordion “articulated” train.
An interior view of an accordion “articulated” train.

Imagine the average eight-car New York City train without doors or dividers — just accordions bending and folding to give way at turns and curves, Egged-bus style.

A report released by the city’s Transit Authority envisions such elongated trains for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority over the next 20 years, changing the mass transit experience New Yorkers have become used to in the most dramatic way in a half century, The New York Times reported.

“This will both maximize carrying capacity,” the report said, and allow passengers to “move to less-crowded areas of the train, balancing loading and unloading times at all doors.”

It will also allow New York’s ever-suffering passengers escape from percussion-toting break dancers, sombrero-wearing rappers and whatnot who provide their entertainment to a captive audience in return for “Do you have a dollar to spare?”

If the MTA agrees, riders will be able to leave the performance for a quieter perch.

But there is no indication they will approve the makeover, which has already taken hold in stations in Paris, Berlin and Toronto. And if they do agree, there is no telling when it will arrive at an “F” or “6” train near you.

“If you make a bad call on changing equipment in a new subway car order,” said Adam Lisberg, spokesman for the MTA, “the consequences can be pretty serious.”

In Toronto, the change two years ago to the new “open gangway” model boosted capacity by eight to 10 percent.

It was fun also, says Brad Ross, a spokesman for the Toronto Transit Commission. When the new trains were introduced, passengers would let trains with traditional cars pass them by, preferring the novelty of the new cars.

But some cons include the inability to easily clean cars that get dirty without taking the whole train out of service.

“In the past, we’d be able to isolate that particular car and clean it,” Ross said. “Now that you’ve got an open gangway, you can’t necessarily.”

Andrew Albert, an MTA board member, added that there was a measure of security riders felt at the doors separating the cars.

“Remember the time when we were in the high-crime era and gangs were roaming through the trains?” he said. “Everybody loved the locked end doors.”

However, while some of the new model cars can be expected to last for several more decades, the report’s authors urged the MTA to consider the accordions, or articulated trains, in future upgrades.

“We’re one of the largest systems in the world that doesn’t do it,” said Richard Barone, the director of transportation programs at the Regional Plan Association. “Our trains don’t function right now to allow people to circulate.”

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