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MTA’s new fleet of subway cars plagued by mishaps

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The test trains have been pulled from the tracks three times since their November debut

The new R179 model
Mtattrain for Wikipedia

As if the MTA needed more bad news this year, the New York Daily News reports that the transit agency's latest batch of subway cars are failing during initial tests.

The models are known as the R179 and they've been developed by the Montreal-based company Bombardier. The MTA has already shelled out $600 million to buy 300 new cars, and began testing a batch of eight on November 19.

Since then, the Daily News reports, there have been a number of failures. On the day testing began, the train operator’s console erroneously indicated a door was open, when it was actually closed. And earlier that day, the emergency brakes kicked in when a bucket fell onto the tracks from the 121st Street station platform in Richmond Hill, Queens.

On November 27, a test train leaving the Sutphin Boulevard station in Jamaica lost motor power in an ascent uphill at half speed, over a standard gap between train equipment and the third rail. And on November 30, a red light indicating a problem with a door lit up in another train car, though the door was closed on Gates Avenue in Bushwick.

That marks three times the trains were pulled from the tracks in a two-week period, leaving unlucky straphangers stranded along the way. The third mishap also forced the MTA to suspend the 30-day passenger test cycle for nearly a week.

Unrolling the R179 model has already faced its share of delays. After Bombardier was awarded the $600 million contract in March of 2012, there have been issues with tardiness with designs, management changes, and two instances of MTA engineers spotting issues that have halted production. As Second Ave. Sagas points out, though Bombardier underbid competing companies, such issues have now cost the MTA at least $50 million.

"We took responsibility for the issues, resolved them, and remain committed to providing NYC Transit with safe, reliable, quality vehicles," a Bombardier spokeswoman told the Daily News.

The contract was supposed to wrap up in January of this year, but now it's set to be complete by December 2018. The MTA also barred Bombardier from bidding on a $3 billion contract for a future model set to be delivered by 2023.

The MTA desperately needs to replace its aging fleet, as the average age of cars is 22 years old. The R179 order is supposed to replace the R42s and R32s, some of the MTA’s oldest rolling stock, and provide new cars for the J, Z and C lines.