Sorry, SIR: No new cars for Staten Island Railway
By Maura Yates
April 30, 2010, 8:06AM
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- The aging train cars of the Staten Island Railway fleet will be sticking around longer than expected, as a promised order of brand-new trains has been dropped from the MTA's five-year capital program.
Though the new rail cars won't be coming, the plan, approved earlier this week, does include a bit of good news: The new $23.3 million Arthur Kill station is still on the list, albeit not until 2012. Only the first two years of the plan are funded so far, as the MTA struggles to rein in its deficit.
The Railway's cars, which entered service in 1973, have a lifespan of about 40 years.
"The rolling stock of the [Railway] might find itself more suited for an antique railroad museum in the Midwest, rather than a modern commuter railway in a city of over 500,000 people," City Councilmen Vincent Ignizio and Jim Oddo wrote in a letter to MTA Chairman Jay Walder.
But as far as the MTA's concerned, the Railway's fleet of 63 cars are oldies but goodies, having recently returned from an $11 million overhaul at the Coney Island Maintenance Shop.
It was decided that the Railway's cars are in sufficiently good shape to make it through to the next five-year capital program, said MTA Board Member Allen Cappelli, with the understanding that if a problem develops with the quality of the cars, new trains will be ordered.
"The irony is that our tracks, unlike our roads, are in better shape than the rest of the city," Cappelli said, "so our cars don't take the kind of pounding that they do in other places. It was the recommendation that they did not need to put money in the budget to replace them. However, if a problem develops and we need to replace the cars, I've been assured we'll buy the cars, but I'm not expecting that will have to happen."
"Making every dollar count has driven some positive changes in the decision-making process at the MTA, forcing us to take a fresh look at how to best use our resources," said New York City Transit spokesman Charles Seaton. "In this case it means maximizing the use of an existing rail car fleet that has been well-maintained and reliable."
Seaton said the MTA is considering making modifications to R-46 rail cars from other city subway lines to make them compatible with Railway operations. The R-46 cars have benefited from regular maintenance upgrades through Transit's Scheduled Maintenance System program, he said, and are nearly identical and a few years younger than the Railway's current R-44 model trains.
Meanwhile, the capital plan includes an order for more than 460 brand-new train cars for use in the other four boroughs.
As far as getting the old hand-me-downs goes, "it's something we shouldn't accept," Ignizio said. "We hope to engage Jay Walder in a dialogue, bring him out to Staten Island, and encourage him to reconsider."
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