New York’s subway system, one of the oldest in the world, is about to get a much-needed upgrade thanks to Japanese manufacturing giant Kawasaki Heavy Industries. New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) plans to buy 500 subway cars from Kawasaki initially, with an agreement to then buy over 1,000 more if the first trains prove successful. As part of the agreement, the cars will also be built entirely in the United States, at Kawasaki’s factories in Yonkers, New York and Lincoln, Nebraska, which together employ more than 1,500 Americans. The first set of train cars is scheduled to arrive in New York City in 2020.
Aside from being more modern overall, the cars will feature new designs and technology that will help curb delays, hold more passengers, and create a more comfortable ride for the six million passengers who use the New York subway system each day. The cars will include larger doors to help reduce delays during rush hour, and will include modern digital screens, ubiquitous in Tokyo’s subway, to easily convey information. Train capacity will be increased by 55 passengers, helping riders reach their destinations more quickly. Finally, the new trains should also make the entire system safer, as each will have a computer that relays real-time information about the car to the MTA, making it easier than ever to diagnose any problems.
Kawasaki is no stranger to producing subway cars for major US cities. Washington DC’s updated cars, which hit the rails in 2015, were also manufactured by the Japanese company. Kawasaki previously received smaller orders for both Boston and New York City’s transit systems. Kawasaki Heavy Industries also helped design the maglev train technology that is being used to create a new route between Baltimore and Washington, DC.
Savannah Shih is a research intern at the East-West Center and a graduate student of Asian Studies at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C.