I had read about the long overdue M8 rail cars and heard about them from some NY area commuters but until last night on the 9:37 New Haven line train I had only been able to wonder what the fancy new MTA rail cars were really like.
First of all there is a lot of red. Red faux-leather seats, a red floor. Since the New Haven line has red as its base color scheme that would make sense and I imagine any new M-7 rail cars on Metro-North line trains would be correspondingly blue. The train aisles are wider (good) and the seats a bit wider as well. The cars are built by Kawasaki and will replace the current fleet of over 200 M-2 rail cars some of which are nearly 40 years old.
The air conditioning worked well (I have been on a few regular trains recently where there was little or no A/C) and the restrooms (I had to see for myself) were clean. Outside the restrooms there was a little indicator to show whether or not they were occupied or not. I noticed the restrooms received a lot more traffic than is normally the case. I guess people were curious and more comfortable with the new facilities as opposed to waiting to avoid using the train restroom.
While the M-8 trains can reach speeds of 90 MPH my journey took exactly the same amount of time that it always does. On the ancient New Haven line at least I will never expect the trains to approach 90 MPH. There are storage hooks for bicycles in the disabled rider area of each rail car.
There was no Wi-Fi availability. I was somewhat aware of that but held out faint hope that there might be a few cars testing Wi-Fi access. After all on airplanes the Wi-Fi units are relatively heavyweight and thus cause an increased use of fuel. But the airlines are soldiering on offering more and more Wi-Fi connections while flying. I cannot understand why new train rail cars would be built without Wi-Fi access – can you?
There are no power outlets either. How difficult would it have been to install a half dozen power outlets in each car?
There’s no doubt the new M-8 cars are a much needed improvement over the 1970’s and 1980’s cars currently in use. But I cannot help thinking there were a few things left on the drawing board that could have been implemented but were not.
How long will it take before the aura of newness wears off?