The MTA is giving Q riders the subway switcheroo.
The authority is shuffling its fleet of trains, swapping new cars for far older models on the Q train in preparation for the launch of a modern signal system on the E, F, M and R lines.
Q train riders accustomed to modern trains introduced in 2006, with bright lighting and light blue bench seating, now travel in a model 30 years older that feature faux wood paneling and muted orange and yellow bucket seats, imbuing the vintage warmth of an old pizza parlor.
“I think it stinks,” said lawyer Pam Caruso, 55, as she waited on the platform.
“The visuals on the old cars don’t bother me as much as the space and the seating,” she added, noting back-to-back, transverse seating of the older cars. “You’re sitting with the back of your head covered in someone’s hair.”
But the MTA says the switch is critical to bring modern computerized signals — known as Communications-Based Train Control (CBTC) — to the E, F, M and R lines.
The transit agency will buy a host of new train cars to prepare for bringing CBTC across most of the subway system in the next decade.
“Modern computerized signaling doesn’t just bring the latest technology to our tracks – it’s also driving the upgrade of our train fleet including thousands of new cars for use throughout the system,” said Shams Tarek, an MTA spokesman, in a statement. “The ultimate result will be a very reliable subway system with modern, advanced trains throughout the five boroughs.”
The MTA is spending $663 million to bring CBTC to Queens Boulevard tracks from Kew Gardens/Union Turnpike station all the way to 50th Street stop for the E train in Manhattan.
It’s part of a massive resignaling effort launched by the MTA to replace its Depression-era signal setup, a frequent source of commute-wrecking delays that also limits subway capacity and train speeds.
The Eighth Avenue and Lexington Avenue subways in Manhattan and the Eastern Parkway and Fulton Street subways are also slated for CBTC upgrades, which officials say will bring major improvements for rides of the 4/5/6 and A/C trains.
Those future improvements won’t allay the pain of the Q train swap for some ridership.
One conductor on the line told riders Thursday that their train was delayed several minutes because the older models have eight fewer doors, according to Rachael Fauss, an advocate at Reinvent Albany who was aboard the train.
Fauss was pleasantly surprised to hear such a detailed announcement from the conductor and a quick response from the MTA after she tweeted about it. She said it’s crucial for the MTA to continue keeping the public informed on such changes as it undergoes the “important” signal modernization.
“They have to be clearly explaining the benefits of the upgrades,” Fauss said. “If it’s clear what the benefits are going to be, riders are more comfortable dealing with these minor, or potentially major inconveniences.”
Not all straphangers on riding the Q on Friday night were upset with the throwbacks. While both train models can carry the same number of people, according to the MTA, some preferring the ample seating of the older cars.
“The number one issue for me is seating,” said Brandon, 36, a Shakespeare professor. “Yeah, the newer cars look nicer… but the older cars have more seating.”