The Long Island Rail Road’s first new train in nearly two decades rolled out of Huntington on time Wednesday morning, with several enthusiastic passengers onboard and a few who were not as impressed.
“It looks OK. I don’t see the major differences yet,” said Richard Radini, of Huntington Bay, who sat in a two-seat row of the new M9 train by himself. “I like it, though. It’s something new.”
The long-awaited debut of the eight-car electric train had the feel of a major event in Huntington, where LIRR officials, including railroad president Phillip Eng, and other dignitaries arrived early to meet with customers and pose for pictures with the M9. LIRR employees in bright orange vests posed for pictures beside the cars, and welcomed passengers.
Some customers immediately noticed some of the amenities, including LED lights, wider seats, and electrical outlets in every row, which some riders were quick to use to charge their phones.
“I really wanted to be one of the first people to take this,” said Matt Camper, a transit enthusiast who traveled from his home in East Meadow to Huntington to be on the first M9. “It’s a very nice, new train.”
The arrival of the new cars followed a long and frustrating journey for LIRR officials and riders tired of sitting on aging and dilapidated trains, some nearly 40 years old.
The first of the new cars, which were manufactured by Kawasaki Rail Inc., initially were scheduled to roll out two years ago. But setbacks, including design problems, software glitches and a derailment that damaged some early pilot cars, all mounted up.
Just eight cars — one full train — were put into service Wednesday, beginning with the 6:50 a.m. out of Huntington, bound for Hunterspoint Avenue. The lone M9 was scheduled to have other runs later Wednesday: an evening rush-hour run out of Penn Station to Hempstead, and a late-night run on the Babylon line.
The LIRR expects to add more M9s to its fleets in the coming weeks and months, as testing is completed, until all 202 cars are in service by around March 2021. The total cost of the M9 purchase is $550 million, according to the LIRR.
Some riders made it a point Wednesday to be part of history by being part of the M9's maiden voyage, while others were surprised to step onto a new train during their regular morning commute.
"It's very nice. I wish there were more seats, so I wouldn't be standing," said Michael Joseph, 24, of Dix Hills, who boarded the train at Hicksville.
Sandra Park, of Syosset, said while not "a huge improvement" over the LIRR's M7 cars, which were introduced in 2002 and make up the majority of the railroad's fleet, the M9 is more aesthetically pleasing than its predecessors.
"It did feel bigger when I first entered. Maybe it's the lighting. It's a lot brighter," said Park, 25, who also praised the addition of the electrical outlets. "That's a big deal."
Other features include automatic pocket doors between cars that slide open with the push of a button, digital multimedia screens, and an improved public announcement system.
There are also six more seats in every pair of cars than in the M7 models. Each of them feature "closed loop" armrests designed to prevent clothes snags, a common problem on the previous generation of LIRR cars.
“On the old trains, the M7s, your pants used to get caught on it and you’d rip your trousers,” said Brian Callaghan, of Huntington, who appreciated the design improvement. “They’ve got rounded edges, so you’ve got to try really hard to rip your pants off.”
The LIRR's new M9 cars will include several amenities, including:
- Electrical outlets at every row of seats
- Automatic pocket doors in between train cars that open with the press of a button
- A digital display on the exterior of the front car of the train telling passengers waiting on platforms the train's destination
- “No-touch” hand dryers, toilets, soap dispensers and faucets in bathrooms
- Increased window tint to reduce sun glare
- Four 32-inch multimedia screens in each car
- Closed-loop seat armrests that are less likely to snag and rip clothes than on the M7 trains
Source: Long Island Rail Road