Over the last year, breakdowns of city subway cars increased more than 15%, contributing to delays and congestion. NY1 Transit Reporter Jose Martinez got a rare behind-the-scenes look at the Brooklyn repair shop where the MTA tries to keep its aging fleet running.
This 25-ton subway car is flying off the tracks, and catching a lift.
Its next stop — the repair pit in the subway system's sprawling Coney Island Yard. It is where component of subway trains from the lettered lines are repaired and replaced to get cars back in service.
"Piece by piece, it's overhauled, disassembled here, cleaned, replaced, and put back together again," said Lonnie Meeks, Assistant Chief Mechanical Officer at the Coney Island Overhaul Shop.
The work here has become even more crucial, as the system's fleet of more than 6,300 cars continue to age, causing more breakdowns that reduce the system's reliability.
"We do have the older cars still on the property," Meeks said. "They require a little more tender loving care."
Like this R-42 car that still runs on the J line. The R42's have been in service nearly half a century, one of the system's oldest models. And according to MTA data, the cars broke down 30% more often over the last year.
Or this R-46, a workhorse of the A, F and R lines since the mid-1970s. This car is getting its door and air conditioning systems replaced.
The performance of these cars has dropped by close to 10% in the last year.
But the MTA says its fleet is still far more reliable and safer than it was in the system's darkest days — in large part due to an emphasis on maintenance.
"You have cars here with an average of, say, about 115,000 miles before a failure," said MTA spokesperson Kevin Ortiz. "You know, back in the mid-80s, late 80s, you know, cars were breaking down once probably every 7,000 miles."
At any given time about 50 subway cars are brought here to the Coney Island Overhaul Shop for scheduled top to bottom maintenance.
And in a system running around the clock and carrying close to 6 million riders daily, reliability is key.
"Twenty-four seven they run, not like other railroads," Meeks said. "This is the biggest railroad in the nation. So we monitor, constantly monitor, we do engineering studies to take care of what might fail before we predict it."