Speed Reads

a more than momentary delay

How New York City's C train cars are the perfect metaphor for America's crumbling infrastructure

Fifty-three years after being introduced as the bright, shining beacon of the Big Apple's bustling future, New York City's C train cars are barely chugging along. With passengers facing ever-increasing delays and service suspensions in the city's subway system, the train cars, "the oldest in continuous daily operation in the world," now serve as a metaphor for the city's — and the country's — tangled transportation conundrum, The New York Times noted Tuesday:

As increasing delays and other problems in the city's subway system have reached a breaking point, the story of why New York, the economic capital of the world, employs subway cars long past their expiration date is illustrative of many issues plaguing the region's transit infrastructure and why fixes are hard. The tale of the Brightliners, and how difficult it has been to replace them, perfectly exemplifies the challenges, missed opportunities, and lack of resolve — both political and financial — that have caused the system to arrive at the verge of collapse. [The New York Times]

The C train cars don't just look old; they act old too. The New York Times reported that the R32 cars "break down far more often than any other train in the system, averaging just 33,527 miles between failures." The average car breaks down every 400,000 miles.

As glaring as the problems are, the city just can't seem to get things fixed. The New York Times reported that "though funding for cars to replace the R32 was set aside years ago, the delivery of the new equipment is well behind schedule, tens of millions of dollars over budget, and still more than a year from being fulfilled."

Once the new cars finally arrive, the old ones still won't be booted off the track. The transportation authority is planning to keep the C train cars up and running while the city tries to plug another hole in the city's transportation system: the failing portions of East River Tunnel that services the L train line, which were damaged in 2012 by Hurricane Sandy.

Read more on the city's struggles to replace the C train cars at The New York Times.