Nicholas Malave, a senior at Pacific High School in Brooklyn, entered a subway car yesterday and let out a cry of delight. This is not something he normally does during his regular trips on the A and J lines.
But those older cars lack what the new R160 subway car has: a Flexible Information and Notice Display, or FIND, with a liquid crystal display screen like the ones in television or computer monitors. The FIND panel will also have light-emitting diodes that will constantly update information about the train's progress.
After each stop, the display will change to show the next 10 stops, along with stops farther along the line. The video screen can be used to show the route symbol (like the letter "N" or "Q") or advertising.
Mr. Malave was one of dozens of curious riders who attended an "open house" sponsored yesterday afternoon by New York City Transit to show off and receive feedback on a five-car test train, a prototype of the R160, the newest generation of subway cars.
Next summer, the test train will be put in use so that engineers and mechanics can conduct technical tests, see how the cars hold up and iron out any problems before the rest of the order -- a $952 million contract for 660 cars, awarded in October 2002 -- is completed by a joint venture of Kawasaki Rail Car and Alstom Transport.
The cars will be delivered starting in 2007. Although the agency has not decided yet, the new cars may be used on the N or Q lines, which currently use some of the oldest cars in the system.
The test train yesterday was fully functioning, but it was not available to ordinary riders trying to get home. It was parked for five hours at the Hoyt-Schermerhorn station in Downtown Brooklyn.
The R160 is 60 feet long and 85,200 pounds when empty. It comes in two versions: one with a train operator's cab at the end, which can seat 42, and one without the cab, which can seat 44. Except for the new display system, the R160 is almost identical to the R143, which has been in use since 2002 on the L line.
Riders yesterday, told to focus on the FIND panel, were asked questions like, "Do you feel reassured that the train is going to your station?" and "How easy or hard is it to read the words and letters on the sign?"
But riders seemed to be paying less attention to the sign than the rest of the car. Some of them said they did not regularly take the Nos. 2, 4, 5 and 6 lines (which use R142 cars, similar in design to the R143) or the L line and so were not familiar with the latest design.
Asked to compare the new car with the F train that she normally rides, María Romero, 72, a retired nurse's aide from Gravesend, Brooklyn, said, "This is three times more advanced!" Jared M. Skolnick, 34, an Internet marketer from the Upper West Side, said he admired the bright fluorescent lights, since he often took photographs in the subway.
James V. Sears, the agency's senior director of marketing research, said the results of the surveys -- along with comments from focus groups convened in 2003 -- could be incorporated into the final design of the FIND panel.
Among the transit specialists who crowded the test car yesterday was Masamichi Udagawa of Antenna Design New York. He was partly responsible for the bluish-gray color of the seats on the R142 and future generations. Asked whether he missed the red, orange and yellow seats used in many cars built in the 1970's, he said, "They were good for disco, but not for everyday commuting."